From Fedora Project Wiki
Line 186: Line 186:
== Documentation ==
== Documentation ==
<!-- Is there upstream documentation on this feature, or notes you have written yourself?  Link to that material here so other interested developers can get involved. →
* [ PolicyKit Homepage]
* [ PolicyKit Homepage]
* [ PolicyKit Documentation]
* [ PolicyKit Documentation]
Line 192: Line 191:
== Release Notes ==
== Release Notes ==
<!-- The Fedora Release Notes inform end-users about what is new in the release.  Examples of past release notes are here: -->
<!-- The release notes also help users know how to deal with platform changes such as ABIs/APIs, configuration or data file formats, or upgrade concerns.  If there are any such changes involved in this feature, indicate them here.  You can also link to upstream documentation if it satisfies this need.  This information forms the basis of the release notes edited by the documentation team and shipped with the release. -->
== Comments and Discussion ==
== Comments and Discussion ==
* See [[Talk:Features/UsermodeMigration]] <!-- This adds a link to the "discussion" tab associated with your page.  This provides the ability to have ongoing comments or conversation without bogging down the main feature page -->
* See [[Talk:Features/UsermodeMigration]]

Revision as of 14:11, 3 April 2012

Usermode Migration


All granting of privileged operations to ordinary users should exclusively be handled by a centrally managed authority. Usermode/consolehelper should be phased-out and entirely replaced by polkit.


Current status

  • Targeted release: Fedora 18
  • Last updated: 2012-04-03
  • Percentage of completion: 20%

Detailed Description

The usermode/consolehelper program is a setuid-root wrapper around a couple of tools, to provide superuser privileges to ordinary users. Its policy is controlled by text files in /etc.

Most privileged user operations are already controlled by polkit today, a well-established, fine-grained, possible network-transparent infrastructure to manage privileged operations by ordinary users. Enterprise environments should be able to centrally define the domain’s policy, and automatically apply it to all connected workstations.

  • Polkit can be used by privileged process to decide if it should execute privileged operations on behalf of the requesting user. For directly executed tools, polkit provides a setuid-root helper program called ‘’pkexec’’.The hooks to ask the user for authorizations are well-integrated into text, and natively into all major graphical environments.
  • The concept of a console user is no longer a sufficient concept to derive privileges from. Polkit authorizations can properly distinguish between multiple active sessions and seats: e.g. an untrusted user’s reboot request is only granted, if only a single user session runs at that time.

Polkit(8) manpage

Benefit to Fedora

  • Consistency of system configuration.
  • Centralization of policy.
  • Cleaner system integration; no implicit interception of tools residing in sbin/ with symlinks in bin/, which is less dependent on $PATH ordering.
  • No difference regarding the hookup between tools installed in bin/ or sbin/.


  • Document how to convert consolehelper to polkit:
    • python: put pkexec in the wrapper shell
    • C tools: re-exec with pkexec in C code
    • C tools: move original to /usr/lib/<pkg>/<tool>, and wrap /usr/bin/<tool> with a pkexec shell (ugly!)
  • Open tracker bug and file bugs against all individual packages.
  • Convert all packages, where it makes sense to use polkit, to pkexec.
  • For the unconverted rest, drop the usermode part and recommend to use pkexec on the command line, like sudo is used to run tools.

How to convert

A fast and easy way to convert a former consolehelper program is the use of pkexec.

As an example, we convert system-config-date to PolicyKit:

# ls -l /usr/bin/system-config-date
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 13  5. Feb 02:34 /usr/bin/system-config-date -> consolehelper

# rm /usr/bin/system-config-date
# cat /etc/security/console.apps/system-config-date
. config-util

Ok, running /usr/bin/system-config-date would have executed /usr/share/system-config-date/, so we create /usr/bin/system-config-date like the following:

# cat /usr/bin/system-config-date
exec /usr/bin/pkexec /usr/share/system-config-date/

This will not export the DISPLAY variable, so we have to add a policy file, although starting a GUI as root is not encouraged. The important part is: <annotate key="org.freedesktop.policykit.exec.allow_gui">true</annotate>


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE policyconfig PUBLIC
"-//freedesktop//DTD PolicyKit Policy Configuration 1.0//EN"

 <vendor>System Config Date</vendor>

 <action id="">
    <description>Run System Config Date</description>
    <message>Authentication is required to run system-config-date</message>
    <annotate key="org.freedesktop.policykit.exec.path">/usr/share/system-config-date/</annotate>
    <annotate key="org.freedesktop.policykit.exec.allow_gui">true</annotate>

How To Test

# yum remove usermode usermode-gtk

should succeed for an installation with all Fedora packages installed.

# repoquery --whatrequires usermode --whatrequires usermode-gtk

should not output a single package, except the usermode-gtk package.

Make sure, you can call all the tools, which used to use usermode and be asked the appropriate password.

User Experience

The user should experience no noticeable changes.


  • anaconda
  • audit-viewer
  • authconfig-gtk
  • backintime-gnome
  • backintime-kde
  • beesu
  • bootconf-gui
  • chkrootkit
  • driftnet
  • drobo-utils-gui
  • eclipse-oprofile
  • ejabberd
  • fwfstab
  • galternatives
  • gsmartcontrol
  • hddtemp
  • kdenetwork-kppp
  • kismet
  • liveusb-creator
  • livna-config-display
  • lshw-gui
  • mock
  • mtr-gtk
  • netgo
  • nmap-frontend
  • ntfs-config
  • policycoreutils-gui
  • preupgrade
  • pure-ftpd
  • qtparted
  • realcrypt
  • revisor-cli
  • rhn-setup
  • rhn-setup-gnome
  • sabayon
  • setools-gui
  • setuptool
  • smart-gui
  • subscription-manager-gnome
  • synaptic
  • system-config-audit
  • system-config-bind
  • system-config-boot
  • system-config-date
  • system-config-httpd
  • system-config-kdump
  • system-config-keyboard
  • system-config-language
  • system-config-lvm
  • system-config-network
  • system-config-network-tui
  • system-config-nfs
  • system-config-rootpassword
  • system-config-users
  • system-switch-displaymanager
  • system-switch-java
  • system-switch-mail
  • system-switch-mail-gnome
  • tuned
  • usermode-gtk
  • vpnc-consoleuser
  • wifi-radar
  • wlassistant
  • xawtv
  • yumex
  • zyx-liveinstaller

Contingency Plan

Even, if we cannot drop usermode, the changes in the packages do not have to be reverted.


Release Notes

Comments and Discussion