Monday, October 4, 2010

Mac OS X filesystems - Conspicuously lacking

I guess I'm a bit spoiled. Linux never leaves me hanging when I need to access a filesystem. Anything I throw at it--NTFS, FAT32, HFS+, ext2, ext3, XFS, ZFS.

The other day I was trying to help my sister install dual boot Ubuntu with Mac OS X Leopard (10.5). Apple's disk utility couldn't seem to resize the main HFS+ partition, claiming that there wasn't enough free space (even though 12GB was available). I figured it was a system file in use, so it was off to burn a 10.5 bootable DVD--because she's like everyone else and lost her original one. Who ever saves these things? I'm still dreaming of the day a client answers, "Yes!" to the question, "Do you have the original install CDs?"

I have an ext3 formatted disk with the OS X .iso file on it, and needed to use a Windows system that had a DVD-DL drive (the Mac OS X disk is 7.5GB). Even with the software from DiskInternals, couldn't get Windows to read the partition (the inode size was 256KiB instead of the 128 that Linux-Reader expected.) I had another Mac OS X install image on the Mac itself, but we find out that Mac OS X can only write FAT32, not NTFS, and with its 4GB filesize limit, it's impossible to copy the 7.5GB ISO to a flash drive. So the only filesystem you can use to copy 4GB+ files to other machines is HFS+!

Filesystems that support 4GB+ file sizes:
  • Outgoing from Mac
    • HFS+
  • Outgoing from Windows
    • NTFS
  • Outgoing from Linux
    • NTFS, ext2, ext3, xfs, HFS+ (journal disabled)

Look how flexible Linux is! I guess I thought that with its UNIX heritage, Mac OS X would have these extra filesystem drivers included "no charge", "for good will". Perhaps it's denial, as Apple has got its own little ecosystem you aren't supposed to stray from...

FYI, for $31USD, you can get NTFS for Mac, based on the GPL ntfs-3g software widely used in Linux. It may just be worth it. Personally, I'd just ditch Mac OS.

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