How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

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How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

Chris Green
I try as far as possible to keep my system 'standard' with as much as
possible of the custmisation being in /home where I use mercurial to
keep track of changes (and which is preserved when OS is upgraded).

However there are inevitably a few global customisations in /etc and
I'd like to track them as well if possible.  I can configure ways to
track them now but can anyone suggest a way to find all the changes I
have done over the years in /etc?  I don't think there are all that
many of them but I know there are some and there are likely to be some
I can't remember how I did.

A typical example is that I have changed /etc/systemd/system/anacron.timer
to change the times when anacron does its checks.  I wanted to change
this recently and it took me ages to find out what to change.  I want
to find and start tracking changes like this.

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Re: How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

David Fletcher-5
On Sun, 2020-12-13 at 09:58 +0000, Chris Green wrote:

> I try as far as possible to keep my system 'standard' with as much as
> possible of the custmisation being in /home where I use mercurial to
> keep track of changes (and which is preserved when OS is upgraded).
>
> However there are inevitably a few global customisations in /etc and
> I'd like to track them as well if possible.  I can configure ways to
> track them now but can anyone suggest a way to find all the changes I
> have done over the years in /etc?  I don't think there are all that
> many of them but I know there are some and there are likely to be
> some
> I can't remember how I did.

I always comment my changes with reason, initials and date. Then a
search for my initials turns them up.

Dave


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Re: How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

Chris Green
On Sun, Dec 13, 2020 at 10:08:35AM +0000, David Fletcher wrote:

> On Sun, 2020-12-13 at 09:58 +0000, Chris Green wrote:
> > I try as far as possible to keep my system 'standard' with as much as
> > possible of the custmisation being in /home where I use mercurial to
> > keep track of changes (and which is preserved when OS is upgraded).
> >
> > However there are inevitably a few global customisations in /etc and
> > I'd like to track them as well if possible.  I can configure ways to
> > track them now but can anyone suggest a way to find all the changes I
> > have done over the years in /etc?  I don't think there are all that
> > many of them but I know there are some and there are likely to be
> > some
> > I can't remember how I did.
>
> I always comment my changes with reason, initials and date. Then a
> search for my initials turns them up.
>
That's an excellent idea, I'll do similar from now on.  However I
still need to find older changes, I guess I can just do a manual
search and/or add suitable comments as I find them.

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Re: How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

Colin Law
On Sun, 13 Dec 2020 at 11:14, Chris Green <[hidden email]> wrote:

>
> On Sun, Dec 13, 2020 at 10:08:35AM +0000, David Fletcher wrote:
> > On Sun, 2020-12-13 at 09:58 +0000, Chris Green wrote:
> > > I try as far as possible to keep my system 'standard' with as much as
> > > possible of the custmisation being in /home where I use mercurial to
> > > keep track of changes (and which is preserved when OS is upgraded).
> > >
> > > However there are inevitably a few global customisations in /etc and
> > > I'd like to track them as well if possible.  I can configure ways to
> > > track them now but can anyone suggest a way to find all the changes I
> > > have done over the years in /etc?  I don't think there are all that
> > > many of them but I know there are some and there are likely to be
> > > some
> > > I can't remember how I did.
> >
> > I always comment my changes with reason, initials and date. Then a
> > search for my initials turns them up.
> >
> That's an excellent idea, I'll do similar from now on.  However I
> still need to find older changes, I guess I can just do a manual
> search and/or add suitable comments as I find them.

An additional note for the future.  For systemd files, rather than
change the file itself it is usually better to use the override
feature to add additional files that apply the overrides that you
want, then they are not affected if the original is overwritten by an
update.  This link shows how to do that using systemctl edit.
https://askubuntu.com/questions/659267/how-do-i-override-or-configure-systemd-services

For non systemd files many packages allow the use of override conf
files, for example mosquitto expects the config file
/etc/mosquitto/mosquitto.conf but also picks up overrides from any
.conf file in /etc/mosquitto/conf.d.   Similarly apt picks up sources
from /etc/apt/sources.list but will also pick up any .list file in
/etc/apt/sources.list.d.
For such cases if you add those files rather than changing the
original it can make your life easier.

