user nobody and test suites

Bruce Dubbs bruce.dubbs at
Sun Mar 25 22:11:12 PDT 2007

Robert Connolly wrote:
> On Sunday March 25 2007 22:30, Dan Nicholson wrote:
>> Also, I'm wondering if there would be problems running scripts, etc.,
>> when HOME=/dev/null. The dummy user we create for coreutils is given
>> /root as it's home directory. Robert, do you see any issues running
>> the testsuites as nobody?
> I used this for passwd:
> nobody:x:65534:65534:Unprivileged User:/nonexistent:/sbin/nologin
> And this for group:
> nogroup:x:65533:
> nobody:x:65534:

The use of 65534 for a uid or gid is not a good idea.  It comes from old
time usage in nfs and nowhere else.  *If* nfs does not find a nobody
user, it defaults to -2.  Since the uid/gid are 16 bit numbers, this
equates to 65534.  There are two things wrong with this.  First it makes
the /var/log/wtmp look very large when viewing with ls -l.  du
/var/log/wtmp does show the correct disk usage though as it is a sparse
file but the ls -l can confuse users that don't know its a sparse file
(or even what a sparse file is).  If the file system does not support
sparse files, the file really is huge.

I think most modern distros use 99 for nobody as we do.  I know RedHat
does at least as far back as RH9. They do have a nfsnobody user, but
that is merely for an ls -l display if accessing a disk with very old

Secondly, if a user is able to log in somehow and the home directory
does not exist, it defaults to /.  You see this if a home directory is
on a separate partition that is not mounted.  This is why root's home
directory is always /root and not /home/root.

I highly recommend using /dev/null instead of /nonexistent.

  -- Bruce

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