Linux

15 Essential Tips for Ubuntu Linux Power Users

Christian Cawley Updated 08-06-2020

Using Linux distros like Ubuntu can take some getting used to. If you’ve switched from Windows or Mac, it can be jarring. After all, with a choice of desktop environments, file managers, and ways to install software, it can be overwhelming.

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Think the learning curve is steep? Think again. While there is much to take in with Linux, you can become a power user in minutes with these Ubuntu tricks and tips.

1. Get Lightning Fast at the Command Line

If you’re using Linux it makes sense to get to know the command line app, Terminal. This provides a deeper level of access to your Linux computer, so long as you know the right commands.

All sorts of things can be done in the terminal, e.g. editing text files, connecting to Wi-Fi, and more. While working in the command line, keyboard shortcuts can help to shorten steps and save time.

Linux features a host of command line shortcuts. For example, you can use the up and down arrows on your keyboard to cycle through previous commands. Or use Tab to complete partial commands and even file and directory names.

Our guide to the most important Linux terminal shortcuts Save Time in the Linux Terminal with These 20 Shortcuts Whether you're a terminal newbie or someone who got over the fear long ago, here are 20 shortcuts that can help you overcome some of the command line's awkwardness. Read More will show you more.

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2. Launch Ubuntu Linux Applications With a Keyboard Shortcut

Keyboard shortcut tips for Ubuntu

One of the best Ubuntu tips is to embrace the power of keyboard shortcuts.

While using the mouse to click an icon might seem quick, or even hitting the Super key to start inputting the app name, there’s a faster option.

The first nine applications in the Ubuntu launcher (by default down the left-side of the desktop) are assigned numbers. You can open any of them using Super + 1 to 9. Further, if you want a new window for an app that is already open, use Shift alongside the shortcut.

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Learn more Linux desktop shortcuts Save Time with 20 Linux Keyboard Shortcuts GNOME, KDE, & Unity You know about Windows keyboard shortcuts, but having just migrated, you're wondering "what about Linux?" Well, try these 20 awesome shortcuts for three of the most popular Linux desktop environments: GNOME, KDE, and Unity. Read More for GNOME, KDE, and Unity.

3. Make Ubuntu Remember the Last Session

Ubuntu can be configured to remember the applications you had open in your last session before logging out. If you can’t successfully hibernate or put Ubuntu into sleep mode, this is a useful shortcut.

It relies on the gnome-session setting which is accessed in dconf Editor. You’ll need to install this using

sudo apt install dconf-editor

By setting the applications to automatically reopen you can save time when you log back in. However, while you might save a few mouse clicks, the computer is likely to take slightly longer to load up.

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In the terminal, enter

dconf-editor

On the desktop, dconf Editor will open. Expand org > gnome and select gnome-session. Here, find auto-save-session in the right-hand pane and place a check in the box. Click X to close the window.

Test this works by leaving your browser running and logging out. When you log back in, the app should be running. Couple this with a browser that supports session management to resume browsing for the best results.

4. Create a Separate Ubuntu Linux Home Partition

Ubuntu desktop file manager view

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New versions of Ubuntu arrive every six months. Although you can upgrade to the latest version via the update manager, sometimes the upgrade doesn’t work as expected. As such, it’s wise to consider a fresh install.

The disadvantage with an upgrade is that you can lose personal data from your home directory. Archiving data is sensible, but a smarter solution that avoids backing up and restoring files is a dedicated home partition.

You can create this when you first install Ubuntu. It can be sized to meet your needs, so make sure you specify enough space for all your files. When you decide to install Linux again, simply specify the partition as Home (use /home as the mount point).

All your files and data on the Home partition will be preserved even after a fresh install.

5. Be Sure to Install a Full Upgrade

You may know that one way to upgrade a Debian-based Linux distro like Ubuntu is to use the upgrade command. Away from the terminal, you may simply wait for the upgrade to be issued via the update manager.

But often when you run upgrades, not everything is upgraded. Certain packages are left in place, usually if required for specific apps to work. If you want to run a complete upgrade that removes those packages use

sudo apt full-upgrade

6. Kill Unresponsive Processes Quickly

Kill unresponsive Linux processes

All operating systems suffer from unresponsive programs. The smart solution is to close the software and try again.

