The ext3 filesystem is a journaled file system that is compatible with ext2 (an ext3 filesystem can be mounted as ext2 if necessary). It's faster and more reliable than ext2, and therefore has become popular (though so has Reiserfs).
This poster had difficulty creating an ext3 filesystem. Not so long ago, you'd do this by first making an ext2 filestem and then converting it with
tune2fs -j /dev/hdXX
A bit later, you could do that directly with:
mke2fs -j /dev/hdXX
and now you can use
I can't find a man page that says you can do "mkfs -t ext3 /dev/hdXX", but that does turn up in posts, so maybe it is in a newer version than I have.
However, this poster's problem wasn't really to do with ext3 at all; it was actually a problem with fdisk and the kernel.
If you modify or create a partition on a disk that has other mounted partitions, fdisk will tell you:
WARNING: Re-reading the partition table failed with error 16: Device or resource busy. The kernel still uses the old table. The new table will be used at the next reboot. Syncing disks.
If you ignore that, or didn't see it, you are going to get errors when you try to create a filesystem on your new partition. That's what apparently happened here - the fix is simply to reboot. Note that this only applies if the disk being modified has mounted partitions: if you could unmount the other partitions or were using a disk without other partitions, you wouldn't need to reboot and could proceed directly to making your filesystems.
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