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I have no name!

February 10th, 2008

I had this weird problem at work back in December that I thought I’d share. I had noticed that when I started new gnome-terminals, my prompts read:

I have no name!@urbs-19979

Now that’s weird, but I ignored it since the machine was working and I was in a series of meetings. However, when I started trying to ssh into other systems I was getting told

You don’t exist, go away!

At this point I verbally told my laptop “You don’t tell me no” which caused some weird looks but people moved on just fine. Since the problem was now getting in my way I had to look into it. After a while I had realized that by adding a username to my ssh commands (through -l user or user@host) I could use ssh again. This caused me to think something was wrong with /etc/passwd, and I was right. My user couldn’t read /etc/passwd, fixed the permissions and all was well. I forget what I did to muck up /etc/passwd, but I’m sure if I had been using vipw like you’re supposed to I wouldn’t have had this problem…..but then again I would have missed out on the great gems that programmers leave in their programs.

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