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lynx-dev symlinks to other users' files; broken symlinks

From: Benjamin C. W. Sittler
Subject: lynx-dev symlinks to other users' files; broken symlinks
Date: Sat, 10 Oct 1998 14:45:09 -0600 (MDT)

Symlinks to other people's files are often used here at the New Mexico
Tech Computer Center so that a large group of users can share a single,
easily-updated configuration file for Lynx, FVWM, or some other package.
There are several of these widely-used configuration files, none of them
controlled by the computer center (they have their default system.fvwmrc
and lynx.cfg, though, so you can still use these programs without a copy
or symlink to someone's .fvwmrc or .lynxrc.)

This is great, as it allows users to easily adopt eachother's settings,
without the synchronization problems introduced by copying (i.e. user a
copies version 1.0 of user b's lynxrc, then user b updates to 1.1 to fix a
problem, but that doesn't help user a, who probably doesn't even know a
new version is available.) Obviously, this requires a relation of trust
between the user maintaining the file and the users symlinking to it, but
this is quite common.

Broken symlinks (that is, symlinks to non-existent files) are also quite
common, as the systems at the computer center do not have totally
homogeneous filesystem layouts. It's often useful to link to a
machine-local configuration file, and fall back on a global system default
configuration file if the machine-local configuration file does not exist.
For example, user a might have a custom configuration for lynx that he's
trying on his own machine, and so he has a symlink pointing from .lynxrc
in his home directory to wherever the custom .lynxrc is on his machine.
But he'd still like to use Lynx on other machines, and doesn't want to
worry about his (possibly-broken) custom configuration except when using
his own machines.

Ideally, he'd like Lynx to use the global lynx.cfg (only) on most
machines, but also his personal lynx.cfg on his machine. This means that
on most machines, .lynxrc will be a broken symlink (probably to a
directory that doesn't even exist elsewhere.)

There are many more arcane reasons to allow lynx to use symlinked files
owned by other users, and to gracefully ignore broken symlinks.

Send me private email if you are interested in them, as this message is
rather long already.

"Benjamin C. W. Sittler" <address@hidden>

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