Amiga Fast File System Return to the Linux Kernel

When I say “Return” what I mean is, return to a fully functional state.

I fancy myself a vintage computer enthusiast, although I haven’t done a whole lot with my Amigas as of late, a part of that has been my apprehension in being able to access the data on my old drives. I also realize that ALL my Amigas need to be recapped in order to function correctly. This series of projects will begin in the near future as I have received new pressures to make it so. One Max Staudt authored a patch that was reviewed and committed by David Sterba, a SUSE developer and kernel maintainer that have removed all my excuses.

Max Staudt has noted that “The basic permission bits (protection bits in AmigaOS) have been broken in Linux AFFS. It would only set bits, but never delete them. Also, contrary to the documentation, the Archived bit was not handled.” My guess is, reading and archiving any AFFS drives was not an issue but manipulating the data from Linux was an issue. “Let’s fix this for good, and set the bits such that Linux and classic AmigaOS can coexist in the most peaceful manner,” he added. Torvalds appears to have agreed as Staudt’s code has made it into rc4 of version 5.9 of the Linux kernel. That is slated to be released to the masses in October 2020.

I am excited about the upcoming improved interaction between my current love of Linux and my historic love of Amiga in what I think is a huge kernel improvement. I don’t know how many people it will truly affect but the fact that Linus Torvalds agreed to include it in rc4 means it can’t just be an isolated edge case. As much as I would like to think that Mr. Staudt, Mr. Sterba, and Mr. Trovalds and are doing this just for me, I know that I am not alone in the love for this old technology.

I will be interested in seeing how this works out. I am hoping that I will be able to use the Amiga Fast File systems natively on Linux like any other file system. This should most certainly be fun. I am also happy to see that an Amiga enthusiast, a developer of SUSE and the top-dog of the Linux Kernel made effort to bring a needed enhancement to the Linux Kernel. It makes me wonder, are there other Amiga fans roaming the halls of SUSE? What kind of Amiga Computers does Max Staudt have? Has Linus Torvalds ever run Linux on an Amiga? It sure would be interesting to know!

Final Thoughts

I am super excited to see that Classic Amiga lives on, in part, within the Linux Kernel. This spectacular news is telling me that it is time to revisit with a lot more emphasis all the fun and excitement that the Amiga brought to me. There is much to do on my Amigas, data to archive and capacitors to replace. This David Sterba from SUSE has taken action to make Linux and Amiga interoperability much better and bridges a 25 year technology gap that helps to bring my 1990s platform of choice do the present.

Thank you, Max Staudt, David Sterba and all those involved on the Kernel team, so much, for what I consider to be the best Linux kernel submissions of 2020. This brings to me a smile that crosses from ear-to-ear to my face and now presses me hard to do more with my Amiga computers.

References

AFFS Patch https://lkml.org/lkml/2020/8/27/990
TheRegister.com Article Linux 5.9 rc4
Amiga Fast File System Tag for 5.9
Linux Kernel Mailing List announcement

KDE Partition Manager on openSUSE

I have become quite the fan of Gparted over the years of my Linux life and I started wondering if there were other partition management options out there. Specifically one that is Qt based instead. This is not a light on GTK based applications, I just find that they don’t tend to look as nice and clean as Qt apps. In this off-hand search, I stumbled upon PartitionManger which is in official openSUSE Tumbleweed and Leap Repositories.

I should note, they both Gparted and KDE Partition Manager use the same icon.

Installation

Since this isn’t installed by default with the Plasma Desktop, arguably it should be, here is how you o about it. I noticed on the openSUSE Software Site, its short description is that you can Easily manage disks, partitions and file systems on your KDE Desktop. So I guess we will see if this holds true.

It is also described as being software that allows you to manage your disks, partitions and file systems that allows you to create, resize, delete, copy, backup and restore partitions with a large number of supported file systems. These file systems include ext2 ext3, reiserfs, NTFS, FAT32 and more. I am guessing you can also do Ext4, BTRFS and others.

