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Is there a way to compact a very large directory under EXT2/EXT3 without simply remaking the directory?

I recall that perlfunc cautions that the OS implementations of seekdir and telldir run the risk of directory compaction. which sounds like what I want in this case, but I'm unfamiliar with those semantics in practice.

background: I've a few directories that are themselves many MB in size -- they were overrun with a zillion small files in the past:

$ ls -lh
drwxr-x--- 2 root root 1.3M Oct  5 12:49 big
drwxr-x--- 2 root root 2.3M Oct  5 12:49 this_one_is_empty_now
drwxr-x--- 2 root root 6.1M Oct  5 12:49 yikes
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Reiser3 is the answer. :-) –  poige Oct 5 '11 at 13:39
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2 Answers

Directories can not be compacted online exactly because of the requirements of seekdir/telldir. They require any program to be able to maintain position within the directory for indefinite time and still only read any given entry once; therefore, the entries can not be moved around while the fs is mounted.

You can compact the directory offline with e2fsck -D.

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I think those are rather soft requirements, as the GNU docs for dirent caution that seekdir/telldir may not be reliable. The point about e2fsck is well taken. +1 –  pilcrow Oct 5 '11 at 13:55
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Have you looked into pigz? It's an improved gzip.

John Allspaw talks about it on his blog here:
http://www.kitchensoap.com/2010/04/02/pigz-parallel-gzip-omg/

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I think the OP wants to reduce the size of the directory file within the filesystem rather than compress the actual files –  Iain Oct 5 '11 at 13:16
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