[TUHS] Groups origins

Warner Losh imp at bsdimp.com
Mon Oct 4 09:22:48 AEST 2021

On Sun, Oct 3, 2021 at 3:55 PM Will Senn <will.senn at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi all,
> I was reading a recent thread, over on the FreeBSD forums about groups
> that quickly devolved into a discussion on the origin of the operator group:
> https://forums.freebsd.org/threads/groups-overview.82303/
> I thought y’all would be the best place to ask the questions that arose in
> me during my read of the thread.
> Here they are in no special order:
> 1. Where did operator come from and what was it intended to solve?

Operator was for people that 'operated' the computers. The name came from a
group on TOPS-20. The operator could do things normal users couldn't, like
restart stalled print jobs, run backups to mag tape and a few other normal
'house keeping' duties that these old machines needed.

In BSD, it serves much the same purpose. It's a way to grant a little bit
of privilege to an otherwise normal account that falls short of root.

This grew out of the days before the personal computer revolution where the
machine was massive (in terms of size), served a lot of people (via dumb
terminals), and needed constant care and feeding that you'd delegate to
undergrad technitians who needed work study money...

> 2. How has it evolved.

In general, using groups to control permissions has fallen out of style.
There's a few around still like operator and wheel that control some
things, or have elevated privs due to being able to open files others can't.

> 3. What’s a good place to look/ref to read about groups, generally?

At one point, it was well documented in the FreeBSD handbook, but I'm not
seeing it right away in a quick search.

> I liked one respondent’s answer about using find, heir, and the files
> themselves to learn about groups being used in a running system, paying
> attention to the owner, Audi, etc along the way and this is how I do it
> now, but this approach doesn’t account for the history and evolution.
> Thanks!
> Willu
> Sent from my iPhone
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