In Linux, you have several ways to do this. There’s the X in the corner of the application window, but Ubuntu also has a System Monitor tool for finding and killing processes. In addition, the terminal can be used to end unresponsive apps and processes with a selection of “kill” commands.

Check our guide to killing unresponsive programs 7 Ways to Kill Unresponsive Programs in Linux When a Linux app becomes unresponsive and crashes, how can you kill it? Try one of these tricks to kill a stuck program in Linux. Read More in Linux for a look at the options.

7. Use PPAs for Bleeding Edge Software Releases

Software goes through various stages before it can be released to the main Ubuntu repositories. Testing and revision increase stability, but you don’t get the very latest software released unless you know where to look.

Before software is added to a repository it can be found in Personal Package Archives (PPAs). Once a PPA address is added to Ubuntu’s list of repositories, applications can be installed from it.

Remember, however, that running the latest pre-release version of an app can result in unexpected errors. Also, while PPAs are a smart option, they’re not secure. Be sure to remove the PPA Linux PPAs: Installation, Removal, and Security PPAs -- personal package archives -- are a way to install Linux software via the Terminal. But are they safe to use? How can you remove a PPA? And which are the safest PPAs to... Read More address after installation.

8. I Am Root

The root account is disabled by default on Ubuntu, mainly to prevent you from making serious mistakes.

Issuing the wrong command as root can have devastating consequences. For example, it’s possible to accidentally delete all of your data. Confident you won’t do this?

A power user tip for Ubuntu is to enable root. It appears to be deleted but is simply hidden. To enable root in Ubuntu, enter

sudo passwd

This requires you to create a new password which can then be used with the root account.

Note, however, that it is safer to simply use sudo for command-by-command elevated permissions. Just enter your password when prompted.

If you have chosen to enable root and give it a password, you can disable it again with

sudo passwd -l root

9. Use the Latest Graphics Drivers

Support for the latest video card drivers are available for Linux. Using the right driver for your video card can make all the difference for graphics intensive tasks. It doesn’t matter whether you’re gaming or editing video—the best graphics drivers are vital.

In most cases, Linux users are using drivers for the Intel graphics chip, which is integrated with the motherboard. In some cases, this might be the only video chip available.

But if the computer has an AMD or Nvidia chip or full graphics card, suitable drivers are required.

Open source and proprietary drivers are available for cards from both manufacturers. Ubuntu makes it easy to find, choose, and install the best graphics drivers How to Install Proprietary Graphics Drivers in Ubuntu, Fedora, and Mint Most of the time, you'll be fine with open-source software on Linux. But if you want real gaming and graphical power, you'll need proprietary drivers. Here's how to get them. Read More .

10. Try Different Ubuntu Linux Desktop Environments

The MATE desktop environment

Unlike Windows 10 and macOS, Linux distros like Ubuntu offer a choice of desktop environments. These are typically available as individual installations, although some distros, like Ubuntu, can be installed with alternative desktop environments preinstalled.

For example, Ubuntu comes in several flavors:

  • Ubuntu vanilla (ships with the GNOME desktop)
  • Kubuntu (Ubuntu plus KDE)
  • Lubuntu (Ubuntu plus LXQt)
  • Ubuntu Budgie (adds the Budgie desktop)
  • Ubuntu MATE (simple, classic Ubuntu desktop)
  • Xubuntu (Ubuntu plus Xfce)

So, you can either install an entire alternative version of Ubuntu or add a desktop manager manually.

Installing a new Linux desktop The 12 Best Linux Desktop Environments Choosing a Linux desktop environment can be difficult. Here are the best Linux desktop environments to consider. Read More  is straightforward, but occasionally requires an extra package. For example, to install Xfce on Ubuntu, use

sudo apt install xfce4

After installation, you’ll be prompted to select the new desktop choice the next time you login to Ubuntu.

11. Change the Default File Manager

Ubuntu uses the GNOME Files tool for browsing files and drives on your computer. It’s what you use to view the images you’ve downloaded, or the documents you’ve created.

Also known as Nautilus, the default file manager can be swapped for an alternative.

Various alternatives are available, some offering faster performance and few features, others with extra functions bundled in.

Popular alternatives to GNOME Files include

Most alternative file managers will run on Ubuntu without any trouble.

