[TUHS] The origin of /home

Dan Cross crossd at gmail.com
Fri Sep 28 07:07:30 AEST 2018

On Thu, Sep 27, 2018 at 4:43 PM Cág <ca6c at bitmessage.ch> wrote:

> Thanks for such an interesting and informative answer, Mr. Cross.

I'm happy to write it!

Dan Cross wrote:
> > 4.4BSD had a convention of placing user home directories in /a, /b,
> > etc.
> Do I understand it correctly: they were in just "slash a/b/etc" in
> root? Not /home/a or /usr/a but just /a?

Correct. I believe the idea was to program the automounter to make these
appear in some directory like /home, but the directories themselves lived
in /a, /b, etc. Presumably these were mount points for separate
disk-resident filesystems.

> 4.4BSD-Lite also had /var/users.
> Was it /var/users/$(user) or /var/$(user)?

/var/users/$user. For example, 4.4BSD-Lite1 contains entries for Ken and
Dennis in /etc/master.passwd:

dmr:*:10:31::0:0:Dennis Ritchie:/var/users/guest/dmr:
ken:*:11:31::0:0:& Thompson:/var/users/guest/ken:

To everyone: thanks for all the answers, it's always interesting to read
> such things. I try not to miss a single mail after signing up for the
> list.
> This question actually came up long ago when I first tried Plan 9,
> which, as you know, has the directory in /usr, and it was released in
> 90s, after 4.4BSD. Of course, Plan 9 is(not) (Research) Unix, and
> doesn't have a root user, and apparently has a different rationale
> behind it -- if I'm not mistaken, it has bin, lib and something else
> there, none of which are usually present in /home these days, even bin
> is usually in /usr/local.

Plan 9 represented an opportunity to do things over. Many of us rather
liked it and thought it was a worthy successor to Unix, but it never caught
on in the larger world and now, in the bathed in the cold light of history,
some of its faults are evident.

The issue with bin/ is that it's in several places. In plan9, these are all
bound onto /bin, which is nice.

        - Dan C.
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