webmin, zentyal, conf file policy, etc

Scott Kitterman ubuntu at kitterman.com
Wed Oct 3 02:45:30 UTC 2012

On Tuesday, October 02, 2012 04:58:37 PM Neal McBurnett wrote:
> This is an effort to get the webmin and ubuntu folks a little closer on the
> current status.  To review, years ago webmin was dropped from Debian and
> Ubuntu:
>  Why was webmin dropped?  Question #2873 : Questions : Ubuntu
>   https://answers.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+question/2873
> Recently Joe from webmin wrote that there was confusion between the debian
> webmin package and the webmin's own upstream packages for debian:
>  Do Webmin and Virtualmin really break Ubuntu? | Virtualmin
>   https://www.virtualmin.com/node/21110
> Related to all this is something Soren wrote in email about turnkey linux:
> 2010-01-04T08:10:27-0700
>  If a package upgrade includes a change to a conffile (a configuration file
> managed by dpkg) compared to the version installed by the old version of
> the package, and you have made changes to said conffile, you will be
> prompted about these changes. If, however, something else (e.g.  webmin)
> has made these changes on your behalf, you will be prompted about changes
> you have not made to a conffile you likely have never heard of. I'm just
> saying that this is not acceptable, which is a major reason why webmin is
> not supported in Debian and Ubuntu, because this is /exactly/ what webmin
> does /all the time/.

This is a violation of Debian and (Ubuntu) policy.  See 

The claims by Webmin people to try and work the way the OS expects are just 
nonsense in this regard (it may be perfectly true in others).  I don't know if 
Zentyal is any better.

> I don't have time to look at this again, but I wonder if someone who is
> current on the policy and support issues could look at the upstream webmin
> packages, respond on the webmin page to try to clarify things, and answer
> the Ubuntu question with both the official policy and the practical upsides
> and downsides of webmin, and how zentyal does (or does not) deal with the
> conf file policy issues involved.
> Or perhaps it would be more effective to just open this as a question on
> askubuntu, which has lots of references to webmin, but no discussion like
> this that I see....

The policy is clear and if they aren't supporting it, I'm not sure what 
conversation there is to have.  There are ways to solve problems like this.  
As an example, I wrote postfix-add-filter and postfix-add-policy to give (beyond 
what you can do with postconf) external packages some ability to modify postfix 
configuration in a policy compliant way.

It's been awhile, but the only time I recall seeing a postfix configuration 
accidentally completely missing on an Ubuntu box was when I was helping 
someone who used webmin (I only saw it once and it was several years ago now, 
so it may be perfectly reliable now, but my limited interactions with it have 
not been encouraging).

If the Webmin people want to produce policy compliant packages, then I think 
we should help them, but AFAIK they don't.

Scott K

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