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27 January 2012, 16:10

Fedora relocates operating system under /usr/

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The Fedora developers are currently working on implementing the plan to move all files stored in the Linux distribution's /bin/, /sbin/, /lib/ and /lib64/ directories to equivalent sub-directories in /usr/. Symbolic links will ensure compatibility with scripts and software that may otherwise be caught out by the change. The restructuring was first mooted last autumn, before being earmarked for inclusion in Fedora 17. The development team has since discarded the idea of moving all files stored in /sbin/ and /usr/sbin/ into /usr/bin/ and deleting the sbin directories.

The package updates which will implement the restructure are currently being put together in a dedicated section of the build system and will be moved to Fedora's Rawhide developer tree "soon". Rawhide is updated daily with the latest build of packages for Fedora 17, which is currently scheduled for a May release. A special initramsfs will move relevant files to their new locations on Rawhide users' systems. This method will also be available to users who use Yum to upgrade to Fedora 17 from one of the current Fedora versions. Although not officially supported, many experienced Fedora users perform updates using this option. Where upgrades are carried out using full installation media or PreUpgrade, the installer will take care of the necessary changes.

The developers behind the restructure have been announcing their progress by making changes to the related Wiki page, which elucidates the plan and the background to it. Lennart Poettering, who is not directly involved with the project, recently posted a summary of the arguments in favour of moving the files on the systemd wiki, but also pointed out that systemd will still work with distributions which continue to use the traditional file locations.

None of the other major Linux distributions have announced plans to follow Fedora's example, though it has been discussed at OpenSUSE. Some users have been vocal in their criticism of the change, for example in the comments on's article about Poettering's post. Some of those criticising the concept consider it superfluous, others argue that the current arrangement makes it possible to have a small base system located on the root partition which is able to mount the rest of the system stored under /usr/ from a second disk or over the network. While this is true, opinion on how significant this is in practice is extremely divided. Solaris has long ceased to support such a setup.


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