15 Great Ubuntu Tips for Linux Power Users

Varun Kashyap 08-08-2009

A few days back I wrote about books that beginners can download and read 5 Excellent Downloadable eBooks To Teach Yourself Linux If you are starting out on your journey towards Linux expertise, here are a few free downloadable eBooks to teach yourself Linux that should help you along nicely! Read More to teach themselves Linux. Today in the Linux section we have something for the power users. Here are a few tips you should try out if you are an avid Ubuntu Linux user:


1. Get lightning fast and clever at the command line

You can use keyboard shortcuts and other command line tricks to make entering commands easier and faster. You might already know about the ‘tab’ key which completes partial commands and even file and directory names.

Here are some other keyboard shortcuts you can use within terminal:

Ctrl-a Move to the start of the line.
Ctrl-e Move to the end of the line.
Alt-] x Moves the cursor forward to the next occurrence of x.
Alt-Ctrl-] x Moves the cursor backwards to the previous occurrence of x.
Ctrl-u Delete from the cursor to the beginning of the line.
Ctrl-k Delete from the cursor to the end of the line.
Ctrl-w Delete from the cursor to the start of the word.
Ctrl-y Pastes text from the clipboard.
Ctrl-l Clear the screen leaving the current line at the top of the screen.
Ctrl-x Ctrl-u Undo the last changes. Ctrl-_
Alt-r Undo all changes to the line.
Alt-Ctrl-e Expand command line.
Ctrl-r Incremental reverse search of history.
Alt-p Non-incremental reverse search of history.
!! Execute last command in history
!abc Execute last command in history beginning with abc
!n Execute nth command in history
^abc^xyz Replace first occurrence of abc with xyz in last command and execute it

Also don’t forget to check out 4 websites where you can learn cool command line tricks 4 Websites to Learn Cool Linux Command Line Tricks Read More

2. Launch Ubuntu Linux Applications with keyboard

There are two ways you can achieve this:

  • Use applications like Launchy How To Be More Productive with Launchy Program Launcher Read More or Gnome-Do that make it easier to launch applications by typing a few characters of the application’s name.
  • Or you can summon gconf editor (Alt+F2 then type gconf-editor and hit enter), and navigate to apps > metacity > global_keybindings, double click on any of the run_command_N and type in the keyboard shortcut you want to assign to an application then make a mental note of the number N. Then go to apps > metacity > keybinding_commands and double click on command_N (N being the number you used above) and type in the command you want to run. As an example if you wanted to run Firefox you would type in firefox.

15 Great Ubuntu Tips for Linux Power Users globalkeybindings

15 Great Ubuntu Tips for Linux Power Users keybindings

Also check out these Ubuntu keyboard shortcuts you might not know about 10 Useful Ubuntu Keyboard Shortcuts That You Might Not Know Read More .

3. Start from wherever you left off

15 Great Ubuntu Tips for Linux Power Users remember

You can make Ubuntu remember the applications you had open when you last logged out, so that when you log back in again you’ll find all those applications running and you can resume right from where you left off.

To achieve this go to System > Preferences > Startup Applications, then go to the options tab and check “Automatically remember running applications when logging out”

4. Create a Separate Ubuntu Linux Home Partition

15 Great Ubuntu Tips for Linux Power Users mountashome

New versions of Ubuntu arrive every 6 months. Although you can upgrade to the latest version via the update manager, sometimes the upgrade doesn’t work as expected so some users like to do a fresh clean install.

The disadvantage with that of course is that you lose data you had in your home directory. To overcome this you can create a separate Home partition when you are installing Ubuntu, size it according to your requirements and then when you decide to install Ubuntu the next time, simply specify this partition as the Home partition (by choosing /home as the mount point).

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

5. Update and Install Ubuntu Linux Software Without Internet Connection

15 Great Ubuntu Tips for Linux Power Users aptoncd

There are lots of way to do this, the easiest of all is to use APTonCD. APTonCD allows you to create CDs and DVD’s containing all the packages you want, which you can then use to install software on computers without an internet connection.

Note that APTonCD requires you to have an internet connection (or downloaded packages) to create the installed media. However once the media is ready you don’t need an internet connection for any of the machines you want to install the software on. Insert the appropriate CD/DVD and use apt-get as you would normally.

6. Install new fonts, Microsoft fonts and improve font rendering

15 Great Ubuntu Tips for Linux Power Users fontsUbuntu doesn’t offer many choices when it comes to the fonts. However you can easily install new fonts including those from Microsoft How to Install Microsoft Text Fonts in Ubuntu Linux Windows-based fonts don't appear by default in Linux. This isn't really a problem, but if you want better compatibility or just like the look of them, we've got you covered. Read More like Arial, Verdana, impact and many more. You can use different sites to find the kind of font you are looking for The 8 Best Free Font Websites for Free Fonts Online Not everyone can afford a licensed font. These websites will help you find the perfect free font for your next project. Read More .

7. Use PPAs, Install latest versions of software

There are a lot of steps that a software has to go through before it becomes part of Ubuntu or becomes available through the Ubuntu repositories. While all those steps lend additional stability, it generally means that you don’t get the latest versions of all the software as soon as they are released.

If you like to stay on the cutting edge, you can search for Personal Package Archives for your favorite software on Launchpad and add those to your installation’s software sources. I briefly touched on PPAs and how to use them here 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 . If that seems like too much work, you can also download the latest deb packages and install them by double clicking (you won’t get automatic updates for the software if you install it this way).

