Ubuntu server GUI

JAWUD ubuntu at xept.nl
Fri Jun 27 13:08:23 UTC 2008

Just  my thoughts on ubuntu server GUI.

English is not my native language so I apologize for grammar mistakes.

Windows server system is very popular and I think it is because of the GUI it
has. In my opinion a user should be able to configure a server without the cli.
GUIs have some big advantage over the cli, it’s easier to learn, more users are
comfortable with it and it just looks better. There is also a huge demand for a
good gui, see all the brainstorm ideas.
But a server without CLI is also not nice. A lot of Linux sysadmins are used to
it and some things are very hard to do with GUIs. So the perfect server os
should provide the user with a nice clean GUI but without disrupting the usual

Building a GUI doesn’t automatically mean that the problem is solved. Developing
a bad GUI isn’t that difficult. The GUI needs a lot of usability testing. I also
believe that the GUI shouldn’t be developed with the current situation in mind.
Systems like webmin provide a GUI for a lot of server software, but it isn’t

The target group of a GUI are people with less Linux experience and who wants a
stable and secure server. People who knows the cli are probable not interested
in the GUI. People with large deployments are also not interested in a GUI. They
want control over all the details.

Server GUI options:

There are several options for a GUI. First one is to run X/gnome and make a GUI
for the server. Remote server management can be done with VNC. This is the
windows way of server management. Running X/gnome takes a lot of resources and
VNC is not so fast.  So this is not a nice option.

Another option is to run a web server and make a web interface. As far as I know
this is the current vision of the ubuntu server team (ebox). Running a web
server also takes some resources. Another disadvantage is that web interfaces
are not as nice and rich as QT/GTK apps. The real time graphs like system
monitor are not possible with html/css etc.

The third option is to create a curses GUI. The advantages are that it doesn’t
take a lot of resources, doesn’t need some external services like a web server
and it is accessible via SSH. Some huge disadvantage is that it looks horrible.
How things looks are also important on the server.  Server admin are also humans
just like desktop users.

The last option is to make a remote GUI system. Here’s a example: a user
installs the “Ubuntu Server Console” program on his desktop. It’s a GTK or QT
app which can be used to connect to a supported ubuntu server via ssh so it can
be configured. In my opinion this is the best option. It has a nice and rich GUI
and there is no web server or X/gnome. It’s comparable with Rapache.

Maybe I can do a small usability test to figure out what people think of cli,
curses or remote gtk.  I can also create a ubuntuforum poll to get peoples

All the interfaces are just different front ends. So I think ubuntu needs a
configuration abstraction layer. Something like Augeas. Augeas can become the
back end and then it’s easier to build different GUIs. Augeas intend to cover
all commonly used configuration files and it is still possible to edit the
config files manual.

Work together?
There are several people working on some gui option. Why not create one big
project, define some goals, create a roadmap and start working. These people
might be interested in working together..

Nxvl – packaging augeas for ubuntu and want to build a cursus gui
Rapache – working on a remote apacke gui tool
Satega – working on ubuntu home server
Someone else??

As far as I know all these people are on this mailing list. Together we can do
nice things and I'm interested in your opinion about this. Especially in
creating a "Ubuntu Server Console".


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