ls -l Shows Question Marks instead of Permissions

Occasionally, when running ls -l within a directory, you might find that the output shows question marks (?) instead of the usual permissions indicators:

ben@Queeg:~$ ls -l ~/test
ls: cannot access /var/www/html/Vx/Notes: Permission denied
total 0
d????????? ? ? ? ? ? Notes


This is because whilst the user has permission to read the directory, they don't have permission to stat the entries within it. At some point, the chmod command has likely been used to remove the executable bit.

ben@Queeg:~$ ls -ld ~/test
drw-rw-rw- 6 ben ben 4096 Nov 7 10:30 /home/ben/test

Fixing the issue is as simple as adding execute permissions

chmod +x ~/test

If you've accidentally removed the executable flag using a recursive chmod, you can re-instate it with the following command

find ~ -type d -exec chmod +x {} \;

Where ~ is the basepath you want to start searching from (in this case /home/$USER. The -type argument ensures the change will only be run against directories