Linux Fu: System Administration Made Easier


Linux can have a somewhat split personality. If you use it as a desktop OS, it has a lot of GUI tools, although sometimes you still need to access the command line. If you use it as a headless server, though, you probably ought to know your way around the command line pretty well. This is especially true if you don’t want to litter up your hard drive (and CPU) with X servers and other peculiarities of the graphical user interface.

Personally, I like the command line, but I am realistic enough to know that not everyone shares that feeling. I’ll also admit that for some tasks — especially those you don’t do very often — it is nice to have some helpful buttons and menus. There are several administration tools that you might be interested in using to handle administration tasks on your Linux machines. I’m going to look at two of them you might want to experiment with that both use a Web browser to provide their interface.

Why two? Well, first, it is certainly in the Linux tradition that there is more than one way to do any particular thing. On top of that — again, sort of a Linux tradition — each tool has its plusses and minuses. The Webmin tool has a huge number of plugins to manage lots and lots of different things. However, Cockpit is more modern and, assuming it supports what you need, probably more usable.

Disclaimer

Oh, and just to get it out of the way. Yes, there are some people who think tools like this are an abomination. I think it depends on your goals. If you are administering a highly-secure server for a giant corporation, maybe these tools shouldn’t be your first stop. As I mentioned, I don’t mind the command line, but I do use Webmin only because it provides Usermin which lets me provide a GUI to my friends who have accounts on my machine so they can do basic administration tasks related to their accounts. I’ve found Cockpit’s system monitoring to be nice even though I don’t do much in the way of changes using the system.

Even if you like using tools like this you really should get comfortable with the command line, at least for common tasks. One interesting tidbit though. Both tools allow you to launch a command line in your browser, at least to some extent.

Webmin

Webmin is probably not going to win any user interface awards. It is really a series of Perl modules that have a common user interface and share some infrastructure. The good news is that Webmin has an open interface and has been around long enough that if you want to manage some obscure piece of software, it is a fair bet that there is a Webmin module for that. You can also disable any modules you don’t want.

As I mentioned, you can also…

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Peter Bordes

Exec Chairman & Founder at oneQube
Exec Chairman & Founder of oneQube the leading audience development automation platfrom. Entrepreneur, top 100 most influential angel investors in social media who loves digital innovation, social media marketing. Adventure travel and fishing junkie.
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