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``Advanced'' Ext2fs features


In addition to the standard Unix features, Ext2fs supports some extensions which are not usually present in Unix filesystems.

File attributes allow the users to modify the kernel behavior when acting on a set of files. One can set attributes on a file or on a directory. In the later case, new files created in the directory inherit these attributes.

BSD or System V Release 4 semantics can be selected at mount time. A mount option allows the administrator to choose the file creation semantics. On a filesystem mounted with BSD semantics, files are created with the same group id as their parent directory. System V semantics are a bit more complex: if a directory has the setgid bit set, new files inherit the group id of the directory and subdirectories inherit the group id and the setgid bit; in the other case, files and subdirectories are created with the primary group id of the calling process.

BSD-like synchronous updates can be used in Ext2fs. A mount option allows the administrator to request that metadata (inodes, bitmap blocks, indirect blocks and directory blocks) be written synchronously on the disk when they are modified. This can be useful to maintain a strict metadata consistency but this leads to poor performances. Actually, this feature is not normally used, since in addition to the performance loss associated with using synchronous updates of the metadata, it can cause corruption in the user data which will not be flagged by the filesystem checker.

Ext2fs allows the administrator to choose the logical block size when creating the filesystem. Block sizes can typically be 1024, 2048 and 4096 bytes. Using big block sizes can speed up I/O since fewer I/O requests, and thus fewer disk head seeks, need to be done to access a file. On the other hand, big blocks waste more disk space: on the average, the last block allocated to a file is only half full, so as blocks get bigger, more space is wasted in the last block of each file. In addition, most of the advantages of larger block sizes are obtained by Ext2 filesystem's preallocation techniques (see section gif).

Ext2fs implements fast symbolic links. A fast symbolic link does not use any data block on the filesystem. The target name is not stored in a data block but in the inode itself. This policy can save some disk space (no data block needs to be allocated) and speeds up link operations (there is no need to read a data block when accessing such a link). Of course, the space available in the inode is limited so not every link can be implemented as a fast symbolic link. The maximal size of the target name in a fast symbolic link is 60 characters. We plan to extend this scheme to small files in a near future.

Ext2fs keeps track of the filesystem state. A special field in the superblock is used by the kernel code to indicate the status of the file system. When a filesystem is mounted in read/write mode, its state is set to ``Not Clean''. When it is unmounted or remounted in read-only mode, its state is reset to ``Clean''. At boot time, the filesystem checker uses this information to decide if a filesystem must be checked. The kernel code also records errors in this field. When an inconsistency is detected by the kernel code, the filesystem is marked as ``Erroneous''. The filesystem checker tests this to force the check of the filesystem regardless of its apparently clean state.

Always skipping filesystem checks may sometimes be dangerous so Ext2fs provides two ways to force checks at regular intervals. A mount counter is maintained in the superblock. Each time the filesystem is mounted in read/write mode, this counter is incremented. When it reaches a maximal value (also recorded in the superblock), the filesystem checker forces the check even if the filesystem is ``Clean''. A last check time and a maximal check interval are also maintained in the superblock. These two fields allow the administrator to request periodical checks. When the maximal check interval has been reached, the checker ignores the filesystem state and forces a filesystem check.

Ext2fs offers tools to tune the filesystem behavior. The tune2fs program can be used to modify:

Mount options can also be used to change the kernel error behavior.

An attribute allows the users to request secure deletion on files. When such a file is deleted, random data is written in the disk blocks previously allocated to the file. This prevents malicious people from gaining access to the previous content of the file by using a disk editor.

Last, new types of files inspired from the 4.4 BSD filesystem have recently been added to Ext2fs. Immutable files can only be read: nobody can write or delete them. This can be used to protect sensitive configuration files. Append-only files can be opened in write mode but data is always appended at the end of the file. Like immutable files, they cannot be deleted or renamed. This is especially useful for log files which can only grow.

next up previous contents
Next: Physical Structure Up: The Second Extended File Previous: ``Standard'' Ext2fs features

Andrew Anderson
Thu Mar 7 22:36:29 EST 1996