Administrative Accounts


These notes relate to adding users to groups and servers using the Xhiered Accounts packages. This controls access to "xhiered" machines as well as those using the CS Active Directory for accounts management.


Required authorization

  • Users who need to update accounts need to be in group "sponsor" and group "accounts" on
    • That is, in those groups in the CS-GENERAL AD
  • Users who need to manipulate accounts, for example set passwords, in the cs-general region to be in the "accounts" group on cs-general.cs.private. Similarly for any other region.


Creating Truly New Users (Userids)

Before you can use the sponsors data software to create new accounts for a userid, that userid must be present in the file /software/accounts-userids/data/Userids on the machine Often, but not always, that happens automatically.

If the userinfo command gives results for the userid, then the userid is appropriately present in this file, and you can proceed. (And use the Id Number: indicated by the output as the id number to associate with the userid). If userinfo gives no output for the particular user, more work is needed to get the userid into the file.

The Id Number: will be a student id, employee id, HR id, employee id, or WatIAM "P-number", in that order. In fact, you will see other obscure values listed too. But only the one shown can be used. Users with a lengthy history at UW sometimes have several other values shown as the Other Ids: value; you cannot use any of those values.

In most cases user names and identification numbers already exist, precreated in WatIAM. In other limited cases, the correct thing to do is create a userid which really should, for various reasons, not be put in WatIAM. And occasionally you need to do things to cause the WatIAM account creation.

WatIAM account creation (precreation) is discussed at this link which requires appropriate authentication.

After the WatIAM account has been created, you normally need to wait until the next business day for the new userid to be available for sponsors data. Various technical personnel, including Adrian Pepper, can accelerate that process, however.

If you need to do that yourself, perhaps see Discussion of the Userids File for Experts.

And bear in mind Information about Userids in the Sponsors Data.


Creating Truly New Groups (gids)

If you are creating a new group to appear in the Active Directory (eg: users_researchgroup), you will need to follow the instructions in CreatingGroupAccounts


Location of Accounts Sponsor files

The accounts files for CS are on the UNIX computer

cd /software/accounts-master/data/sponsors

Beneath /software/accounts-master/data/sponsors/
in sub-directories

  • CSCF
  • School

are files for describing various different types of non-research resources.


The following table indicates how some of the data, on the UNIX computer, under the directory

is organized. Here we present information about directories other than those specifically related to course-specific resources, and explicit researcher sponsorship. That should be "administration", but isn't quite.


Directory/File NamePurpose
CLASSES/ files under ClASSES allocate resources for instructors and instructional support staff
CLASSES/CA-cs accounts named after CS courses, e.g. cs100
CLASSES/CA-se accounts named after Software Engineering courses, e.g. se240
CLASSES/TA-cs CS TAs - Tutorial Assistants, not to be confused with Tutors
CLASSES/Tutors CS Tutors - usually co-op students
CLASSES/automatic/ directory for some conceptually automatically generated files; currently the result of processing Grad Office TA database to produce sponsorship info for TAs
CLASSES/ logical supplement to REGISTRAR/cs
CLASSES/instructors Resources for (generally non-faculty) instructors. For sessional instructors, a more appropriate place would be School/Sessionals-YYMM.
CSCF/ files under CSCF facilitate the computing facility
CSCF/admin administrative assistant staff, and many mailing lists
CSCF/consulting this is the MC3017 consultants
CSCF/taskgroups mailing aliases for task-groups
CSCF/technicians CSCF technical staff
School/ files under School are for non-teaching resource requirements
School/Away-Personnel sponsors expiry period for personnel, to keep their account when they leave
School/CS.MathClubs Courtesy email aliases for Math Clubs, etc.
School/CS.Grads extra accounts and mail aliases for grads (not research, e.g. csgsa)
School/CS.UGrad extra accounts for undergrads (currently just csc)
School/Courtesy discretionary accounts for retired faculty, etc.
School/ICR a few accounts for Institute for Computer Research
School/Sessionals-YYMM sessional instructors for term YYMM
School/cs.admin Things which don't fit anywhere else
School/dean.admin CS resources needed by the DOM office
School/se.admin Software Engineering administration and also mail aliases
School/special_events Special Events such as CS days and ACM contests

The files can be changed using a standard text editor. All files are now subject to revision control using RCS.

For a tutorial on editing sponsors files see SponsorsDataEditingTutorial.

Use RCS co command to prepare file for editing


All files in the sponsor data are now maintained using the RCS set of utilities.

