[TUHS] historical users and groups

John Cowan cowan at ccil.org
Thu Jan 15 03:36:41 AEST 2009

Tim Bradshaw scripsit:

> Wheel was people who could su, and I think that su knew about the  
> wheel group.  Or maybe it just knew about GID 0?  Was wheel always GID  
> 0?  I have an unreliable memory that it was wheel because it was  
> round, like 0.

Interesting etymology, but like most such things, false.  Thus spake
the Jargon File:

wheel: n.

    [from slang "big wheel" for a powerful person] A person who has an
    active wheel bit. "We need to find a wheel to unwedge the hung tape
    drives." (See wedged, sense 1.) The traditional name of security
    group zero in BSD (to which the major system-internal users like root
    belong) is "wheel". Some vendors have expanded on this usage,
    modifying Unix so that only members of group "wheel" can go root.

wheel bit: n.

    A privilege bit that allows the possessor to perform some restricted
    operation on a timesharing system, such as read or write any file
    on the system regardless of protections, change or look at any
    address in the running monitor, crash or reload the system, and
    kill or create jobs and user accounts. The term was invented on
    the TENEX operating system, and carried over to TOPS-20, XEROX-IFS,
    and others. The state of being in a privileged logon is sometimes
    called wheel mode. This term entered the Unix culture from TWENEX
    in the mid-1980s and has been gaining popularity there (esp. at
    university sites). See also root.

wheel wars: n.

    [Stanford University] A period in larval stage during which student
    hackers hassle each other by attempting to log each other out of
    the system, delete each other's files, and otherwise wreak havoc,
    usually at the expense of the lesser users.

My corporate data's a mess!                     John Cowan
It's all semi-structured, no less.              http://www.ccil.org/~cowan
    But I'll be carefree                        cowan at ccil.org
    Using XSLT

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