Reality check for “PAM Mastery.”

Two blog posts in one day, after a few weeks of silence? It happens. Weirder still, there will be another tomorrow. I’m asking for help from my tech book readers here.

Some things are such an integral part of my life that I can’t imagine others are unfamiliar with them. I’m considering using one of them for “PAM Mastery,” but I must consider that perhaps not everyone understands it. I don’t want to say what particular part of my life I’m talking about, as that would invalidate the test here.

So, with the following text, do you:

1) get the reference
2) if you do NOT get the reference, do you understand it anyway?

A chain of PAM controls don’t resemble the strict allow/deny syntax you’ll find in applications like packet filters, web servers, and other Access Control Lists. They’re more like a long-standing committee in a centuries-old educational institution steeped in tradition and ritual, where each member has an unusual name, baroque responsibilities, and unusual privileges.

This committee votes on authentication in a specified, stately order. Each member has specific ways they can vote. Perhaps the Archchancellor starts the vote, and can either say “yes” or reject the whole proposal before anyone else gets a chance. The Dean can vote “no comment” or “no,” but doesn’t actually get to vote in favor of anything. The Senior Wrangler can vote either “no” or “yes, so long as nobody else objects.” If voting reaches as far as the Lecturer in Recent Runes he can either stay silent or declare, “yes, dang it, and the vote’s over, I win!”

Meanwhile, the Librarian has a seat at the table but can only take notes.

13 Replies to “Reality check for “PAM Mastery.””

  1. I work in academia, so perhaps I get the idea of arcane bullshit, but I think that explains PAM’s nonsense in an accessible way. Unless you were talking about the allow/deny stuff, in which case perhaps there should be some comment about staying away from configuring PAM 🙂

  2. I have the feeling you’re referring to something fairly specific (something Harry Potter-ish???), but I have absolutely no idea what.
    And I have no idea WTF the Librarian is supposed to refer to, in PAM.

  3. Nobody but mwl would try to explain PAM by (ab)using Terry Pratchett. And nobody else would succeed…

    Why am I not surprised you know TP?

  4. 3, because I have to be different. But no, really. 1 and 2 so I guess 3 is more accurate than this joke admits. 1 because I do kind of get it. 2 because if I’m wrong about what I think I get, I still get it. 🙂

  5. The reference to the Unseen University is pertinent and appropriate. Well done.

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