Before using your favourite appropriate text editor to make changes to the file, you must do the following

   cs-xh-admin% rcsdiff _filename_
   cs-xh-admin% co -l _filename_

The rcsdiff is not strictly-speaking necessary, but it is a good habit to get into. It should return no output, meaning that you will not obliterate anyone else's changes. Somewhat similarly, if the co command fails, it may be because another person already has the file locked; you may need to talk to them to resolve that.

Note that before you do the above, the file filename should not be writeable by you; this process modifies the file so you are able to make changes (without using super-user).

Use RCS ci command to unlock the file so others can edit it


At this point you must use the RCS utility ci to save a record of your changes, and unlock the file so others can make changes, as follows.

   cs-xh-admin% ci -u _filename_

You will be prompted for a description of your changes. Make it reasonably brief, but meaningingful. A reference to an ST number is often appropriate.

After changes have been made, continue with the steps which follow.

Cautionary Notes About Editing the Sponsors Data

In general you should avoid making easy-to-make mistakes.

Nearly all files found in the directory

and all directories beneath it, will be processed by the sponsor_resources command. Exceptions are files whose name begins with . (dot/period) and files in sub-directories which sub-directories are named RCS. If a subdirectory name begins with . (dot/period) then everything beneath it will be ignored (unless referred to explicitly by other files).

The upshot of that is that you cannot place arbitrary files in these directories, or sponsor_resources will stop working correctly.

When editing the sponsors data files, it can often be convenient to copy and modify previously existing lines to create your new additions. If you do that, make sure you correctly change all relevant SponsorshipEnds dates, or remove them as appropriate. Also make sure you delete or change any comments which are irrelevant in the new context. It's better to leave no comments than leave confusing comments.

Consider that the files are intended to help later readers understand the sponsorship situation; use a few comment lines ("#"), and, in general, put a blank line before each ==== line.

Note that id numbers need to be associated with userids. This can be done directly in the AssignTo line as in

      AssignTo: sgamgee:02020202

Or it can be done in the Userids: section at the top of the file. Only one specific id number can be used for a particular userid. See IncludeSponsorsDataIdNumbers for details.

To help make sure we don't slip up and put a real userid:studentid in one of these pages, we by convention omit :studentid in all examples.

Finally, make sure you remember to use the ci -u command so you leave the file editable by others.


Run the sponsor_resources program to process the changes


sponsor_resources takes the data under /software/accounts-master/data/sponsors and produces per-user requirements in per-machine (actually per-region) files under /software/accounts-master/data/resources. Along the way, it might detect errors in the changes you made. Fix any problems that are reported and keep rerunning sponsor_resources until all your errors have gone away.

In particular, never leave the sponsors data in a state where sponsor_resources does not produce the three lines which begin with FYI:. (The first being FYI: ... computings ...). The error, warnings, notes line can actually have non-zero errors if you can assert they are not a result of your changes. (Corollary; run sponsor_resouces before you even start making changes so you can be sure what noise you did not cause).

Typically you can simply use the command sponsor_resources with no arguments. However, it is often prudent to redirect standard output and error output.

Here is an example of a "bad run":

@cs-xh-admin[140]% sponsor_resources
Error: /software/accounts-master/data/sponsors/Research/Terry line 63: Userid 'bjlafren' is not a standard userid
FYI:  137970(29794) computings, 1292(1274) printers, 530(403) aliases, 0(0) ppps
FYI:  1 error, 0 warnings, (0 notes)
FYI: expired sponsorship entries:  17888 computings, 51 printers, 0 aliases, 0 ppps
handle_group (group_id=1): Found 2 group description lines, expected <= 1
handle_group (group_id=11): Found 2 group description lines, expected <= 1
found 157201 userinfos, 14368 distinct
administration = cscf
psql::2: NOTICE:  truncate cascades to table "sponsor_billcode"
psql::2: NOTICE:  truncate cascades to table "sponsor_class"
psql::2: NOTICE:  truncate cascades to table "sponsor_member"
psql::2: NOTICE:  truncate cascades to table "sponsor_computing"
psql::2: NOTICE:  truncate cascades to table "sponsor_printing"
psql::2: NOTICE:  truncate cascades to table "sponsor_computing_group"
psql::2: NOTICE:  truncate cascades to table "sponsor_mailalias"
In this case, sponsor_resources complained because we used the short version of the userid ("bjlafren"), but it always requires the long version (ie: "bjlafreniere").

