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Re: chmod and permission nomenclature

From: Bernd Jendrissek
Subject: Re: chmod and permission nomenclature
Date: Fri, 31 May 2002 15:39:43 +0200

On Fri, May 31, 2002 at 10:56:43AM +0100, Steve Holmes wrote:
> > At the moment you think "u=owner" and "o=user", right?  Just indoctrinate
> > yourself with the less confusing alternative: "u=User" and "o=Other".  The
> > meaning of "user" is "the user to whom this file belongs".
> To me there is a logical ambiguity between the intuitive meaning of 'users'
> as in "users of the system" and 'user' who happens to own a particular
> file - who is often root or a sys admin. There is also ambiguity between
> 'user' and 'other (user)'. 'Other' is a difficult term to use precisely on
> its own, without the 'user' qualification. It would be very awkward to think

But "other" is not just "other user" - it's the *intersection* (set theory)
of "other users" and "other groups".

> about and discuss my users as just "others". The meaning of the term 'user'
> has to change with the context and this is where the opportunity for error
> arises.
> I imagine that a large proportion of *new* GNU/*nix users/admins - who we
> surely need to encourage to switch from that other OS, find the current
> u/g/o names counter-intuitive, as I do. A naming convention like
> owner/group/everyone (o/g/e) would be equally intuitive for everyone.

Try this:
$ touch foo
$ chmod u=,go+r foo
$ cat foo

File permission checks seem to short-circuit - If you're the (user) owner,
the permissions checked are *user* permissions, even if your group matches
the file, or even if you're one of "everyone".  That's why I don't think
the "everyone" mnemonic would work either - people would think "everyone
including you and I", not "everyone else", as is the case.

> We want *nix to be as intuitive and accessible as possible don't we?
> Surely we shouldn't tell new users that they have to remember to think
> counter-intuitively when they come to use chmod - or to think
> counter-intuitively most of the time so that chmod's usage comes naturally.

I don't think you'll get new users (at least non-techies) to even *consider*
GNU/* if all you give them is a command line.  You probably want to impress
them with a slick Nautilus or what-have-you.  (Personally I prefer CLI's :)

> IMHO lots of little niggles like this accumulate, especially for new and
> less frequent users, to make the system significantly more difficult than
> the alternative, and hold back the growth of GNU/*nix.

This is turning into a storm-in-a-teacup.  I think there will be cognitive
overhead whichever way you arrange things.

Bernd Jendrissek

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