[Beowulf] Definition of HPC

Ellis H. Wilson III ellis at cse.psu.edu
Thu Apr 18 08:09:54 PDT 2013

On 04/18/2013 10:52 AM, Joe Landman wrote:
> On 04/18/2013 10:37 AM, Ellis H. Wilson III wrote:
> [...]
>> Please note: I NEVER run as root, I just "tinker" as root.  I don't
>> think there is ever a good reason to run as root.  But having and using
>> root is not so evil as you claim.  In particular, I have NO doubt you
>> require root to build JackRabbits, but I doubt you claim you are "one
>> misstep from misfortune."  You're probably just careful.
> Ahhh ... strawmen.  Don't purposely misread/misconstrue what I wrote.

I didn't intend to, nor do I believe I misread or misconstrued what you 
wrote.  My apologies if I really did, and I'm not seeing it.  I 
originally said I needed root access for my research as a systems 
researcher, and you followed up with a response basically pointing out 
one particularly bad grad student who went to the ends of the earth to 
get root and for uncertain reasons and then broadly claimed nobody but 
sysadmins should have root.

To use your example, this is kinda like running down the stairs with 
scissors and cutting yourself and then claiming nobody should use 
scissors just because you got cut.  No, just carefully walk down the 
stairs with them, if you must bring them at all.

And speaking of cutting oneself, I exclusively run Gentoo Linux and in 
the past ran Linux From Scratch as my main distribution.  So I've got 
plenty of scars to prove I've not always been careful with root.  I'm ok 
with that.  Scars make for interesting stories.

> I am talking about handing root to grad students/postdocs/profs who then
> effectively integrate it into their work processes to do things that are
> better done outside root.  Most of the examples you gave are better done
> with sudo, and sudo has emerged as a "best practices" scenario ... its

Sudo is fine.  I use sudo sometimes, depending on the situation.  I 
nevertheless consider root effectively equivalent to sudo.  If you want 
to talk about straw, that's the fence that sudo erects to protect you 
against you doing stupid shit with super user permissions.  Log in as 
root, do your work, and log out.  It's that simple.  As long as you take 
a deep breath and say, "Alright, now I'm root" outloud, I consider it 
just as safe, and a good deal more convenient for longer sessions, than 
sudo,sudo,sudo,sudo,etc,etc,etc.  Doing the latter has occasionally 
resulted in me subconsciously prepending commands with sudo.  That 
scares the living daylights out of me far more than a conscious session 
as root.

> I am also not talking about systems setup, which is, naturally, a
> destructive process to things below it.  That is a strawman at best.

Then your response to my email, where I clearly stated "this is 
particularly true in my case as a systems researcher" is confusing to 
me.  Why respond to a strawman case, and exclude consideration of the 

> I am guessing your work doesn't involve a great deal of support.

Support in grad school?  Nope.  Not really.  Not to do what I need to 
do, at least.  If you are referring to if I have to support someone, 
well, that's also a big no.  So your point is taken, but my point was 
more geared at standard support personnel -- not really an over-busy 
business owner who tries to do everything from architecture design to OS 
tuning to software dev to support.  If anything Joe, you're the strawman 
here :D.  I know plenty of other grad students in systems, but no other 
CEOs like you...



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