Holy Cow – BTRFS!

Recently I have been experimenting with BTRFS. BTRFS is a relatively new filesystem which has modern features, high performance, scalability, supporting file-system snapshots and on-the-fly compression.

After spending the week running BTRFS on Ubuntu from within a Virtualbox VM I reinstalled my laptop using it. Ubuntu’s installer supports creating btrfs partitions, which is handy, and it is reported to work even as a boot partition. I had problems using BTRFS as the boot partition however, so elected to use ext2 for boot in the real install.

The installer doesn’t support enabling the on the fly compression, so once I had the system installed I edited /etc/fstab adding “compress=lzo”, I added “ssd” as I have an SSD and “space_cache” which is reported to improve performance. After I rebooted I ran a filesystem balance to compress any existing compressible data like so:-

btrfs fi balance /
btrfs fi balance /home

It’s worth pointing out here that there still isn’t a utility which can fix BTRFS filesystem corruption, so although BTRFS is considered stable, you may want to stay away from it just in case. There is also a nasty condition that can cause a kernel crash if the file-system runs out of space, so that is another one to watch for.

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Improve response in Ubuntu Desktop

I came across recently, as you do, an option to maximise the performance of my lowly OCZ Core V2 SSD in Ubuntu. Apparently the kernel goes to quite extreme lengths (in terms of using CPU cycles) to avoid doing seeks. With a “standard” hard drive this is desirable because the time it takes the head to move to the correct location is more costly. Seeking is irrelevant as far as an SSD is concerned and using extra CPU time only serves to reduce I/O performance. Happily there is an option to tell the kernel that you are using a non-rotational media for a specific drive designation i.e. sda, sdb, etc. and therefore maximise SSD performance.

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