Re: [PATCH] private mounts

From: Bryan Henderson
Date: Mon Apr 25 2005 - 16:12:05 EST

>> No. You can't set "mount environment" in scp.
>Of course you can. It does execute the obvious set of rc files.

Incidentally, there is no obvious set of files. The only relevant one
that gets executed does so by accident because of a side effect of an ugly

Jamie pointed out that such files wouldn't really help anyway, because
there isn't a shell command that can affect the mounts seen by the copy
server process it forks. And others have noted that some such remote
processes don't run shells at all. But in case anyone is thinking of
shell rc files as an architectural solution to the scp problem, let me
explain shell rc files, in particular Bash's:

.profile runs when a login shell starts, which is supposed to be when you
start a work session with the computer. You put stuff in there like an
announcement of mail, displaying reminders, reading news, etc.

/etc/profile is the same, but for everyone.

.bashrc runs when an interactive shell starts that isn't a login shell,
which is supposed to be as in opening a new shell window. You put stuff
in there to customize your interactive experience -- key binding, screen
colors, aliases, and the like.

Some builds of Bash have a system level version of this as

All of these are for shells that are being used by a human. They can
really mess up a "user" that is a machine. The most important case of a
non-human user is a shell script.

The rc file named by the BASH_ENV environment variable runs for every
shell, interactive or not. But this is hard to use for personalization
because you need a place to personalize BASH_ENV. It's also hard to use
for anything else, because so many programs (including some Ssh daemons)
cut off environment variable inheritance.

Now for the ugly hack: An interactive shell is normally one whose
Standard Input is a terminal. But when rsh came about, Standard Input was
a socket, even though the shell session was quite interactive. So Bash
contains code that looks at several conditions consistent with an rsh
session and if it determines that it is probably being run as the backend
of an rsh session, it treats the shell as interactive. Openssh 'ssh'
doesn't need this hack, because Sshd uses a pseudo-terminal instead of a
socket as the shell's Standard Input. But Openssh's 'scp' falls into the
trap and gets taken as an interactive human user of the shell. So .bashrc
runs. Many are the scp sessions I've tortured with my .bashrc, and spent
hours debugging. (I finally removed the hack from Bash and regained

A design for user-specific namespaces that relies on this particular hack
would not be clean.

On the other hand, it is possible to customize any scp backend session
just by making a personal wrapper for the scp backend program. The
wrapper can do the setup -- either directly or by running an "scprc" file.
With Openssh, you can choose the backend program in various places.

Bryan Henderson IBM Almaden Research Center
San Jose CA Filesystems
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