Evaluation of system-config-user

Martin Pitt martin.pitt at ubuntu.com
Thu Jun 26 16:45:26 BST 2008

Hi guys,

as discussed in today's meeting, I was to evaluate system-config-user
for applicability in Ubuntu, to replace users-admin in
gnome-system-tools. The reason is that g-s-t and the accompanying
sytem-tools-backends are pretty big, unmaintained upstream, complex to
maintain, and users-admin is the only remaining thing which does/was
not get replaced by something else (such as shares-admin ->
nautilus-share in Hardy, or network-admin -> NetworkManager 0.7 in

 * Main window looks moderately ok to me, although I'd reorder the
   columns a bit and move primary group, shell and user ID into the
   user properties dialog, so that the list would look less scary:

     User name | Full name   | Home directory
     martin    | Martin Pitt | /home/martin

  * Group view in main window is ok IMHO. The group ID is not very
    interesting to many users, but most won't care about using the
    group-centric view either.

  * The "add user" dialog does not allow you to put the user into
    groups. You need to go back to the main list, click on the user,
    then the Groups tab, and select groups there.

  * The "users in group" and "groups this user is part of" lists are
    too long; they contain all the system groups as well. It should at
    least be reordered to show the "people" groups first, and maybe
    the system groups should only be available when you enable a check
    box. In Intrepid, users should not really be in a lot of system
    groups any more, only 'admin', 'adm', and 'lpadmin' (see [1]). So
    those should be special-cased somehow, always shown, and sorted
    before the other system groups (which would normally be hidden).

  * Groups do not have human-readable and translatable descriptions,
    as we do in users-admin.

We'd need to have an Ubuntu specific patch for the subset of
"interesting" system groups. My immediate gut feeling is that we
should use a special gettext domain for them. Then we just need a tiny
group name -> English description mapping of those groups, hide
everything else, and can use langpacks/Rosetta as usual for

Summary: The UI is not ideal yet, but not too hard to adapt to our
needs, and the main window changes might even make it upstream.

Privilege management

 * Is not split into a frontend/backend.
 * Uses a thing called "consolehelper" and "usermode" which look
   slightly weird, and not as something we want to adopt. They allow
   users to run some configured programs as root without asking for
   any authentication, they just check if you are on the local
   console. Eww.
   No PolicyKitification.

This is a showstopper, I'm afraid. Maybe RH will switch to a PK-based
approach upstream soon... The upstream homepage is pretty empty and
not very helpful [2].

 * Relatively small Python program, no problems there.

 * Dependencies: Most are ok, and apart from usermode mentioned above
   the only one which we don't have is "rhpl", a RedHat specific
   library for of "common code for system-config-* stuff". However,
   s-c-u only uses a tiny subset of functionality: a gettext _()
   wrapper (not really needed for us), an iconv wrapper (binary Python
   module, can't say immediately what it does), and something called
   "executil.execWithRedirect" which is really just a NIH for
   the standard subprocess module. 
   It should be easy to just throw out all the rphl usage.

So, no major problems from the packaging side.



[1] https://blueprints.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+spec/intrepid-device-permissions
[2] https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/SystemConfig/users

Martin Pitt                        | http://www.piware.de
Ubuntu Developer (www.ubuntu.com)  | Debian Developer  (www.debian.org)
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