Subject: Re: /var/cron -> /etc/cron
To: Mason Loring Bliss <>
From: Robert Elz <kre@munnari.OZ.AU>
List: current-users
Date: 04/03/1999 03:22:27
    Date:        Fri, 2 Apr 1999 11:52:52 -0500
    From:        Mason Loring Bliss <>
    Message-ID:  <>

  | The idea of root is to have a minimalist partition that contains a
  | functional system, isn't it?

Functional enough to get an actually useful system back again, yes.
Most people wouldn't consider just what is on root itself as functional
enough to use for more than recovery purposes.

  | I don't see how we can have anything vital moved out of it,

No, nothing vital.

  | If folks want to have a read-only root, they'd ought to do what
  | you're suggesting and use symlinks.

For some things, yes.  Unfortunately the one real drawback now to a read
only root is the passwd file (there's essentially nothing else there that
routinely gets changed).   Symlinks simply don't work for it the way it is

  | I strongly feel that our default should
  | have *all* machine-specific configuration information in /etc.

I agree (though I'd actually prefer things which are really config
files in /etc/conf to make them easier to find amongst the various
scripts, etc that also live in /etc).

But crontabs and even the passwd file aren't configuration information.

crontabs are just user data files for an application that happens to be a
daemon rather than actually individually run by the users.   If it weren't
for the fact that cron would need to go visit every user's directory
every time anyone changed a crontab file (the way cron/crontab currently
communicate) being a nightmare for anyone who uses amd to access user's
home directories, I'd feel a lot of sympathy with the suggestion that
crontabs go somewhere in the user's filespace.

The passwd file is a very weird special case, if we were designing things
now, there's no way that the current passwd file would be the result.  Most
of what is there is user config info, and ought to be in the user's
directory, or similar.

  | I'd think it's
  | saner to be able to back up and restore easily

Better than being able to restore it easily is avoiding the need to
(hardware problems excepted).   The best way to do that is to keep it
stable.   If root isn't there, you need some kind of backup root (which
might be the memory root from the installation system, or similar) in
order to get root back - that is, you need a stable root.  Seems better
to me to just keep the real root stable.   If root is still working,
recovering anything else is comparatively trivial.

But dumps still need to be done,  which is why I don't want crontab files for
hundreds, or thousands, of users all being stuffed there.