Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ubuntu Got it Right with Sudo

After posting this note, I found the following tip in another blog that had the exact fix I needed  to play ShowMeDo flv videos within Firefox:

I was also able to get vlc to play video files from the desktop by adjusting its configuration.  I just told it send output to X11.  I'm not sure where the default output was going to before.  So at this point, I'm not aware of anything that is not working as desired with Ubuntu on my laptop.

I was previously wrong about Ubuntu, it is a very nice distribution.

I've been using some version of Red Hat Linux since about 1996, but decided to give the Ubuntu distribution a try on my Laptop.  The compelling thing to me about Ubuntu was that I kept seeing information on the web about how to do various things in Ubuntu.  Ubuntu seems to make it easier for others to contribute and thus has surpassed Red Hat in terms of number of packages and available information.  One company can never keep up with thousand of individuals that are all eager to contribute.

One issue that previously gave me reservations about Ubuntu was the whole thing with disabling the root account in favor of extensive use of sudo.  I have nothing against sudo, but it seemed like it might be a pain to do more extensive administrative work.  In reading Ubuntu's documentation about sudo, I discovered that sudo -i gives one a root shell, so that's not so bad.  The kicker that convinced me that someone had a good idea came while using the web browser.  As always with a new system, various add-ons needed to be installed.  Under Red Hat, the best I could do as a non-privileged user was to save an rpm file and then su to root to install it.  With Ubuntu, sudo prompts you for your password, and the add-on gets installed right then -- done.

So far, thumbs up to Ubuntu.  The only issue I'm having is that I can't play most video files -- but I'm sure in time that I'll resolve that.


  1. For playing back media you will probably find that if you install the package "ubuntu-restricted-extras" you'll get all the codecs you need. I can't recall the last media file I couldn't play.

    Also worth installing is VLC and/or mplayer - both are in the standard repositories. They're great media players.

  2. Thanks to mention sudo... after some years with Ubuntu I almost had the impression that it is the only way to do it!

  3. If you are looking for ease of use, Linux Mint may be the better choice.

    While Ubuntu is base on Debian (that's why the "surpassed Red Hat in terms of number of packages" analogy),
    Linux Mint base itself on Ubuntu thus inheriting all the strong points.

    Better still, they've improve on it with all the codecs etc. installed. Everything just works out of the box.

    sudo for everything is not doing justice for new users. Like Johannes said, most new users didn't understand sudo and will be taught like windows user and sudo everything.

    Just hope that no one is smart enough to tape this opportunity and create a Linux bot-net.

    In case you're curious, I've nothing to do with Linux Mint, I am using Debian and openSUSE :D

  4. Also take a look at...
    for more codecs :)

  5. Sudo has it's purpose and was not meant to be an all purpose Root killer.

  6. More specifically, you may wish to avail yourself of the benefits provided by the w32codecs or w64codecs package, depending on the version of Ubuntu you are using, i386 or amd64. Medibuntu would be the preferred source for the codecs. These will provide decoding of most Microsoft media codecs.

  7. Sudo is insecure. Using your own user password to access root security level operations will never be secure. If you were required to use a separate passoword, it would be different.

    As far as the rest, I like root to be accessible from GDM/KDM, as it historically has been. I don't use it that way, but I just don't want to be protected from myself. You can always turn that stuff on and off, so it's not a huge deal.

  8. I agree with Linuxmint for out of the box, also pclinuxos2009 - a Mandriva derivative.

  9. Been using VLC forever - was using it on Windows before I switched. Never had any problems with it, so I can't help with your problem. That's a new one to me.

  10. I second Mint7, it now is my main OS on several pc's. It runs VLC and I can watch all my video's and mpeg files. It runs dual screen without problem. It runs CrossOver and Office without a problem.
    Some motherboards come with chipsets that Mint7 can't work with. Therefor, I do have 2 pc's running a Drake. Mandriva has till now a problem saving the X11-information, even ni root, so I have to reset the dualscreen part. PCLOS is eyecandy, but once you start to upgrade, things mess up a bit, prog's stall and the user gets frustrated.

  11. For Ubuntu I understand their extensive use of sudo. Since Ubuntu is more or less targeted to be a disto for those who may likely never open a terminal window or head over to a TTY it makes sense to secure the root account as much as possible and have access to root level functions through the reentering of one's password (gksu in the case of Ubuntu, I believe).

    I don't agree with LinuxLover's position that sudo is insecure. Sure sudo allows access to root-level functions, but a decent Unix admin would secure sudo via the sudoers file (and hopefully secure su via pam's config).

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  13. I agree. The claim that sudo is insecure indicates a lack of understanding of how sudo works.

    True that Ubuntu is perhaps easier for the non-terminal user. I've been using Unix / Linux since 1988, so I'm very much a user of the terminal / shell. I started using Ubuntu mainly because I was constantly seeing simple instructions for how to do various things using Ubuntu, but had to hunt all over the Internet and sometimes figure things out on my own with CentOS.

    I'm into Python programming and it seems that Ubuntu (and also Mac computers) is very popular with the Python community.