Linus Swats Security on SUSE

Linus is more than a bit outspoken and is not shy to use strong language. He is in the news lately because SUSE asks for the root password for:

  • setting up wireless,
  • setting up a new printer, and
  • setting date/time, timezone…

He has a point. There are systems where these settings are crucial for security but a kid’s notebook at school is proabably not one of them. In a business you may well not want 1000 nude photos to be printed in the boss’ office ( I have seen that. A student caught the principal’s password…) but in a school with the local system admin protecting what he wants to protect, not so much.

Fortunately GNU/Linux is flexible and the guy who controls the “root” account can set it up so that a mortal user can do these things. Even if the root user doesn’t want to bother with security settings for some reason, root can set up a cron job to copy settings from a user’s directory to the system. One way or another it can be done.

The machine I am using is not wireless but I can deal with the other two:

  • printer settings – CUPS (Common UNIX Printing System) has settings that allow root to give any or all mortal users the ability to control printing completely. On my Debian GNU/Linux system there is a group for that, “lpadmin”.
    usermod -a -G lpadmin pogson does the trick and pogson is in the group as soon as he logs in and can tweak CUPS/printer settings and add printers. Of course there is a risk of messing it up so a system administrator should backup the settings before doing this so they can be put back if necessary. An ordinary user can use a CUPS client application or the web interface on http://localhost:631 to control CUPS. The web interface needs to be opened up to allow both access from localhost and local clients. You can also give a particular user control over settings of a particular printer and allow them to change settings for that printer only. So, define a printer, “joe” and allow the mobile user to define it to be whatever he needs wherever he needs it.
  • timezone – There is no need to have a travelling normal user change the timezone settings of a PC. They can simply use a client application with a variable set as needed:
    Wed Feb 29 15:55:51 CST 2012
    pogson@beast:~$ TZ='America/Vancouver' date
    Wed Feb 29 13:56:31 PST 2012
    One can easily tweak these things in Debian GNU/Linux. My current desktop uses an XFCE4 date/time plug-in which does have a timezone setting but I could replace it with a cron job to display the string above every minute as needed as a normal user. On my system, I can also redefine the “date” command in .bashrc as alias date="TZ='America/Toronto' date"

So, Linus may be right that SUSE is too inflexible for his daughter but Debian GNU/Linux is not. The system administrator can easily set it up so that a normal user can do what he needs.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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8 Responses to Linus Swats Security on SUSE

  1. oiaohm says:

    Really Linus does many posts a year.

    Most are tame. If you have to make one post and have it picked up by the news and everyone else. Make it something nasty.

    Political complains know that negative gets media air time.

    Project lead nasty side makes sure that what should not be done gets replicated. As a project lead being hated over something and that something remembered is better than being liked and not remembered.

    Yes that Linus used that line that a person who thinks this should go kill themselves. Effectively has got everyone talking about the topic. So successful.

    Linus nasty side is his fast ball he requires to be a project lead with current world media. Change the world media to pick up issues and debate them with needing the language then what Linus did is wrong.

    The world exists the way it is. Until you can change the world you just have to understand project leads are project leads so have a nasty side.

    Really if you don’t like what Linus has used for punch to push the topic home. Design something with equal impact that does not use that punch of the person can just kill themselves. That is the thing suggest to to Linus he would most likely use it in future. Punch is Punch Linus must have punch in his words at times otherwise he does not have his fast ball.

    Really I have meet Linus he is mostly a nice person. Linus uses language to get the job done with the least number of posts.

    PR person can long haul it. Project leads have a job to achieve. Linus is most use of Linux and issues effecting Linux he wants resolved.

  2. oiaohm says:

    jack h “Asking someone to commit suicide is inexcusable.”

    The thing is Linus is not the only one like this. Its force to point. Project leads have to use words that will get the point across 100 percent clearly that something will not be tolerated.

    This means Project lead language is sometimes offensive. Problem is its has to be to drive the point into long term memory. Either you have to be funny or nasty to embed in someone’s long term memory. The trouble with dealing with humans. Humans forget nice people. Problem is funny and serous don’t join up.

    “Let’s just hope Torvalds doenst lose his fastball.”

