Issue #20 June 2006

Ask Shadowman

When last we saw Shadowman, he was scootin' his boots across a bar top in downtown Nashville. Haven't heard from him since. If any of our astute readers have come across the famous anthropomorphic brand icon, send him home.

In the meantime, enjoy a little Shadow-retrospective, and keep your questions coming. We're sure he'll make up for lost time in next month's issue.

Rinaldi asked:

<flamebait>Why should I switch from Slackware to one of the Red Hat products?</flamebait>

To which Shadowman replies:

This is a good time for "storytime with Shadowman". Gather round, kids. Settle down, now. And no hitting.

Shadowman was on a great barnstorming tour around the country not too long ago, kissing hands and shaking babies and spreading the good word about sharing. Seeing the highways and the byways of America and beyond, you might say.

Well, one night Shadowman found himself driving through a cold and lonely mountain town -- the kind of town where there's one stoplight and three fast food restaurants, and one little motel that died when the interstate went through a few towns over. The snow was starting to blow, the Shadowmobile was acting like a cranky five-year-old in desperate need of a nap, and that little motel had the look of a haven.

So Shadowman found himself lying in bed in this very motel, flipping through the stations available on the old wood-grain console television, wondering idly if it might be worth fighting with a PPP configuration he hadn't used in years -- when a high school quiz bowl show came on. All the kids of the county high schools, gathered together to do Big Brain Battle. And Shadowman's a sucker for kids dropping knowledge, so he was hooked.

The kids slugged it out on topics ranging from Avogadro to Zambia. The answers were coming fast and furious. Emotions were running high. Midway through the game, it came time for the kids to take a break, and to say a little something about themselves. The captain of the first team thanked all the team parents and coaches for coming out to support the team. The captain of the second team did the same.

But the captain of the third team -- an intense, bespectacled young lady with a quick buzzer -- looked dead into the eye of the camera and said, "we want to thank Pat Volkerding, the creator of Slackware Linux, for making the best Linux distro ever!"

Shadowman can not adequately describe his reaction.

Pride? Absolutely. Shock? Without doubt. Bemusement? Yes. A certain embarrassment for the parents and coaches who were clearly not as strong an influence on these young lives as Pat Volkerding? A bit of that as well.

Unfortunately, the tide turned at that point, and Team Slackware proceeded to get crushed. Which brings Shadowman to his answer, Rinaldi: Shadowman is pretty certain that Team Red Hat would have dominated that quiz bowl -- and might even have thanked the parents and coaches as well.

Dani said:

I love redhat

To which Shadowman replies:

Thanks, Dani! redhat loves you back. Except for that guy in facilities. He's not really the lovey-dovey kind. But the rest of us totally dig you.

John wrote in to the Editor:

I question the Shadowman articles. To the reader they seem fake, that someone asks these questions.

To which Shadowman replies:

Oh, ye of little faith, John. Shadowman can assure you that the emails he receives are completely genuine. Shadowman receives 25-50 emails a month, or more if he says something particularly stupid, and cherry-picks the most interesting ones. Some of them may be slightly edited, as not all of Shadowman's fans are gifted in the arts of spelling and grammar, but the substance of these letters are exactly as Shadowman presents them.

Shadowman doesn't do fake, baby. Shadowman represents, now and forever. Shadowman is automatic for the people.

Superman points out:

Shadowman should read the su manpage. su is all about substitute user and has nothing to do with superusers (although super humans still might be inclined to use it). And if you do not specify who you want to substitute with, the default is indeed root, who still may or may not be a super human.

And seelbach points out:

You say "People can be terribly imprecise when they try to help."

Yes—you can be. :)

The "su" command does not mean "superuser". It means "switch user" or "substitute user". "superuser" is just a synonym for the user named "root". The abreviated syntax for su is:

  su [-] [USER]

...where USER can be any userid on the system. If USER is omitted, the default is to "su" (switch) to the root userid.

To which Shadowman replies:

Ahem. Yes. "Switch user." Exactly, just so, as "man su" will surely tell you.

On a side note, Shadowman worries that Madame Editor will one day discover his true modus operandi:

  • Pick a simple technical question;
  • Provide an answer that is imprecise, incomplete, or flat-out wrong;
  • Wait for readers to correct Shadowman, thereby providing many column inches on Shadowman's behalf, lessening Shadowman's monthly load.

Until that day comes, though, friends—do Shadowman a favor and don't let on. It's awfully hard for costumed heroes to make it these days without a constant display of either rock hard abs or a calculated, brooding sort of anger. To be honest, Shadowman likes his beer a little too much to pull off either of those looks convincingly.