Quick Tip: Setup Ubuntu-style Sudo on other Distributions

Ubuntu's sudo command is something that I miss when I'm using other distributions. For the uninitiated, when using Ubuntu, you can execute privileged commands as the root user by prefacing them with sudo. This saves having to log in as root, do your work and then log out again (or if you're like me, forget to log out and keep doing things as root). Fortunately, it's a cinch to add the functionality to other distributions such as Debian or Fedora.

Here's a funny thing (well, I found it amusing): If you attempt to execute a command using sudo on, say, stock Debian, before being prompted for your password, you are issued a stern warning:

We trust you have received the usual lecture from the local System Administrator. It usually boils down to these three things:

#1) Respect the privacy of others.

#2) Think before you type.

#3) With great power comes great responsibility.

Once you've got over the lecture and you enter the password, you quickly learn that other distributions don't handle sudo in quite the same way as Ubuntu.

[username] is not the in the sudoers file. This incident will be reported.

Eek! The Debian Police didn't actually turn up at my house on this occasion, and although I did notice a helicopter circling above my house for a while, it might have been a coincidence.

To add Ubuntu-style functionality you need to edit the file /etc/sudoers

Obviously you can't use sudo yet, so make youtself root by typing


Then, use your favorite text editor to open up /etc/sudoers. For example, under Debian type

nano /etc/sudoers

Scroll down until you find the line

root ALL=(ALL) ALL

and underneath, add the line

[your username] ALL=(ALL) ALL

substituting [your username] as appropriate. Save the file and exit the editor. Once you've done this, test things out by executing a command that requires root privileges. Under Debian, I ran:

sudo apt-get update

and sure enough, the command ran with root privileges. As with Ubuntu, it caches your password for a while, so you don't have to keep re-entering it for every command.

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