non-informative error message

Bob Proulx bob at
Mon Sep 11 09:53:38 EST 2006

Serafeim Zanikolas wrote:
> ps. please CC me as I'm not subscribed
> The openssh client terminates with the following error message when
> unable to resolve a username: "You don't exist, go away!"

A traditional styled message.  Try 'who' in that same "impossible"
situation.  It will print out "Intruder Alert!".

Did you actually receive this error message?  What was the
circumstance?  How likely is this error to occur?

> Leaving aside style and tone, the message is not informative. Please
> consider changing it to something more appropriate and helpful, such
> as "Unable to resolve username".

The message is in the traditional style of a message in an "impossible"
situation.  Obviously it is possible but it shouldn't be.  It can only
happen if a previous system error has occurred.  How can a user exist
on a system when the user is not defined for the system?  (Yes,
obviously there are ways, that is not my point.)

I am not an ssh developer but as a system user these things are part
of the culture and often make the system more enjoyable to live and
work on than if it were only dry messages, even if perhaps more
accurate.  I would not be opposed to adding additional error text, but
I would hate to see the culture become too bland, like food designed
to offend no one, which then often pleases no one either.


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