Notes - ZFS

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Some random hints for ZFS users..


This assumes you are already fairly familiar with ZFS.

Mounting a pool from another system

Make sure you use the "altroot" property when importing the pool so the pool doesn't set its own mountpoints for /etc, /usr and so on and replace those directories on the running system.

Creating a ZPool on a USB drive

If you're wondering "why put ZFS on your USB stick instead of FAT32/Ext2/Whatever", consider:

  1. ZFS will protect you from silent data corruption. This is particularly likely for USB drives; portable magnetic drives have to put up with lots of knocking around and vibration damage and flash drives can be more vulnerable to wearing out ofter repeated writes.
  2. ZFS is the first POSIX-like FS which has good read-write cross platform compatibility between Linux/BSD/Mac. FAT32 has universal read-write compatibility but no POSIX features (Unix permissions, symlinks etc). All the Linux/BSD filesystems which have those features won't work fully on the other OS.
  3. ZFS has some useful features for setting up a drive or pool which will be used on multiple machines and administered by unprivileged users, see the properties below.

For (1) above we need to make sure that we set ZFS to create as many copies as possible, we do that with the copies property. A list of all the useful properties for portable pools is below; if you just want a command that combines them all:

zpool create -o cachefile=none -o delegation=on -O atime=off -O compression=lzjb \
-O copies=3 -O mountpoint=legacy -O setuid=off myusbtank /dev/usbdevice 
Once the pool is created, you will want to export it from the system:
zpool export myusbtank

Mounting and unmounting a USB drive

Assuming you've set it up properly, use zpool import/export to mount/unmount the drive:

zpool import myusbtank
[zfs mount if you used mountpoint = legacy]
[do stuff]
zpool export myusbtank

Useful properties for ZPools on USB or other portable drives

Pool Properties:
Do not cache this pool configuration when imported to the system.
Allow delegation of admin to non-privileged users, based on dataset access controls. These are set on the dataset with "zfs allow ..." - see zfs(1) for more details.
Dataset Properties (set on the root dataset with zpool -O when the pool is created, or other datasets with zfs -o):
Unless you need to store access times for some particular reason, switch it off
Useful if you want to put a dataset on the drive which is normally not mounted.
Normally lz4 gives both faster and better compression, but the versions of ZFS-Fuse in certain Linux distros *cough* don't have it, so lzjb is best for a maximally compatible pool.
For a disk which is likely vulnerable to random sector errors (i.e. virtually any portable drive) using multiple copies is very important. This can be set lower if you need to save space more than you need to save the data.
Note that copies can be set per-dataset, so it is possible to have a usb drive with a copies=3 dataset for your work and a copies=1 dataset for some videos you want to watch on the train.
Set where the dataset is mounted. If you can pick a directory ahead of time which definitely won't clash with an existing one, use that and the dataset will be mounted in the same spot wherever you use it (e.g. mountpoint=/bobsHomeVideosDiskThree or mountpoint=/home/dleigh/uniusbstick). Otherwise, set mountpoint to "legacy" to choose the directory at mount time.
Probably desirable for security.

Checksum errors on a Vdev but not the physical disk

This was a thread from freebsd-fs@ which seemed interesting enough to save:
> What does it mean when checksum errors appear on the array (and the
> vdev) but not on any of the disks? ...<snip>
>         NAME               STATE     READ WRITE CKSUM
>         vr2                ONLINE       0     0    36
>           raidz1-0         ONLINE       0     0    72
>             label/vr2-d0   ONLINE       0     0     0
>             label/vr2-d1   ONLINE       0     0     0
> <snip remaining>
> errors: 43 data errors, use '-v' for a list

Alan Somers' reply:

The checksum errors will appear on the raidz vdev instead of a leaf if vdev_raidz.c can't determine which leaf vdev was responsible. This could happen if [more than the parity level] leaf vdevs return bad data for the same block, which would also lead to unrecoverable data errors. I see that you have some unrecoverable data errors, so maybe that's what happened to you.

Subtle design bugs in ZFS can also lead to vdev_raidz.c being unable to determine which child was responsible for a checksum error. However, I've only seen that happen when a raidz vdev has a mirror child. That can only happen if the child is a spare or replacing vdev. Did you activate any spares, or did you manually replace a vdev?

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