Posted by: reformedmusings | May 3, 2010

Administering Ubuntu Lucid 10.04 LTS and Karmic 9.10 with Webmin

Before Karmic, Ubuntu users could manage their system services from System -> Administration -> Services. This is services-admin, part of Gnome System Tools which provided users a graphical interface from which to manage their systems. I’d used it many times and found it pretty handy.

However, starting with Karmic and carried on in Lucid, services-admin was deprecated, i.e., dropped from Ubuntu. The reason is that Upstart, an events-based replacement for the System-V init, began handling system services and the old services-admin module only worked with System-V. All this happened very quietly. It may be for the better, but it sure was a surprise yesterday when I went to check on the status of a system service in Lucid.

Ubuntu provided a command-line replacement. It’s called ‘service’ and can list all the services, start, restart, and stop them. However, when I ran it, it couldn’t discern the status of about 1/2 of the services listed. Also, I thought that Ubuntu was moving towards a more mainstream user approach, and that means concentrating on GUI tools. Those tools should have been completed before making the switch from System-V init to Upstart.

After extensively searching the web and reading countless posts and suggestions, I settled on what turned out to be an outstanding replacement. Webmin provides an HTML interface to control your system from your browser, and does far more than Gnome System Tools. It also comes in all major package flavors – deb, rpm, tar/gzip, and even zip for a Windows implementation. Simply download the deb file for Ubuntu, right-click on it, click on Open With and choose GDebi Package Installer from the list.

Once installed, start Webmin by typing into your browser address bar and hit Enter (you can also use http://). You will be asked for your username and password for access. You must be either root or a sudo user. The first thing that pops up is your general system information:

Your basic system information appears in the right frame, while the left frame lists the module links. For example, I needed to see all the services running. Click on System on the left to open the list of system modules, then click on Bootup and Shutdown:

You’ll find all the system services listed. Click on one to bring up its information and tasks to perform on it. Let’s look at Firestarter, which is the one that started all this ruckus:

From this screen, we can stop, start, restart, delete the service, see its current status, start it at boot time, or even view and/or edit the script. Very cool. In my case, I wanted to start the Firestarter at boot time so I clicked that radio button and then clicked Save. Done.

If you want to handle some services in bulk, simply check the ones you wish to change and go to the bottom of the screen. You have the same options, plus a few extras:

This module has lots of company in the full installation. The disk modules hold a wealth of information. RAID information and status:

Your drives’ SMART status:

The beauty of Webmin is not just the level of detail and control that it provides, but also the collection of all that capability in one location with ease of use. You can even tame the inscrutable Linux’ iptables firewall:

Looking at the list on the left of the screen gives you a partial taste of the capabilities available. Webmin is a total system administration solution for desktops and servers.

So, don’t despair or grieve the loss of Gnome’s services-admin from the Karmic and Lucid System menus. Download and install Webmin. It’s a better, more powerful tool that places your entire system at your disposal in your browser. Works for me!



  1. Great advice! Now I just have to work up the guts…. 🙂

    • Only if you need it. I didn’t need it during the whole time that I used Karmic, so didn’t notice the capability was gone until now. I was playing with the Firestarter firewall to update some connection settings and that’s what started this journey.

      I can’t believe they made a fundamental change w/o having the user tools available. That’s a fundamental no-no and furthers the idea that Linux is only for geeks.

  2. I think most linux server admin people have known about Webmin for years – I first used it 7 years ago, and it has improved tremendously since. It is so good that the Ubuntu team would be wasting their time trying to produce a GUI service administration process, because everybody would still use webmin.

    I believe the only reason Webmin is not included in the Ubuntu release is that it is not open source, but with the release of the latest version it is very simple to install (even on Lucid).

    If you are doing anything at all with the guts of your system (from setting up new users, creating windows (Samba) shares, setting up email, etc) you’ll love it. If like me you run Windows workstations and Linux servers (in the Amazon cloud), it’s essential.

    Like reformedmusing I had not noticed the gui services panel was missing, but only because I do everything through Webmin.

    • Thanks for stopping by an taking time to comment!

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