Hariharan Srinath

Using FuseCompress to compress folders in Ubuntu

Why consider using Fusecompress

Many light-weight Notebooks and all Chromebooks today come with balzingly fast but limited capacity Solid State Drives (SSDs) on the theory that people store much of their data in the cloud. However, to use these as Android development machines, you typically do need to store space hogs like sources and library documentation, emulator images etc locally.

Fusecompress is a great little legacy utility that uses the FUSE (File System in User Space) library to provide an on the fly compressed mountable filesystem that in effect lets you compress specific directories in manner completely transparent to all other programs.

I use my HP Chromebook 14 loaded with Ubuntu 14.04 via the ChrUbuntu on a lean 9GB partition as my primary development machine. I use fusecompress to compress offline documentation for Android and Python and the huge Android Emulator system images. This reduces the SSD footprint considerably with barely any impact on load times. The Emulator startup does become significantly slower but I need to to do this only once each session.

Installing fusecompress on Ubuntu 14.04

Fusecompress however is not available in the standard Ubuntu repositories and must be compiled from source. Given the legacy nature of the codebase, it’s a bit tricky to compile for novices. This blog post outlines the process step-by-step.

  1. Install Aptitude
    When I was using apt-get to install the dependency library sources, I found in a couple of cases the latest development releases of the libraries had conflicts and I had to regress to the previous version to install them. Aptitude does a much better job of solving for conflicts

    sudo apt-get install aptitude
  2. Install the auto build tools
    If they’re not installed on your system already, you’ll need to install autoconf and automake to be able to build from source.

    sudo aptitude install autoconf automake libtool
  3. Install compression algorithms development packages
    Next install the development packages for compression algorithms supported by fusecompress - LZO, LZMA, ZLib & BZ2. I ran into trouble in the LZO package where I had to revert from the 2.06-1.2ubuntu1.1 version to 2.06-1.2ubuntu1 version. Aptitude gives you a series of menu choices to handle this smoothly

    sudo aptitude install zlib1g-dev libbz2-dev liblzma-dev liblzo2-dev
  4. Install the FUSE development package

    sudo aptitude install libfuse-dev
  5. Download the fusecompress sources
    You can checkout the fusecompress source from Google Code with SubVersion. In today’s world of distributed version control systems like Git & Mercurial, using SubVersion may seem quaint but that’s the cost of using a stable legacy package like FuseCompress.

    Important Update: Google Code has shut down since this article was published and version of FuseCompress this post depends on was exported to Github. You need to use Git and the Github repository instead. Thanks to Matt C in the comments.

    sudo aptitude install subversion
    svn checkout http://fusecompress.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/ fusecompress-read-only
  6. Run the fusecompress build process Change to the folder where you’ve downloaded the fusecompress sources and run the following commands. Put the generated fusecompress binary somewhere in your system path.


Using fusecompress

The least disruptive way I found to use fusecompress is to simply mount the compressed folders exactly where they currently are. The key thing to remember while using fusecompress is that it compress files when they get written to disk. So files that are already in the folder won’t automatically get compressed. The way I typically manage this is:

  1. Rename the directory you want to compress

    mv directoryname temporaryname
  2. Create an empty directory with the old name

    mkdir directoryname
  3. Fusecompress the directory The default compression algorithm used is LZO which is very fast. You can also use LZMA as indicated below to get a better compression ratio. You maw want to add this line to your ~/.profile to automount on boot.

    fusecompress directoryname
    fusecompress -c lzma directoryname
  4. Move back all the contents Since Fusecompress will now compress each of the files as it is moved back, this step will take quite a bit of time depending on the amount of data

    cd temporaryname
    mv *.* ../directoryname
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