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Re: SEUL: Partitioning

On Sun, 29 Jun 1997, Erik Walthinsen wrote:

> > The idea of putting Linux in a loopback partition has a potential
> > attractive property for some of the less adventurous computer users.
> However, this ability hinges on the availability of a filesystem that can grow 
> and shrink on demand.  To grow a filesystem isn't that hard, it's shrinking it 
> that's a problem.  This would probably require hooks in the ext2fs kernel code 
> so the defrag/shrink program simply figures out what to do and then tells the 
> kernel to do the real work of moving files, so the fs driver never loses it's 
> concept of the disk-state of the filesystem.  This allows the system to do 
> things online.

The file could be a fixed size; it doesn't have to be dynamic. umsdos/uvfat
would be better choices if a resizable filesystem was necessary - I don't
know how difficult it would be to change ext2 so that it could be resized,
but I have a feeling it would not be easy because of inode tables,
superblock copies, and block groups being calculated on the initial size of
the disk.

> That's another point...  The user should not be required to do anything in 
> 'maintainence mode', other than disaster recovery.  Currently, there are quite 
> a few things that have to be done the hard way, in multiple steps (i.e. boot 
> to DOS, defrag, run FIPS, repartition with DOS fdisk, then boot to linux and 
> use that fdisk, etc. etc.) that actually can be done all at once, we just need 
> the tools to do it with.

That's why I suggested the loopback method - this eliminates the one part of
the install process which is most likely to confuse new users. Don't forget
that a slightly more computer literate person would also be very suspicious
of something "automatically" adjusting his/her partition tables - it would
sound too much like "Win95 is autodetecting your hardware, please wait"
which is often followed by a system crash.

Anyway, once the user has played with loopback-Linux for a while, then they
will either love it or hate it. Uninstalling is then as easy as
"erase c:\linux.dsk" - a major point if this is going to be user-friendly.
Sorry about pushing this idea so hard, but I really think that it would be a
useful option.

Thomas Molesworth            (thomas@bass.almac.co.uk)

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