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Helix Setup Tools

Aug 07, 2000, 20:04 (10 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Hans Petter Jansson)

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Date: Sat, 5 Aug 2000 08:07:46 -0400
From: Hans Petter Jansson hpj@helixcode.com
To: gnome-announce-list@gnome.org
Subject: ANNOUNCE: Helix Setup Tools

Helix is proud to introduce the Helix Setup Tools, a set of tools that are aimed at providing an easy to use user interface for system configuration in Linux/Unix.

Design goals of the Helix Setup Tools


* Targeted to end users:

These tools are intended to simplify the tasks of configuring a Unix system for workstations. These tools are targeted to people who want to use GNOME systems as their primary workstation.

They are not intended to be used for configuring UNIX servers or clusters.

* Unified System Configuration:

Configuring different Unix systems is different; Every Unix system has different ways of being administered. The Helix Setup Tools are targeted towards unifying those systems.

* Multi-platform:

Each one of the Helix Setup Tools is split in two parts: a backend (which is typically written in Perl) and a user interface frontend (which is typically written in C or Python).

The backend is written in a way that would allow us to quickly adopt the backend to various different flavors of Unix: the backend "probes" your system to check what kind of system it is running on, and depending on this, it parses the existing system files. Then after the user has finished editing the system settings, the configuration is written back to the system files.

This means that the Helix Setup Tools use whatever configuration files are available in your system, and you can still edit those files yourself.

This is a work in progress release of the Helix Setup Tools, and fine tuning of the user interface is expected to happen before we can deliver the ultimate user experience for the desktop.

The tools in this release


Three Helix setup tools have been released for testing:

Networking       0.1.0  Basic networking.
Name Resolution  0.1.0  Basic name resolution.
Shares           0.1.0  Importing and exporting SMB and NFS shares.
They have been extensively tested only with Red Hat, but might work with other distributions as well. Proceed at your own risk.

This release provides the tools independently packaged; each comes in its own tarball.

Call for developers


We want to have support in Helix Setup Tools for as many Unix systems as possible. Supporting a new system is pretty simple, you just need to extend the backend Perl script to probe for your system, parse your system configuration files and generate your system configuration files.

By keeping the backend as a Perl script we hope that seasoned system administrators will be able to contribute to this project without requiring any Gtk+ or GNOME programming experience.

The current version only supports Red Hat Linux systems which is what we used to develop this.

More information


Introduction: http://www.helixcode.com/desktop/setuptools.php3

Whitepaper: http://www.helixcode.com/tech/helix-setup-tools.php3

Mailing list: http://lists.helixcode.com/mailman/listinfo/gnome-admin-tools

FTP: ftp://ftp.helixcode.com/pub/setuptools/

GNOME CVS: Module "gnome-admin-tools".

Maintainer: Hans Petter Jansson

Future Work


The Helix Setup Tools have been designed to provide a number of extensions that will be made available in the future:

* Provinding a CORBA-accessible interface to the configuration tools. This will be achieved by integrating the Perl/CORBA bindings with each one of the backends.

* Cluster configuration: Given that we have a split between the user interface and the backends, we will be writting tools that would enable system administrators to configure clusters of client machines.

* Presets: Through a panel applet users will be able to change system configuration to a number of presets. For example, the user could have a preset in his laptop for the computer lab, another preset for his home and another for his girlfriend's house. Depending on those settings the value of your default printer, network connectivity options and so on will be set.

* Roll back support: By archiving previous versions of the XML state of the system, we will be able to rollback the changes to a previous state (yes, we are considering using RCS for storing the configuration history).

So for instance, if your mom has her computer set up and your cousin goes home and makes a mess out of the configuration, your mom will be able to drag the configuration slider to "2 days ago" and have the configuration of her system the same way it was before the cousin came home.

* Integration with the Control Center: Bradford has been working on the new control center that will integrate the system administration tools into the GNOME Control Center.

* Single tarball: We are going to put all the tools in a single tarball in the future to reuse code between the various components.

Enjoy!

-- Hans Petter


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