By Darren Moffat-Oracle on Feb 29, 2012
Recently Linus Torvalds was venting (his words!) about the frustrating requirement to keep giving his root password for common desktop tasks such as connecting to a wifi network or configuring printers.
One of the new RBAC features in Solaris 11 is location context RBAC profiles, by default we grant the user on the system console (ie the one on the laptop or workstation locally at the physical keyboard/screen) the "Console User" profile. Which on a default install has the necessary authorisations and execution profiles to do things like joining a wireless network, changing CPU power management, and using removal media. The user created at initial install time also has the much more powerful "System Administrator" profile granted to them so they can do even more without being required to give a password for root (they also have access to the root role and the ability to use sudo).
Authorisations in Solaris RBAC (which dates back in main stream Solaris to Solaris 8 and even further 17+ years in Trusted Solaris) are checked by privileged programs and the whole point is so you don't have to reauthenticate. SMF is a very heavy user of RBAC authorisations. In the case of things like joining a wireless network it is privileged daemons that are checking the authorisations of the clients connecting to them (usually over a door)
In addition to that GNOME in Solaris 11 has been explicitly integrated with Solaris RBAC as well, any GNOME menu entry that needs to run with elevated privilege will be exectuted via Solaris RBAC mechanisms. The panel works out the least intrusive way to get the program running for you. For example if I select "Wireshark" from the GNOME panel menu it just starts - I don't get prompted for any root password - but it starts with the necessary privileges because GNOME on Solaris 11 knows that I have the "Network Management" RBAC profile which allows running /usr/sbin/wireshark with the net_rawaccess privilege. If I didn't have "Network Management" directly but I had an RBAC role that had it then GNOME would use gksu to assume the role (which might be root) and in which case I would have been prompted for the role password. If you are using roleauth=user that password is yours and if you are using pam_tty_tickets you won't keep getting prompted.
GNOME can even go further and not even present menu entries to users who don't have granted to them any RBAC profile that allows running those programs - this is useful in a large multi user system like a Sun Ray deployment.
If you want to do it the "old way" and use the CLI and/or give a root password for every "mundane" little thing, you can still do that too if you really want to.
So maybe Linus could try Solaris 11 desktop ;-)