webmin, zentyal, conf file policy, etc

Scott Kitterman ubuntu at kitterman.com
Wed Oct 3 13:05:20 UTC 2012

On Wednesday, October 03, 2012 12:08:45 PM Tyler J. Wagner wrote:
> On 2012-10-03 03:45, Scott Kitterman wrote:
> > On Tuesday, October 02, 2012 04:58:37 PM Neal McBurnett wrote:
> >>  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
> > http://www.debian.org/doc/debian-policy/ch-files.html#s-config-files
> I'm not sure that's entirely fair. One could view Webmin as an attempt to
> replicate CLI configuration of your system with web-based GUI
> configuration. In that regard, the fact that it edits your config files in
> /etc/ is fine with me. I suppose Debian policy wants some kind of
> separation such that config files in /etc/ all have hooks into /var/, where
> webmin is allowed to make edits?
> That is silly. Debian policy in this regard is that software isn't allowed
> to edit files in /etc/ for you. Since that is webmin's entire raison
> d'être, it is software non grata.
> Anyway, installing webmin on Debian or Ubuntu is easy. Deb files are on the
> website, or you can use Virtualmin's repo (which has webmin in it):
> deb http://software.virtualmin.com/gpl/ubuntu/ virtualmin-lucid main
> deb http://software.virtualmin.com/gpl/ubuntu/ virtualmin-universal main

It's not a question of fair or not fair.  The policy is what it is for good 
reasons.  It does not say that external packages are not allowed to change 
configuration, but that they have to do so via a program provided by the 
package.  This gives a defined interface and reduces the risk of incorrect 
changes.  I think this makes a lot of sense.

Webmin could work with either upstreams or Debian/Ubuntu developers to add the 
programs necessary to make the configuration changes it makes in a policy 
compliant way.  It would be a significant piece of work, but I think it would 
result in a more robust system.

Webmin isn't "software non grata", it's just being asked to play by the rules 
everyone else has to play by.  I don't have any real opinion on how well it 
works or it doesn't as is, but (while not strictly required for external 
packages) I think complying with policy is a good idea and ultimately results 
in a better operating system.

Scott K

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