It goes on to say that it makes use of external programs to get its job done, so you might have to install additional software (preferably packages from your distribution) to make use of all features and get full support for all file systems.

That’s good news as I am hoping it wouldn’t re-implement anything and just use existing tools.

To install in terminal:

sudo zypper install partitionmanager

or navigate here for the Direct Install Link

https://software.opensuse.org/package/partitionmanager

As expected, it installed very little, a total of 4 new packages:

  • kpmcore – KDE Partition Manager core library
  • libkpmcore7 – KDE Partition Manager core library
  • partitionmanager – Main Application package
  • partitionmanager-lang – Language support

Considering I have Gparted already installed, most of everything else is likely already there. I have a great respect and love for Gparted at this point, I am hoping that I am not losing any features by using KDE Partition Manager.

First Run and Impressions

Using the handy Plasma menu with the search feature, I started typing “Partition” and it popped up. I launched it and was given the dialog for root user permissions.

I am on the fence if I like that very detailed command being being shown by default. Instinctively, I say it is fantastic, but for a less experienced user, it could feel a bit overwhelming, perhaps.

After the root login requirement, I had this warning pop up which I thought was fantastic!

I have been using Gparted for quite some time and was having issues with an SD Card. My laziness, I just ignored it and now I see what the problem was. I needed the exfat utilities and now the world is right again. Adding this was as easy as running this in the terminal:

sudo zypper install exfat-utils

This automatically selected fuse-exfat package to be installed as well.

Once all this was up. I was greeted with a nice clean and familiar interface

What sets this apart from Gparted is that it shows you all the devices in a side pane instead of the drop-down. I will say, I much prefer the side pane to the drop down. It gives a better overview of what you are doing.

Gparted with the drop-down to select the device

I wanted to format a device and give it a label for my upcoming experimentation with Ventoy for keeping and testing Linux distribution ISOs. So that is what I did.

Mainly, I just wanted the appropriate label. I also took this as an opportunity to format that SD Card, also an easy success.

Final Thoughts

It works! I can’t say it’s any better than Gparted as they both seem to work the same and have a similar appearance and workflow. If you can use one, you can use the other. The biggest difference is the devices side menu. I do like that more than the Gparted drop down. It provides a better snapshot of the status of the storage devices on your machine. Outside of that. KDE PartitionManager as well as Gparted are fantastic tools and this is mostly an appearance preference as I am sure they are using all the same backend of tools.

References

https://software.opensuse.org/package/partitionmanager
https://www.kde.org/applications/system/kdepartitionmanager
USB or Removable Media Formatting in Linux on CubicleNate.com

Power Outage Corrupted XFS Filesystem | How I Fixed It

Dell Inspiron 20 3048-07-Calendar

This past Monday, 27 May 2019, there was a somewhat severe storm that rolled through Southwestern Michigan that had a disruption on power. I have numerous computers in the house, most of which run some variation of openSUSE. Most of the computers are also battery backed in some form except for one, my Kitchen Command Center. In many ways, I think it is rather crazy computers don’t now have battery backups by default. Since I didn’t take the time and care to have a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) on this computer, it lost power and so my troubles began.

Post Storm

After the storm was cleared from the skies and the likelihood of another power outage had diminished I felt it was safe to power my devices back on. Upon doing so, the machine booted up like it normally would but logging in and all the applications were dreadfully slow. I must emphasis dreadfully in the slowness of the system, I could see that the disk was thrashing but the RAM was hardly being used. Looking at the System Monitor, my I/O was taking up all the CPU bandwidth. This was most certainly not the normal behavior of this machine and I was becoming a sad “Geeko.” RAM usage was less than 2 GiB and Plasma Desktop kept hanging, a behavior with which I am most certainly not familiar. I was starting to worry that there may have been hardware damage.

After doing a little digging, I was able to determine that it was related to a corrupted file system and in my usage of the computer, my estimation was that it was the /home directory partition and not the root directory. When I looked at the System Activity, whatever application I was trying to use had “disk sleep” next to it in the table. My first course of action was to do a file system repair.

