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BOFH: Being root
Don't you just hate it when you rock up to a training course only to find out that the person taking the course knows about as much about the topic as you can tattoo on a DIMM with a jackhammer?
And so it is that the "advanced linux" administration that I've booked myself onto is complete crap. Mind you, I'd never be on the course in the first place if the dates hadn't coincided with a major sporting event that one of our suppliers has a corporate box (with lashings of lager and small savoury treats) at. MmmMMmm sorted.
So of course I'm sporting a headache that measures 'Kurt Cobain' on the pain scale and instead of easing it with some hair of the dog I have to sit through the inane drivel of a man who knows as much about linux as Princess Grace did about mountain driving...
"And ls is what you use to list your files - ls being 'list' with every second letter removed" the dweeb burbles. "And you'll find a lot of unix utilities are similarly named - like cp for copy, mv for move"
"And su - for shut?" I ask idiotically.
"No, su is used to become root."
"Oh, so it's short for slut - not shut."
"No, no," he chuckles condescendingly. "Su is short for substitute user."
If there's one person that gets on my tits, it's the person at a training course that thinks they know more than the tutor and continually adds their 10p worth into the conversation when it's not wanted. I realise that I'm in danger of becoming that soldier, but I can't help myself, this guy is just crap!
"And ps which is used to..."
"Find a list of the users that piss you off?" I suggest
I can't help it, I just can't help it. It's like I've lost control!!!!
"No, it's used to find a list of processes. Now as someone's already mentioned su I think we'll talk about that for a while. With the exception of, say, changing to the oracle user or similar, the majority of the time, su is used to become the root user. And the root user is a very special user with enhanced powers."
"Like X-ray vision" I add quietly.
"Because of this" he continues, ignoring me, "root is used very sparingly and in the course of a normal day a good administrator is never logged in as root."
"Beg pardon?" I snap.
"I said a good administrator is never logged in as root."
"Bullshit! A real administrator is always logged in as root - it's CRAP administrators that aren't!"
"I think you'll find real administrators always use their own account and su to root" he replies condescendingly.
"So you use root all the time do you?"
"Only for the past 20 years."
"And you're not afraid of accidentally removing all the files from your home directory?"
"I used to be, but now I always do my work in someone else's home directory.
"But aren't you afraid you'll accidentally type in some command that would crash the system?"
"No more that I'm afraid I'll accidentally say something like You're a complete fraud!"
"That's completely different."
"Yes, it's a lot easier to say something without thinking than to type it."
"So you're saying you always use root rather than your own account?"
"root is my own account..."
"Well I think we'll have to agree to disagree on that one. It may be that some linux administrators are less concerned with their system security than others, but in my experience linux administrators are just as concerned as Windows and OS/2 administrators about the ability of malicious software being downloaded and affecting the machine with enhanced privileges."
"Oooh, yes," I add. "When I used OS/2 I was very concerned about malicious software exploiting enhanced privileges."
"What, the ability to activate code which could destroy the operating system and data on it?"
"No, my concerns were more along the line of it not setting the machine on fire and hammering a stake through the install media - apparently viruses can't do that," I sigh.
Around now the tutor has probably realised that I'm one person he shouldn't hand a course evaluation form to at the end of the session, so he decides to move on...
"Ok, so I think it's about time we try a couple of the exercises, so if you could all login to the server with the username at the top of your worksheet"
"You mean root?" one of the other students asks.
"No, I mean the other username, above root"
"It's not working for me," another student chirps.
"What about you?" the tutor asks me.
"Oh bugger!" I say.
"It seems you were right after all"
"What do you mean?"
"About a silly typing error causing problems"
"Well I logged in as root earlier and I was just going to try that ps thing you mentioned, but instead I accidentally typed in 'nohup cd /; rm -rf * > /dev/null 2>&1 &' "
"Okay." he gasps, "Just type in fg."
"fg, ok, oh bugger, I accidentally typed control-d instead."
"I...well, I suppose we could have a lesson on reinstalling a box from scratch," he sniffs.
"...or we could have one on gaining access to a corporate box at a major sporting event which has trolleyloads of lager and nibbles?"