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When to work as root & When to Work as a System User

Discussion in 'Linux Beginner Tutorials' started by Rob, Jul 9, 2013.

  1. Rob

    Rob Administrator
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    When you should work as root

    You have now installed Linux and the first thing you did was login as 'root'. Then you provided a password so that you and ONLY you could login to the system as 'root'. When you decide to work as root, you had better go into a phone booth first and change into a blue suit with a big 'S' on the front because 'root' is known as the 'superuser' (you can skip the red tights if you want).



    That's really not meant to be just a witty reference to the Man of Steel. Actually, it is much more glamorous to be 'Superman' but root is actually more like the 'janitor' of the Linux system. Root has the keys to everything. He can shut off the lights, shut off the heat, lock you out of the building; he has to clean up the system and in the end make sure everything runs. And the most important thing about being a janitor - he sees everything.

    'root' is not for routine work

    As I mentioned, Linux makes your computer a true multi-user system, which means that besides root, you can and should work as another person. I say 'should' because doing routine work as 'root' could be hazardous to your health. When I first started using Linux myself, information was not all that readily available and I still had that 'one computer- one user' concept in my brain. It was after I had trashed all of the files and programs that make Linux run that I realized that working regularly as root wasn't a good idea.

    Working as another user

    Well, then how do you do your day to day work with Linux? That's easy. You do it by working as a user other than root. You may pick the name you like. Try your name. If your name is "Bob" then you could create a user account for 'bob'. By the way, if Prince Charles is reading this, Charles Philip Arthur George is a bit too long and has spaces, which Linux doesn't like - he should try 'charlie'. One thing I find EXTREMELY helpful is that with Linux, I can work as different people. It should not be inferred here that I have split-personality disorder. I am just a guy with a couple of different jobs. This way I can organize my work a lot better and backups are easier this way too.

    Adding a new user

    Well, Bob, now it's time to create your account. If your name is Hrothgar, use 'Hrothgar' or 'Hrothie' instead of 'bob' for the remainder of the lesson.

    Now 'root' has to do this stuff. Yes, I know I just warned you about working as root, but this is where you have to exert your authority. Most major distributions have tools to do this. SuSE, for example, has a nice tool called YAST which lets you add users painlessly. You just fill in the correct information. Consult your Linux version for information on their tools. There is also the get-your-hands-dirty way of doing this. Actually you won't get your hands dirty unless you're eating barbecued ribs at the same time.

    Using 'useradd' and 'passwd'

    To add a new user, you can also use the command 'useradd'. Kind of a logical name, isn't it?

    Try this:
    Code:
    useradd bob
    You probably won't see any fireworks go off. You might not see anything. That doesn't matter. Linux has been told that there's a new user and his name's 'bob'.

    Now you should give yourself a password.

    Do this:
    Code:
    passwd bob
    Linux will ask you for your password. Follow the same advice I gave previously about passwords. Also, don't use your 'root' password. Like 'one man, one vote' it's 'one user - one password'. You will be asked to repeat it.

    What's in your user directory

    When you create a new user, there is a directory created for that user in /home. To see what's in this new directory, you have to do the following.

    Go to the /home directory. - typing:
    Code:
    cd /home
    you can make sure you're in the /home directory by typing:
    pwd
    You'll see this: /home.

    Now you need to type:
    Code:
    cd bob
    You can type:
    Code:
    ls -a
    to see what's in the directory. We'll go into more detail with the ls command later. With the -a option, you'll see some files that begin with a '.' (period/dot). Those would normally be hidden from you if you didn't use the -a.

    Now you can go to work as 'bob', 'pcharles' or whoever you happen to be.
     

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