[nSLUG] Linuxfest "Backups" presentation

George N. White III gnwiii at gmail.com
Fri May 14 08:35:55 ADT 2010

On Fri, May 14, 2010 at 12:43 AM, Hatem Nassrat <hnassrat at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Thu, May 13, 2010 at 12:49 PM, George N. White III <gnwiii at gmail.com> wrote:
>> The people who want to keep data in /usr/bin are the ones who installed
>> linux on their new PC because Vista wouldn't let them put documents in
>> the "Program Files" tree.   They have only one user, "root", use the file
>> manager to find the office programs (e.g., /usr/bin/swriter, /usr/bin/[g]calc,
>> etc.), and put all their documents in the same place.
> Have you actually seen this happen for those reasons. That seems
> insane. I would have thought windows users wouldn't even know what
> root was.

I'm guessing at the reasons, but I have encountered the "documents" with
programs problem a few times.    There is a certain generation that moved
from mainframes to unix workstations to PC's with DOS or Windows 3.
The CDC Cyber started out with a single file store -- no concept of directories
at all, so programs and data all lived together.  The first thing unix users
learned was that you have to use root to configure things, so you still
have people whose early experiences taught them "put data with programs
and use the "root" account when you encounter permission problems".

Many users seem to have problems with the "PATH" variable.   I guess
the whole idea that you type the name of a program that isn't in the
directory seems too much like magic and leads to questions "what if
there are two programs with the same name?".    It is not always
easy to figure out how to adjust the PATH.   Old timers know that
you change PATH in ~/.cshrc, then get told that no longer works and
they need to edit .profile, find the old syntax doesn't work and then
discover that ssh sessions don't load .profile.

Two major software packages I use are NASA SeaDAS and TeX Live.
It is quite amazing how many times posting to the email lists are from
users who are running as "root", and a significant fraction of those want
to put user files in the software tree or copy "system" files into their
document directory.  With TeX it is a bit more understandable
as the software uses huge numbers of macro files and has a massively
complex file hierarchy, so it is often easier to just put all the macro files
with the document than it is to sort out configuration glitches or figure out
how to add macro files to the "proper" location.

I think there is a great deal of work needed in this area.   I hate that
linux distros with package managers need sudo to install end-user
software.   There is way too much stuff going into /usr/bin these days.

On my systems I tend to put apps into /opt and dynamically adjust the
PATH to add /opt/<organization>/<version>/bin for the app I'm using ATM,
but I often need to be able to compare results between different versions
of the app.  This approach falls apart when I'm interested in changes to
shared libraries.  In principle I should be able to adjust LD_LIBRARY_PATH
when I adjust PATH, but apps don't always respect LD_LIBRARY_PATH

George N. White III <aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca>
Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia

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