Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 23rd Aug 2008 15:37 UTC
Editorial Earlier this week, we ran a story on GoboLinux, and the distribution's effort to replace the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard with a more pleasant, human-readable, and logical design. A lot of people liked the idea of modernising/replacing the FHS, but just as many people were against doing so. Valid arguments were presented both ways, but in this article, I would like to focus on a common sentiment that came forward in that discussion: normal users shouldn't see the FHS, and advanced users are smart enough to figure out how the FHS works.
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RE[5]: what is wrong with FHS?
by sorpigal on Sun 24th Aug 2008 20:26 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: what is wrong with FHS?"
sorpigal
Member since:
2005-11-02

"And no, you can't always be sure (as a layman) whether something is part of the "base OS" or not.


This is correct. While BSD has a strict concept how to define "the OS" and "anything else", other OSes don't. This is due to their nature. If you understood the BSD system, you will know what's "the OS" and what's not.
"

I meant to say that *even in BSD* it's hard to be sure, as a user, whether something came with the base or was part of an add-on. "User" here is both system admins and regular users.

As far as I know, the content of /var is managed through system services (such as the system logger or system database tools), or at least special users and groups have to be created on the system to put things in /var (for example "CUPS Owner" or "MySQL Deamon").

An interesting definition. OK, so how does the author of a system service know how to answer the questions about what structure /var/ has?

"why are games in /usr/local/games and not /usr/local/bin?


I've never heared of /usr/local/games. Installed games go to /usr/local/bin (and their components to lib, share respectively).
"

Perhaps in BSD this might be true, but on my system there's /usr/games and /usr/local/games. Some games don't put their binaries there, most do. This is part of the FHS, see here: http://www.pathname.com/fhs/pub/fhs-2.3.html

So /opt does seem to contain structures like those created by the PC-BSD's PBI system: one entry per program name, bin and libs beneath; for compatibility, symlinks from /usr/local subtrees.


/opt only *sometimes* contains this structure. Each program has a subdirectory, after that it's up to the whim of the author.

"You say this and the standard says this, but do the users know this? Do distributions obey? I see frequent violations.


In Linux, yes. In BSD, no. See "man hier", everything is explained. Of course, the question "Why?" remains.
"

I'd like to believe that no violations exist, but I just don't. Nobody is that perfect.

"But *shouldn't* there be a structure [in /tmp]? Some kind of convention for temporary files that an application relies on during run vs. ones it just throws out and does not care if it sees again. Maybe distinguish tmp files created by "the OS" and "the user's applications".


That would be helpful if your system would not clean /tmp automatically. You would have a better idea, for example, who (which program) placed files there, you you could see from their name if it's okay to remove them.

Anyway, at system shutdown, /tmp usually disappears.
"

All *nix systems clean /tmp on start. This is not a workaround for a broken system that doesn't clean /tmp. Systems rarely clean /tmp while the system is up. I don't know about you but I very rarely reboot my computers, except to patch the kernel and upgrade hardware. Can we really rely on boot-time cleaning?

Secondly, even if we're not worried about crufty junk accumulating it seems to me that it would be useful to provide more clarity. Don't tell me "just don't ever look in /tmp" because sometimes you have to... and sometimes you're writing a program that has to work with temporary files. Isn't it better to have a clear place to put things?

I've seen lock files for programs inside "dot dirs" inside the user's home directory, ~/.netscape/lock for example. And there's /var/spool/lock, too.


This is a perfect example of the problem: The correct behavior is not known so a developer makes something up. I'd like to avoid this kind of thing,

"I tend to blame the standard when it gets ignored.


Not blame those who do ignore it? If I don't obey the traffic rules, it it the rules' fault?
"
There are two problems with that analogy: (1) Laws are enforced, standards aren't. (2) When you have a rule no one obeys you have a bad rule, not bad people.

(concerning /var structure)
At least in BSD, theres some kind of standardization (see section "var" in "man hier": "multi-purpose log, temporary, transient, and spool file". And sadly, I don't have a more precise answer because often, applications do things on their own.

And each application doing its own thing is a problem because then there's no consistency. This is why I say the FHS has problems.

"[q][q]If I have a web site where should the files for it be stored?


In ~/public_html? :-)
"

In whose home directory? ... [/q]

A common way is to use the home directory of the user to which's name the HTML content is registrated. But this doesn't have to be, for example, if an automated system is running that's not registrated to any user on the system. Another concept is to symlink files from a user's home directory into a directory belonging to the HTTP server application, so you could place "un-registrated" content there directly. [/q]

But in the FHS there is no place for a directory belonging to the HTTP server except for /usr/lib/httpd (or under local as you choose) and somewhere in /var. Yet a web sites files are not exactly run-time modified and clearly should be under /home, but no user in /home owns them, so...

The best answer I have apart from /var is /home/www on a system where a user named www executes the httpd.

This once again goes back to my point: The FHS has problems, mostly that it doesn't answer questions it should and partly that it's terribly, arbitrarily inconsistent. People who want to radically overhaul it are usually misguided, but they frustration springs from very real issues.

BTW, your reply looks truncated. Was it?

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