the filesystem hierarchy of modern operating systems

Jonathon Anderson anderbubble at gmail.com
Sun Jan 14 02:37:43 GMT 2007


Ubuntu developers:

Why is the specification mentioned in [
https://blueprints.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+spec/system-directory-approach ]
and [
https://blueprints.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+spec/userfriendly-filesystem-structure]
"oft-rejected"? Granted, these proposals are not very thought-out or
defined, but it seems like the kind of user-centric design decision that is
Ubuntu's foundation. I understand the benefits of the Filesystem Hierarchy
Standard (such as minimal-mount booting and interoperability through
standards-compliance) but these seem more like barriers-to-entry for an
otherwise ideal system: problems to be solved, not reasons to stay
entrenched.

I think back to my gradual acceptance of OS-X. A staunch Windows user, I was
completely taken aback by the lack of "Add/Remove Programs," let alone
"C:\".

As I became more familiar with Linux, I began asking myself "what is
'/etc'?" or "if I make a webpage, where do I put the .html files?" or "what
is the difference between '/bin', '/usr/bin', and 'usr/local/bin'?" (It took
me days to figure out what "usr" even meant!)

I looked up the FHS on Wikipedia (and the subsequent links) and finally
understood the point of it all. Still, when I later used a Mac (as I
sporadically do) I realized that there was something more: "/Applications"
(et. all.)

There's another side to this issue: atomic packages. I think back to my
Windows days: dll hell... untraceable files installed everywhere... the
registry... an unmanageable melting pot of binaries that could only be
cleaned out by periodically re-installing the operating system from scratch.

I don't have this same problem on Ubuntu, but it's not because the problem
doesn't exist. In fact, I think the fileystem hierarchy in Ubuntu is way
worse from this angle. A program gets installed in /usr/bin, /usr/lib, /etc,
and who knows where else. It's manageable because there is a system (apt)
that keeps track of it all for you, but that makes package-management a
monolithic, cathedral task that is very isv-unfriendly.

I believe that the adoption of the ideals presented by "GoboLinux" [
http://www.gobolinux.org/ ] are a necessary component of the evolution of a
consumer-level desktop os (as opposed to an enterprise-level server os).

Granted, this seems to be a consistently-rejected idea, and there must be a
reason for it. Still, in my reading, I have found no document explaining,
from the Ubuntu perspective, why this "oft-rejected specification" is, in
fact, oft-rejected.

Comments are greatly appreciated.

~jonathon
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