[conspire] Running graphical apps as root (was: conspire Digest, Vol 26, Issue 2)

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Sun Jul 10 20:22:19 PDT 2005

Quoting Bruce Coston (jane_ikari at yahoo.com):

> The big issue with the last 12 distro multi boot
> install was starting a graphical application from a
> root capable shell. most recent distro's can't do it.

Ah, you mean disabling of direct login as the root user, requiring sudo
access, right?  Yes, I don't know an obvious way around that problem
other than:

$ sudo bash
# passwd root
# exit

At _that_ point (having overriden the distro's policy, and assigned the
root account a direct-login password), you can use any number of ways to
"su" to the root account with X11 forwarding:  My personal favourite is
the "sux" script.

I have others (equivalents to "sux") detailed here:  "Root w/X11" on
http://linuxmafia.com/kb/Security .

E.g., having enabled direct-root login (as above), you can do:

$ sux -
# graphical-application-thing &

> Newbies need a root account until this bug gets fixed.

I'm trying to give the Ubuntu-et-al approach a fair shot, before
reaching conclusions like that.  That is, when I try out an unfamiliar
Linux or BSD distribution that defaults to doing things differently, if
it seems part of a deliberately thought-out system, I give it a try.

In the case of no-direct-root-login distributions like Ubuntu, the only
graphical applications I can think of that any sane person would even
_consider_ running as root either are already accessible through
root-user warppers like kdesu or gksudo, or are one of a few graphical
installers for proprietary software (e.g., Star Office).  Things like
Web browsers should _not_ be run with root access -- too dangerous.
(Much less should people run entire X sessions as root -- which I see
all too often.)

I'll bet, on reflection, that the problem you described could be dealt
with by kdesu or gksudo, _without_ enabling direct root access.  Give
them a try.

> Libranet looks great but I didn't test far since i mostly want it on
> drive for the graphical kernel application.

Libranet 3.0's gotten very admiring reviews, but isn't freely available
free of charge as ISOs.  (Prior release 2.8.1 is available gratis; two
disks, I think.)

The two guys who run Libranet (one of whom recently died of cancer,
sadly) are on record as stating that there's nothing in Libranet that
may not be lawfully redistributed.  (I have that linked from
http://linuxmafia.com/kb/Licensing_and_Law/ .  Whether it applies to 
all releases _prospectively_ is an interesting question.) 

So, their business model is interesting:  They offer new releases in ISO
form only in exchange for (very modest) download fees.  Respect for them
is so very high that (typically) nobody elsewhere reposts those "bought"
ISOs to public ftp sites, even though -- per the cited statement -- that
would be lawful.  And Libranet offers direct free-of-charge download of
the prior version's ISOs -- as currently with 2.8.1.

(You can also sometimes find Libranet boxed retail sets in places like
Microcenter.  They're really good for desktop users -- KDE -- and pretty
cheap for what you get.)

> Pai-Pix looked fine but is a bit old.

Every distro release is "a bit old" after a short while.  You notice?  ;-> 
That is, because pretty much every distro release is out of date for
most of its useful life, the ease and effectiveness of maintenance is
really, really important -- and in my view matters a great deal more
than how up to date the initial software load is. 

I used really tiny and rather aging "netinst" installers for Debian 3.0
woody for a long time.  The fact that they didn't include more than
about 50 packages, and all of those obsolete, didn't matter, because I
immediately updated and expanded it from Internet package repositories,

> PC Linux OS workedlike the 'mandrake only better' descriptions i have
> read and if u want a .rpm i recommend it. 


Ever tried CentOS?  I'll be curious to hear what you think.

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