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I am working on RedHat EL 4 with NFS mounts. Sometimes I copy a directory into my home directory using the -a switch, and if the directory that I am copying is owned by another user, I can no longer delete, chmod, or chown the directory or the files beneath it. It is copying withhout changing the ownership.

I know that cp -a preserves ownership when performed as root, but my understanding is that at least the owner should be replaced when performed as a normal non-root user.

I would like to understand why this happening. I have so far been unsuccessful at replicating this behavior. The systems are not owned or controlled by me, so I can't say too much on how it is configured.

PS. I can also copy a file with ownership preserved, but by using a trick I saw online I can overwrite the file with a mv command (although rm, chown, and chmod) doesn't work.

Anyone have a clue what could cause this to occur?

I would like to convince the administrators to fix this. What could I say to convince them? Other than the annoyance of not being able to delete files?

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migrated from Jul 9 '11 at 18:37

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What kind of crazy NFS server are you mounting? That's definitely not supposed to be possible. – duskwuff Jul 9 '11 at 17:32
Im unable to reproduce anything like that on a Linux-NFS drive. Somehow I think it is the NFS server which is causing this problem for you maybe having a really bad proprietary NFS server software. – Soren Jul 9 '11 at 17:41
Try to use "tar" instead and see if that solves your problem. – Soren Jul 9 '11 at 17:42
I would like to convince the sys admins to fix this issue. Are there any other side effects of such a configuration that might be more persuasive than just the annoyance of undeletable files? – nachum Jul 9 '11 at 20:09
@nachum: Any NFS server which manages to get permissions THIS badly wrong is probably horrifically insecure in other ways. There's probably ways to read / write / delete files that you shouldn't have access to. – duskwuff Jul 9 '11 at 20:22

On HPUX ordinary users can give away ownership - maybe the server is running on HPUX?

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The system is a RedHat Enterprise Linux 4 system. I don't know what the NFS server is. Not sure how to find the NFS server OS. – nachum Jul 10 '11 at 3:49
@nachum Run nmap -O to find out the OS. – Gilles Jul 10 '11 at 9:24
I used nmap, and it seems to be a Netapp appliance. I am going to post a question on their forums about this. – nachum Jul 15 '11 at 15:08

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