Categories acct-group and acct-user

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This article explains categories acct-user and acct-group from Gentoo's repository.

Summary

Some packages pull in other packages with names of the form acct-user/* and acct-group/* as dependencies. This is normal, they are similar to packages in category virtual, install no files, are used to manage the operating system's user and group account databases, and, in most cases, users don't need to take any specific action.

Details

Packages in categories acct-user and acct-group, as well as the eclasses of the same name, are used to implement the policy set up by Gentoo Linux Enhancement Proposal (GLEP) 81, "User and group management via dedicated packages", in May 2019. These are not 'real' packages, in the sense that they do not install files; instead, they are used to perform updates to the operating system's user and group account databases in a systematic and ordered manner, using existing package manager mechanisms specified in the Package Manager Specification (PMS). This avoids requiring a new EAPI or changes in the package manager's code.

Some packages need particular accounts to exist in the user or group databases, e.g. for a file's owner and/or group, or for a long-running process' (daemon) effective user and/or group. Traditionally, account databases management was done ad-hoc by every ebuild that needed it. However, GLEP 81 mentions that:

  • Some packages might share the same user or group, so the problem of doing so reliably among different packages should be addressed.
  • Sharing users and groups reliably among different packages, and different Gentoo systems, requires consistent user IDs (UIDs) and group IDs (GIDs).
  • No systematic way of tracking which packages need specific users or groups existed, and that complicates determining which ones are obsolete.

For more information about the motivation of and rationale for GLEP 81, please consult it.

Each acct-user/* and acct-group/* package corresponds to a single user or group account, respectively, and has that account's name. It logically represents the ownership of the corresponding user or group, and technically implements its creation if it doesn't currently exist in the corresponding account database. Packages that need a specific account use PMS package dependency specifications to pull the required user/group packages, e.g. in the value of the RDEPEND variable, to specify that the account is needed at runtime or at install time. This allows the package manager to link packages with the specific accounts they need.

For example, package acct-user/mysql corresponds to the user account with name mysql, needed e.g. by packages dev-db/mariadb, dev-db/mysql and dev-db/percona-server when the server USE flag is set, and package acct-group/input corresponds to the group account with name input, needed e.g. by packages sys-fs/eudev, sys-fs/udev and sys-apps/systemd.

All acct-user/* and acct-group/* packages in Gentoo's ebuild repository define a preferred, fixed UID and GID, respectively, that is unique within the repository. acct-user/* and acct-group/* packages can also exist in alternative ebuild repositories, and can specify that the UID and GID, respectively, be dynamically allocated.

Installing an acct-user/* and acct-group/* package pulled as a dependency when the corresponding account exists does not modify the account databases, it only registers the dependency with the package manager.

Category acct-user

Ebuilds for packages in category acct-user conform to EAPI 7, and generally inherit the acct-user eclass (i.e. contain an inherit acct-user command), and consist of variable assignments. They contain at least:

  • an assignment to variable ACCT_USER_ID, specifying the preferred user ID. It can be set to -1 in alternative ebuild repositories to dynamically allocate the UID.
  • an assignment to variable ACCT_USER_GROUPS. This is a Bash array with at least one element, the group ID of the user's primary group. If the array contains more that one element, every element after the first one specifies the group ID of a user's supplementary group.
  • an invocation of the acct-user_add_deps() function in global scope, after the assignment to ACCT_USER_GROUPS. This creates a runtime dependency on the acct-group/* packages that correspond to the accounts specified in ACCT_USER_GROUPS, by adding them to the value of the RDEPEND variable.

Additionally, the ebuild can contain assignments to the following variables:

  • ACCT_USER_HOME: The pathname of the user's home directory.
  • ACCT_USER_HOME_OWNER: The owner and group of the user's home directory, using the chown command's user:group syntax.
  • ACCT_USER_HOME_PERMS: The permissions of the user's home directory, using any syntax accepted by the chmod command.
  • ACCT_USER_SHELL: The user's shell, as the pathname of the shell's executable.
  • ACCT_USER_ENFORCE_ID: If set to a non-empty value, package installation will fail if the account already exists with a different UID, or if the UID specified by ACCT_USER_ID is taken by a different account. Otherwise, if the preferred UID specified by ACCT_USER_ID cannot be used, a different one is dynamically allocated.

If these variables are not set in the ebuild, default values are provided by the acct-user eclass, as well as default values for the PMS DESCRIPTION, SLOT and KEYWORDS variables.

The acct-user eclass exports default definitions (EXPORT_FUNCTIONS) of the PMS pkg_pretend(), src_install(), pkg_preinst(), pkg_postinst() and pkg_prerm() phase functions:

  • The exported pkg_pretend() verifies, if ACCT_USER_ENFORCE_ID is set by the ebuild to a non-empty value, that the specified UID is free and can be used by the account.
  • The exported src_install() creates the home directory using the PMS keepdir command if it doesn't exist, and if ACCT_USER_HOME is specified in the ebuild and not set to /dev/null.
  • The exported pkg_preinst() actually creates the account by calling function enewuser() from the user eclass, if it didn't exist before package installation, and sets the home directory's owner, group and permissions according to ACCT_USER_HOME_OWNER and ACCT_USER_HOME_PERMS, using the PMS fowners and fperms commands, if ACCT_USER_HOME is specified in the ebuild and not set to /dev/null.
  • The exported pkg_postinst() unlocks the account if it existed before package installation, and sets the account's home directory, shell, groups and comment in the account database, according to ACCT_USER_HOME, ACCT_USER_SHELL, ACCT_USER_GROUPS and DESCRIPTION, respectively, using functions from the user eclass.
  • The exported pkg_prerm() locks the account if the package is uninstalled by the package manager. Following GLEP 81, account locking is performed on package removal, rather that removing the account altogether, to guarantee that no files with stale ownership are left (e.g. on unmounted filesystems), and that the same UID is not reused for another account.

For further technical details, check the acct-user.eclass file in the eclass subdirectory of /var/db/repos/gentoo.

Category acct-group

Ebuilds for packages in category acct-group conform to EAPI 7, and generally inherit the acct-group eclass (i.e. contain an inherit acct-group command), and consist of variable assignments. They contain at least an assignment to variable ACCT_GROUP_ID, specifying the preferred group ID. It can be set to -1 in alternative ebuild repositories to dynamically allocate the GID. Additionally, the ebuild can contain an assignment to the ACCT_GROUP_ENFORCE_ID variable: if set to a non-empty value, package installation will fail if the account already exists with a different GID, or if the GID specified by ACCT_GROUP_ID is taken by a different account. Otherwise, if the preferred GID specified by ACCT_GROUP_ID cannot be used, a different one is dynamically allocated.

The acct-group eclass provides default values for the PMS DESCRIPTION, SLOT and KEYWORDS variables, if they are not set in the ebuild, and exports default definitions (EXPORT_FUNCTIONS) of the PMS pkg_pretend() and pkg_preinst() phase functions:

  • The exported pkg_pretend() verifies, if ACCT_GROUP_ENFORCE_ID is set by the ebuild to a non-empty value, that the specified GID is free and can be used by the account.
  • The exported pkg_preinst() actually creates the account by calling function enewgroup() from the user eclass, if it didn't exist before package installation.

For further technical details, check the acct-group.eclass file in the eclass subdirectory of /var/db/repos/gentoo.

See also

External resources