Remember you might get into an occasional trouble or two with the latest versions, but mostly it wouldn’t be catastrophic. You can always hop over to the Ubuntu Forums to get quick help.

8. Be the root

The root account is disabled by default on Ubuntu installations, mainly to prevent you from doing something you didn’t intend to do. However if you “promise to be careful” you can enable root account as follows:

15 Great Ubuntu Tips for Linux Power Users rootenable

  1. Type sudo passwd root and provide a root password.
  2. Then head on over to System > Administration > Login Window, go to the Security tab and check “Enable local system administrator login”

You should now be able to login as root from the Login prompt. As an alternative you can use “sudo su” to provide your password and get root prompt.

9. Run Windows applications and games

15 Great Ubuntu Tips for Linux Power Users menu

Who wouldn’t like to play Counter Strike on Ubuntu (unless of course you are completely not into it) or perhaps even run Photoshop? Well it is very much possible and here is how to do it Run Windows Applications on Linux (or Mac) With WINE Read More .

10. Shorten boot time with profiling

Ubuntu Linux devs have done a great job with the boot time, Jaunty is fast and Karmic is slotted to be even faster. There is however a bit more you can do by profiling your boot. Profiling lets Ubuntu make a list of all the files that are accessed during bootup, it then sorts the files according to how they are stored on your hard disk. So the next time the system is booted, the files would be read faster.

To profile boot you need to follow these steps

  • At the grub menu highlight the kernel you boot most often.
  • Press e for edit.
  • Choose the line starting with kernel and press e again. Now add the word profile to the end of this line. Hit Enter and then press b to boot

Note that while profiling, the system will boot slower this one time, the next time however you should see an improvement. Also keep in mind that all this is machine-dependent and also depends on the arrangement of files on your hard disk, so the difference you see might not be huge, or even nil in some cases.

11. Try out different Ubuntu Linux Desktop Environments and Desktop Managers

If you are looking for something different than the default Gnome interface, you should check out alternative desktop managers that you can use 8 Great Alternative Desktop Managers For Linux Read More . If it is a complete Desktop Environment you are looking for, KDE4 has come a long way and is now impressively usable and fun. You can do a “sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop” to get KDE.

12. Create a media center or a media server

15 Great Ubuntu Tips for Linux Power Users xbmcmedia

It would be great if you could easily browse and manage your huge collection of music, videos and pictures. Mesmerized by Windows Media Center’s slick interface? Wait till you see what all cool options you have to turn your Ubuntu system into a media center Using Your Linux Computer As A Media Center (Part 1) Read More . You can even access your media collection on your phone, PSP or a different computer if you set up a media server Using Your Linux Computer as a Media Server (Part 2) Read More on your Ubuntu machine.

13. Share Firefox profile data with Windows

Many people use Windows and Linux on the same machine. If you are one of them, there would have been times you couldn’t find that bookmark you created or password you stored when you were using Firefox from within Windows. Check out how you can share Firefox profile data across operating systems Share Your Firefox Data Across Operating Systems & Computers Read More without syncing it over the web (works best if you have the same version of Firefox in both OS’s). For different computers you can of course use Weave.

14. Customize Nautilus to your liking

15 Great Ubuntu Tips for Linux Power Users menunact

Nautilus is the default file manager on Ubuntu. While you may be content with what it does, there is lots more you can make it do. You can use extensions to improve functionality 6 Useful Extensions to Improve Nautilus Functionality [Linux] Read More and even add custom functionality to Nautilus How To Add Custom Functionality To Nautilus [Linux] Read More

15. Compile your own Kernel

If you can’t find something to keep you busy for the weekend and you have your customization hat on, how about building a kernel to specifically meet your requirements? This is frankly more of a learning experience. Some might say that it enables you to use just the features and drivers you require, but if everything is working fine with the kernel supplied and you don’t have any interest in the Linux kernel, skip ahead this one is not for you.

If however you require some of the experimental features of the kernel, or need it to be compiled in some other special way we say you check out this guide within Ubuntu Documentation.

16. Change Usplash Screen and create a custom splash screen for GRUB

15 Great Ubuntu Tips for Linux Power Users ubuntu usplashSo you didn’t count the last one? Here is another one then. A Usplash screen is Ubuntu text and a logo with a progress bar that you see when you boot up Ubuntu.

If you would like to change that to something more interesting follow these steps How To Easily Change Ubuntu Usplash Screen Read More . What better way to show your Linux fu than customizing the very first screen that appears? You can create a custom splash screen using one of your photos, GIMP and a little tweaking. Here is the how-to How To Easily Change Ubuntu Usplash Screen Read More .

Know some more tips or great hacks for Ubuntu Linux users? Sure you do, go ahead let us know about them in the comments.

Explore more about: Disk Partition, Fonts, GRUB Bootloader, Ubuntu.

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  1. 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."

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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

    great tips. ubuntu rocks

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

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

    very useful, thanks !

  11. 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.

  12. 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:

  13. 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 for a blog about Microsoft v. Apple v. Linux marketshare.

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

    Your link to APTonCD is broken...

  15. 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 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.

  16. 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

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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

      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!

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

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

  22. 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?

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

    Thanks for the list... (delicious)

  24. 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.

      sudo bash
      su -
      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

  25. 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.

  26. 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

          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.