Colin

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Re: How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

Colin Watson
In reply to this post by Chris Green
On Sun, Dec 13, 2020 at 09:58:48AM +0000, Chris Green wrote:
> However there are inevitably a few global customisations in /etc and
> I'd like to track them as well if possible.  I can configure ways to
> track them now but can anyone suggest a way to find all the changes I
> have done over the years in /etc?

It's not possible in general, because a number of files in /etc are
handled programmatically such that a base "unmodified" version of the
file isn't really recorded.  However, you can at least in principle do
it for all the files in /etc that are shipped in packages, referred to
as "conffiles".  I don't know of a way that isn't still quite
cumbersome, but something like "grep-status -sPackage,Conffiles -FStatus
'install ok installed' --and -FConffiles ." will show all the installed
packages with conffiles, and then you can download each of the relevant
packages, unpack them into a temporary directory, and compare.

On an ongoing basis, I recommend etckeeper.

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Re: How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

Little Girl
In reply to this post by Chris Green
Hey there,

Chris Green wrote:

>However there are inevitably a few global customisations in /etc and
>I'd like to track them as well if possible.  I can configure ways to
>track them now but can anyone suggest a way to find all the changes I
>have done over the years in /etc?

If the program(s) that you made the changes with were polite, they
will have made backups. You could make sure that you're able to see
hidden files in the program you're using to look and then do a search
for any files with extensions that end in .bak or a tilde. You could
then do a comparison between the backup files and the current files
to see what was changed.

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Re: How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

Peter Flynn
In reply to this post by Chris Green
On 13/12/2020 11:11, Chris Green wrote:
> On Sun, Dec 13, 2020 at 10:08:35AM +0000, David Fletcher wrote:
[...]
>> I always comment my changes with reason, initials and date. Then a
>> search for my initials turns them up.
>>
> That's an excellent idea, I'll do similar from now on.  However I
> still need to find older changes, I guess I can just do a manual
> search and/or add suitable comments as I find them.

Another possibility might be to install the same OS on a spare machine,
if you have one (or execute from DVD if not) and list the files in /etc,
then do the same on your machine and compare names, dates, and sizes.

P

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Re: How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

Karl Auer
On Sun, 2020-12-13 at 12:16 +0000, Peter Flynn wrote:
> Another possibility might be to install the same OS on a spare
> machine, if you have one (or execute from DVD if not) and list the
> files in /etc, then do the same on your machine and compare names,
> dates, and sizes.

A program that is designed to find differences across your entire
system is tripwire. It's a bit late to use it now in your (OP's) case,
but if you set up tripwire on a clean system, it does an excellent job
of detecting changes from then on.

Regards, K.

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Re: How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

ubuntu-users mailing list
In reply to this post by Chris Green
14 December 2020  at 0:16, Karl Auer wrote:
Re: How to check what files have be (at least in part)

>It's a bit late to use it now in your (OP's) case, but if you set up tripwire
>on a clean system, it does an excellent job of detecting changes from then on.

Reminds me of asking for directions in Glasglow (I'm not local there) and been
told

"To get there, I would not start from here"

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Re: How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

ubuntu-users mailing list
In reply to this post by Colin Law
On Sun, 13 Dec 2020 11:44:33 +0000, Colin Law mentioned drop-in
directories/files.

Those drop-in files are tricky, especially when using a rolling
release, but they could cause the same kind of issues for release model
distros, probably when upgrading to the next release or when using
third party repositories.

A famous example is /etc/security/limits.conf.

You set all your limits in one place by /etc/security/limits.conf, in
my domain e.g. especially "rtprio" and "memlock". Then a
packager/vendor decides to override those settings by a drop-in file.

I like to have all my settings in one file, not in trillions of
different files, since for my taste it's way more well-structured to
have all the settings manageable by one file. However, I've given up and
now in disgust I'm used to drop-in files. But this doesn't solve the
issue at all, since one drop-in file can override the settings of
another drop-in file by lexical order.