12. Compile your own Kernel

If you’re looking for a weekend project, why not built Linux a kernel to specifically meet your requirements?

This is frankly more of a learning experience. While some might argue that it lets you to use only the features and drivers you require, it usually isn’t necessary. If everything is working fine with the kernel supplied and you don’t have any interest trying to change that, you can skip this.

However, if you’re determined to get your hands dirty in the kernel, check our guide to compiling the Linux kernel How to Compile Your Own Linux Kernel Compiling your own Linux kernel is one of those geeky, technical things, right? We've already covered a few reasons why you might want to do this -- now is the time to try it yourself! Read More .

13. Utilize the Swap Partition to Improve Performance

A great Ubuntu trick for boosting performance is to use the swap partition. This is a memory management method for using spare disk space as RAM overflow. However, it can be customized, tweaked for your benefit.

If your hard drive is large enough, you can expand the swappiness value, and utilize the hard disk for RAM. The result is a Linux system that performs faster.

Note that hacking the Ubuntu swap partition What Is a Linux Swap Partition? Everything You Need to Know Most Linux installations suggest you include a swap partition. What is a swap partition for? Here's what you need to know. Read More isn’t an exact science and doesn’t work on slower hard disk drives. There is also a risk of extra wear to your HDD.

14. Run Windows in a Virtual Machine

Need to use Windows software? Run the operating system in a virtual machine on Ubuntu

Missing Windows or need to use software that doesn’t have a Linux version? You might be tempted back to the dark side, but there is a simpler option: install Windows inside Linux.

This is possible thanks to virtualization. A virtual PC can be created, using software such as VMware or Virtualbox. An alternative is QEMU, although this is more suitable to experienced users as it relies on detailed command line configuration.

With a Windows virtual machine installed in Linux you can simply power it up and use the app you’re missing. It runs alongside other Linux apps, so you can switch to your Ubuntu desktop at any time.

15. Take Ubuntu Everywhere With a Live USB Disk

Perhaps the best Ubuntu power user trick is to carry the operating system around in your pocket.

With a Live CD installed to a bootable USB stick, you can use Ubuntu on almost any other computer. So long as the USB port can boot live drives and the stick is suitable, you’ll be running Ubuntu in moments.

You might even stick your favorite portable apps on there too for instant productivity. Check our guide to running Ubuntu on a live USB stick Running Linux From a USB Drive: Are You Doing It Right? Did you know that can do a full install of Linux on a USB drive? Here's how to create a Linux USB PC in your pocket! Read More to learn how to do this.

Become a Linux Power User With These Ubuntu Tricks

By now you should have a handle on the best Ubuntu tips and hacks that can turn you into a Linux pro.

From the command line to using a different file manager and even compiling your own Linux kernel, Linux distros like Ubuntu are hugely customizable. Linux lets you do whatever you want—and then some.

For the ultimate customization, learn how to customize the Linux splash screen How to Customize the Ubuntu Boot Splash Screen and Logo Are you looking for a way to customize your Ubuntu splash screen? Want to tweak the logo of your chosen desktop environment? We show you how it's possible. Read More with your own image.

Related topics: Computer Tips, Disk Partition, GRUB Bootloader, Linux Tips, Productivity Tips, Ubuntu.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Paul
    June 24, 2020 at 12:23 am

    By far the easiest way to run windows in a VM on Ubuntu is to use Gnome Boxes

  2. plopper
    December 28, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    Yeah, Huge problems with these so called (power User) tips. Lets all just make a root password when it's not needed. Yeah, and while we are at it why not just make the password, password..

    None of these are anything I would consider a tip for a power user. If you don't know these, and find a use for most of them, you probably are not a power user.

    If you spend most of your time in a shell, then you might be a power user... "Might."

  3. me
    February 5, 2010 at 9:13 am

    nonsense. do not "be root" do "sudo" its safer. also do not use ppas that often. and what about these stupid tips like "home partition" and "share firefox profile data"!!! i dont need to share with a windows, i dont have one. i also had my home partition from the first day i used linux.

  4. Anonymous
    November 6, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    No, I'm a Linux power user. And I find your so-called "power user" tips laughable.

    If they're not meant for power users or aren't actualy power user tips, don't call them that, it makes you look like an Ubuntard.

