root vs user. installing firefox

DJ Lucas dj at
Sat Dec 20 07:29:11 PST 2008

Ralph Porter wrote:
>> The question is malformed.  You can't 'install' anything as a user
>> unless you install into the user's home directory.  You shouldn't need
>> to install anything under the user's home directory.  Just build
>> everything as an unprivileged user, and then install as root as per the
>> book's instructions.  Even that is not 'best' practice, but is the
>> current 'recommended' practice...hopefully that will change for 7.0, but
>> 7.0 is a *long* way off.
> Thanks DJ,
> Sorry for the malformed

Glad you caught the humor...I forgot the smiley.
> I ment unpriviledged user.
> A followup question:  Why not simply install everything as root?  Why
> install as an unpriviledged user and then some things as root?  Is
> there some risk with root?
> Why the "golden rule" of not working as root?
> In the mainframe world we control access with a security package.
> This keeps most users from hurting themselves.  I've always have had
> unlimited access (aka root) and never burned myself.  Maybe linux is
> not as forgiving?

I'd guess that you either review every entered command 3 times before 
submitting, or that you are just plain lucky!  :-)  I suppose either is 
a blessing.

But yes, the root user does have completely unlimited access.  From the 
CLI a single misplaced '/' character can be absolutely disastrous when 
given as an argument to say, rm.  Makefiles (well their source) are 
written by people.  People are not perfect, we all make mistakes from 
time to time.  Then there are other people who are destructive and would 
take pleasure in you destroying your system. When working with elevated 
privileges, there is just that one more chance to screw up badly.

Remember that all rules are written from somebody's past experience, and 
most times you can be thankful that it is not your own.  Even though you 
don't fall or crash into people every time that you run, I doubt that 
you run across the room as fast as you can every time you get a pair of 
scissors in your hand.  Corny example, but any unnecessary risk is silly 
if there is no real gain.  IMO, typing five less keystrokes ('sudo ') 
when you *need* elevated privs, is not a major inconvenience, 
considering the risk.

-- DJ Lucas

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