The drop-in file approach is a PITA, since you need to take care that
nothings overrides important settings, just by lexical order.

Usually we nowadays tend to name drop-in files starting with a high
number, to most widely ensure that it's the last used file for
configuration. Instead of "foo.conf" it becomes "99-foo.conf". This
isn't absolutely secure, IOW after each upgrade we need to check all
our drop-in directories against files, that enforce settings that render
our installs useless for our field of application.

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Re: How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

Colin Law
On Sun, 13 Dec 2020 at 16:18, Ralf Mardorf via ubuntu-users
<[hidden email]> wrote:

>
> On Sun, 13 Dec 2020 11:44:33 +0000, Colin Law mentioned drop-in
> directories/files.
>
> Those drop-in files are tricky, especially when using a rolling
> release, but they could cause the same kind of issues for release model
> distros, probably when upgrading to the next release or when using
> third party repositories.
>
> A famous example is /etc/security/limits.conf.
>
> You set all your limits in one place by /etc/security/limits.conf, in
> my domain e.g. especially "rtprio" and "memlock". Then a
> packager/vendor decides to override those settings by a drop-in file.

I have never ever had a problem with other overrides overriding mine.
It probably depends what sort of system one is setting up.

Colin

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Re: How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

ubuntu-users mailing list
In reply to this post by ubuntu-users mailing list
On Sun, 13 Dec 2020 17:16:56 +0100, Ralf Mardorf wrote:
>Usually we nowadays tend to name drop-in files starting with a high
>number, to most widely ensure that it's the last used file for
>configuration. Instead of "foo.conf" it becomes "99-foo.conf". This
>isn't absolutely secure, IOW after each upgrade we need to check all
>our drop-in directories against files, that enforce settings that
>render our installs useless for our field of application.

This assumes that other files are named "01-foo.conf" etc. and no file
"foo.conf", let alone "goo.conf" does exist.

This issue wouldn't exist, if all settings would be provided by one file
and no drop-in file would be allowed to override settings.

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Re: How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

drew einhorn
In reply to this post by Chris Green
create /etc git repo on os install
daily commit cron job

keeps an eye on rolling release config changes you want to be aware of
and keeps track of what you have forgotten


On Sun, Dec 13, 2020 at 3:01 AM Chris Green <[hidden email]> wrote:
I try as far as possible to keep my system 'standard' with as much as
possible of the custmisation being in /home where I use mercurial to
keep track of changes (and which is preserved when OS is upgraded).

However there are inevitably a few global customisations in /etc and
I'd like to track them as well if possible.  I can configure ways to
track them now but can anyone suggest a way to find all the changes I
have done over the years in /etc?  I don't think there are all that
many of them but I know there are some and there are likely to be some
I can't remember how I did.

A typical example is that I have changed /etc/systemd/system/anacron.timer
to change the times when anacron does its checks.  I wanted to change
this recently and it took me ages to find out what to change.  I want
to find and start tracking changes like this.

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Re: How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

Colin Law
In reply to this post by ubuntu-users mailing list
On Sun, 13 Dec 2020 at 16:30, Ralf Mardorf via ubuntu-users
<[hidden email]> wrote:

>
> On Sun, 13 Dec 2020 17:16:56 +0100, Ralf Mardorf wrote:
> >Usually we nowadays tend to name drop-in files starting with a high
> >number, to most widely ensure that it's the last used file for
> >configuration. Instead of "foo.conf" it becomes "99-foo.conf". This
> >isn't absolutely secure, IOW after each upgrade we need to check all
> >our drop-in directories against files, that enforce settings that
> >render our installs useless for our field of application.
>
> This assumes that other files are named "01-foo.conf" etc. and no file
> "foo.conf", let alone "goo.conf" does exist.
>
> This issue wouldn't exist, if all settings would be provided by one file
> and no drop-in file would be allowed to override settings.

You would still have exactly the same problem as a vendor would have
to modify the main config file, which would override your amendments.
Plus you would have the original problem when the package supplier
modifies that file that it would overwrite your version.