The following is an example of a "good run":

@cs-xh-admin[143]% sponsor_resources
FYI:  137973(29797) computings, 1292(1274) printers, 530(403) aliases, 0(0) ppps
FYI:  0 errors, 0 warnings, (0 notes)
FYI: expired sponsorship entries:  17888 computings, 51 printers, 0 aliases, 0 ppps
handle_group (group_id=1): Found 2 group description lines, expected <= 1
handle_group (group_id=11): Found 2 group description lines, expected <= 1
found 157201 userinfos, 14368 distinct
administration = cscf
psql::2: NOTICE:  truncate cascades to table "sponsor_billcode"
psql::2: NOTICE:  truncate cascades to table "sponsor_class"
psql::2: NOTICE:  truncate cascades to table "sponsor_member"
psql::2: NOTICE:  truncate cascades to table "sponsor_computing"
psql::2: NOTICE:  truncate cascades to table "sponsor_printing"
psql::2: NOTICE:  truncate cascades to table "sponsor_computing_group"
psql::2: NOTICE:  truncate cascades to table "sponsor_mailalias"

Above we have been assuming a small, non-fatal error directly related to the change you made and which you were able to correct.

In extreme cases you might end up with something like...

@cs-xh-admin[145]% sponsor_resources
Fatal error: "/software/accounts-master/data/sponsors/Research/yuying" line 89: not SponsorshipStarts, SponsorshipEnds, Quotas, Groups, or AssignTo:  Computing: serverus.cs

The Fatal error diagnostic, corroborated by the lack of FYI: ... computings, ... indicate that the sponsors data is severely broken to the extent that the data under /software/accounts-master/data/resources will not have been updated at all. Intended changes will not have taken effect, and, unless someone fixes the problem, future changes will not take effect either.

Corollary: run sponsor_resources before you begin making changes and make sure the sponsors data was not already in a state like this; if it is, try to track down the most recent change, fix it if it is easy and obvious and in any case alert the person who left the broken state (you may in any case need their help to make some decisions related to the fix).

The diagnostics indicate which file you should look at. Frequently problems occur because of missing ==== lines. But also, having two such lines in a row, even if separated by comments and blank lines, is a guaranteed fatal error, although there's no real reason why it should be. (That is to say, it ought to have been possible at one time to modify the grammar to expect the ==== token and recognize (and mostly ignore) an empty section, but that was never done, and so ==== must always be followed by one of the appropriate keywords as listed in the diagnostic.

Unavoidable extraneous noise

It would be nice if we could tell you to always keep modifying until you have 0 errors but because of details how some automatic data is produced from IST information, that is not always possible. Some things have reached the point where they are actually unresolvable by us. This results in errors which must be ignored, even though you must continue to look for your own errors, and especially for the absence of Fatal error:.

Path to the "sponsor_resources" command

If you don't happen to have the maintenance commands in your path, the path to the sponsor_resources command is:

Run the userinfo program to verify your changes


Run the userinfo command before and after you make your changes to verify that its output reflects your intended changes. More details are here.

Run the accounts-client program


accounts-client {hostname, eg:cs-general.cs.private} >& ~/hostname-date &

This will cause the desired changes to actually happen on the appropriate machine (hostname; what is described as "Computing:" in the sponsor file, which may in turn affect a region of machines). /etc/passwd and /etc/group file will be updated if necessary, as will system quota files, and home directories will be created for any newly-created users. The diagnostic output from the job will be written to the given filename in your home directory. eg:

   accounts-client softbase.cs >& ~/softbase-20100208 &
If your changes will cause changes on multiple regions, you will need to run the command for each. eg:
   accounts-client student.cs >& ~/student-20100208 &
   accounts-client cs-general.cs.private >& ~/cs-general-20100208 &
If you run accounts-client with no name, all known regions are updated. eg:
   accounts-client >& ~/ac-all-20100208 &
That can take a long time to finish.

Path to the "accounts-client" command

If you don't happen to have the maintenance commands in your path, the path to the accounts-client command is:

Updating Directory Services Domains

Once the sponsor_resources process has run and files under /software/accounts-master/data/resources/computing/have been updated, CSCF Directory Services domains are subsequently updated by cron job. User and group information are revised based upon the information stored in specific files found in the resources/computing subdirectory. At time of writing (Feb 2017), the Directory Services updates are run following the schedule below.
  1. CS-GENERAL domain: 20 minutes past the hour
    • Using the cs-general.cs.private and serverus.cs files.
  2. CS-TEACHING domain: 50 minutes past the hour
    • Using the cs-teaching.cs.private and canadenis.student.cs files.

To force a domain update to run immediately, run the following commands on the xhier admin machine (cs-xh-admin) as root user:

  1. For CS-GENERAL domain:# /software/
  2. For CS-TEACHING domain:# /software/



The following traditional UNIX man page documentation describes the sponsors data base in a technical fashion. As you become familiar with how things work in general, you might find this documentation good for checking specific details.

-- AdrianPepper - 03 Jun 2016

Topic revision: r12 - 2016-06-03 - AdrianPepper
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