The Fix

I rebooted the machine and instead of logging in to the desktop environment, I dropped down to a terminal (Ctrl + Alt + F2), logged in as root.

I unmounted /home, which, in my case is located at /dev/sda4

umount /dev/sda4

Since the terminal didn’t give me any confirmation the drive was unmounted, I checked

df -h

Looking through the list (You can omit the -h). I saw that there was indeed nothing mounted at /home so I was able to conduct the repair.

xfs_repair /dev/sda4

After several minutes. The process completed and seemingly completed without any errors. I rebooted the system and crossed my fingers.

Post Repair

Seemingly everything is back to normal. Whatever was causing the “Disk Sleep” is not happening anymore. I performed another update on the machine,

sudo zypper dup

rebooted it and it is continuing to function just as it had before. I have not lost any data on the computer and I am using like it all never even happened. I don’t know the exact cause and depth of the corruption but I am just glad to be back to normal.

Final Thoughts

I have had to forcibly shut down systems with XFS before and this is the first time I have had to do a file system repair. I could see that someone without technical expertise could just think their computer was broken and take more intrusive actions. I am also not sure if there was some sort of file system integrity verification that didn’t happen that should have automatically checked and repaired the file system that has normally done so. Regardless, the fix was relatively straight forward and the computer is back to normal. Furthermore, it might also behoove me to gift the machine with a UPS.

After losing a few hours of use out of the computer, I was able to learn another tool in my open source / Linux toolbox. The storm, although inconvenient, has given me further confidence in the technology I have chosen.

Further Reading

https://linux.die.net/man/8/xfs_repair
Dell Inspiron 20 3048 All-In-One Desktop

Tuning Snapper | BTRFS Snapshot Management on openSUSE

BTRFS on openSUSE.png

Throughout my time helping users with openSUSE, one reoccurring issue that I have heard or read from some users has been the issue of system snapshots by Snapper filling up the root file system. Users have complained that their root file system fills up which ultimately locks up their system. This is often caused by setting up the root partition with an insufficient size, less than 40 GiB. Some users may not want to allocate that much space so a common course of action is to either use BTRFS without snapshots, use XFS or ext4.

There is this misguided impression that BTRFS is not a file system to be trusted but I can, with great assurance tell you that I have yet to have an issue with the file system. If you disagree with this than your perception is based on either a non-openSUSE implementation or if you had problems on openSUSE you did not satisfy its recommendation.

BTRFS with snapshots is a good option for newer machines but your disk partition size may be less than the recommended 40GiB for root, here is what you can do to adjust Snapper. As root open the following file in your editor of choice:

/etc/snapper/configs/root

Scan down the configuration file and look for the line #limit for number cleanup section. To limit the total number of snapshots, adjust the NUMBER_LIMIT and NUMBER_LIMIT_IMPORTANT lines.

I changed mine to the following:

# limit for number cleanup
NUMBER_MIN_AGE=”1800″
NUMBER_LIMIT=”2-6″
NUMBER_LIMIT_IMPORTANT=”4-6″

After this adjustment, I have no more than 6 total file system snapshots and it reduced the space taken up by snapshots by about 10 GiB. It should be understood that your mileage may vary depending on how much you fiddle with your system and how much software you have installed.

Final Thoughts

openSUSE is such a stable distribution, even the rolling release, Tumbleweed, that snapshots are almost not necessary. I personally look at snapshots as a kind of insurance policy but the fact is, as long as I have a working internet connection and a working terminal, entering sudo zypper dup (in Tumbleweed) will likely fix any issues I may have caused. As far as Leap is concerned, I haven’t seen an update that brok a system which would require a rollback. That doesn’t mean something couldn’t slip past openQA that may affect your system, I just haven’t seen it.

Also note, I have such confidence in openSUSE Tumbleweed with BTRFS, it is what is on my home server. In over a year, not one update has broken any of the servers or messed with any configurations. It should also be noted that I run older and generally Linux friendly hardware so my chance at issues is much less.

Further Reading

SUSE.com Snapper Cleanup