on the edge

computers & technology, books & writing, civilisation & society, cars & stuff

Greg Black

gjb at gbch dot net
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If you’re not living life on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.

FQE30 at speed

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Worthy organisations

Amnesty International Australia — global defenders of human rights

global defenders of human rights

Médecins Sans Frontières — help us save lives around the world

Médecins Sans Frontières - help us save lives around the world

Electronic Frontiers Australia — protecting and promoting on-line civil liberties in Australia

Electronic Frontiers Australia


(Coming soon…)

Software resources

GNU Emacs


The FreeBSD Project

Fri, 25 Sep 2009

Using Linux and Wanting ZFS

I’ve been using Linux in a limited manner for about four years, meaning that it has been installed on at least one machine that I use fairly regularly over that period. In common with all the other operating systems that I have used, it has its good points and its shortcomings. But, in recent years, the strengths have got stronger while also becoming more important to me and many of the weaknesses have been addressed.

However, it has been what I now regard as the failure of my attempts to make friends with Solaris Express and OpenSolaris during some quite intense attempts over the last year that has forced me to look hard at Linux as my main operating system for the near future.

There is just one serious fly in the ointment—the unfortunate fact that none of Linux’s multiplicity of file systems is a match for Sun’s ZFS. At first, I thought ZFS was something that was at least theoretically a good thing, but its unfamiliarity made it seem like something that you could live without. However, in a remarkably short time, ZFS becomes ridiculously easy to use and that’s when I started to see just how big a step forward it is. I really don’t want to go back to old-style Unix file systems.

Unfortunately, due to the old wrangles over which open source licences are good and which are not, the Linux people don’t feel able to adopt ZFS. I see that btrfs is being developed and that it is hoped that it will bring the features that I love in ZFS to Linux. But btrfs is years away, and I need a file system today.

I’m going to install Ubuntu and fuse-zfs on one of my machines at the start of next week to see how well that combination works. It’s far from ideal—fuse-zfs has been pretty well abandoned, as far as I can tell; and it is well behind the zpool/zfs versions that are now in Solaris. But if it works well enough I’ll give it a go and then I’ll cross my fingers hoping that Sun might fix the ZFS licence problem as they have finally managed to do with Java.

My other option would be to setup a server running FreeBSD with their implementation of ZFS and to use it as a file store for my Linux desktop machines. I’d rather just run Linux, but we’ll have to wait and see.