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Linux-guru's conviction fuels ReiserFS debate

Can software live without its maker?

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Linux developer Hans Reiser's conviction for first-degree murder has re-ignited the debate about the future of Linux's various file systems.

Prior to his arrest in 2006, Reiser was best known for devising the ReiserFS file system, which was included with several Linux distros.

Reiser's contributions to open source are now being debated, though, and there are questions about whether ReiserFS can continue with the system's principal architect facing a maximum of 25 years to life when he is sentenced.

The reaction against Reiser and ReiserFS actually dates back to October 2006 when Novell decided to replace ReiserFS version 3 with ext3, just after Reiser was arrested. The SuSE team at Novell had expressed dissatisfaction with ReiserFS before then - saying they felt it had performance and scalability problems.

Novell has always denied that Reiser's arrest tipped the scales.

Before his arrest Reiser was working on a new version - ReiserFS4, which had pitched him into an acrimonious tussle with the Linux kernel developers who had criticized FS4 because many did not consider it to be ready. Reiser answered his critics but also gained a reputation for awkwardness.

The Linux community is today spoiled for choice when it comes to file systems and this could help spell the end for Reiser's work. In addition to ext3 and its successor ext4, there is JFS, XFS and Sun Microsystems' ZFS. Oracle also has Btrfs under development, which should be available later this year.

It seems likely that one of these will emerge as the preferred file system for future versions of Linux - unless developers rally or, perhaps, Reiser gets the opportunity to complete FS4 and show that it is superior. Then again, maybe not.®

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