Take the 2-minute tour ×
Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

It's a bit inconvenient to have to sudo emacs /etc/hosts whenever I want to make a change to my hosts file, especially since I don't use a Terminal-based editor primarily. Could I change the ownership of my hosts file so that my user is the owner and thus the file could be edited in any text editor I open? Would that cause any problems for OS X?

share|improve this question
    
What editor are you using instead? –  Daniel Beck Nov 28 '11 at 21:47
2  
There are text editors such as TextWrangler that can automatically authenticate and edit the file with root privileges. –  slhck Nov 28 '11 at 23:04
    
Have you tried other terminal-based text editors? As well as emacs, Mac OS X should have vim (cue holy war) ed (of course) and nano installed already, and many more can be acquired. Personally I find emacs far too heavyweight for small changes to configuration files, and thus prefer nano. –  Scott Nov 29 '11 at 14:19
    
I'm using ActiveState Komodo Edit. I wish it did what TextWrangler and Coda did with prompting for sudo privileges. I used to use nano to edit my hosts file, but recently have been using emacs. However, it's not the primary editor I use, so I'd rather have some consistency and just use Komodo. –  Weston Ruter Dec 1 '11 at 18:46

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Yes, you can1. No, you definitely should not. It won't break your OS X by itself, but...

...having system configuration files restricted from writing by non-admins is precisely how Unix systems have resisted most malware. On the other hand, in older versions of Windows you could often find popular sites redirected to a password-stealing site or a completely nonexistent server.


1 If you're going to do it, better just add yourself to the access list instead of changing ownership: sudo chmod +a "$USER allow read,write" /etc/hosts

share|improve this answer
2  
Only that won't work with almost all non terminal editors, as they perform atomic saves and need to write files to /etc. –  Daniel Beck Nov 28 '11 at 21:59
    
@DanielBeck: And neither will chown, unless the user has +write permission on the whole /etc. At which point I just let the user continue with breaking their machine by themselves. –  grawity Nov 28 '11 at 22:06

If you're editing the hosts file that frequently, why not just create an alias? Add something like alias changehosts="sudo emacs /etc/hosts to your login profile file, and it will be even shorter to type. You can even add a NOPASSWD directive in sudoers so you wont have to type your password (either ever, or specifically to emacs /etc/hosts). Fundamental security doesn't really have to come at the expense of productivity.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.