Headless Linux server

This post gives an overview of options for creating a headless Linux server.

One of the problems with leading Linux distributions is that none of them have succeeded in developing consistent GUI interfaces for administration of servers. Unfortunately this is still the case at the time of writing this post.

There does exist some GUI’s for administration of some tasks, but history shows that there is 99% chance that they get obsoleted over time because of lack of maintenance.

Examples are:

system-config-<topic>

used by Redhat/CentOS. If all administrative gui tools could be called remotely by typing system-config-<TAB> then it would be easy to setup a X-server on your desktop PC, create a ssh tunnel and administer the box remotely.

Unfortunately this pattern isn’t consistently maintained by Redhat/CentOS and with release 7.x the pattern have been replaced by gnome-control-center, nm-connection-editor and other inconsistent names. Why the heck did they abandon a consistent naming approach?

A very cool feature in Linux is the LVM logical volume management system. It enables flexible space consumption, enabling optimization of hard drive space consumption – something that is increasingly important as we shift towards SSD drives. In Redhat/CentOS 5.x/6.x it could be configured using system-config-lvm. In release 7.x it has gone and there is no replacement. Why the …

A very nice approach to provide a common GUI for Linux server administration is webmin, http://www.webmin.com/ . However, unfortunately it is not officially supported by the OS developers, and it has had some security issues. However, with more and more applications moving in the web-app direction these troubles should be solvable.

This article http://www.techrepublic.com/article/webmin-one-big-drawback-to-using-this-data-center-management-tool/ discuss how to install webmin, why it’s great, but why big server farms prefer the command line.

I agree with the author of above article. If you are only managing a few Linux servers webmin is perfectly fine for the job.

Another option is to bring the built-in configuration tools to your desktop as mentioned above. I’ll just briefly outline the required steps, I’ve used.

First you need to install a X windows server on your desktop. A nice one which doesn’t require a lot of extras on your windows PC is  https://sourceforge.net/projects/vcxsrv/.  Another popular option is http://www.straightrunning.com/XmingNotes/.

Next you need to enable SSH access to your server. That is enabled in most modern Linux OS’s so really nothing to do here.

Then you need a SSH client on your PC. I prefer Putty, http://www.putty.org/.

Now, open Putty, In the Category window, unfold the SSH section, then select X11 and select “Enable X11 forwarding”. Go back to Session and type in hostname or ip address of your server, write a name of your connection under “Saved Sessions”, press Save, and then Open to connect.

When the SSH connection is made with X11 forwarding you can log in on Redhat/CentOS server and by example type “gnome-control-center” and the tool should display on your desktop.

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