I tried enabling chpasswd in a regular build of busybox on i386, and wasn't able to reproduce this bug. I also inspected the source code closely and couldn't see any way for chpaswd to fail without first printing an error message to stderr. So I'm wondering whether there could be some build-chain problem that has affected arm (cross-)builds for Emdebian. Neil pointed me at a broken binary package: http://www.emdebian.org/packages/pool/main/b/busybox/busybox_1.10.2-1em2_arm.deb However I haven't yet been able to set up an ARM system on which to test this (I don't have root on a developer machine!). Ben.
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