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FreeBSD Bag of Tricks
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Pruning Usermin

When the owner returned from his break, I had him type in the URL and log in with his username in order to check out the Usermin interface. You can do the same at the Usermin screenshots page or examine Usermin's standard modules list.

We went through the modules together and agreed to keep our installation very simple and lightweight. The only modules we retained were Read Mail and Change Password. Since Usermin is a user program and you don't want users mucking about with each other's settings, you actually need Webmin to configure Usermin. If you don't already have Webmin and wish to configure Usermin, install Webmin with:

# cd /usr/ports/sysutils/webmin
# make install clean

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At the end of the install, run the /usr/local/lib/webmin/ script. Be sure to choose a different port number and choose a unique username and password for the administrative account. Open a second tab in your browser and open your URL using the Webmin port number. This will allow you to test your changes from the user's perspective as you make them in the other tab of your browser.

On Webmin's main page is an icon for Usermin Configuration. You can then click on Usermin Modules to delete the modules you don't want to use. Use the Ctrl key to select multiple modules to delete. Note that once a module is deleted, you have to reinstall it before you can use it again. (If you mistakenly delete a module you intended to keep, retrieve it from the Usermin modules page.)

After I configured the site, I still had an extra module I didn't want: Running Processes wouldn't delete, as Change Password depended upon it. However, I went into Available Modules and unchecked Running Processes. Note that this screen won't actually delete the module but it will hide its existence from users.

Now that we were down to the two desired modules, we took a closer look at each. The owner didn't like the banner on the mail page that advertised the version of Usermin and the operating system. To remove that, I clicked on User Interface (in Webmin's Usermin configuration) and selected No for "Show version, hostname and OS on main menu?"

He also didn't like the fact that users could see the entire directory structure when they clicked on Read Mail -> Manage Folders -> "Add an existing file or directory as a folder" and then clicked on the browse button next to "External mail file or directory." The fix for that one was a little less obvious, but I found it when I clicked on Access Control Options. Under "Root directory for file chooser" change the button to "User's home directory," and under "Users visible in user chooser" change the button to "No users."

Depending upon your needs, you can further tighten up Usermin's security. If, for example, you use Usermin to check your own mail from work and have a static IP, you can restrict connections to that IP in IP Access Control. If you or your users don't have static IPs, instead use Allowed Users and Groups to restrict who can connect. Users who don't match the list will receive the message "Login failed. Please try again."

Also consider reviewing the defaults in Authentication. For example, by default there are no password timeouts, and authentication failures go unlogged.

All in all, my client was pleased with how easy it was to configure Usermin and get a decent-looking and functional webmail program. Now I have a new trick to pull out of my sleeve the next time someone is shopping around for a similar solution.


The other piece of software I found made me glad I had a 2000 Pro install kicking around in my home network. How many times have you seen your Windows friends struggling with expensive yet often virus-ridden software? Yes, they'd love a more affordable solution, but they don't have the time, energy, or courage to take the Unix plunge. Perhaps they do, but they don't completely believe that they'll be as productive on a Unix system. Maybe they still think there's a catch to "free" software. Don't you wish they could just install some decent open source software on the operating system they most prefer?

Well, now there's an easy way to introduce open source software to a Microsoft operating system. It's TheOpenCD. I had a friend burn me an ISO--I do have to break down and buy myself a CD burner one of these days--so I could check it out.

The CD itself autoruns on a Windows system. However, TheOpenCD's web site breaks down the contents and layout of the CD so you can see for yourself what is available. The initial splash screen on the CD describes Software Freedom Day, August 28. You then continue to the programs themselves in the following categories:

  • Office & Design
  • Internet & Communication
  • Multimedia & Games
  • Utilities & Other

Once the user clicks on a category, a slide appears for each program. Each slide contains a description of the program, screenshots, and a hyperlink to the program's web site. More importantly, the Install button invokes a Windows installer for the specified program.

I must admit that I took great joy in installing Gimp, AbiWord, PDFCreator, Blender, and FileZilla on a 2000 system. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Movies & Demos that came with the Blender 3D slide. I even discovered some new software that I hadn't previously known of.

While there were a few typos in this edition, which I assume the next version of the CD will fix, I found it easy to use with an attractive layout. The creators of the CD also have a form on their site where you can present the case for including additional software on the CD. I think this CD will make its way into quite a few conventions and installathons over the next year. Check it out for yourself, and maybe burn a few for your friends and family.

Dru Lavigne is a network and systems administrator, IT instructor, author and international speaker. She has over a decade of experience administering and teaching Netware, Microsoft, Cisco, Checkpoint, SCO, Solaris, Linux, and BSD systems. A prolific author, she pens the popular FreeBSD Basics column for O'Reilly and is author of BSD Hacks and The Best of FreeBSD Basics.

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