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Ubuntu Unleashed 2013 Edition: Covering 12.10 and 13.04, Eighth Edition by Matthew Helmke

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The Password File

The password file is /etc/passwd, and it is the database file for all users on the system. The format of each line is as follows:

username:password:uid:gid:gecos:homedir:shell

The fields are self-explanatory except for the gecos field. This field is for miscellaneous information about the user, such as the user’s full name, office location, office and home phone numbers, and possibly a brief text message. For security and privacy reasons, this field is little used today, but the system administrator should be aware of its existence because the gecos field is used by traditional UNIX programs such as finger and mail. For that reason, it is commonly referred to as the finger information field. The data in this field is comma delimited; ...

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