    Just because you've used these tips for years doesn't make them any more advanced.

    And these are no different then I could find on any other non-guru Ubuntu blogs. Please explain to me how keyboard shortcuts for the console, binding keyboard shortcuts, enabling root, or using WINE to run Windows apps is "power user" stuff when the average Linux user knows it?

    You're no power user, or you'd have pointed out actual power user things.

  5. Greg
    November 6, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    What kind of an intelligent comment is that? It does nothing to enhance anybody's knowlege. I suspect you are less of a guru than you profess to be and suspect you are a malcontent teenager trying to get some attention any way possible.

    I am definitely a power user and have been using unix based systems since 1982. I have known some of these tips for years have forgotten others and have, due to this article reacquainted myself to many.

    Others are not as lucky as myself to have had the long, extensive exposure to Unix/Linux that I have and they will benefit, as I have from this article. We need more like it.

    If you can't contribute in an intelligent manner, don't bother resorting to insults - they add nothing to the dialog.

  6. Anonymous
    November 6, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    These are power user tips? You ubuntards don't know the first thing about how to be Linux power users. This article proves it.

    Oooh, look, keyboard shortcuts. They're SO ADVANCED.

  7. sam
    September 16, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    great tips. ubuntu rocks

  8. anon
    August 31, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Mackenzie, not only are you awesome but you are also cute!

    And yes, I read the married post. I don't want marriage, but a date would be fantastic!

  9. Ian MacGregor
    August 28, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    #8 um.. I've been using Ubuntu as my sole operating system since 2005 and have never seen an instance where logging in as root is necessary. I have helped over 100 people switch to Ubuntu from Microsoft Windows and I currently admin about 80 computers for friends, family and businesses. Sudo can do anything you need to do. Mackenzie has a very good point, every cracker trying to brute-force their way into your box will know it has an account named root and will try that first. What they don't know is what the usernames of your other users are. Since the root account is locked, this attack becomes essentially meaningless, since there is no password to crack or guess in the first place.

  10. bob
    August 27, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Most of these have nothing to do with Ubuntu. Either they're about GNOME or they're about Linux in general.

    You obviously didn't actually try number 3 because it doesn't work. That feature is broken in GNOME 2.24 and in GNOME 2.26. I wonder how many of the other things you write about you have actually tried and if you haven't actually done them, why do you think you are qualified to write about them?

  11. haily
    August 17, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    very useful, thanks !

  12. chuckiesd
    August 13, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    Wow, really really good information. I will pass the information to my friend. He asking me a lot ubuntu. Thanks.

  13. maquina de cafe
    August 13, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Hello ! I personally like better debian, but there's some cool info on this post i could use.
    Thanks !!
    My Linux blog in portuguese: http://linuxvidalivre.blogspot.com

  14. webby
    August 10, 2009 at 4:13 am

    Linux is still years and years behind Microsoft Windows.

    • Mackenzie
      August 10, 2009 at 10:55 am

      In marketshare, yes, but in quality?

      • a Tom
        August 10, 2009 at 12:55 pm

        I think, at least in the case of Linux, market share and quality go hand in hand. Ive used Linux off and on since Slackware and igresil(?). Ive also used pretty much all the other operating systems that have been around. In my eyes, quality is the number one factor that is keeping Linux from being even close to number one. Yes it is stable for a server but the desktop market is much much more unforgiving when it comes to scrutiny by the end user... even the smallest problem will cause the typical non geek to run back to windows, and rightfully so, yes?

        I see no reason why Linux should not excel as a server platform, but anyone thinking that ANY of the Linux desktops are ready for prime time is in serious denial!
        Remember, the only way you can fix a problem is by first admitting the problems exists.

        • Mackenzie
          August 10, 2009 at 1:56 pm

          For home use, doing the things every user does (email, web, chatting, typing papers, managing a photo album), it is certainly ready. It's niche markets that are the problem: engineers in need of AutoCAD or designers who've invested years in learning Photoshop.

          Though for hobbyists doing things like genealogy, I've I've written about GRAMPS on MakeUseOf before. A professional genealogist I met at the library decided to try Linux after seeing the charts it outputs. For people who like to sew and want a way to make cross-stitch patterns, there's Kxstitch. Interior design? Sweet Home 3D is a nice Java-based piece of software. Video editing? Kdenlive. Making flyers? Inkscape or Scribus will do quite well.

