June 21, 2018

An In-Depth Look at Reiserfs - page 5

Included in the Linux kernel

  • January 22, 2001
  • By Scott Courtney

For all its benefits, Reiserfs requires a bit of effort to install and configure. It is supplied as a set of kernel patches, which are applied to the kernel source code. After extracting the standard, generic kernel into a directory such as /usr/src/linux, you make that the current directory and run the patch command. If the Reiserfs patch is stored in /usr/local/src/reiserfs-patch.gz (note that the ".gz" means it's gzipped), then you would run a command like this:

zcat /usr/local/src/reiserfs-patch.gz | patch -p1

After that, you can configure the kernel as usual. There will now be a new option in the "filesystems" section that allows you to enable Reiserfs as either a built-in kernel feature or as a loadable module. You have to choose the built-in option if you want to boot the system from a Reiserfs partition.

Once the new kernel is built and tested, you can use the mkreiserfs utility to format partitions as Reiserfs filesystems. As with the regular mke2fs command, this will erase all the data on the partition! (By the way, after you build the kernel you have to go into a subdirectory of the kernel source and separately build the Reiserfs utilities, which include the mkreiserfs command. Instructions for doing this are found on the Reiserfs web site.) Once the desired Reiserfs partitions are formatted, you can use the mount command (with -t reiserfs options) to mount them just as you would with regular ext2 partitions. You can even put Reiserfs filesystems in the /etc/fstab file to have them mount automatically during system initialization.

Each time a new kernel version is installed, a new version of Reiserfs is required. The data on disk is upward-compatible so you don't have to reformat each time, but the filesystem code changes slightly. It takes a certain amount of care to ensure that you don't try to put the wrong Reiserfs version with the wrong kernel, and there is a slight delay between the release of a new kernel and the release of the Reiserfs patch for that kernel.

None of this is especially difficult if you have previous experience building kernels. The process is quite similar to applying the Alan Cox kernel patches, or the international crypto patches. Nonetheless, it can be quite daunting for someone new to Linux. It's especially tricky to create a Reiserfs root partition, since this requires temporarily booting off a backup partition as well as copying and recopying the files from the root partition. One false step, and you can be left with an unbootable machine and be forced to reinstall Linux from scratch or get help from a guru. It's certainly not something a new user should try!

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