Setting AFS File Permissions

Thomas Finley, April 2002

Suppose you want a TA to access your private directories. Note that we don't have any special permissions to access your private directories. As users on the acpub system we're no different from you. If we're to have access you must explicitly give it.

The people at OIT, in one of their brief episodes of semicompentence, installed the Andrew file system. This means you don't use the usual chmod stuff to set read permissions, you use fs setacl ... etc. For example, to give me (twf) access to the directory happyDirectory, one would type:

    fs setacl happyDirectory twf read

Note that setting access on that directory will only give me access to happyDirectory, but none of its subdirectories created prior to setting access (i.e., Any directories created within happyDirectory AFTER access is set will inherit access settings, but those created before shall not inherit access).

In order to set permissions recursively through directories, one can utilize the find command. This, for example, will give me access to read the directory "~/cps104" (the directory named cps104 within your home directory) and all of its subdirectories.

    find ~/cps104 -type d -exec fs setacl {} twf read \;

Note that the \; is important... otherwise find gets confused.

In case you're one of those people that likes to know what's going on, what that command does is the following: find recurses through a directory (in this case ~/cps104), and looks for files/directories that satisfy certain criteria. In this case, I specified only one criterion, -type d, which means that the file found has to be a directory: if you leave off everything after -type d, what that will do is print out every directory in ~/cps104. What the -exec flag does is put that output to use by executing a command with each directory as an argument: the {} is replaced by each satisfying file find, eh, finds.


  1. You can use -ok instead of -exec. The -ok flag is just like -exec, except it prompts you for yes/no confirmation on each file before running the command.
  2. If you want to withdraw access for a user, replace "read" with "none".
  3. Naturally, if you want to give another user access, you'd replace "twf" with that person's login.
  4. If you named your directory something other than cps104 or put it somewhere other than your home directory, change "~/cps104" as is appropriate in your situation.

For more information on AFS on the acpub system click here.

Thomas Finley 2002