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It's actually very simple. The root account is like "administrator" on WinNT/2K, though even more powerful in some ways. On most Linux systems root can do anything and everything, which even on single-user systems is bad for two reasons.
1. If you make a mistake as root, you can do far more damage to the computer than as a normal user.
2. If an attacker can get hold of your account (e.g. steal your password, virus or trojan) they can do far more damage as root than as a normal user.
Therefore, you create a non-root user account for yourself (with the adduser command), set the password (with the passwd command). Now you always use that account unless you absolutely have to use root to do what you need to. To get from your account to root, type su - on the command line and enter root's password.
That should get you going. You could come along to the next Manchester Linux User Group meeting which should be on Saturday 19th June 2-4pm where people will be happy to give you some hands-on guidance.
On my Win2K box, I've got the administrator account which I use as my "main" account, but I also have "development" accounts (programming, 3D, sound) which are all in the admin group.
I tried having a standard user account on Win2K and dropped it after a week because I wasn't getting any work done due to switching back and forth to install programs, add-ons, etc. I understand the advantage of having an admin account to do the setup-stuff, but it just seems over-kill at times when you're switching back and forth.
Is there a way to set up a user with certain admin "rights", such as shutting down, installing software, etc?
Oh, and thanks for the heads-up on the manchester meeting - i'll try to make that one!
Originally posted by neocookie Is there a way to set up a user with certain admin "rights", such as shutting down, installing software, etc?
Well, remember first that switching to root is very quick - it's not a log-off-log-on, just type su - in a terminal window.
However, there are alternatives. Linux uses groups to control a lot of sysadmin tasks, so there are a lot of tasks you can do if you are either root or a member of a certain group.
Probably simpler for you is to use sudo. Take a look at the sudo command and /etc/sudoers file. This allows you to specifiy commands that you can run as root (you can specify that you can run all commands as root), either with no password authentication or by entering your own password.
It also depends on the distro you use. I confess to have little experience with Slackware. Mandrake and SuSE have nice graphical interfaces for system admin tasks which prompt you to enter the root password when required - no hassle at all.
Sorry to go against your sig., but I can only recommend Google. However, I would say that you should seach on Unix user managemet as well as Linux. The two are pretty much the same and if you can find good information on Unix, the most you'll have to do is learn a few Linux-specific commands : the concepts will be the same.