Managing Linux Systems with Webmin: System Administration and Module Development

Author: Jamie Cameron
List Price: $44.99
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ISBN: 0131408828
Publisher: Prentice Hall PTR (14 August, 2003)
Edition: Paperback
Sales Rank: 15,516
Average Customer Rating: 4.8 out of 5

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Customer Reviews

Rating: 4 out of 5
Making system administration easy
Webmin is an open-source web application which puts a graphical user interface on the typically command line oriented tasks involved in administrating a Unix-based server. I personally have been using Webmin for many years already, although I initially acquired most of my administration knowledge by getting my hands dirty at the command line level. If administration is not your main job and you don't have all the administration tool syntax memorized or the time to wade through man pages, having a helpful interface like Webmin is a godsend.

The book's author, Jamie Cameron, is also the main developer of Webmin. When you read the book you realize that he is first and foremost a command line administrative guru. However, he wanted to develop something to help novice admins get important jobs done quickly without getting bogged down in learning syntax.

The book has a useful "Contents at a Glance" page at the start which is handy when you want to quickly look up a common administrative task. Then there is the main "Contents" section which contains all of the chapters' subtopics and titles. The end of the book contains a very thorough index. Although the book has 60 chapters, the author did not bother to explicitly divide them up into sections. On my first glance at the book, it seemed as though the chapters were not very logically ordered, but upon further inspection I realized that they follow the general ordering of the modules within the Webmin application. The one exception is that the chapter on configuring Webmin itself is found close to the end of the book although it is the very first module in the actual application. If I had to split the book up into sections, I would do so as follows: Introduction/Installation, System Modules, Networking Modules, Hardware Modules, Miscellaneous Modules, Server Modules, Usermin, Clusters, Webmin Configuration, Custom Module Development, and The API.

The book starts off with a rather short but efficient introduction, installation guide and security suggestions for Webmin. Maybe a few more ideas should have been included in the "Securing Your Webmin Server" chapter. I'm sure security is a topic which many admins would like to see emphasized because of the general mistrust of granting power to a remotely accessible administration system which might easily allow a hacker or ignorant admin to take down a critical server.

Webmin lets you perform many high-level tasks without ever knowing what files on the server are being affected. For myself, as a programmer who sometimes gets involved with administration work, I have configured sendmail services using Webmin many times and I have just let it work its magic without worrying about the file changes being made. This book, in addition to explaining usage of the application, fills in the details of what is going on behind the scenes.

I believe Webmin is a great tool for junior administrators or hobbyists to learn Unix-based administration as long as a book like this one is used so the processes are thoroughly understood. This book probably won't be of much use to a professional administrator with lots of experience and a repertoire of scripts to handle all daily admin tasks. Although, if you are a pro and have grown weary of tedious command line work, this book will help you quickly get up to speed with the Webmin interface.

I found that the book also introduced me to a few concepts I had only heard about but had not really bothered to delve into more, such as Usermin and Clustering. Usermin is basically a trimmed version of Webmin meant for use by the average user on a system. I can see this being used in cases where an administrator wants to give users enough power to control their own email and website settings without giving them shell access. The author devotes three chapters to clustering and explains its usefulness, management and configuration.

At the end of the book you will find a number of useful chapters on creating your own Webmin modules, including explanations of standard module flow structuring, API function descriptions, and a sample dissection of the default theme structure. This section alone may be reason enough for some to purchase this book.

The writing is fairly clear, although as I mentioned before, some of the unusual chapter ordering and missing section divisions are distracting. All in all, this book is a very thorough explanation of the Webmin administration interfaces as well as an introduction to the lower level work being done by the interface, and a short but informative section for those wanting to create their own modules.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Great software. Great book. Thanks, Jamie!
The evolution of the Webmin Linux/UNIX administration tool is nothing short of phenomenal. It stands as yet another great example of Open Source development, as many modules and bug fixes were contributed by the User Community. However, the core of Webmin comes from Jamie Cameron, who began developing a simple tool back in 1997 to help Junior Sys Admins maintain DNS servers. It is clear that Jamie was the best possible person to write "Managing Linux Systems with Webmin" not only because of his intimate knowledge of the software, but also because he is able to explain esoteric Admin-speak in clear, concise language.

This book is not about installing Linux or server software (such as Apache, BIND, or MySQL). Rather, it guides one through both the installation of Webmin --making sure your Webmin installation is complete and secure-- and the use of Webmin to administer practically *everything* on your Linux machine. And, it does an excellent job of accomplishing these goals!

For those new to Linux, this book provides information on making your server easy to administer via the friendly Webmin interface. For the seasoned Linux/UNIX Administrator, this may provide you the turn-key solution for setting up Junior Admins with the appropriate levels of access and configurability. For small shops looking to find more cost efficient and reliable solutions, Webmin may be the final piece needed to turn these prospects into reality. Jamie's task-oriented book makes mastery of Webmin simple and straightforward.

There are many impressive aspects of Webmin, including the fact that Webmin is available for almost every major Linux and UNIX distribution. This can provide those in a heterogeneous environment with a higher level of interface uniformity, thus reducing the complexity involved in administering several disparate systems. Also impressive are the modular nature of Webmin development and the highly extensible Webmin API (for creating your own custom modules). I highly recommend this book both for those getting their feet wet in Linux/UNIX administration and those looking for an effective alternative to command line management.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Linux Admin made easy -- at last
Jamie Cameron's book is a fantastic voyage inside what I think is one of the most important administration based tools available. He has created a very unique and easy to use masterpiece that makes the daily (and not so daily) administration tasks easy to perform - both remotely and on-site. The book gives a more in depth look at the application he's built and you get a better understanding of how it works, saves you time and money. His chapter on building and integrating your own webmin
modules is a must read for anyone that's used webmin and wanted to add their own pieces - It shows the true versatility and strength of Webmin. This book helps to solidify Jamie's remarkable understanding of and contribution to systems administration. This is a must have for everyone who uses Linux on the server!

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