Newsgroups: comp.unix.admin
Subject: The Unofficial Unix Administration Horror Stories Summary
Distribution: world

    The Unofficial Unix Administration Horror Story Summary, version 1.1
          compiled by:  Anatoly Ivasyuk (


This is version 1.1 of "The Unofficial Unix Administration Horror Story
Summary".  I put this together for two reasons:
  1)  Some of these stories are damn amusing.
  2)  Many people can learn many things about what *not* to do when
      they're in charge of a system.  As
      (Rick Furniss) puts it: "More systems have been wiped out by
      admins than any hacker could do in a lifetime."

This is not an FAQ, but more like the questions that *should* have been
asked (and answered).  There are success stories, and... well... other
stories.  I'm certain that everyone can learn something from reading these

The organization of the Summary has been changed quite a bit (maybe I should
bump the version number up to 2.0?).  Instead of leaving the stories in
more or less chronological order of the postings, they have been separated
into sections.  There are currently sections for all different types of
stories, and a brief table of contents to go along with it.  Any new stories
that I have received since version 1.0 of the Summary have been integrated
with the rest of the stories, but usually appear at the end of their
respective sections.  The new stories are marked by '*NEW*'.

The miscellaneous section is a little large, but I had no idea where to
stick those stories.  If anyone cares to suggest a place, or comes up with
a new section, let me know.

Submitting stories

If there are additional stories that anyone wants to submit, I'll be glad
to add them to the Summary .  Send them to me at:

About posting the stories

This is probably the last time that the stories will be posted to USENET
in their entirety.  However, I do plan to make updates more frequent as
more stories roll in.  Further announcements of updates to the horror stories
will be posted to the comp.unix.admin newsgroup, but the horror stories
will themselves be available through an ftp site or ftpmail.

Initially, the stories will be available for ftp at  Thanks
to for letting me put them there.  They will probably
appear within the next few days.  They will probably be in /pub/docs/humor
or /pub/archives/comp.unix.admin.  More ftp sites may follow.

How to get the stories through ftpmail:

There are a few sites that provide ftp services by mail for those people
who don't have ftp access.  To find out more, mail one of the following
locations with a subject header 'help':

As always, send more stories!

-Anatoly Ivasyuk


The posting that started it all:
-------------------------------- (Arne Asplem) wrote:

> I'm the program chair for a one day conference on Unix system
> administration in Oslo in 3 weeks, including topics like network
> management, system admininistration tools, integration, print/file-servers,
> securitym, etc.

> I'm looking for actual horror stories of what have gone wrong because
> of bad system administration, as an early morning wakeup.

> I'll summarise to the net if there is any interest.

>   -- Arne



Table of Contents:

Section 1)  Creative uses of rm(1)
        2)  How not to free up space on your drive
        3)  Dealing with /dev files
        4)  Making backups
        5)  Blaming it on the hardware
        6)  Partitioning the drives
        7)  Configuring the system
        8)  Upgrading the system
        9)  All about file permissions
        10) Machine dependencies
        11) Miscellaneous stories (a.k.a. 'oops')
        12) What we have learned