Interview with Jamie Cameron, author of “Managing Linux Systems with Webmin”

Who is Jamie Cameron? Introduce yourself to our readers.

I’m Australian, 29 years old, and have been interested in or working with computers and programming since I got my first TRS-80 about 17 years ago.

How long have you been working with Linux? How did you get interested in it?

I’ve been using Linux since 1994, when I first installed in on a machine at university.

What Linux distribution(s) do you use?

All sorts – because Webmin needs to support as many distributions as possible and because they are all slightly different, I have all kinds of Linux variants installed on my computers. I run Redhat, Caldera, Cobalt and Mandrake Linuxes, but in my experience Redhat is the best distribution (although Debian has some nice features like its APT package system). Because Webmin supports other Unix flavours as well, I also have boxes running Solaris and Irix for testing purposes.

How long did it take you to write “Managing Linux Systems with Webmin” and what was it like?

The actual writiting time was about 6 months, although there was another 3 months of editing and reviewing on top of that. It was actually quite enjoyable to write, as up till this point I hadn’t really created any proper user documentation on Webmin. In fact, the book ended up being 800 pages long, compared to an initial estimate of 400 pages!

Are you satisfied with the feedback you got about the book?

Definately – all the reviews and comments that I have seen so far have been positive.

How did you start developing Webmin?

It originally started out in 1997 as just a DNS management tool, so that people at the company that I worked for at the time could manage DNS domains themselves instead of always asking me to edit configuration files (which I wouldn’t trust them to do properly). From this came the idea of a more powerful system for Unix system administration, which could manage users and groups, Samba, NFS and so on.

In your opinion, where does Webmin need the most development at the moment?

There are always new features that could be added for managing servers like INN, djbdns and zeus that are not currently supported. However, the area that probably needs the most work is a general clean up of the code. There is quite a bit of code duplication that should be rationalized, inconsistencies in the user interface that should be resolved and features that need to be brought up to date.

Unfortunately, these kind of problems are inevitable for a project that has been under development and accumulating new features for so long.

What is your vision for Webmin in the future?

To keep on improving and promoting it, so that hopefully it ends up being the standard administration interface across all Linux distributions and flavours of Unix.

What are your future plans? Any exciting new projects?

Currently I am working on a project called Virtualmin, which is a webmin module for virtual server management. Think of it as a competitor to packages like Plesk and CPanel, but free…

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