          My mom hasn't had any problems with Ubuntu yet, in the 2.5 years she's used it, so I can't say whether they'd push her back to Windows. I can say, though, that after a month of using it she was bragging to her friends about how much faster and easier to use it is than Windows. My brother had a problem with his camera not acting like USB Mass Storage, Googled the model, and asked me if reinstalling Windows was necessary. I told him to use one of my SD-to-USB drives. Most laptops have SD slots built in these days, and Linux supports them just fine, so this shouldn't be a problem anymore.

        • Mackenzie
          August 10, 2009 at 1:57 pm

          Oh yeah, have a look at whatwillweuse.com for a blog about Microsoft v. Apple v. Linux marketshare.

  15. Ludwik
    August 9, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Your link to APTonCD is broken...

  16. Joe Schmoe
    August 9, 2009 at 9:23 am

    Mie heitän löylyä...

    Linux is still years and years behind Microsoft Windows.

    • nitesh
      August 9, 2009 at 9:46 am

      I think u r year and year behind........have u tried 9.04 jaunty or latest version 9.10 karmic koala....its awesome much faster than u r windows.....

    • A thinking man
      August 9, 2009 at 10:38 am

      Yeah, it'll take Linux years and years to have all the viruses Windows has. :-P

      OK, speaking seriously, some things on Linux do suck. I can't upgrade Ubuntu to Jaunty because it will break my graphics support. (ATI Radeon 9600 Pro). They upgraded X.org before the new drivers could be written. So I have to wait a while, or use a different distro. My sound also cuts out from time to time, and flash sometimes has sound problems too. Perhaps if I rebooted more often I wouldn't have these problems, but having to reboot more often would make this too much like Windows.

      Overall I'm pleased with Linux, but it does have significant room for improvement.

      • Mackenzie
        August 16, 2009 at 10:14 am

        If you don't mind a bit of slight breakage, maybe give Karmic a try. It rocks for Intel and ATI graphics.

  17. nitesh
    August 9, 2009 at 4:07 am

    i really like this thread..........I am a new user and i was looking for these information from a long time..........if some body know more from where i can grab more knowledge let me know.thanks

  18. tyldd
    August 9, 2009 at 12:22 am

    "Ubuntu power user." Thanks, that's the best oxymoron I've seen in a while.

    • Mackenzie
      August 9, 2009 at 11:56 am

      Right, because only newbies use Ubuntu. There are no developers (like many upstream GNOME devs? or hey, the Ubuntu Developers!) using Ubuntu, nor are there are a bunch of people out there writing blogs full of tips for Ubuntu.

    • Fitzpatrick
      August 9, 2009 at 7:02 pm

      I use Ubuntu because I've used Slackware, Gentoo, Fedora, RedHat, Mandrake/Mandriva, SuSE...

    • Greg
      August 28, 2009 at 3:24 pm

      I've been using Unix for twenty five years now. I've been using Linux since 1995. I install and maintain Enterprise level servers for a living all across North America. My personal desktop of choice is Ubuntu.

      It is not what I install for servers but for the desktop it is what I use and yes, I am a power user.

      I work for a software development company who's main product runs on Linux and I am their prime Linux guru.

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with Ubuntu for the workstation and desktop - I highly recommend it.

  19. John
    August 9, 2009 at 12:14 am

    When I first started using (K)Ubuntu, it seemed strange to me that, on my own computer, I shouldn't be allowed to become root.

    But it makes sense. Login as a normal user and only 'become root' when it's really necessary.

    In my case, that's usually done by using sudo or having one of may Konsole sessions logged in as root all the time.

  20. Lex
    August 9, 2009 at 12:02 am

    Typo alert: in 6. Install new fonts, ... the link labeled
    can easily install new fonts including those from Microsoft
    erroneously links to an article about keyboard shortcuts.

  21. Bill
    August 8, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    I just wish I could get the nvidia driver that comes with Ubuntu to work with my nvidia graphics card so that I can get Google Earth to work in my Ubuntu computer. I can get the card to work with my Windows machine no problem. But I prefer surfing the web in Ubuntu.

