Q

Samba configuration, part one: What's the scoop on Red Hat's new tool?

Red Hat has created a new tool -- Redhat-config-samba -- for configuring Samba. It's included in the beta version of Red Hat's next Linux release. What other tools are available, and how do they compare with each other and the Red Hat tool?

Red Hat has produced a GUI configuration tool. Criticism is valid only with reference to requirements. I do not know what those requirements were. Perhaps this tool really does meet or exceed the specifications towhich it was written. I just do not know.

What do you want a GUI configuration tool to do? There's the obvious response: "I want it to configure my Samba server." Apart from that, we need to address the needs of the audience who might use the tool.

Is a tool to be designed for use by RHCEs who already know everything about editing configuration files using Vi? If so, then why do they need a tool? Do we need a tool for experts who already know everything about Samba, but do not know how to use Vi? Unlikely!

Is it likely that you would (could) write a GUI tool for someone who knows NOTHING about Linux, Samba, or Microsoft Windows networking? Well, please do NOT ask me to write such a device; it would need to be a golden panacea!

So who needs a GUI tool? If we can answer that question, then we stand a chance of making some sense in a highly opinionated world.

So, let me create a hypothetical user need. My reasoning behind the scenario is as follows:

1. Someone who has decided to migrate to Linux will likely put in the effort needed to understand the language of the new environment. There will be a learning curve.

2. Given are the alternatives to Linux, it is likely that this someone probably will come from an Microsoft Windows networking background, particularly if they are employed in the IT world.

3. Given 1 plus 2 above, then that person needs to learn the language and terms used in the new Linux environment and will by nature use familiar terms for reference. The important clue here is the 'individual's current terms of reference'.

Therefore, would it not make sense that our mythical GUI tool should speak their language? Here's an example of someone who came from a Microsoft Windows NT networking background and discuss the key needs and requirements. Let's say I know MS Windows NT/2K/XP/.Net and wants to get a Linux server up and running quickly.

Here are my starter questions:

    1. need DNS - how quickly can I do that? I do NOT want to earn a Ph.D. in DNS, and here is what I know:

  • The domain name is myorg.net;
  • have my IP addresses; and
  • My MS Windows clients need WINS.

    That said, where do I enter what I know? I'd be very happy to let the GUI tool figure out what I do not know.

    2. I need DHCP to make my life bearable, and I have already provided most of what I know. My IP address range: x.x.x.x to x.x.x.y. GUI tool, can you please work out the rest?

    3. Now I'm dealing with Samba for file and print. I know about

  • A Stand-Alone server;
  • A Domain Member server;
  • A PDC/BDC type thing;
  • I'd like BLOGGSNET as my domain name; and
  • My machine name - BIGBOX.

    So, now I want to enter this info and then let the GUI tool figure out the rest. Is that possible? Please don't ask too many more questions; I just want it to work!

    So, does this new Red Hat configuration tool meet the needs of this hypothetical straw-man? No way! I could add a few more requirements,but that would make matters worse! MS Windows 2000 Server configuration tools do -- more or less - meet the needs of our hypothetical person. I guess that might be a factor in Microsoft's success.

    Go on topart two.

This was first published in February 2003

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