Peter Whittaker pwwnow at gmail.com
Wed Jan 10 13:25:29 UTC 2007

On Mon, 2007-01-08 at 09:55 -0800, Don and/or Mila Trombley wrote: 
> I am wondering if one can get into or load Xubuntu, as a new system, 
> without having to put in a System administrator name, and Password, for 
> now, considerring  that I do not wish to put it on-line, until I am 
> fairly able to understand how the system works i.e. as  an  'open' root 
> w/o password, Then, later, Lock the System when I am ready to connect it 
> to the Internet, or as a private network?

Rather than being add-ons or after thoughts, passwords and permissions
are an integral part of a Linux system: They *are* how things work.

To really understand how to use and administer a modern Linux distro,
one really should work through sudo and su: Set up a user account,
enable a root password, and do your thing. When you run into problems,
one of the first questions to ask will be "what permissions are required
to do this thing?" You will learn an awful lot working that way.

This isn't pedagogy by repeatedly banging your head against the wall,
it's getting used to working with an OS with a security model. It may be
frustrating at first, but you'll be glad you did it that way in the end.

One of the things that led to Windows dominating the world
(https://launchpad.net/ubuntu/+bug/1) is the lack of security model:
Anyone could do anything at any time! This made is easy to get things
done, since there were absolutely no impediments to adding, modifying or
deleting files, adding or removing software, etc.

Wow, greased skids!

Of course, that led to viruses, spyware, and a host of other problems:
Since there was no security model, anyone could anything....

The Linux (and Unix) model of restricted permissions protects us from
"the others" (at least to a certain extent).

This model also protects us from ourselves! As a regular user, you
cannot accidentally install something in the wrong place, accidentally
delete the wrong thing, accidentally run the wrong thing, etc.

Running as root is the wrong thing to do, because it encourages bad
habits: Rather than learning about Linux, a "run as root" user is
treating their Linux box like a Windows box, and is going to destroy
something sooner or later.

So set a root password, learn to use su and sudo (you'll need to visudo
to set up sudoers to give yourself proper sudo permissions before you
can usefully use sudo), and work within the model: It works.

Now here's your "snatch the pebble from my hand" puzzle: I want to
append some file system information to /etc/fstab; why doesn't the
following work when running as a regular user (albeit one with sudo

    $ sudo echo '/dev/hda3 /hda3 ext3 defaults 0 0' >> /etc/fstab
    $ sudo mount -a

??? For bonus points, describe at least four other ways to do this, from
the command line, only one of which uses an editor, and only one of
which uses su.

Don't you love Linux? :->


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