An additional small detail of how writes work on ZFS raidzN pools
Back in How writes work on ZFS raidzN pools I wrote up how ZFS doesn't always do what's usually called 'full stripe writes', unlike normal RAID-5/6/etc systems. This matters because if you write data in small chunks you can use up more space than you expect, especially on 4k physical sector size disks (apparently zvols with a 4K or 8K record size are especially terrible for this; see eg this ZFS on Linux issue report).
Recently, I was reading Matthew Ahrens' ZFS RAIDZ stripe width, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love RAIDZ and learned another small but potentially important detail about how ZFS does raidzN writes. It turns out that ZFS requires all allocations to be multiples of N+1 blocks, so it rounds everything up to the nearest N+1 block boundary. This is regardless of how many disks you have in the raidzN vdev; if you have a raidz2 pool, for example, it can allocate 9 blocks or 12 blocks for a single write but never 10 or 11 blocks.
(Note that this is the allocation size including the raidzN parity blocks, not the user level data alone.)
At first this might seem kind of crazy, but as Matthew Ahrens explains, it more or less makes sense. The minimum write size in a raidzN pool is one data block plus N parity blocks, ie N+1 blocks in total. By rounding allocations up to this boundary, ZFS makes life somewhat easier on itself; any chunk of free space is always guaranteed to fit at least one data block, no matter how space is allocated. No matter how things are allocated and freed, ZFS will never be left with 'runt' free space that is too small to be used.
(This is free space as ZFS sees it, ie free space in a space map, which is what ZFS scans when it wants to allocate space. There will be some amount of irregular space that is 'free' in the sense that it is not used because it's rounded-up blocks, but ZFS doesn't have to keep track of that as free space. Instead ZFS just ignores it entirely, or more exactly marks it as used space.)
As with partial stripe writes, this does interact with 4k sector drives to potentially use more space, especially for higher raidzN settings. However, how much extra space gets used is going to be very dependent on what size your writes are.
(The good news is that minimum-sized objects won't experience any extra space usage as a result of this, since they're already one data block plus N parity blocks.)
How RPM handles configuration files, both technically and socially
In comments on my entry on Ubuntu packages playing 'hide the configuration file', James asked how RPM handles user editable configuration files (and then guaq gave a good answer). This is an important enough thing to talk about that I'm going to write an entry about it, because RPM's approach is both technical and social.
On the technical side, the first thing is that if the file hasn't changed between the old package and the new package update, RPM knows this and doesn't need to do anything; it doesn't touch the installed file and doesn't bother putting the stock version anywhere. If the configuration file has changed between the old and the new package and you've also edited the configuration file, most of the time the package will write out the new configuration file as <file>.rpmnew (for exact details of what happens when, see Jon Warbrick's writeup; while it's from some time ago, I don't believe RPM's behavior has changed since).
If this isn't enough, RPM packages can also do arbitrary things on package upgrades in their postinstall scripts. I believe that this has occasionally been used to do things like edit installed configuration files to modify or comment out configuration directives that have unavoidably changed or disappeared between software versions. However, this is where we shade into the social side of things.
Because RPM packages can't really try to do sophisticated things
with configuration files, they have a strong social pressure to not
need them. As a packager, part of your job is to make sure that the
package's configuration files work right even within these restrictions.
Generally you must keep existing configuration files working correctly
even over package updates; resorting to pushing installed configuration
files aside as
.rpmsave files is strongly discouraged (as far as
I know; it's certainly uncommon). This requires more up front work,
is harder, and inevitably requires some tradeoffs (where people
with edited configuration files don't magically get the benefit of
new configuration options), but in my opinion it produces better
long term benefits for sysadmins.
(It also encourages schemes to split configuration files up in various ways, because then it's more likely that most of the split configuration files will be unedited. RPM based systems are not alone in this, of course, and sometimes they don't do it as well as other systems.)
As a result, while you can do crazy things in RPM postinstall scripts, it's effectively discouraged. I would be surprised if Fedora packaging review was very receptive to mangling configuration files in postinstall scripts, for example (although it's not covered explicitly in the Fedora packaging guidelines). And of course the technical restriction that you can't ask the user any questions in your postinstall script limits the amount of things it's sensible to even try to have an ultra-smart script do.
This also affects what sort of default configuration it's sensible to set up in your package's stock files. Generally it's going to be better to create something minimal but stable instead of a complicated setup with lots of options that has to be managed by hand. Sure, many sysadmins will have to change your minimal setup, but on the other hand your package itself hopefully won't have to change and revise the setup from version to version. This keeps all of the changes, customizations, and updates in the hands of sysadmins, instead of making some of them your responsibility.
RPM's technical approach could not work without the social approach (although of course its technical limitations combined with sane people create the social approach). As a result, any RPM based system is going to have a terrible time with a program that needs configuration file customization and also changes its configuration files around in incompatible ways (either as for what's allowed in them or as to how they're organized). Fortunately there are not many programs like this, because they're unpopular with sysadmins even without RPM packaging issues.