Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 30th Jan 2012 20:39 UTC
General Unix Finally something really interesting to talk about. If you've used UNIX or any of its derivatives, you've probably wondered why there's /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin, /usr/sbin in the file system. You may even have a rationalisation for the existence of each and every one of these directories. The thing is, though - all these rationalisations were thought up after these directories were created. As it turns out, the real reasoning is pretty damn straightforward.
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You're thinking about it all wrong ...
by MacTO on Tue 31st Jan 2012 09:12 UTC
MacTO
Member since:
2006-09-21

For most users, the file hierarchy doesn't matter in the slightest. The package manager stuffs files into the appropriate places and things like PATH/LIBPATH/MANPATH make it transparent to the end user. And that is assuming that you're using a shell. It matters to GUI users even less since everything is presented in a tidy sort of way by the DE. So if you're think about it and you're not in one of the following categories, you're thinking about it all wrong.

Developers, well, it doesn't really benefit them but they just have to deal with it. Besides, it's probably a lot easier for them to deal with a complex file hierarchy than it is for them to deal with an ever changing file hierarchy. This is something you'd notice as soon as the file hierarchy changes and things just stop working.

The people who need the complex hierarchy are systems administrators. Having binaries in separate places is useful because it allows the file system to be split up. This is something that we discovered historically, and sometimes it is still useful so we keep it. The utility ranges from a read-only OS partition to network shares. Heck, even Mac OS X has (or at least had) provisions for this. That's why there are subdirectories under /Users that serve the same function as subdirectories under /System and (IIRC) there are provisions for network mounts too.

Remember, not everyone runs a completely up-to-date simple-minded system.

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