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Managing with Webmin

May 28, 20032 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsLinuxServers

* Server administration with Perl-based Webmin

Managing a server is never an easy task (unless it isn’t doing much). So anything you can do to get organized is a really good idea.

Today, we’ll talk about a much more organized and efficient way of managing your server – at least, as long as it is a Unix system. The product is Webmin, a Web-based interface for Unix system administration.

Created by Jamie Cameron, Webmin (see links below) was acquired by Caldera (now the SCO Group). Webmin was adopted as the primary system administration interface for SCO Linux.

All versions of Webmin are released under the BSD license and to quote the Webmin site, “This means that on Linux and other platforms, Webmin may be freely distributed and modified for commercial and non-commercial use.” In other words, it is freeware.

Webmin is used to manage users and groups, add and delete software packages, manipulate file systems, and manage disk quotas as well as control server programs such as FTP, Apache, DHCP, PPP, DNS, and Sendmail.

Webmin is written in Perl Version 5 and uses only standard Perl modules. The system presents a Web server on a custom port and runs a suite of CGI applications (also written in Perl) which directly modify system files such as /etc/inetd.conf and /etc/passwd.

The tool can also be extended with add-on modules written in any language the developer pleases. A huge number of modules are available for a range of management tasks including administering network cards, disk partitions, printers, and of course, for configuring Webmin itself.

The documentation for Webmin is terrific and includes a book published by No starch press titled “The Book of Webmin” by Joe Cooper – you can also read this book in its entirety online.

For users there’s also a version of Webmin called Usermin. Usermin, like Webmin, is freeware. Also like Webmin it presents a Web interface on a custom port and the Web server and all CGI programs are written in Perl Version 5. Unlike Webmin Usermin uses the nonstandard Authen::PAM Perl module. Usermin is designed for users to read e-mail, set up Secure Shell or configure mail forwarding (see the module list for the available functions – and like Webmin, Usermin can be extended by custom modules).

If you run a Unix server Webmin and Usermin are definitely worth considering as tools to streamline management tasks and user access.


Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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