[TUHS] historical users and groups

Jason Stevens neozeed at gmail.com
Fri Jan 16 03:15:46 AEST 2009

I would recommend the book "The Cuckoo's egg" for a 'feel' of what the old
multi user BSD boxes were like..


Clifford does go a bit into the administrative roles, and of course tracking
back a SYSV influenced hacker...
It was quite an interesting read when I was a kid, and it still holds up.

Naturally SIMH can run the 4.2BSD that they were running back then... If you
are on windows I've pre-packaged
it here:

Some additional links:


On Wed, Jan 14, 2009 at 8:00 AM, Jose R. Valverde <jrvalverde at cnb.csic.es>wrote:

> From what I remember this had to do with two old time trends.
> First you have a professional trend: an ancient system would not be
> normally
> run by one sysadmin (or even the user) as it is now. There would be a data
> center with a legion of workers.
> You would have the master system manager/administrator (root). In some
> cases it might have more than one member or even -e. g. BSD2- a special
> group name 'superuser'.
> Then a hoard of minions to handle basic tasks (operators) like launching
> system backups, allocating resources, changing tapes on user request,
> getting printouts and giving them back to users, handling punched cards
> on user behalf, running  fsck, restarting the system, putting paper on
> printers... (users were often not allowed inside the computer room where
> expensive equipment was locked).
> This (root + operators) would deal with the minimal set of the time, but on
> most places you would also have junior sysadmins (to manage delegated
> system
> tasks like rebuilding the kernel), system programmers (to develop system
> software and automation scripts), etc.. These would belong to the 'sys'
> group
> which would allow them wider access than 'oper' but less than 'root'. And
> then you would have assistants, students, secretaries, etc... all of them
> also part of the computer center 'staff' so they could share memos, data,
> etc..
> 'guest' should be obvious. Most single users do not need it, but we still
> use
> a 'guest' group for external visitors, short course students,
> demonstrations,
> etc... to distinguish them from normal users -who can do more (and pay for
> it).
> Still, even for home systems, notice how the Mac and Windows still provide
> by
> default a 'guest' account (useful when a relative or friend pays a visit
> and
> you don't want them to use your account nor setup a one-time account
> either).
> Secondly, you have a modularization trend. In principle it might seem
> sensible
> that all system binaries belong to 'root'. And they do on many modern
> systems.
> On second thought -and at the time- it makes more sense to have categories:
> Critical system files would belong to 'root' and not be modifiable by
> anyone.
> When you have system programmers adding software, or junior sysadmins
> installing
> user software, you need to give them some privilege. If that is not 'root'
> which
> should it be? The 'bin' group solves the problem. You can think of 'bin' as
> 'binary installer' (software, manual pages, files...).
> Then, you may need a separate group for other, non-public or non-shared
> files.
> This was originally group 'other', and /var/spool or /usr/spool belonged to
> it.
> But then you can go further ahead: some software is special, so why not
> make a
> distinction? Daemons are a prominent case: they have no associated
> terminal,
> so they need to log their messages to a file. Simplest way is to have a
> 'daemon' group. This was the case for 'netdaemon' and its spawned daemons
> in
> BSD, later inetd, but also LPR, SENDMAIL, UUCP, etc.. Programs in this
> group
> could log messages in a directory owned by 'daemon' and these logs would
> need
> not be visible outside the group.
> What confuses you is that taking this to the extreme leads you to use
> separate
> groups and log directories for each daemon as we do now. And even for
> separate
> user programs (e. g. if they need direct access to a hardware device). See
> e.g. X11.
> But think of it: which is more informative when you see a directory?
> Seeing it belongs to 'xyz.nlm' as you do now or to 'xyz.daemon'? In a
> personal
> system where you did yourself or do not care, the first is OK. On a complex
> house with lots of hands the second wins. It is like the later division in
> SV
> between 'bin' and 'sbin' to separate security sensitive system binaries.
> As for nobody/nogroup... I'd say it's a dilettante game play. Or a matter
> of
> taste. Problem is, once someone users 'nogroup' and expects it, you need to
> have both to avoid breaking the odd tool (sigh).
> On Tue, 13 Jan 2009 18:59:40 -0600 (CST)
> "Jeremy C. Reed" <reed at reedmedia.net> wrote:
> > Trying to understand some users and groups that continue to exist on BSD
> > systems.
> >
> > Can someone please point me to references or share examples of historical
> > and/or recent uses of the following users and groups?
> >
> > Also any clarifications of my understandings below would be appreciated.
> >
> > (My context is BSD. I know some of these may have different old and
> > existing uses on other systems.)
> >
> > daemon user
> > I see /var/msgs on NetBSD is owned by daemon. msgs will abort if doing -c
> > (cleanup) if not root or daemon user. I guess that is historic. I don't
> > see any daemon user usage.
> >
> > operator user
> > I understand that historically, the operator user had logins
> > for those doing disk backups (via its login group privileges).
> > I understand the operator group, just wondering if any recent uses of
> > operator user.
> >
> > bin user
> > Don't know what uses it.
> >
> > daemon group
> > I understand that historically, these are for processes needing less
> > privileges than the wheel group. Also historically, programs using
> > /var/spool directories were setgid daemon. Anything common other than
> > LPD/LPR still use the daemon group?
> >
> > sys group
> > I understand that historically, the sys group was used for access to the
> > kernel (/sys?) sources. (I don't know if that was just read or was for
> > writing too.) Anyone still use "sys" group? (I guess this is like wsrc
> > which sometimes I manually setup and use for writing to src directories.)
> >
> > bin group
> > I understand that historically, used as the group for system binaries,
> but
> > commonly the wheel group is used instead. Some third-party software, like
> > OpenOffice.org, install files owned by the bin group.
> >
> > staff group
> > How would this differ from wheel or operators?
> > Any recent systems actually have default use of this?
> >
> > guest group
> > Any recent systems actually have default use of this?
> >
> > nobody group versus nogroup group
> > What is the significance of having both of these groups?
> >
> >
> > Thanks!
> > _______________________________________________
> > TUHS mailing list
> > TUHS at minnie.tuhs.org
> > https://minnie.tuhs.org/mailman/listinfo/tuhs
> --
>                        EMBnet/CNB
>                Scientific Computing Service
>        Solving all your computer needs for Scientific
>                        Research.
>                http://bioportal.cnb.csic.es
>                  http://www.es.embnet.org
> _______________________________________________
> TUHS mailing list
> TUHS at minnie.tuhs.org
> https://minnie.tuhs.org/mailman/listinfo/tuhs
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://minnie.tuhs.org/pipermail/tuhs/attachments/20090115/75bf7719/attachment.html>

More information about the TUHS mailing list