    • codemaverik
      August 9, 2009 at 10:00 am

      Hi,
      I am having the same problem with the jaunty install. Any luck with the Nvidia drivers.

      • muzikjock58
        August 11, 2009 at 8:18 pm

        i used envy to install my nvidia drivers. quick, easy , painless. just google envy, install it, and let envy do its work. ..........your welcome!

  22. Prescott Linux
    August 8, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    Great stuff! Dugg, keep it up. Linux is so cool.

  23. themacmeister
    August 8, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    I don't know what you people are arguing about? The 'sudo' command is just as powerful. Now I read No.8 again, I do see that he is talking about LOGGING IN as ROOT. This is, of course, very very bad!

    sudo passwd root - will PERMANENTLY set the root password, without needing a so-called "random" password or hash.

    • Mackenzie
      August 8, 2009 at 8:17 pm

      When I talk about a hash, I mean the fact that /etc/shadow doesn't store your password in cleartext. It stores a hash of the password. It used to be MD5, I think, but since that and SHA-1 are broken, current Ubuntu uses either SHA-256 or SHA-512 (I forget which).

      And of course you can unset root's password and put it back to locked as it originally was. I said this above. "passwd -l" will lock the account.

      • a Tom
        August 8, 2009 at 9:11 pm

        i think im too old for you but will you please marry me!?!

      • A thinking man
        August 9, 2009 at 10:32 am

        Long, long ago, Unix didn't even have /etc/shadow. The hash was in /etc/passwd. /etc/passwd had to be readable to everyone because of certain utilities that converted usernames to UID's, and similar functions. So the password database was moved to a file that could be made unreadable, and /etc/passwd was kept (even with its misleading name) so that older software would keep working. Neat, huh?

  24. Michael
    August 8, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    Thanks for the list... (delicious)

  25. egorgry
    August 8, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    why enable root at all? I can't think of anything more dangerous on a *nix system then someone running a gui as the root user. sudo -s if you need really need a root shell. just my 2 cents.

    • Mackenzie
      August 8, 2009 at 8:15 pm

      "sudo -i" is probably better since then you get root's env too.

      • Mike
        August 8, 2009 at 8:36 pm

        Or, one less character to type:

        sudo su -

        that'll also get you root's environment.

        • speedeep
          August 9, 2009 at 1:44 pm

          And if you need to start an graphical app as root (not a great idea...) you can always use gksudo.

        • Mackenzie
          August 9, 2009 at 7:03 pm

          Well, better gksudo or kdesu than running it with plain "sudo". That'll often end up with screwed up file ownership due to the environment changes, but gksudo/kdesu are safe(r).

        • Mackenzie
          August 9, 2009 at 7:07 pm

          I've seen it pointed out that "sudo su -" is technically slightly less efficient because it requires spawning more shells to do the same thing that "sudo -i" does in one.

    • Greg
      August 28, 2009 at 3:03 pm

      what do you do in the situation where the drive has experience some problems and at boot time you receive the following prompt

      *fsck failed please repair maually & reboot. Please note that the root filesystem *is currently mounted read only. To remount it read-write:
      * #mount -n -o remount rw /

      *Control-D will exit from this Shell and REBOOT the system

      Give root password for maintenance (or type Ctrl-D to Continue):

      In this instance, sudo bash or su - or sudo command won't work. You need the actual root password.

      One of the first things I do on any new Ubuntu workstation is create a known password for the root account by using the passwd command for this purpose.

      procedure
      sudo bash
      su -
      passwd
      then I assign the new password

      This is sometimes necessary to repair the drive.

      A live cd would do the trick but if you ware 2000 miles away and trying to talk a non technical person through using a live cd, it is easier to fly out than walk them through burning a live cd, hitting [f2] at the right time etc etc etc

  26. mikael
    August 8, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    I will repeat what i commented on digg:
    this was a decent list until i saw number 8. one of the most basic rules in *nix systems is NEVER login or use root when it is not necessary. Not being constantly logged in as root is one of the many things that make Linux secure. logging in as root greatly reduces the system security, if you need to run something as root then use sudo. And again only login as root when it is absolutely necessary.

