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The UNIX filesystem - Introduction

Hello, and welcome to the first lesson of the UNIX filesystem course. I'm Meredydd Luff, and I'll be your host for the next few weeks.


Course Content

This course will teach you about the UNIX filesystem. That's the name given to the way that the UNIX operating system organises its files and directories, and makes them available to programs. You will learn about how this filesystem is mapped onto physical devices (hard disks, CD-ROM drives), "fake" devices (heard of "/proc", even used it a bit perhaps, but don't know how it works?), and even other machines over the network.

You will also learn how to automate mapping and unmapping sections of the filesystem to various devices (this is called "mounting" and "unmounting"), change which bits of the filesystem are visible to which processes, and more.

I will also digress into specific implementations of the filesystem - confusingly also called "filesystems" - and explain what this "journalling" thing is about, what RAID is and how it works, and how to boot from a RAM disk.

At the end of the course, I will be holding an "Any Questions?" session, in which you can ask me to elaborate on anything I've talked about, or remind me of something I forgot to cover. I will, of course, also be answering questions throughout the course.


I'm fairly anxious that this course should not stagnate, with me going all "can't be bothered" or getting horribly busy and leaving participants in the lurch. As a result, I will try to keep a few lessons ahead of what's actually posted to the list, so I can carry on posting those at regular intervals even if I suddenly don't have time to write anything sizable. If this happens, I will post warnings that I'm eating into my buffer, and say how many lessons are complete and waiting to go. If this runs low, people should start pestering me...

Let's go!

Now I've outlined what we're going to do, we will start on the lessons themselves. Lesson 1 will be posted a few days after this introduction hits the courses list. It covers the idea behind the UNIX filesystem, how it differs from other systems (principally DOS/Windows), and why it's such a good thing. It will also cover the conceptual side of mounting filesystems.