Metacity: “(as superuser)” considered harmful

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http://blogs.gnome.org – About a year ago, we considered the idea of showing the name of the user running a program in the titlebar, as suggested by GNOME bug 549389.  So if you were running Epiphany as user fred, and you yourself were not user fred, you would see “(as fred)” in the titlebar.  More commonly, if you were running Nautilus as root, you would see “(as superuser)” in the titlebar. This eventually made its way to being commited to the master branch. Various problems have since arisen: Several people still say that it should say “as root” instead of “as superuser”.  The wording was chosen for fear that “root” was techspeak, but apparently “superuser” is as well. gvim is somehow able to fool the user detection and displays “as superuser” even when it’s not.  Your chronicler suspects the EWMH properties are misapplied, but has not yet investigated.  This is Debian bug 549290, Gentoo bug 292517, and GNOME bug 603240. Colin Watson has asked in GNOME bug 605137 for a way to suppress the message on particular windows, because the Ubuntu installer runs as root under Metacity, and the user doesn’t need to be worried about the “as superuser” part.  This is certainly something we can do, assuming we keep this feature at all. Launchpad bug 519035 says that any attempt to mark the titles of windows owned by root is “techspeak and ineffectual”. We could: keep things as they are rename “(as superuser)” to “(as root)” remove all visual indication that a window is running as root, but leave it in for running as other unexpected users remove the patch entirely replace the patch entirely with a way for themes to specify a titlebar style for windows running as root; this was GNOME bug 505157 and wouldn’t be very difficult with CSS themes (”frame[is-root] > titlebar { background-color: blue; }“). Gentle reader, your opinions are welcome. Photo © Esparta, cc-by. (Software)