[Pkg-shadow-devel] Bug#372280: adduser fails: "configuration error - unknown item"

Ian Bruce ian_bruce at fastmail.fm
Fri Jun 9 12:03:35 UTC 2006

On Fri, 9 Jun 2006 10:57:57 +0100
Stephen Gran <sgran at debian.org> wrote:

> This one time, at band camp, Ian Bruce said:
> > "adduser" produces a lot of error messages about unrecognized
> > parameters, which may or may not be harmless. This may indicate a
> > conflict with some version of another package, but it's not clear to me
> > which one.
> You have these directives set in /etc/login.defs.  My understanding is
> that they have been deprecated for some time, but now they create a 
> warning message.  This is not a bug in adduser (in fact, I'm not sure
> it's a bug at all - programs do change the acceptable options in their
> conf files over time, and it's not a good idea to automatedly overwrite
> an edited config file on upgrade).
> Others, I leave it to you whether or not you want to reassign this to
> login (the package responsible for login.defs) or just close it.  I can
> see arguments both ways.

The version of "login" on this system is 1:4.0.3-31sarge5 (current
"stable" archive). I have not edited /etc/login.defs since installing
the operating system. I suggest that a conflict, or an updated version
dependency, be put in the "passwd" package to prevent this problem,
since it's apparently the one that no longer recognizes these
parameters. It's pretty alarming if you don't know what the cause of it
is; it barfs up these errors every time "apt-get" tries to create a
system userid.

It might also be a good idea to change the error message to refer to the
login.defs file which is causing the problem; if this had been the case,
I could have figured it out for myself. The program /usr/sbin/useradd
contains the following string (as do several others from this package):

"configuration error - unknown item '%s' (notify administrator)"

How about changing that to:

"configuration error - unknown item '%s' in file '%s' (notify administrator)"

-- Ian Bruce

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