Colin

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Re: How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

ubuntu-users mailing list
In reply to this post by Colin Law
On Sun, 13 Dec 2020 16:27:36 +0000, Colin Law wrote:

>On Sun, 13 Dec 2020 at 16:18, Ralf Mardorf wrote:
>>
>> On Sun, 13 Dec 2020 11:44:33 +0000, Colin Law mentioned drop-in
>> directories/files.
>>
>> Those drop-in files are tricky, especially when using a rolling
>> release, but they could cause the same kind of issues for release
>> model distros, probably when upgrading to the next release or when
>> using third party repositories.
>>
>> A famous example is /etc/security/limits.conf.
>>
>> You set all your limits in one place by /etc/security/limits.conf, in
>> my domain e.g. especially "rtprio" and "memlock". Then a
>> packager/vendor decides to override those settings by a drop-in
>> file.  
>
>I have never ever had a problem with other overrides overriding mine.
>It probably depends what sort of system one is setting up.

I agree that it's still not a too big issue nowadays, but it has got
an increasing potential to become a major issue soon or later.

Actually I was bitten by a file located in /etc/security/limits.d/. Not
by an Ubuntu install, but by another major distro's install.

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Re: How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

ubuntu-users mailing list
In reply to this post by David Fletcher-5
On Sun, 13 Dec 2020 10:08:35 +0000, David Fletcher wrote:

> On Sun, 2020-12-13 at 09:58 +0000, Chris Green wrote:
>> I try as far as possible to keep my system 'standard' with as much as
>> possible of the custmisation being in /home where I use mercurial to
>> keep track of changes (and which is preserved when OS is upgraded).
>>
>> However there are inevitably a few global customisations in /etc and
>> I'd like to track them as well if possible.  I can configure ways to
>> track them now but can anyone suggest a way to find all the changes I
>> have done over the years in /etc?  I don't think there are all that
>> many of them but I know there are some and there are likely to be
>> some I can't remember how I did.
>
> I always comment my changes with reason, initials and date. Then a
> search for my initials turns them up.

I created a script to run once a day in cron to copy the
system config files (etc.) that I have modified to a special
directory in $HOME -- in 'rotate' fashion.  From /etc/ e.g.:
hosts
hosts.1
hosts.2
hosts.3
.........  etc., usw.

Of course there's the chance that I'll modify a new system file
and forget to add it to the script.  Being mostly human......

HTH
Jonesy
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Re: How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

ubuntu-users mailing list
In reply to this post by Colin Law
On Sun, 13 Dec 2020 16:44:56 +0000, Colin Law wrote:

>On Sun, 13 Dec 2020 at 16:30, Ralf Mardorf via ubuntu-users
><[hidden email]> wrote:
>>
>> On Sun, 13 Dec 2020 17:16:56 +0100, Ralf Mardorf wrote:  
>> >Usually we nowadays tend to name drop-in files starting with a high
>> >number, to most widely ensure that it's the last used file for
>> >configuration. Instead of "foo.conf" it becomes "99-foo.conf". This
>> >isn't absolutely secure, IOW after each upgrade we need to check all
>> >our drop-in directories against files, that enforce settings that
>> >render our installs useless for our field of application.  
>>
>> This assumes that other files are named "01-foo.conf" etc. and no
>> file "foo.conf", let alone "goo.conf" does exist.
>>
>> This issue wouldn't exist, if all settings would be provided by one
>> file and no drop-in file would be allowed to override settings.  
>
>You would still have exactly the same problem as a vendor would have
>to modify the main config file, which would override your amendments.
>Plus you would have the original problem when the package supplier
>modifies that file that it would overwrite your version.

Here I disagree. There's an issue for configs with or without the
drop-in approach.

By an upgrade Arch Linux does install a new config with the suffix
".pacnew".

