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RFC: GUI tools for common Debian admin tasks


The holidays are now over and I spent them showing GNU/Linux systems
to NT administrators. Some were as dumb as my old VT320 terminal but
most were interested. I showed Debian but also other distributions
(that I installed for the first time in most cases) and I have to say
that Debian was not the best one to show because they are NT admins
after all and have tons of weird ideas about what an OS should be...
So they agreed to configure network interfaces with linuxconf, yast or
... but were afraid of our (great) /etc/network/interfaces.
That is part 1. Part 2 is last weekend when I explained to a friend how
great our alternatives system was and he asked me about the way it works
for the user. I told about update-alternatives --config x-window-manager
and he didn't like that.

So I drew the conclusion that what Debian needs for those users is simple
GUI tools. [some will respond here with "we don't want those users" and I
won't agree. This flamewar already happened. GUI tools doesn't mean you
have to use them. blah blah blah.]

Something else we'd need is an option in the boot floppies that would
allow X to be autoconfigured and launched the first time the machine is
installed. (but this is beyond the scope of my RFC).

So we'd have GUI tools for:
 - /etc/network/interfaces
 - alternatives
 - adduser
 - ...

Technically I thought about:
  - toolkit: GTK+ (I would rather not use Gnome but that could be an
    option and the tools could be integrated in the Gnome Control Center)
    ["QT is now free software" messages to /dev/null, please]
  - language: C/Perl/Python/... (doesn't matter)
  - ...

I started coding proof of concepts thingies; they should be in my home
directory on master (~fpeters/, is this accessible from http ?) soon.
There is also a screenshot at

Waiting your comments,


PS: the philosophy behind looks like the one used by HelixCode in their
future admin tools (to configure SMB shares, resolv.conf, ...) that I
don't have tested yet. It would be a good idea to avoid duplicated work.

PS2: _don't_ send me copies of your mails. I'm subscribed to debian-devel.

Frederic Peters <fpeters@swing.be>        « Le travail a été ce que l'homme
Debian GNU/Linux : http://www.debian.org     a trouvé de mieux pour ne rien
Gaby : http://gaby.netpedia.net              faire de sa vie. »  R. Vaneigem

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