    This blunt language is Torvalds fastball. The same thing that makes him a great maintainer makes him a problem from a PR point of view.

    Look up some of the reports on Bill Gates and Jobs when they were leading projects. They both have told people to drop dead to their face and not in generic terms either. This is something Linus never does. Yes maybe Linus needs to learn a few different nasty ways of typing things that can get the same impact as drop dead without the public offence. There is a University research project for someone.

    Impact is required in Linus words and that is where the problems comes from.

    These days Linus does start stuff like this with Venting to let you know he is going to be nasty about some issue.

    Yes the issue comes from the way human mind works. So particular things are required to be effective as a lead of a group of humans that are spread out all over the earth that you cannot fire.

  3. Linus is 40+., time to grow up. If I can keep my wife’s PCs working on Debian GNU/Linux, he should be able to do it on his daughter’s PC. It’s FLOSS after all. He has the right to use, examine, modify and distribute the code. SUSE isn’t that different.

  4. jack h says:

    Ohaoim: that was embarassing.
    Both the childish behavior of Torvalds and your justification.

    This isnt a question of not being able to control his actions-words but not wanting to.
    Asking someone to commit suicide is inexcusable.

    This is not different how rock stars and pro athletes (heck, most high school football stars) are allowed leaway because they are a valuable commodity.
    We excuse almost anything, rape, battery, you name it… as long as you can throw the ball far or run very fast.

    Enablers always say “Thats Billy being Billy. He always throws TV’s out of hotel room windows. Thats how he is.”

    Let’s just hope Torvalds doenst lose his fastball.

  5. oiaohm says:

    Andrew the issue is Linus cannot do his job effectively if he was always nice.

    Really part of the issue is public education that project leads are not nice people when it comes it issues. Its part of there job description to be effective.

    Microsoft and other major companies hide the project leads from public view to prevent cases like this.

    This is the problem Linus and Stallman are both project leads. Really we do need to some how get a non project lead face on the projects.

    Yes project leads are the ones that have to crack the whip on developers over quality. Cracking that whip makes them nasty at times. To Linus the opensuse is poor quality stuff.

    The thing is if a Project Lead flames over something that is not 100 percent valid then its time to skin them alive.

    Rule of Project Leads they can flame about anything as long as it 100 percent valid.

    Really the big quesiton is how to get the media to understand the difference between a Project Lead(nasty person at times who has to be) and a Public Relations Officer(the person who has to be nice all the time).

    Linus does submit patches to distributions at times. So its not that Linus does not give back.

    Having a good management of a project you have to take the good and the bad sides of that good project lead you have. Yes nasty on defects to make you think twice before they get up stream is a feature of them. Even nastier if they did get upstream unnoticed in fact wanting someone head for letting it happen. This is how good project leads are.

    Project Lead makes a terrible public Relations Officer.

    Open Source issues with public point of view comes from this issue of Project Leads being treated like Public Relations Officers so thing not turning out too good.

  6. Andrew says:

    I can understand, but having a high profile as he, bad publicity does not bode well to off the cuff remarks. Persons such as Linus, Stallman, etc. are scrutinized microscopically in the public eye. You & me are just another comment in any blog. Maybe it that why it should be prudent to take a step back and consider flaming in a public forum. But we’re all too human. Thanks oiaohm.

  7. oiaohm says:

    Andrew simple fact of the matter. Linus is not known as the most friendly person on earth.

    If he sees something wrong he will flame you about it. As a project lead running something as hard to manage as Linux he has to be kind of a hard ass on issues. Sometimes it bleeds over into other area.

    Linus point is 100 percent valid. You have a bug in your code its critical that you fear bring it before Linus. Fear is good at times. This is one time.

    Note Linus is going to try other distributions. If he finds it in other distrobutions he will most likely flame on that as well.

    Linus is a fair savage beast. He will rip everyone head of equally for the same reasons.

  8. Andrew says:

    Linus may have a point there but ranting and asking a developer to commit seppuku is not comical and in a public forum mature considering his contributions to FLOSS. I respect the man and I am grateful for his work in FLOSS as I am thankful of other developers in FLOSS.

    If he has a problem with a particular distro;

    a) he can change said distro with/to another.
    b) he can fix problem with said distro.
    c) he can create his own distro.

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