The Top Ten Concepts for Beginners to Linux – Number 3, Users

linux78 The Top Ten Concepts for Beginners to Linux   Number 3, Users
Levi Reiss asked:


Unlike Windows, Linux users must have an account. This account is accorded permissions such as reading and writing files and executing programs. Accounts are combined into groups to simplify their management. Users who are members of a given group may be assigned additional permissions that smooth the process of accessing common files. Let’s take a closer look at how Linux handles these users. A future article examines permissions and groups.

Linux provides two categories of users, ordinary users essentially restricted to working with files of their own creation, and the superuser, or root, who administers the system and is allowed to do almost anything. The real situation is of course somewhat more complex. For example, ordinary users may be accorded restricted access to additional files deemed to be of interest to everyone. The superuser can assign some privileges to deputies reducing an otherwise crushing workload.

The root user is the only one authorized to run the adduser or the more complicated useradd command. If you have downloaded Damn Small Linux you can test these commands on your Windows computer. In response to the adduser command Linux requests the user name, the password, and then a few optional fields that may be skipped. An organization with many users has or should have a policy for composing user names.

The password is a key element in protecting the computer’s security. We could easily write an article discussing the password and password selection. Remember that Linux distinguishes between lower-case and upper-case letters. If you’re new to computing you may try working with easily remembered passwords at first. But protecting your account and account information depends on your unguessable passwords.
When Linux creates your account it also creates a directory whose name is easy to remember. If your account name is lucy then your working directory is /home/lucy . I’m leaving it up to you to find out the location of lucy’s working directory for Windows systems.

Damn Small Linux shares an interesting feature with many other Linux systems. The system administrator can provide new users with copies of some directories and folders by placing them in the /etc/skel directory before launching the adduser command.

How is the system administrator supposed to handle creating dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of new users, for example at the beginning of the semester? He or she won’t have the time to undertake this backbreaking task. And there is no way that the root password should be revealed to the employee who is assigned this task. The answer is simple: write a program to create these new accounts. This program can even spiff up the account creation interface and perhaps grab some necessary information from sources such as the student registration file.

Of course we don’t want to create users without the possibility of removing them. The live process is fairly complicated and includes removing the user’s password from the /etc/passwd directory, removing all files from the user directory, and other activities such as making backups of essential information. The next article discusses the related concepts of permissions and groups.



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