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Creating a user account

Log in as root and use the "adduser" command.  For instance, if you want to create an account for Joe, you would issue the command:

adduser joe

This will create an account for joe, along with an associated home directory "/home/joe".

Joe's account will need to have an initial password.  Still as root, type the following command:

passwd joe

You will be prompted to enter an initial password for Joe's account. The password will not be echoed to the screen. After you press return, you will be prompted to reenter the new password. If you reenter the same password correctly, you will be told that all authentication tokens were updated.

It is important that you select a password which will be difficult to guess or generate from a list of known words. Your system contains a list of over 45000 words in the file /usr/dict/words. This can be used for performing spelling checks on your system, but it can also be used by crackers to for guessing passwords. Your paranoia level should be driven by your real security needs. If you intend to run a server which is connected to the Internet 24/7, then you will want to be much more cautious than if your machine is sitting in your den without a network connection.

A good password will contain a mixture of from eight to twelve alpha-numeric characters and punctuation marks. Random strings are best, but are difficult to remember. Try generating a password string from a sentence or phrase. An example would be mvemjsunp. It may seem difficult to remember, but it is composed of the first letter from each word in the sentence, "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles." (It is a mnemonic for recalling the order of the planets.) This is actually a poor suggestion since it is a fairly well known mnemonic device, but it illustrates a useful technique for generating easily remembered passwords.

Now that you have a non-root account, you will want to use this account almost exclusively. It is very easy to make a silly mistake on the command line. Being a non root user protects you from some serious consequences. I have seen two experienced computer users inadvertantly delete their entire file systems because of typographical errors. Had then been logged in as a user rather than root, this could have been avoided.


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