GUI’s and Open Source

Blane Warrene
Blane Warrene

There are frequently debates in open source circles about the impact of layering graphical user interfaces across Linux and Open Source applications. The issue revolves around encouraging GUI use to configure daemons (the Linux version of Windows services) and servers when the user may not know how or understand how to configure the underlying application from the system shell or via individual configuration files.

Those new to open source often see this as Unix snobbery. However, the concern is that from time to time, a GUI may become unavailable and require “going under the hood” in the system shell or in a text editor. This could lead to system disasters due to lack of in-depth knowledge of an application, such as Apache or Postfix (mail server).

My own philosophy falls in the middle. I encourage the use of well-designed GUI’s for configuring servers while promoting and encouraging new administrators to take the time to learn the system shell, to learn how to edit text files in Pico or Vi, and to read the man pages for each application they use. Thus, the convenience and speed of GUI configuration prevails, and in an emergency, the administrator is capable of dropping to the system shell and cautiously proceed with management of any troubled application(s).

One open source GUI that has been growing by leaps and bounds is Webmin, which enables comprehensive control over a Linux server, including management of Apache, DNS, FTP, database services and mail services as well as system level administration.

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