I'd like to set the permissions of /usr/local/texlive so that I don't need admin rights to update my distribution with TeX Live Manager (or tlmgr), and so on. What's the best way to do this? Are there any caveats I need to be aware of?

Kent, below, asks why I want to do this. Having started to use homebrew, their philosophy is that you don't need admin rights to install user Applications and therefore you shouldn't need them to install CLI programs. (Everything they install goes through a branch of /usr/local that has group (I think) ownership to allow this.) So ever since, requiring sudo before tlmgr update (and so on) has felt like a needless imposition.

Can you give a reason TeX Live should require only admin rights to change itself?

  • I tend to think that one of the flaws in Mac OS X is precisely that you don't need to give the Admin password to alter Applications: easy to make a mistake! – Joseph Wright Oct 4 '10 at 5:55
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    @Joseph: on the contrary — I don't want someone's bad installer code to have write access to my whole machine! (I mean philosophically and in general; I've never had any problem with any TeX related installation.) – Will Robertson Oct 4 '10 at 8:27
  • You've obviously not managed to delete all of your applications by accident from the Terminal! – Joseph Wright Oct 4 '10 at 10:37
  • Ha! :) The other side of the coin. – Will Robertson Oct 4 '10 at 11:33
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    @konrad: not sure if you're joking... Time Machine certainly doesn't require a server farm. It's a user-oriented backup system only. – Will Robertson Oct 5 '10 at 12:44

I read somewhere that one should change the owner of the texlive directory so that it does not require admin rights. I've been doing this ever since.

$ sudo chown -R myuser:mygroup /usr/local/texlive

[Inline comment by Will: In Mac OS X, on my machine with username will, I used will:admin as values for myuser:mygroup.]

The only place this ever bites me, is that every time I install a new version of TeX Live, I ask it to put symlinks in /usr/local/{bin,share/man,share/info} and I don't run the installer as root. As a result, it fails to install the symlinks and I either have to do it by hand, or redo the install as root and then update ownership.

I have been doing this successfully on Linux and Mac OS X for several years now without any problems.

So to answer your specific question, no, I cannot give a reason TeX Live should require admin rights. That said, I can think of pretty good reasons not to allow anyone to overwrite binaries you use on a shared machine.

  • Thank! Re. "not to allow anyone to overwrite binaries" — right, in a shared environment things are rather different. – Will Robertson Oct 4 '10 at 1:03
  • @Will Robertson: With the user name foo, I use foo:admin on OS X since only root is in the group wheel by default (I think). – TH. Oct 4 '10 at 7:02
  • A quick google seems to suggest that all Admin users are in the wheel account, but I don't really know for sure. – Will Robertson Oct 4 '10 at 8:29
  • @Will Robertson: Odd. I just checked 3 macs, and my admin user account is definitely not in the wheel group. Two of them were 10.5, and one was 10.6. This seems to imply that the same was true with 10.4. I don't recall what older versions of Mac OS X did. – TH. Oct 4 '10 at 8:48
  • Alright, I'm totally confused and I reckon you're right. I have no idea where I got that particular piece of misinformation; is there anything wrong with just sudo chown -R $USER /usr/local then? – Will Robertson Oct 4 '10 at 9:41

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