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Webmin on a server running Ubuntu 10.04 “Lucid Lynx”


If you have an old PC lying around, why not put it to good use as a server?

Download Ubuntu 10.04 Server edition in 64-bit or 32-bit versions depending on how old your server is.  64-bit is recommended if the PC will accept it.

Once downloaded, you use .iso file to burn a CD.  Then boot from the CD to install Ubuntu Server on your machine.

This is an install that does not have the usual graphical user interface which can scare people off but it has its benefits.  You use the power of the machine only for its intended purpose e.g. acting as a file server, a DHCP or a DNS server.

Once it has been installed successfully and the network connection is verified to be working, it is quite feasible to remove the display monitor and to deal with the server across your network from now on.  A key tool in this approach is Webmin.

To install run the following command line

sudo apt-get install webmin

Once that completes, you will be able to install updates, configure the machine, add extra server components, get alerts when things are going awry on the server etc

To harness all this incredible power, point your browser (Firefox, Chrome etc) at …

https://yourservername:10000

As an example, once you have installed it, go to the menu on the left hand side, choose “Webmin Configuration” and then the “Upgrade Webmin” icon.

This will upgrade you up to the latest version available from the webmin site.

Then try this to keep track of all software updates that are available for your server…

On the same “Webmin Configuration” Screen, choose “Webmin Modules” icon and then the button to the right of “www.webmin.com“.

Select “package-updates” from the list and follow the instruction to install it. (It may be already installed but this shows you how to get other modules should you be interested in adding new functionality to webmin).

It is also necessary to install another package which is not installed by default in order for the list of packages to work as expected.  Run this command line.

sudo apt-get install apt-show-versions

Now, you can have Webmin check for updates every hour and let you know via email if your server has important updates ready to be applied.  This is better than automatically configuring the server to apply updates blindly in case something breaks. You can then choose a suitable occasion to perform the updates when you have time to rectify any issues that may occur.

Click on the System menu on left-hand-side of Webmin screen and choose “Software Package Updates”. In there you can set your schedule for checking updates and where to send the email.

I recommend to check every hour and “Just notify” of available updates.  This screen is fairly self-explanatory.

Webmin has everything you need to remotely control your server and circumvents the need to run a graphical user desktop environment on that machine saving precious processing time particularly on older machines. It also makes the configuration,  monitoring and management of that server easier to perform remotely so it can be hidden away in some dark recess of your home or office.  This is a good thing if the machine is an ugly beast from the last century with a noisy fan and a hideous disfigurement like my server, “quasimodo”.

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