  27. Mackenzie
    August 8, 2009 at 8:44 am

    #3 broke in a recent release of GNOME and AFAIK has not been fixed yet. It'll just give you a pop up saying 'Not implemented' since GNOME's rewriting all that crap anyway for their GNOME 3.0 release next year.

    #6...doesn't offer many....WHAT? Yeah um whatever. "sudo apt-get install ttf-larabie-deco ttf-larabie-straight ttf-larabie-uncommon" to get 300 or so fonts.

    And there's one other good reason root is disabled:
    Let's say I'm a cracker, and I'm attacking your computer. I know that on most Linux systems, root is all-powerful, so I try to crack root's password. But, if you run with root disabled, I would have to try to guess the right combination of username-that-has-sudo-access and your password. Makes it quite a bit harder.

    • Ryan
      August 8, 2009 at 10:23 am

      Technically, when root is disabled, it's not really disabled. Ubuntu just sets it to a random password when installed. To gain access, all you're doing is resetting this password.

      • Mackenzie
        August 8, 2009 at 1:45 pm

        Incorrect. Where the heck did this "random password" rumour come from?

        It locks the account (like "passwd -l"). It's not "random password" it's "impossible password." Do a "sudo less /etc/shadow" See how the second field on all non-user lines are *? That means the user cannot login using a password at all. If it was a random password, there'd be a hash, just like there's a hash next to your user's name.

        • brucemagnus
          August 8, 2009 at 8:34 pm

          You are correct about not being able to start an X session as root with root disabled, but the "random password" thing is not a rumor; it's true. And you should look at /etc/shadow again because there is a hash in the second field and not a star. Also look at the "Users and Groups" tool and look at the properties of the root user. Under password, the only 2 choices are "set password by hand" and "generate random password"

        • Mike Chelen
          August 9, 2009 at 4:34 pm

          On a fresh 9.04 install there is no hash for the root account in /etc/shadow

        • Mackenzie
          August 10, 2009 at 10:52 am

          Perhaps we need to add a "re-lock account" button in the GUI, but I assure you there is a * on a fresh install.

        • Sikku
          August 12, 2009 at 11:30 pm

          In fact I feel Ubuntu has a random password for root. As I can issue this command

          sudo passwd

          to change the root password and I can login as root using this command

          su -

          supply the recently changed password and become a root user.
          Is there any problem by doing so?

        • Mackenzie
          September 11, 2009 at 3:04 pm

          Sikku:
          That doesn't mean it was random before. It means you set one. That's what the passwd command does.

    • Mackenzie
      August 8, 2009 at 6:06 pm

      Oh yeah, another reason to use sudo instead of running as root:
      If you give your co-admins sudo access, you end up with an audit log telling you which of them removed that VERY IMPORTANT config file and broke things. And then you can take away their sudo access. If you had given them the root password, you couldn't place blame and you'd have to do one of the following:
      1. force them to forget the root password (ummm is that possible?)
      2. reset root password and make everyone else learn a new one (pain in the neck for everyone else)

      • noname
        August 14, 2009 at 5:39 pm

        err... you do know that it's a bad policy to not change the password on a regular basis.
        Also sudo is a security flaw as it allows to gain root privileges with a single user password, su is still the way to go security wise.

        • Mackenzie
          August 16, 2009 at 10:17 am

          "Change root password often" is in case someone has learned it or cracked it in the meantime. If there's no password for them to learn...? And users should change their passwords as well, so the point is moot.

    • A thinking man
      August 9, 2009 at 10:25 am

      Hmmm . . . is it really that hard to guess which user(s) have root access? You can check for the user with UID 1000 (or 500 on some systems). That will be the first user, the one who installed the system on most any desktop. Or, if the privileges are expected to be conferred by membership to a certain group, one could check for a likely-looking group, then cruise the user list for people who are in that group. OK, with some systems login credentials get served over the network via NIS+ or something (I don't know much about that other than the fact that it exists and that Ubuntu probably has a similar facility).

      On a standalone system, the advantage you've cited only appears if the system installer makes a very deliberate effort to change the default sudo configuration for the first user, and possibly some bizarre-looking group names that give no information about their members.

      • Mackenzie
        August 10, 2009 at 10:54 am

        How do you find out the UID when you're trying to brute force the password over SSH? What you're suggesting would require physical access. If they've got physical access, you're already screwed.