Ubuntu vs. the “root” of all evil
May 6th, 2008 by scaredpoet

The contents of this article are probably bound to give certain people in the Ubuntu linux community lots and lots of butthurt.

Oh well. It sucks to be them.

Here it is, for anyone who needs it: How to enable the root user in Ubuntu Linux Distributions.

Step 1: Understand what root is. Then understand some of the risks of logging in as root.

Step 2: Read this article, which explains the reasoning for why ubuntu disables root, and would rather you use sudo instead.

Some of you already know this stuff, know the risks, know the responsibilities, and still have very valid reasons for why sudo isn’t good enough. If you fit this description, then let’s move on:

Step 3: Log in to an administrator account on your ubuntu box (either at the console, or via ssh). If you’re using a GUI, get into a Terminal window. Type in the following:

sudo passwd root

And hit enter.

Step 4: Enter YOUR password. Then, you will be asked for a new password for the root account. Pick a good, strong password. Then you will need to confirm that password.

All done! You have now enabled the root user in ubuntu. If you decide later that you want to again disable the root account, simply log into a terminal or ssh shell and type:

sudo passwd -l root

And this will once again lock the account.

Go it? Good! Now that you’ve learned that much, here’s how to enable root for GUI logins, should you need it:

For plain ol’ Ubuntu:
To permanently enable root login to gnome, edit the
/etc/gdm/gdm.conf file.
In the [security] section of the file, add the following line:

For Kubuntu: To enable login as root in KDE open /etc/kde3/kdm/kdmrc and change the line

That wasn’t so hard, was it? So, what’s the big deal?

Well, it all boils down to a nasty case of common forum drama, it would seem. The people who align themselves with the Ubuntu Community ostensibly adhere to a Code of Conduct (and leaders must adhere to an even stricter code) which, it would seem, serve to help eliminate this nasty, pervasive problem. Sadly, I would submit that the CoC is being ignored in this case.

To whit, when moderators of a certain de facto support forum for ubuntu users saw that some users were “subverting” the anti-root security model inherent in their precious operating system, they decided to lay down the law pretty heavily, rather than ask for insight and opinion first. And now, if you talk about root, you risk getting the banhammer:

Tutorials explaining how to enable the root account for a graphical login or autologin will not be supported on the forums and will be moved to the Jail. Although we believe people should have the freedom to run their computers however they want, we also believe in supporting Ubuntu’s security model. You can find or post information elsewhere on the internet regarding graphical Ubuntu root logins; such tutorials do not have to be hosted on the Ubuntu Forums.

Users posting such tutorials after this announcement will be given a warning or infraction at the discretion of the staff.

How, nice, cozy and collaboratively friendly, eh?

I find it unfortunate that in spite of the open atmosphere that the FOSS movement engenders, and particularly that which the Ubuntu community ostensibly embraces, it comes down to the point where a forum that purports to be the de facto central point for community discussion is now hiding behind intended software models to stifle speech.

Yeah, I know, most forum online administrators readily control what can be said and not said, and they do so unabashedly. But I submit that this is different. A forum that that is bound by this particular philosophy, I feel, forfeits the right to suppress speech that isn’t particularly dangerous or damaging. Yeah, there have been instances where a bunch of ‘tards got on the forums and replied to new users seeking help, giving them harmful advice. But this isn’t harmful advice. It’s telling certain users exactly what they want to know, with a healthy dose of caveats and warnings about the consequences.

At any rate, while this rant might not appeal to the Mac Zealots and Windows lemmings that read this blog (yeah, all three of you), this is still my way of respectfully disagreeing with what’s going on with my favorite emerging OS and its community. And, preserving something that certain members of that community are trying to purge and pretend doesn’t exist.

And even in spite of the recent uppityness about what people should and shouldn’t be allowed to do or say, I’m still going to use ubuntu, because I like it. And I still encourage people to try Ubuntu if they’re tired of Windows Vista, and aren’t particularly happy with Apple. And I’ll still hang out in the forums when I can to help others, for as long as they’ll let me.

One Response  
  • Scared Poet writes:
    May 7th, 2008 at 10:59 am

    sudo su is for pussies!

    Also: it makes the baby Mark Shuttleworth cry. 🙂

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