[nycbug-talk] why /var?

Jay daggerquill
Fri Feb 18 17:13:16 EST 2005

On Fri, 18 Feb 2005 16:31:21 -0500, Bob Ippolito <bob at redivi.com> wrote:

> "bin" really means "executable".
> As for the mail spool, the idea is that it's supposed to be persistent
> until it's ready to go out.  You should be able to wipe /tmp on reboot
> (if not more often) without any adverse effects, that wouldn't be true
> if the mail spool was there.  Just because it's volatile doesn't mean
> it's temporary..

That's exactly the point.  "bin" doesn't mean executable, per se; it's
short for "binary".  It's used to mean "executable" because "binary"
and "executable" were interchangeable.  Your program had to be a
compiled binary to run.  In many cases that's still true, but it's
becoming less true by the day, particularly on things like large web
servers: think how much code in cgi-bin is likely to be perl or python
scripts.  The name, however, has stuck around, and will continue to
stick around because it's what people are used to.  /exec would me
more descriptive, though, or OS X's "/Applications", or even Windows
"C:\Program Files".  I'm not adovcating a change; I'm just pointing
out that you can't trust the partition labels to adequately describe
the content.

I'm not advocating moving the mail spool to /tmp, either.  Clearly
that would be disasterous.  but if we're talking about truth in
advertising, spools aren't "variable" data like logs, or databases, or
/var/run files that serve to save, record, or report particular
system, data, or harware states.  Spools are a place to temporarily
store data until confirmation is recieved that they've been handled
appropriately.  "Persistent unil [I'm done with it]" sounds like a
temp file to me.  A potentially long-lived temp fiels, but still a
temp file.

Again, I'm not objecting to the naming scheme, just saying that we
need to take the labels with a grain of salt (or two).


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