Linux Fu: Superpowers for Mere Mortals

Linux Fu: Superpowers for Mere Mortals

You can hardly mention the sudo command without recalling the hilarious XKCD strip about making sandwiches. It does seem like sudo is the magic power to make a Linux system do what you want. The only problem is that those superpowers are not something to be taken lightly.

CC-BY-NC-2.5 by [XKCD]If you are surfing the web, for example, you really don’t want to be root, because if someone naughty takes over your computer they could do a lot more harm with your root password. But still, there are times when you want to run certain commands that are normally root-only and don’t want to bother with a password. Luckily, sudo can handle that use case very easily.


As a simple example, suppose you like to shut your computer down at the end of the day. You run the shutdown command from the terminal but it doesn’t work because you aren’t root. You then have to do it again with sudo and if you haven’t logged in lately, provide your password. Ugh.

In my case, I got to thinking about this when I needed to manipulate the dbus service in a startup script. I wanted the script to manipulate just that service as a normal user and not prompt for a password, especially since some users don’t have sudo powers anyway. Either way, you would like a way to let normal users run very specific commands without additional permission.

A Simple But Bad Way

Your first thought might be to wrap the code in a shell script owned by root and ..

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