Frequently Asked Questions: Managing Shared Accounts

Some files in our society space are owned by an ex-admin and can't be modified... help!

We often get asked it we can resolve this by changing the files' owner to be one of the current admins. For various reasons we prefer not to do this, but are happy to enable modification by changing the "group writable" flag on the files. Just ask the sysadmins and we'll get it done.

If you want to make your files group-writable yourself, the appropriate command is chmod g+rw <filenames>. A variant like chmod -R g+rw *, executed from the base of the society home directory, will recursively make all your files group-readable and writable. If the files' group is not the same as the society, chgrp <groupname> <filenames> will do the trick.

How do I hand access to my shared account to my successor?

Make sure that the new person has a personal account on the machine. Once this has been set up, you can add the new person to the society account via the Control Panel.

During the handover period you should make sure that all file permissions are updated appropriately. Specifically:

The script srcf-soc-badperms $society can be used to list files with suspected bad permissions. The script srcf-soc-permfix $society will fix the permissions for any files or directories owned by you.

How do I set up a society crontab?

Just run:

sudo -u socuser crontab -e
where socuser is the name of the society account that you are an admin of. This should open the society crontab in your default editor (typically nano, ^o to save, ^x to exit).

How do I launch Django or other long running processes?

You can now run long running server processes (e.g. Django, other web frameworks). Preface the command with:

sudo -u socuser 
where socuser is the name of the society account that you are an admin of. Note that web servers must be run on, not, and proxied to from Apache.

How do I make WordPress update itself?

WordPress includes an update utility, but this can be quite tedious about not correctly detecting that it can update itself; it may fail without even trying, especially on society accounts.

To make this work you can add the following few lines to your configuration (wp-config.php) near the bottom, but above the line that says "stop editing":

It is very important that you ensure that the permissions on files in your society directory are writable by the society group (and therefore the user that Wordpress will run as).
Wordpress will not check in advance: if some of your files are writable and some are not, you will end up with a half-upgraded Wordpress - also known as "completely broken". This should be the case by default, but some SFTP clients may override it. The procedure to set this up manually is the same as for granting access to a successor.

 * Force wordpress to use direct filesystem access so that upgrades work
 * properly. See:
define('FS_METHOD', 'direct');
define('FS_CHMOD_DIR', (02775 & ~ umask()));
define('FS_CHMOD_FILE', (0664 & ~ umask()));

This workaround is experimental; please let us know if it does not work for you.