Disappointed with Ubuntu Server, could be used by such a wider audience

tacone tacone at gmx.net
Thu Jul 31 22:59:48 UTC 2008

Scott Kitterman, on Thu Jul 31 17:38:30 BST 2008

> Generally you can do any server things from a desktop if you install the
> needed things.  For easy Apache configurations there is:
> https://launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/rapache
> There's a pending request to have it backported to Hardy.
> What's needed are people who understand the under the hood part of servers
> well enough to write such a thing and also care enough about the GUI
> experience to do it.  Ubuntu Server is a young project and is headed toward
> being able to support such things, but it won't happen overnight.
> What we lack isn't ideas or understanding of the need, but people to do the
> actual work to provide it.
> Scott K

Hello, I am one of the developers of Rapache. I subscribed this ml
just to answer ScottK and drop my 2 cents on the topic. I am likely to
keep my subscription for the next week, if you like to reply.

What follows may be a little delirious, but took me hours to put it
together, so I sending it straight away.
I'll post a more lucid rewrite on ubuntuweblogs when I get the time.
And maybe open a blueprint about this. I really don't know if I am
allowed to post on this mailing list, so bear with me if I am out of
In what follows, I'll take Rapache as an example, but the point I'd
like to make is, of course, general.

I'd like to respectfully disagree with ScottK.
Linux in general (as well as Ubuntu) generally lacks the understanding
of the need of such desktop-to-server applications.
The proof is, more than the lacking of such applications, the fact
that Ubuntu lacks a related workgroup/team. Did I miss it ?

Resources are of course limited and all things have a priority. The
lack of a workgroup dedicated to 'develop guis to configure server
things' just show they don't seem important enough at the moment.

Have you ever seen a comment like this ?
I guess you have, and someone of you could even agree.

As Bud Roth points, the point raised by Scottk doesn't seems really a
lacking of ubuntu-server group itself.

Let me elaborate: I had the pleasure to quickly present Rapache to the
ubuntu-server meeting. They were really kind to me but became evident
that a Gnome gui to configure Apache was not something inherently
related to the #ubuntu-server workgroup.
I then asked what was the right irc channel / workgroup to discuss
this kind of application.

The answer was Rapache seemed to be something in between ubuntu-server
and ubuntu-desktop.
Who's going to care about taking care of this kind of applications in Ubuntu?

My experience
What do I agree with ScottK is the wider audience thing. I used to
work in a non-tech savy environment (a computer magazines publisher,
lol). Some facts about it:

1) I could get permission to use Ubuntu as local network
web-development server, as long as I provided to perform the actual
installation myself.
2) The only thing I got shouted about in the whole career there was..
daring to install ubuntu on my workstation.
3) Our (windows) sysadmin installed Ubuntu on a computer to be run
Vmware machines on it. It choose Ubuntu because
  a) some colleague dropped some installation cd's on our desks, one day.
  b) I could help him with ubuntu related issues much better than with
fedora/suse/whatever related ones.
4) Sysadmin had to configure Samba shares to connect to a given domain
with certain permissions. He was shocked by the fact to not having a
gui to perform the operations. After a while he found some gui utility
in synaptic and felt quite happy with the result. He felt much more in
control with a gui than with command line thinkering.

People do fear what they don't know.

I got shouted because my coordinator never tried how good it feels
like to work on a ubuntu workstation (no more putty, nautilus ssh
integration etc). (a)

The sysadmin was actually happy to have guis to configure local
network things (4). It's only complain is not having Gui for
*anything* like it happens on Windows 2000/NT.

People don't know about linux, they won't try it if it doesn't allow
them to get their stuff done. What the reasons are for a sysadmin to
use (paid licensed) Windows instead of Linux ? GUI. And things they
feel in control on (when they don't, point 2) happens)

Ignorance has reasons behind it
  - people don't want to learn. Bad, but we could get them as users
anyway. Why not ?
  - people has stuff to get done, and no time to learn.
  - people has to take responsibility on any choice they make. They
would like to switch but they have delivery-schedules. With a gui they
can do things easily and follow best practices at the very same time.
(i.e. Rapache detects if you have virtualhosts .conf present only in
sites-enabled and offers the user to normalize the situation). And
they will be able to learn more throughout the process.
  - no one is guru by born. We need to lower the entry barrier.
  - we shuold not discriminate, ever. Women from men, black from
white, beginners from gurus.

Why people hate command line (they do, yes they do)?
  - they don't feel in control enough.
  - they are forced to use that.
  - if they didn't need it so often, when they really need it, they
will be happy to have such a powerful command line environment.

What are others doing ?
Redhat: Augeas websites reports augeas as "Redhat emerging
technology". That could be for a reason.
Suse: they already have already a Yast Apache Configurator plugin (and
various other things i guess). They are not really Gnomish and they
presume prior knowledge.
   - we should strive to make things easier and let the user to learn
while he's doing.
Apple: my sysadmin came back from an Apple conference and kept talking
about the guis apple did for Macosx server. They were so nice, so
Microsoft: the only reason I can't see to set up a WAMP stack is..
being able to configure IIS with a gui.

We need to lead this kind of momentum. If we lead, who will we steal
market from ? Microsoft and Apple, mostly. People that already use
linux could switch to ubuntu, but that's much more unlikely.

What do we need ?
A group of people to spoof inadequacies and propose gui solutions.
Finding an existing, semi-obscure project and making sure it runs
properly on ubuntu would be fine. Upstream developers would feel
encouraged when they see Ubuntu people supports them.

Just as Apple don't have good offers for medium-sized workstations we
don't have any good offer for non-gurus who need to go further the
web-browse/mail/write-letter habits.
A good offer for that segment would boost either server and desktop
environment adoption.

We need gui coverage. It's hard to do. But we do. And we *do* need to
aknowledge that we really need it. I encourage everyone of you who
don't feel the same to say that, and discuss it.

A server with a Desktop Environment installed ?
Quite likely. Intranets do exists and small-medium businesses uses
them. That obviously falls off the gui + server debate but it's
related and equally important. There's noe good reasons for a small
business sysadmin to not install desktop environment on a intranet
server. He could start it, get stuff done, and stop it afterwards

In the long run (that's involves rapache as well, btw) an SSH (best
practices approved) framework would be very handy. That would bring
the best of both worlds (desktop/business)

My Mom loves ubuntu !
Sure, she calls you to resolve issues just as much as she would do
with windows. Ask your 19 years old cousin. He would like to tweak the
system, but he can't get past the gedit as root thing. The same
applies to not-fully-savy tech people into small businesses.

Well. Back to coding, thx for your time.

Stefano Forenza

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