Tips on reiserfs

I decided to live dangerously last week and create a couple of reiserfs

partitions on my primary Linux server. Reiserfs is a journaling file

system that is purportedly more efficient at handling many small files

than the de facto standard ext2fs file system and just as efficient as

ext2fs in other cases.

What I like most about reiserfs is that it recovers from things such as

power failures extremely fast, since it doesn't have to perform the

lengthy consistency checks required by ext2fs. Like many other

journaling file systems (such as the one used in Windows 2000, I

believe), reiserfs won't necessarily protect your data in the event of

a power outage. But it will protect the consistency of the file system


Now put down that keyboard if you're about to send me a flame for not

using a UPS. I am using a UPS. In fact, I strongly suspect my UPS has

actually been the source of some recent power outages. My PK

Electronics Blackout Buster UPS and regulator decided to go funky on me

last week. It turned off my server twice, and I think it blew up my

Viewsonic P815 monitor with voltage spikes. I suspect the UPS because

I've had no real power outages, and I've only had problems with the

equipment plugged into the UPS. I replaced it with a UPS from Belkin,

and everything has behaved normally since.

Anyway, I reconfigured my server so that all my shared files for NFS

and Samba are now on their own reiserfs partition. I put my CommuniGate

pro mail directories on a reiserfs partition, too. My /var partition is

also a reiserfs partition, which means my Squid Web cache now operates

on reiserfs. I haven't done any benchmarks yet, but the performance of

my Web cache and proxy seems to have improved dramatically since I put

all its files on the reiserfs partition. There are supposedly Squid

cache optimizations in reiserfs, so perhaps that's why I'm seeing

noticeable results. Regardless, consider me a big fan of reiserfs so


In fact, I like it so much that I converted a few of my client

partitions to reiserfs. The only thing I haven't done yet is convert a

root partition. I tried but have failed so far. The partition that I

tried to convert is small, but it resides on a 40 GB hard drive. I

noticed afterward in the FAQ that reiserfs has problems with IDE drives

larger than 32 GB unless you apply a patch. Perhaps that is the problem

I'm experiencing. I'll work on it and get back to you.

The only other problem I've had is bizarre. I run the squidGuard

redirector along with the Squid Web cache in order to block porn sites.

(By the way, if you haven't looked at squidGuard, now is the time. It

is one delightful piece of software! See Resources for link.) Due to a

bug in one version of Squid, I needed Squid to launch the redirector by

running a script file called /usr/bin/sguard that looks something like



exec /usr/local/bin/squidGuard -c /etc/squidGuard/squidGuard.conf

Everything worked fine until I converted /usr/local into a reiserfs

partition. Then Squid stopped launching the squidGuard redirector. I

made an identical copy of /usr/local on ext2fs and tried it again. It

worked. I have no idea why I can't execute the file from /usr/local/bin

if it is a reiserfs partition.

I'd like to figure it out or get a word of advice from someone who

works on reiserfs. But my interim solution was simple. I just copied

the squidGuard program to the /usr/bin directory (which is ext2fs) and

changed the script to run it from there. That way I get to

keep /usr/local as a reiserfs partition and still avoid the problem.

Installing reiserfs

Some distributions include reiserfs as a module compiled into the

kernel. In that case, you just need to make sure you have the reiserfs

utilities installed and then issue the command modprobe reiserfs to

load the module. After that, you're ready to format a partition as

reiserfs and start using it.

If you don't have reiserfs compiled into your kernel or available as a

module, fear not. It is very easy to build reiserfs support into your

kernel. Download and install the source code for the kernel of your

choice (I am using the 2.2.17 kernel).

Then download the reiserfs patch (see Resources for a link). Put the

patch in your /usr/src directory or in the directory immediately above

where you have your kernel source code.

Before you take the next step, make sure that the path to the kernel

source code is /usr/src/linux. If it isn't, then rename the kernel

source code directory or create a symbolic link to provide that path.

For example, the default Debian source code directory might be kernel-

source-2.2.17. In that case, you want to create a symbolic link such as

cd /usr/src; ln -s kernel-source-2.2.17 linux.

Now apply the patch. Change to the /usr/src directory and use the

command zcat linux-2.2.17-reiserfs-3.5.27-patch.gz | patch -p0 to apply

the patch. If you hastily decompressed the file, then run the command

patch -p0linux-2.2.17-reiserfs-3.5.27-patch instead.

Now you need to configure your kernel. There are several ways to do

that, but I prefer to change to the /usr/src/linux directory and run

make menuconfig for that step. You'll need ncurses development

libraries installed for that to work. If you're a hard core Linux user

or want to become one, just run make config instead. You can also run

make xconfig if you prefer a graphical configuration tool.

You should notice a reiserfs option in the configuration process under

the topic file systems now. Select it. I have reiserfs configured as a

loadable module, since that makes it easier to fix any potential

reiserfs problems in the future without having to recompile the whole

kernel. There is another option to enable reiserfs internal checks.

That option is really for debugging purposes, so I strongly recommend

that you do not use it, since it will slow reiserfs' performance.

If this is your first attempt at creating a custom kernel, you'll need

to step through all the options and make sure your kernel supports

everything you need for your system. It is way beyond the scope of this

column to walk you through that process. I recommend reading the README

file in the /usr/src/linux directory for instructions on how to

configure and install your new kernel.

Finally, you'll need to compile the reiserfs utilities and install

them. It is a very simple process. Just change to

the /usr/src/linux/fs/reiserfs/utils directory and run make dep; make;

make install.

Now create a partition that you want to format as reiserfs. Mark the

partition as a Linux filesystem, the same way you would if you were

about to create a standard ext2 filesystem. Assuming your new partition

is /dev/hdb3, you would then run mkreiserfs /dev/hdb3 to format the

partition. That process will overwrite any data you may have on that

partition, so be sure you know what you're doing. Now mount the

partition and get to work!

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