A little habit of our documentation: how we write logins

May 18, 2013

Ove the years, we've developed a number of local conventions for our local documentation. One of them is that we always write Unix logins with < and > around them, as if they were local email addresses, so that we'll talk about how <cks>'s processes had to be terminated or whatever. When I started here this struck me as vaguely goofy; over time it has rather grown on me and I now think it's a quite clever idea.

Writing logins this way does two things. The first is that they become completely unambiguous. This is not much of an issue with a login like 'cks', but we have any number of logins that are (or could be) people's first or last names, and vice versa. Consistently writing the login with <> around it removes that ambiguity and uncertainty. The second thing it does is that it makes it much easier to search for a particular login in old messages and documentation. Searching for 'chris' may get all sorts of hits that are not actually talking about the login chris; searching for '<chris>' narrows that down a lot.

(Well, sort of. The reality is that we sometimes wind up quoting various sorts of system messages and system logs in our messages and of course these messages generally don't use the '<login>' form. However, often excluding these messages from a later search is good enough because we're mostly interested in the record of active things we did to an account.)

There's a corollary to the convenience of <login>: right now we have no similar notation convention for Unix groups. We write less about Unix groups than about Unix logins (and groups generally have more distinct names), but it would still be nice to have some convention so we could do unambiguous searches and so on.

Written on 18 May 2013.
« Why I'm not considering btrfs for our future fileservers just yet
The technical effects of being an out of tree Linux kernel module »

Page tools: View Source, Add Comment.
Login: Password:
Atom Syndication: Recent Comments.

Last modified: Sat May 18 01:13:38 2013
This dinky wiki is brought to you by the Insane Hackers Guild, Python sub-branch.