Curbing Your Power: root Privileges/sudo
When you enter your password to run a program (not when you log in on the system), or when you use sudo from the command line, you are working with root privileges and have extraordinary systemwide powers. A person working with root privileges is sometimes referred to as Superuser or administrator. When working with root privileges, you can read from or write to any file on the system, execute programs that ordinary users cannot, and more. On a multiuser system you may not be permitted to run certain programs, but someone—the system administrator—can and that person maintains the system. When you are running Linux on your own computer, the first user you set up, usually when you install Ubuntu, is able to use sudo and its graphical counterpart, gksudo, to run programs with root privileges.
There are two primary ways to gain root privileges. First, when you start a program that requires root privileges, a dialog box pops up asking you to Enter your password to perform administrative tasks. After you enter your password, the program runs with root privileges. Second, if you use the sudo utility (for textual applications; page 490) or gksudo utility (for graphical applications; page 491) from the command line (such as from a terminal emulator; page 114) and provide your password, the command you enter runs with root privileges. In both cases you cease working with root privileges when the command finishes or when you exit from the program you started with root privileges. For more information refer to "Running Commands with root Privileges" on page 487.