3. File System Standards

In the past, one of the problems that afflicted Linux distributions, as well as the packages of software running on Linux, was the lack of a single accepted filesystem layout. This resulted in incompatibilities between different packages, and confronted users and administrators with the task of locating various files and programs.

To improve this situation, in August 1993, several people formed the Linux File System Standard Group (FSSTND). After six months of discussion, the group created a draft that presents a coherent file sytem structure and defines the location of the most essential programs and configuration files.

This standard was supposed to have been implemented by most major Linux distributions and packages. It is a little unfortunate that, while most distributions have made some attempt to work toward the FSSTND, there is a very small number of distributions that has actually adopted it fully. Throughout this book, we will assume that any files discussed reside in the location specified by the standard; alternative locations will be mentioned only when there is a long tradition that conflicts with this specification.

The Linux FSSTND continued to develop, but was replaced by the Linux File Hierarchy Standard (FHS) in 1997. The FHS addresses the multi-architecture issues that the FSSTND did not. The FHS can be obtained from the Linux documentation directory of all major Linux FTP sites and their mirrors, or at its home site at http://www.pathname.com/fhs/. Daniel Quinlan, the coordinator of the FHS group, can be reached at quinlan@transmeta.com.