I can't run crontab -e as a regular user on a gentoo box I've got. Here's a transcript:

ben@tools ~ $ crontab -e
    # (I add something trivial, like a new line containing "#foo")
crontab: installing new crontab
chown: Operation not permitted
crontab: edits left in /tmp/crontab.XXXXULPy6M
ben@tools ~ $

I have another gentoo machine on which it works fine.

I've checked permissions on all these things, and they all look both sensible and identical to the machine where it works:

tools ~ # ls -AFlh /usr/bin/crontab 
-rwxr-s--x 1 root crontab 29K Oct 22 16:16 /usr/bin/crontab*
tools ~ # ls -AFlhd /tmp
drwxrwxrwt 17 root root 3.2K Oct 22 16:34 /tmp/
tools ~ # ls -AFlhd /var/spool/cron
drwxr-xr-x 4 cron root 4.0K Oct 22 16:07 /var/spool/cron/
tools ~ # ls -AFlhd /var/spool/cron/crontabs
drwx-wx--T 2 root crontab 4.0K Oct 22 16:16 /var/spool/cron/crontabs/

I am a member of the groups cron and crontab:

ben@tools ~ $ groups ben
cron crontab sysops

there is no /etc/cron.allow, and /etc/cron.deny is blank apart from comment lines.

I've tried updating the vixie-cron package, by doing:

emerge --sync
emerge -v vixie-cron # reinstall the current version, in case something is wrong
# add "sys-process/vixie-cron ~x86" to /etc/portage/package.keywords
emerge -v =vixie-cron-4.1-r11

No good.

I've tried running strace against it (both as myself with strace -Ff crontab -e and as root by running crontab -e as myself and then strace -FF -p foo as root), but I can't see anything more useful than the error message I've already got:

chown32("crontabs/tmp.XXXXI5Oi61", 0, -1) = -1 EPERM (Operation not permitted)
write(2, "chown: Operation not permitted\n", 31) = 31
close(4)                                = 0

I have of course googled for it, and every google result has talked about checking permissions on the same files/folders I've checked above.

Help! I'm out of ideas.

  • Ben

2 Answers 2


Why "drwx-wx--T 2 root crontab 4.0K Oct 22 16:16 /var/spool/cron/crontabs/" this does not have a read permission for the groups?

Either assign the read permission for this crontabs/ directory. I guess the crontab is run as ben:crontab and crontab/ does not have permission for any groups to read from crontabs/

or try 'chmod 4755 /usr/bin/crontab'. With this crontab should be run as root:crontab and crontabs/ has read/write access to root.

  • chmod 4755 /usr/bin/crontab worked. Previous permissions were "-rwxr-s--x", new are "-rwsr-xr-x". Nov 16, 2010 at 5:28
  • chmod g+r /var/spool/cron/crontabs had no effect, btw. Nov 16, 2010 at 5:36

Maybe the crontab rights are changed. On my Ubuntu , it is :

-rwxr-sr-x 1 root crontab 35896 24-08-2010 22:45:58 /usr/bin/crontab

Check the g+s ?

  • My /usr/bin/crontab has g+s (I ls that file above). Oct 22, 2010 at 8:11
  • Your filesysteme is not full or read-only ?
    – Dom
    Oct 22, 2010 at 13:56
  • Or check if a filesystem is mounted with nosuid option. After check 'lsattr /usr/bin/crontab'. Mine is '-----------------e- /usr/bin/crontab'
    – Dom
    Oct 22, 2010 at 15:44
  • @Dom: Filesystems (both / and /tmp) were not full. When I get to work on Monday I'll do the relevant lsattrs. Oct 23, 2010 at 8:31
  • root@tools ~ # lsattr -d /tmp lsattr: Inappropriate ioctl for device While reading flags on /tmp root@tools ~ # mount | grep /tmp none on /tmp type tmpfs (size=16m,mode=1777) root@tools ~ # lsattr -d /var/spool/cron -------------- /var/spool/cron root@tools ~ # lsattr -d /var/spool/cron/crontabs -------------- /var/spool/cron/crontabs root@tools ~ # lsattr /usr/bin/crontab -------------- /usr/bin/crontab Oct 24, 2010 at 21:56

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