[OT] Debian mailinglists [was: RE: Debian or Ubuntu?]

Les Mikesell lesmikesell at gmail.com
Tue May 20 15:13:20 UTC 2008

Derek Broughton wrote:

>> Derek Broughton wrote:
>>> No, actually it isn't.  I'd be happier if it wasn't even possible to
>>> configure most servers with a text editor.  I don't trust people,
>>> especially administrators who think they know everything.  I particularly
>>> don't trust people to hand edit my ssh config.
>>     You don't trust people, especially not sysadmins... but you trust
>> programmers.  Ok then.  Ker-plonk.
> Don't be a moron.  Of _course_ we trust programmers.  We trust them all the
> time, or we wouldn't even be using this OS. 

And we trust them NOT to do something as stupid as requiring a GUI to be 
working before you can edit the configuration to fix it or the 
underlying OS.  And we use this OS because everything it inherits from 
the days before GUI's still works efficiently.  If we wanted to be 
forced to start a new window context for every process we'd probably use 
something else.

> We trust Open Source
> programmers even more because we can audit their code.  Anybody who thinks
> it's safer to edit a config file by hand than with a GUI isn't on my hiring
> list.

Safer isn't usually the point.  If you have to edit a config file at all 
it is usually because either the programmer got it wrong or you want to 
do something he didn't consider.  If you insist on having program 
verification of everything, you won't be able to fix the situation where 
the program is wrong and you won't be able to deal with any new 
situations the programmer didn't expect.  Also if the GUI editor is not 
actually part of the program in question there's a very good chance that 
it will be out of sync with the syntax is is supposed to help you with.

>  There's a very good reason that /etc/sudoers contains this warning:
> # This file MUST be edited with the 'visudo' command as root.
> It's not a GUI (though actually, it could be) but it forces verification of
> the file before actually replacing the old file

If it were a GUI - and actually required... you wouldn't be able to fix 
it easily remotely or with just a console login.
> <plonk> back at you.

There is a valid point that programs should provide a way to check the 
syntax of their own configs that is less drastic than restarting them 
and crashing, but the idea that something should keep you from making 
changes that no one thought about before is very un-unix-like.  If you 
can't break it, you probably also can't improve it.

   Les Mikesell
    lesmikesell at gmail.com

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