Ubuntu Working Towards A Rootless X Server
One of the benefits of kernel mode-setting on Linux besides providing a flicker-free boot experience, faster and better VT switching, and a cleaner architecture is that it removes a requirement against the X.Org Server from needing to be run as root. With Ubuntu 10.04 LTS now utilizing kernel mode-setting across Intel / ATI and AMD / NVIDIA graphics hardware, they are looking to make the X Server run as a normal user in upcoming releases.
One of the discussions we monitored today during the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Brussels, Belgium was the talk concerning the migration of the X.Org Server from root to being run as a normal user process. This is already being done in some select cases in the Linux world such as Moblin 2.0 not running the X Server as root, but it's gaining the interest of Canonical out of security reasons. The X.Org Server will still need to run in root for hardware and drivers that don't utilize KMS -- such as with the VESA or proprietary drovers -- but for those using the "out of the box" NVIDIA, Intel, and ATI open-source support will benefit.
It hasn't yet been decided whether Ubuntu 10.10 will run the X.Org Server as a normal user or whether it will be delayed to Ubuntu 11.04. For this to happen, an X.Org Server patch needs to be integrated, which as of right now hasn't yet been done for X.Org Server 1.9 that's due out in August. Some GDM changes may also be needed along with a kernel change to support backlight controls for a non-root X.Org Server.
The status of Ubuntu not running the X Server as root can be monitored via this Launchpad Blueprint. More information on the background to the rootless X Server and Ubuntu's implementation can be found on the Ubuntu Wiki.
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