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September 09, 2003

Wierd Solaris Bugs

Recently we patched everything. I mean really patched it. We ran those explorer dumps, analysed the systems within an inch of their lives and then patched them to kingdom come. It's not often you get a window big enough to do a full patch run and so if you get the chance, take it. There were a few problems with other groups who joined the gold-rush and updated their apps but that was cool and resolved. Everything settled down. I mean it was all over by this time last month. Everyone has moved onto more interesting projects.

User: Umm. Excuse me. What does "bad user" mean?
BOFH: Huh?
User: I keep getting this message in cron about being a "bad user".
BOFH: Truth in Advertising.
User: And my jobs don't work.
BOFH: (Remembering recent appraisals and discussions about being obstructionist.) Is this something new?
User: Oh no. It's been happening since August 4th.
BOFH: (Checks calendar, August 3rd was mega-patch day for the server concerned.) Why didn't you say anything earlier?
User: I figured you guys would fix it eventually.....

Ignoring the assumption of mental telepathy, I started to investigate the problem. User account exists - CHECK. User has home directory - CHECK. User is not in cron.deny - CHECK. User actually has cron jobs - CHECK. User is actually reporting correct error message - CHECK.
< userx 15131 c Tue Sep 9 17:04:00 2003
! bad user (userx) Tue Sep 9 17:04:00 2003
> userx 15131 c Tue Sep 9 17:04:00 2003 rc=1

OK. Lets bring out the big guns. Google for "cron" and "bad user" ignoring references to the real BOFH. Interesting, a number of hits on sunmanagers mailing lists. Check 'em out. Looks like the same diagnostics and a note about expired passwords. Hang on, does this account have an expired password? No, this account doesn't have a real password - it is a *LK* account - which can only be accessed by sudo.

Test this theory. Create a cronjob for /bin/true. Give user a password in NIS and make sure map is pushed out. Everything works. Now *LK* the account, push the NIS maps and try again. It fails.

WTF? Does this mean I have to add a password to all my *LK* accounts just so they can run cronjobs? There are more than 200 of these suckers .... AAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!

Oh well, at least it's not windblows :-) Then again, I could have fixed it with a reboot and a reinstall!

Posted by Ozguru at September 9, 2003 06:00 AM


Thanks for reminding me of BOFH. Haven't seen him around in ages. Gonna go scrounge out some archive copies and read them.

Posted by: Kingsley at September 9, 2003 05:09 PM

BOFH kept me sane for several years of working as a sysop. I also thank you for the reminder.

(And have to wonder if the previous commenter is a very distant relative. My last name is Kinsley, generally accepted as a Kingsley who got lazy with the 'g'.)

Posted by: Kathy K at September 9, 2003 05:09 PM

Kathy, probably not. Kingsley's my first name, and I doubt if you have a very distant relative who was born in a remote hamlet in the southern tip of India.

Posted by: Kingsley at September 9, 2003 05:09 PM

Well it is a small world after all - you never know your luck. When my grandfather was tracing relatives he got in touch with a old lady living in Queensland (some distant cousin) who was so glad to hear from him - she said she was the only one left in the family. Grandfather then pointed out that actually she had a first cousin living two doors down in the same street that she had never actually met.....

[For Americans, this would be like someone in California telling someone in New York that they had a cousin living in the same block of apartments....]

Posted by: ozguru at September 9, 2003 05:09 PM