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From André Warnier ...@ice-sa.com>
Subject Re: [users@httpd] Re: GUI for configuring Apache httpd by editing httpd.conf
Date Sun, 15 Feb 2009 09:56:12 GMT
Mohammed obaidan wrote:
[...]
My grain of salt :

It is your time you will be spending, and how you spend it is up to you.
So I do not want to discuss whether it is a good idea or not, or whether 
you can or cannot or should or should not do it.
This is thus just a personal opinion, to add to the list for your 
consideration.

If you have a look at the graphical configuration interface for IIS, you 
will see that it is a fairly complex piece of work. Lots of dialogs, 
lots of tabs, lots of options, etc..
Yet in that case, we are talking about a commercial product made by one 
company, following rather strict guidelines of what things should look 
like, what users expect, how pieces interact with one another, etc..

Apache, being something made by lots of volunteer people, much more 
independent of one another that MS employees are, with a lot more 
freedom to think along their own lines, is a different animal.  The 
basic principles of the Apache configuration are fairly standard.  But 
each module used within Apache has a bit of its own logic when it comes 
to configuration, which parameter fits with which other or not, and how 
they interact with the basic Apache and with other modules. In addition, 
although the Apache httpd team does a great work of orcherstrating the 
releases so that in the end there is a usable and reliable product, each 
module still has much its own life and its own release schedule.
So in the end, I believe that making a generic tool that would handle 
all of these differences would be very complicated, and very 
time-consuming to keep up-to-date.

About the point of creating an interface that would help configure the 
basic Apache, but not the individual modules :
As some people have pointed out before, basically every operating system 
nowadays already includes an Apache package, managed by the standard 
"package manager" of that OS distribution.  Using that tool, a system 
manager can install/deinstall/upgrade a basic working Apache within a 
couple of minutes at most.  Adding or removing an Apache extension 
module is almost as easy in most cases, and in many cases adding or 
removing a VirtualHost also.
But, at least in 50% of the cases, the basic Apache configuration is not 
enough, and one needs a series of the extension modules to be configured 
according to a very specific configuration and usage.
In my view thus, it is more at the level of each extension module, 
rather than at the level of the generic Apache configuration, that a 
better interface would be useful.
If I'm not mistaken, that's what webmin is about : it provides a kind of 
generic "framework" where one can plug in different modules, as long as 
these modules follow some basic rules.  I don't know if webmin's logic 
is adaptable to Apache extension modules, but if it is, that's the 
direction I would follow.  And if it isn't, then maybe defining such a 
generic interface, where each Apache module author can just easily 
"plug-in" his own graphic management module for his own extension 
module, would be a worthy enterprise.

In the end however, there is another aspect.
I believe that the users/managers of software like Apache, and 
users/managers of software like IIS, have fundamentally a different 
point of view and approach to such issues.  People who like IIS and its 
graphical interface, are generally people who grew up with Windows and 
its graphical interface.  They consider this to be the "normal" way of 
things.  They are prepared to sacrifice a bit of understanding of what 
is really going on behind the scenes (e.g. in the dark corners of the 
Windows Registry), to the facility and ease of use of a graphical 
interface that makes things simpler on the surface.
On the other hand, the people who like Apache as it is now, like to know 
exactly what is going on, and are prepared for that to go through the 
sometimes tedious editing of configuration files by hand with a text 
editor, knowing that by doing so they can really drive the process 
exactly like they want, without some kind of "wizard" popping up and 
pretending to be smarter than themselves.

So the thing is, assuming you would create such an interface, would 
there really be a public willing to use it ?
Considering that for the people that just want to install and configure 
a basic Apache, it is already easy on most systems; and considering that 
due to the nature of Apache and its modules, it is always going to be 
very hard to create a graphical interface that satisfies the needs of 
the more finicky others, I personally doubt it.
But then, for some system administration tasks, I also enjoy the 
facilities offered by some graphical interfaces, so maybe I'm wrong.

Good luck anyway.




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