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Windows-to-Linux roadmap: Part 3. Introduction to Webmin
By Chris Walden - 2004-05-24 Page:  1 2 3 4

Using Webmin

Access Webmin through your favorite Web browser. Two of the tools, a file explorer and a telnet/ssh client, are applet-based and will require a Java Runtime Environment to be installed on your browser. These tools are handy, but not critical. All of the other modules have no special requirements.

To begin using Webmin, point your browser to port 10000 on the system. With a browser on the local system, you would use http://localhost.localdomain:10000/. Webmin will first bring you to a login screen.

Webmin users are separate from operating system users. This allows you to set up users for administration through Webmin that are not in the normal Unix authentication scheme. However, if you have users that you want to be able to use Webmin, you can enter them into the Webmin user list and have Webmin authenticate them through Unix facilities rather than through its internal mechanisms. Access to Webmin modules can be controlled for each user. Helpdesk staff could have access to just password functions, while other staff could have access to all modules, for example.

A root user is automatically created with the system's root password upon installation. Webmin logs activity by login, so in a multi-admin environment, it would probably be better to create an admin group with the rights of the root user, and create users for each individual who works on the system. Your first login must be as root.

root user
In Linux, the primary administrative user is called root. The root user has full control over all aspects of the system. The name of root should never be taken in vain.

Webmin sections

The first screen you will see is the Webmin Configuration Section. This is where you configure Webmin users, configure modules, and view activity logs. The icons at the top switch between the different module sections in Webmin. All of the modules are configurable, and you can regroup things to suit your preferences.

Figure 1. Webmin configuration screen
Webmin configuration

Webmin is for users, too
There is an icon to configure the optional Usermin package, which provides a Web-based tool for users to perform functions, such as password changes, system mail management, and other functions. Usermin does not provide access to system configuration functions. Usermin and Webmin are intended to be complimentary products.

The System section deals with general operating system configuration. Here, you configure file systems, users, and groups and the general boot behavior of the system. You can control the services that are running on the system and whether they start automatically from the Bootup and Shutdown icon. Configuration of those services, however, is in the Servers section. The "Software Packages" tool is of particular interest. It allows easy viewing of packages installed on your system and interfaces to distribution update repositories and rpmfind.net, a common RPM repository on the Internet (see Resources for a link).

The Servers section has configuration for various services that you may be running on the system. The BIND and DHCP tools are very convenient. Also the Samba tool is simple to use for configuring file and print shares for Windows and other clients. Sendmail, the SMTP server, is notorious for having a complex configuration file. The Webmin Sendmail tool keeps you out of trouble there as well.

Figure 2. Webmin servers screen
Webmin servers screen

The Networking section provides tools for configuring the network hardware and some of the complex network controls, such as firewalling. All the tools communicate with the standard configuration files, so anything you do in Webmin is reflected in the console tools.

The Hardware section is for configuration of physical devices, mostly printers and storage devices. The Logical Volume Management (LVM) tool is particularly interesting as it helps you visually manage dynamic volumes on your Linux system.

The Cluster section contains tools you would use if you were clustering systems. A cluster, in this context, is a set of related systems that need to have their configurations synchronized. Systems can synchronize users, groups, packages, and other things with system failure detection. These tools will help you set up hot failover systems and other systems where synchronization is important. Clustering is an advanced topic and will probably require installation of packages not included with your Linux distribution.

The Others section contains miscellaneous utilities that you may find useful. The "SSH/Telnet Login" and "File Manager" tools are applet-driven, and cannot be run unless your browser has an active JRE. The "Perl Modules" tool is very useful for keeping up with Perl modules and will interface directly to CPAN on the Internet. The "File Manager" tool provides an Explorer-like view of the server's file system, allowing you to move and copy files around without passing them through your workstation's memory, if you are working remotely. The "SSH/Telnet Login" tool is a remote shell console that will allow you console access through your browser.



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First published by IBM developerWorks


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