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Mailbag:  Free FDISK; Reiser

ReiserFS experiments. I spent a good deal of time yesterday figuring out how to convert an ext2 system to a Reiser system (for greater speed and fault-tolerance) when Brian Bilbrey pointed out how to create an all-Reiser system from the get-go with Mandrake 7.2.

The trick is to pick expert mode when you get to the Setup filesystems portion of installation, click on some free space (making some if necessary), then click create. Under the Filesystem type drop-down list, you can select Linux native, Linux swap, ReiserFS, or FAT32. Pick Reiser, and you’re set.

Now the big question… How to partition? I like to put /boot on a FAT partition just in case something goes horribly wrong, then I can recover the system even if my Linux boot disk fails by using any old DOS boot disk. It doesn’t have to be very big. ReiserFS may make you nervous since it hasn’t been officially blessed by the kernel team, but at the very least use it for the /tmp partition, and I’d use it for /var as well. Since /tmp and /var are where lots of little files get written constantly, they’re ideal for Reiser, and since those files tend to have short lifespans, it’s good to use a partition to isolate them from the rest of your files. Fragmentation isn’t much of a problem with Linux; partitioning wisely makes it even less so. Neither of these partitions has to be huge; a few hundred megs ought to be plenty. The two biggest partitions should be / and /home. The / partition, of course, holds the OS, while /home holds user data. If you wish, you can place /usr on a separate disk if you want apps on a separate disk from the OS for performance’s sake.

And remember, the disk is faster towards the front, so put speed-critical partitions like /root and /home up front. Put /boot right up front unless you’re using a modern distribution that uses the new GRUB bootloader; LILO has problems with high partition numbers. If you’re using GRUB (Mandrake 7.2 does), you can put /boot at the very end. Since these files are accessed at boot time and then never again, they don’t have to have the greatest speed.

Mailbag:  Free FDISK; Reiser

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