Either as

/etc/foo.conf.pacnew

or as

/etc/foo.d/bar.conf.pacnew

I'm quite sure that usually /etc/foo.conf.pacnew is ignored, since
usually /etc/foo.conf.bak etc. is ignored (too) and instead
/etc/foo.conf is used, but I wonder, if /etc/foo.d/bar.conf.pacnew does
override /etc/foo.d/bar.conf, since those drop-in files are seemingly
allowed to use what ever name and suffixes they like.

Btw. I never checked if on Arch Linux /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist is
overridden by /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist.pacnew, but I'm sure that
/etc/X11/xorg.conf is used instead of "xorg.conf.crt",
"xorg.conf.dual.1", "xorg.conf.multi.1" or "xorg.conf.multi.only60hz",
by Arch Linux as well as Ubuntu, when not inside of a drop-in
directory.

ASAP I'll test on Arch Linux and Ubuntu, if a drop-in file foo.conf.bak
does override a drop-in file foo.conf.

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Re: How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

Chris Green
In reply to this post by ubuntu-users mailing list
On Sun, Dec 13, 2020 at 04:59:01PM -0000, Jonesy via ubuntu-users wrote:

> On Sun, 13 Dec 2020 10:08:35 +0000, David Fletcher wrote:
> > On Sun, 2020-12-13 at 09:58 +0000, Chris Green wrote:
> >> I try as far as possible to keep my system 'standard' with as much as
> >> possible of the custmisation being in /home where I use mercurial to
> >> keep track of changes (and which is preserved when OS is upgraded).
> >>
> >> However there are inevitably a few global customisations in /etc and
> >> I'd like to track them as well if possible.  I can configure ways to
> >> track them now but can anyone suggest a way to find all the changes I
> >> have done over the years in /etc?  I don't think there are all that
> >> many of them but I know there are some and there are likely to be
> >> some I can't remember how I did.
> >
> > I always comment my changes with reason, initials and date. Then a
> > search for my initials turns them up.
>
> I created a script to run once a day in cron to copy the
> system config files (etc.) that I have modified to a special
> directory in $HOME -- in 'rotate' fashion.  From /etc/ e.g.:
> hosts
> hosts.1
> hosts.2
> hosts.3
> .........  etc., usw.
>
> Of course there's the chance that I'll modify a new system file
> and forget to add it to the script.  Being mostly human......
>
OP here.  I use mercurial to manage source files.  On one system to
handle files in /etc I have simply used symbolic links to my mercurial
repository, so, for example:-

    /etc/dnsmasq.conf -> /home/chris/.cfg/dns/etc/dnsmasq.conf

Where /home/chris/.cfg is my mercurial repository.

I do also run incremental backups of /home so I have source code
history in mercurial *and* simple dated backups.

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Re: How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

Bo Berglund
On Sun, 13 Dec 2020 18:29:21 +0000, Chris Green <[hidden email]> wrote:

>Where /home/chris/.cfg is my mercurial repository.
>

Is this the repository or a *working copy* of the repository?
(I am not using Hg so I do not know if terminology is off compared to
subversion).

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Re: How to check what files have been customised in /etc?

Karl Auer
In reply to this post by ubuntu-users mailing list
On Sun, 2020-12-13 at 17:28 +0100, Ralf Mardorf via ubuntu-users wrote:
> This assumes that other files are named "01-foo.conf" etc. and no
> file "foo.conf", let alone "goo.conf" does exist.

Things that use this system generally ignore un-numbered files
completely, so oo.conf and goo.conf would not be read. And you can also
"turn off" a settings file by renaming it to e.g. "x-01-foo.conf".

> This issue wouldn't exist, if all settings would be provided by one
> file and no drop-in file would be allowed to override settings.

True, but then you would have no modularity and no easy way to separate
standard from custom configuration.

No system is perfect, but this has stood the test of time from as far
back as SystemV init files at very least.

Regards, K.

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Karl Auer ([hidden email])
http://www.biplane.com.au/kauer

GPG fingerprint: 2561 E9EC D868 E73C 8AF1 49CF EE50 4B1D CCA1 5170
Old fingerprint: 8D08 9CAA 649A AFEF E862 062A 2E97 42D4 A2A0 616D




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