I train administrators every day. I often work with administrators who are moving from a Windows server background to Linux. One of the most often asked questions is, “Is there a graphical interface to administer the server with?” One of the solutions, though it be a partial solution, is using Mandriva 2009.1. Mandriva offers an administrative option under Administration/Configure Your Computer. This provides intuitive access to much of server administration. “Intuitive” is a key word here. By “intuitive” I mean, you can look at something, click on it and just by viewing the information you get an idea on where or what you should do next. For example with a graphical tool for adding users when you want to add a user and you see the button “Add User” you know what to do and it gets you there for the most part.
I think one of the issues that many distros are missing as far as administration, is the huge fear of the command line. Having used the command line for 12 years, I am all for it..faster, more efficient, etc. But, many in the new generation of Linux administrators are coming from Windows administration, are required to produce Linux projects for their company with little sympathy for the difficulties of learning from the Linux command line. Mandriva and Suse are two distros trying to help in that direction, both have merit. Note that both have server models that cost for support but provide more administrative options. All that said, let’s face it Linux was designed to be administered from the command line and it is very important to be heading in that direction. Mandriva, may provide an option to fill the transition to the command line.
As you review the graphical tools it is easy to see that each leads you down the path that you are looking to work with. The tools are easy to work with and each option is mostly laid out for you.
Networking today can be a nightmere with all of the options. Mandriva helps you work through those with the interface options. You still need to know a few terms, like are you using a DSL connection, Ethernet …wireless? But it is straightforward and can be usefull for almost all users.
Under “Security” one very nice feature is the easy to use firewall configuration, Ubuntu could take a lesson here. Click the options you want, save and you are set. You also have “Parental Controls” which allows a time restriction and Blacklist/Whitelist options. It is very basic and not going to be as useful as could be, but it is a start for a parent.
Having tried several with easy solutions I decided to use the graphical tools to create quotas on the /home directory. This is a good test as that task is always a little challenging from the command line. Go to Local Disks/Manage disk partitions and choose Continue…they do warn you about making mistakes here, Click on the /home directory and then “Toggle to expert mode” so you can see additional options. Choose “Options”.
Once you open the Options you will see a check box to initiate User Quotas. Save and restart the system, at least that was logical to do for the system to detect and load quotas.
The bad news was that after a restart userquota was installed in the /etc/fstab but it did not work. This is a disaster for an new administrator trying to work with graphical tools. To make it even worse the default install does not install the text tools for quota so you are completely stuck with a mess to fix. This is certainly not what an administrator who is trying to find a easier solution needs, it is a show stopper.
Though I did not work with every tool for this article, I will say that most tools worked fine. I will also say that the hardware management with Mandriva is excellent which means easier work with hardware devices. The tools that are a part of the Control Center are basic tools and seem to be fine for someone who is doing basic administration, but not up to speed for more advanced options.