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GNOME System Administration Using Orca

Access to applications running as root on a normal user's desktop is new for GNOME 2.18. See bug 163132 for information on the work that was done to help with this.

For now, there still is some work that is needed on the part of the user to enable this.

1. Preferred Way (GNOME 2.18 and Better)

instructions provided by community member aerospace1028 hotmail com

1.1. create an orbitrc file

The first thing you need to do is create a ~/.orbitrc file for the root user:

1) open upt the terminal.

a: press ALT+F2 to launch the run dialog and type "gnome-terminal" (without the quotations). b: using the topbar menus press F1 and navigate to accessories -> terminal

2: type "sudo su - root" (without the quotations). By default you should be located in /root; if you're not sure type "pwd" and if it says anything other than "/root" type 'cd /root"

3: Type the following four (4) lines exactly.

cat> ~/.orbitrc << EOF

explanation: "cat> ~/.orbitrc" sends the next two lines to /root/orbitrc (as long as you are logged in as root which we did in the sudo su - root step). ">> EOF" sets EOF as a trigger to stop coppying to file.

Then log out and log back in. At this point, you should be able to run the GUI system administration tools from a login shell (e.g., gnome-terminal). These commands include the following:



Add/remove users

sudo user-admin

Add/remove software

sudo synaptic

Configure the network card

sudo network-admin

You may also try running administrative commands from the gnome-panel menus, but we've had problems with doing so. The first thing you need to do is to disable a security feature that's been put in place by the system. This security feature prevents nefarious applications from listening to your keystrokes as you type and from doing similar bad things. To disable this feature, you need to check the "Disable gksu keyboard grab" checkbox in the "General" tab in the Orca preferences dialog.

Even after you've disabled the gksu keyboard grab security feature, you may run into problems where Orca speech stops when an application is running. As such, it is advised that you find the command line name for the GUI tool and run the command to bring the GUI up from a gnome-terminal window.

1.2. edit the sudoers file

The version of sudo that ships with Debian by default resets the environment, as described by the "env_reset" flag in the sudoers file.


In case you want sudo to preserve more environment variables, you must specify the env_keep variable in the sudoers file. You should edit the sudoers file using the visudo tool.

This change has an impact for running admin commands with accessibility. You need to pas the GTK_MODULES environment var to the program running as root for Orca to provide access.

Use the visudo command to add the following line to the sudoers file.

  • type "visudo"

This is the command to edit/etc/sudoers. If any mistakes are made, it'll notify you when you quit and ask if you want to fix it or quit without saving (or save anyway which is not recommended). On my system, visudo launches /etc/sudoers in nano, but it's possible your system will launch in vi.

in nano you can use the arrow keys to find the line in the text with "env_reset," go to the end of the line and press return then type:

Defaults:<username> env_keep+="GTK_MODULES"

where <username> must be replaced with your username.

in vi/vim: find the line with "env_reset" and put your cursor emediately after the line

press "i" to enter incert mode. type:

Defaults env_keep+="GTK_MODULES"

now press the key to return to command mode. press the two (2) characters ":W" to write changes to disk. type ":Q" to quit.

5: type "exit" to get out of super user mode.

You might need to quit orca and restart to get full system admin capability.

WARNING! Do not edit the sudoers file by hand! Doing so could break your system so no one can use sudo. The visudo command checks the changes to your file and will allert you if you have typed something wrong. Only make changes with the visudo command!

Ubuntu Hardy uses the same package as Debian. I can't provide any info on other Linux distributions.

1.2.1. note

to make nano your default editor, if it already isn't, type the following in the terminal:

export EDITOR=nano

2. Old Way (Enabling the Root Account)

Please refer to the above procedure for enabling system administration tools on GNOME 2.18 systems or better. If that procedure doesn't work, you may need to log out and log back in as root. The following steps describe how to do so.

If you attempt to access any gnome based administration utilities such as gdm setup or synaptic, you will notice that by default, in order to do so, you will need to enter your sudo password. Although the use of sudo provides an extra layer of security, it also presents a challenge in terms of accessibility when it comes to the gui. In a nutshell, the issue is that programs which require sudo are being launched from an account different than that of the user who is running Orca. At present, accessibility information can not be communicated across accounts. Therefore, when an application is run in this manner, Orca is unable to provide useful feedback.

One way around this issue is to enable the root account, and to allow the root user to login to gnome. This can be accomplished as follows:

  • Set a password on the root account: sudo passwd root

  • Edit /etc/gdm/gdm.conf-custom and add the following line under the [security] section: AllowRoot=true

Reboot your system. Now, log in as root via a text console, and run orca --setup. You're all done. You can now login to gnome as root, run Orca and administer your system to your heart's content.

The only disadvantage to this approach is that although they are accessible via the command line, none of the administration tools appear in the start menu for the root user. Anyone know of an easy way to fix this?

3. Optional Method (Cody Hurst)

Supplied by community member Cody Hurst.

Rather than enabling the root account, open a
shell, switch to root (sudo su), killall orca, and then launch orca.
This will start orca as root. you won't have speech just yet, so press
ctrl+shift+t and type sudo su again so you become root. if you know the
command or program name of a program that needs to run as root type it
and press enter and orca will begin speaking the application. for

terminal tab one
sudo su
password: *******
then orca launches

terminal tab two
sudo su
password: *********
then gdm starts this is only example you could have launched something

  when you want to go back to user just press the ctrl+pgup keys in the
terminal (additional fn for laptops) and press control c and that will
kill orca

rerun orca by pressing alt+f2 and typing orca and you're back to where
you started...

Projects/Orca/SysAdmin (last edited 2013-12-28 19:29:18 by WilliamJonMcCann)