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Date:	Fri, 10 Feb 2012 12:11:10 -0700
From:	Andreas Dilger <>
To:	Ted Ts'o <>
Cc:	"Darrick J. Wong" <>,
Subject: Re: Collapsing the number of feature flags (was Re: [PATCH v2.3 00/23] ext4: Add metadata checksumming)

On 2012-02-08, at 11:08 AM, Ted Ts'o wrote:
> So I've started looking at this patch series, and I'm wondering if it
> might be better if we collapse these two feature flags:
> and
> To a single feature flag, EXT4_FEATURE_INCOMPAT_METADATA_CSUM, which
> also implies EXT4_FEATURE_RO_COMPAT_GDT_CSUM.  (So in the future, when
> we enable INCOMPAT_CSUM_METADATA, the presence or absence of
> EXT4_RO_COMPAT_GDT_CSUM won't matter, and in fact mke2fs will skip
> setting that feature flag altogether.  Tune2fs could also drop the
> GDT_CSUM flag when adding the CSUM_METADATA flag.)

The only reason for INCOMPAT_BG_USE_META_CSUM is to change the checksum
algorithm for group descriptors from crc16 to half-crc32 to match the
other metadata checksums.

I'd rather keep the metadata checksum feature RO_COMPAT rather than
push it to INCOMPAT over this tiny-and-mostly-meaningless change.  If
could also imply that the GDT checksum is using half-crc32 easily.

> The reasoning behind this is that it simplifies the combinatorics we
> need to test, and it also simplifies our code base.  In addition, it's
> really easy to make tune2fs recalculate the checksums when the feature
> flag is set, and reculate the block group checksums using the old
> algorithm when the metadata flag is unset.  So if someone wants to
> mount the file system on a downlevel kernel, it's really not that bad
> that this feature is an INCOMPAT feature; we can easily downgrade it
> using tune2fs.
> In fact, if we wanted to take this to extremes, we could call it
> EXT4_FEATURE_INCOMPAT_NEW_METADATA, and then let it imply the
> following feature flags as well:

The above set of features itself looks harmless enough, since they
have been around for a long time and are mostly just relaxing checks
in the code.  However, I don't think that introducing a NEW feature
flag will allow the checks for the old features to be removed from
the code for a long time, so it will just mean checks for two features
everywhere in the kernel and e2fsprogs.

A simpler implementation would be to have something like:


and fix libe2p to use "default_ext4" if all these flags are set.

Also consider things like INCOMPAT_COMPRESSION and HAS_JOURNAL.
It would be a shame if we had made a decision like this in the
past and could not turn these features off, so being able to
selectively disable these features in the future also has benefits.

> We can add inline functions in fs/ext4/ext4.h and in
> lib/ext2fs/ext2fs.h to make the source code look a bit simpler.

Couldn't this all be done in the tools level, instead of changing
the feature flags?  Have debugfs/dumpe2fs/tune2fs treat a set
of feature flags as "default_ext4" would be equivalent?

> This would help to reduce our testing load, and it would also make
> the output of dumpe2fs easier to understand...

This could also be done at the tools level, by preventing users from
setting strange combinations of feature flags unless they pass the
"--yes-this-feature-combination-is-untested" to mke2fs, tune2fs,
and debugfs, and deprecating truly ancient features entirely.

I would be happy to just deprecate ancient features like
SPARSE_SUPER, LARGE_FILE, FILETYPE, v1 filesystems entirely, and
prevent them from being turned off, and have e2fsck "fix" any such
filesystem that it finds (with a clear warning).  If such ancient
filesystems exist, they will not be running new e2fsprogs either.

Next in line would be EXT_ATTR (with v1 xattrs) and DIR_INDEX,
since they have been supported in ext3 for a long time.  It is
probably too early to deprecate DIR_NLINK, EXTRA_ISIZE, HUGE_FILE
and FLEX_BG, since they are new in ext4, but eventually those too.

Interestingly, ZFS had sequential versions (i.e. version N has to
support the on-disk format of every feature in N-1 forever), and
they have now moved over to using feature flags after I suggested
this to them 4 years ago, exactly for the reason that it gives them
the ability to develop/use features that may not be used everywhere.

One improvement of the ZFS implementation is that it distinguishes
between "allowed" features and "in-use" features.  That allows the
maximum set of features to be enabled at format/upgrade time, but
doesn't cause interoperability problems until the features are used.

Cheers, Andreas

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