[colug-432] Stoopid Question

Richard Troth rmt at casita.net
Wed Jan 26 09:10:25 EST 2011

Richard Hornsby is right: not a stoopid question.  But then ... what
Josh Kramer asked, what are you after?  I hear four possible

If your goal is to isolate personal stuff from "the system", then let
/home be a separate filesystem.  (Not that all Linux distros or all
Unix/POSIX programs will do the right thing, but it is the right way
to go.)  Leave the rest to the package mangler included with your
distro of choice and Be Happy / Don't Worry.

#2, #3, #4 (see below for the list)
Reading the rest of this thread, it sounds like you're trying to
enforce sanity on the op sys.  I have a similar itch.  Over time, I
have come to value (or at least tolerate) the history of the Unix
layout.  Specifically, /etc should define the personality of the local
system.  The other directories all have meaning, which for brevity I
will not enumerate now.  Linux did not invent this mess.  I expect*
Darwin and CYGWIN and FreeBSD to have a similar hierarchy and am
offended when they don't.  The FHS is your friend.

* by "expect" I mean "require" not "presuppose to be so"

Sadly, package manglement usually writes to /var and talks about
things residing in /usr or elsewhere.  The effect is that /etc does
NOT define the whole personality of the system and add-ons are
intertwined with the basics.

Some thoughts about #2
I have gotten a lot of mileage from separating the core op sys from
the must-have but distinct layered packages.  For example, some shell
is always required (does not have to be BASH) but Firefox is not
essential.  So when I build the must-have packages (or when I can
control where they install), I throw them under a directory of
packages by name.  The story gets longer, so I'll skip the details for
now, but this lets me switch FF from to 3.6.13 in a snap.  If
for some reason I have to go back, it's just as fast.  NO package
manager has EVER given me even this much, and there's more.  Bill Yang
mentions the thing Windows does, which is more akin to /opt.  But you
get the idea.

[Warning: possible thread shift if I have misunderstood Steve's inquiry.]

Here is my #3
There is sometimes the desire to swap out the core op sys just as
easily.  Well ... almost.  I have seen it work.  I have also seen it
fail, or seen a working implementation tossed out because one or two
vital support pins were left out.  If you are committed, you can make
it happen.  And you are not alone.  Jim P mentioned Knoppix.  I always
carry a Knoppix CD "just in case".  It works, but it mingles core and
non-core.  RH and SuSE have a read-only root scheme (so you could
theoretically stamp an installation onto a CD and boot that).  They
still mingle core op sys with other packages.

Over in mainframe Linux, where V12N scales higher and sharing
everything is a more interesting idea, someone invented
"basevol/guestvol".  When I first heard of it, I didn't pay much
attention.  After re-inventing that wheel, I have come around and am
using a similar scheme for my own stuff.  So for me, it has evolved to

        system disk (which may be the boot disk)
        root disk (which contains /etc and usually contains more)
        packages and programs (separated under the aforementioned
packages directory)
        personal stuff (like /home)

This applies to PC Linux too.  The layout is not tied to the HW architecture.

So if I switch out the "system disk" and reboot, voi-la! new core op sys.

#4 is a total rewrite of how things are laid out
GoboLinux sounds a lot like NextStep from the original NeXT.  They had
sym-linkery all over the place.  I had a NeXT.  Loved it.  But the
links made things messy.


        #1 - separate personal stuff from the system: use /home and
beat up on vendors to "get it right"
        #2 - detangle major packages from the system: can do, but not
widely understood
        #3 - have a swappable op sys core: can do, but even less understood
        #4 - re-write the filesystem hierarchy: don't

-- R;   <><

On Tue, Jan 25, 2011 at 21:00, Steve VanSlyck <s.vanslyck at spamcop.net> wrote:
> How easy/difficult/impossible and/or unwise would it be to install Linux
> such that all of the OS files" are consinged to their own subdirectory,
> such as /Linux/var and so on, instead of the normal layout of sitting on
> root?
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> colug-432 mailing list
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