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I have a user on my RHEL5 system whose home folder is /tmp. This user is for running some monitoring tasks, it doesn't represent a human being.

What are the options for modifying this user's PATH environment variable? I would like to add /usr/sbin to the user's PATH so that it has access to the ethtool command.

At the moment this user's path is /usr/bin:/bin.

Thanks in advance


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up vote 3 down vote accepted

why do you want to change the path? you could simply start ethtool with it's full path

# /usr/sbin/ethtool

As far as I remember though ethtool doesn't do much for a normal user as it requires more privileges, but I might be wrong as it has been quite some time since I used it last.

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Because I'm running a script which calls ethtool. I suppose I could modify the script because the other machine the script is running on will have ethtool in the same place, but that feels like the wrong solution. – Rich Sep 28 '10 at 7:08
But it's the solution I'll accept! – Rich Oct 20 '10 at 9:05

you could change this in /etc/profile. There should be already a statement to set these paths for root.

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I would just give the user a home folder like any other user, and set the appropriate configurations there. Having a user who's home folder is /tmp, which is also writeable by other users is iffy from a security point of view.

You didn't mention what shell the user was configured for - that's important as well.

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The shell is /bin/sh. As for the user not having a normal home folder, that's just how I found it - I suppose I could speak with the UNIX guys here and see what they say, but the fact is the other machine's PATH is correctly set despite there being a non-standard home folder. – Rich Sep 28 '10 at 7:09

You could also probably add a symlink to ethtool inside /usr/bin


ln -s /usr/sbin/ethtool /usr/bin/ethtool

This would circumvent having to mess with the fake user's path.

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This is bad security. – David Rickman Oct 1 '10 at 19:22

First run: #:id FAKE and copy the uid.

Using that result, supplement for the word FAKE in the If statement below.

if [ `id -g` = FAKE]; then
    export PATH=$PATH:/usr/sbin/

Add these lines to your /etc/profile.

Test it with: $:sudo -u FAKE echo $PATH

If that doesn't stick at first, you can force the export by using sudo. $:sudo -u FAKE export PATH=$PATH:/usr/bin/ethtool and then run the test again.

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You can't put the name of the executable in the PATH - only the directory. – Dennis Williamson Sep 27 '10 at 16:57
Thanks, I didn't know that it was a guess on my part. – David Rickman Oct 1 '10 at 13:38

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