Two weeks ago, the excellent Building Windows 8 blog posted an in-depth look at the upcoming operating system’s new file system, ReFS. It reminded me of the promise of so many years ago that OS X would be changing its file system from HFS+ to ZFS. Not a promise many remember or even cared about at the time, but it was, in fact, important.
ZFS support was dropped amid development and legal problems, but Don Brady, who was heading up the file system transition team at Apple, left to pursue it independently. And now he’s releasing a piece of software, Zevo, which finally adds ZFS support to any Intel Mac running 10.6.6 or later.
Most of you are probably wondering why you should even bother about something as invisible to the average user as the file system. It’s a fair question, and the short version is that HFS+ has its roots in very old computing practices (think PowerPC processors running OS 9) and is missing some features that are becoming more critical every year. The long version is here in John Siracusa’s 10.7 review on Ars Technica, where he breaks down feature by feature where HFS+ falls short.
Zevo comes in four flavors: Silver ($20), Gold ($40), and Platinum (no price yet), plus a Developer edition that isn’t fully detailed yet. Each adds more features, but many basic benefits of ZFS are there to begin with, like bit-level error detection. Unfortunately, you can’t boot from a ZFS volume right now, so you’ll need to create a ZFS partition and keep your data there. This isn’t surprising, but it is a little disappointing. It’s not the full conversion people were hoping for, but only Apple can provide that, and they don’t seem to want to.
Should you buy it? You should probably at least ask your IT guys. But it’s nice to see this little gem of geekery resurface after so many years in limbo. If I get a new MacBook Pro this year (a high-res one, naturally), I might just stick this on there for kicks. At this price, it’s really not much of a hit, and it’ll be great for my cred.