[R-SIG-Mac] The new GUI: help font; root

Thomas Lumley tlumley at u.washington.edu
Fri Nov 19 22:13:09 CET 2004

On Fri, 19 Nov 2004, Jussi Piitulainen wrote:
> There is a prominent button for letting R use root privileges. This is
> really scary. Please, could the code in question be removed? Not just
> hidden but removed. Don't risk the stability of my computer for some
> convenience. (What is it for? To mess with the kernel?)

  I assume it is to allow you to install packages system wide. You can just 
not use it -- it's not a bomb that can go off accidentally. Remember that 
R can't possibly increase its own privileges, so the button uses the same 
OS interface that installers use, to get the OS to ask you for your 
permission and password. Any code on the Mac can *ask* for this, the 
security comes from the fact that the OS puts up a standard, recognizable 
prompt and the user has to explicitly give permission.  People who give 
permission without thinking will quickly destroy their computers whatever 
R does.

I wouldn't have put this in myself -- I would rely on sudo R CMD INSTALL 
or on setting up appropriate group permissions if I wanted to install 
packages system-wide.  However, if you want a GUI package installer it has 
to be able to request permission to write to protected directories, and 
the button has to be slightly safer than starting up the R GUI with admin 
privileges, if only because the privileges are invoked for a shorter time.


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