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Communications of the ACM

Kode Vicious

The Logic of Logging

The Logic of Logging, illustrative cartoon

Credit: Alicia Kubista / Andrij Borys Associates

back to top  Dear KV

I work in a pretty open environment, and by open I mean that many people have the ability to become the root user on our servers so they can fix things as they break. When the company started, there were only a few of us to do all the work, and people with different responsibilities had to jump in to help if a server died or a process got away from us. That was several years ago, but there are still many people who have rootly powers, some because of legacy and some because they are deemed too important to restrict. The problem is that one of these legacy users insists on doing almost everything as root and, in fact, uses the sudo command only to execute sudo su -. Every time I need to debug a system this person has worked on, I wind up on a two- to four-hour log-spelunking tour because he also does not take notes on what he has done, and when he is finished he simply reports, "It's fixed." I think you will agree this is maddening behavior.

Routed by Root

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Dear Routed

I would like to tell you that you can do one thing and then say, "It's fixed," but I cannot tell you that. I could also tell you to take off the tip of his pinky finger the next time he does this, but I bet HR frowns on Japanese gangster rituals at work.


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