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Welcome to m23!

Twitter article 2015-03-28 20:08

m23 is a free software distribution system licensed under the GPL, that installs and administrates clients with

Linux Mint

m23 is controlled via webbrowser. The installation of a new m23 client is done in only three steps and the integration of existing clients is possible, too. Group functions and mass installation tools make managing a vast number of clients comfortable. Client backup and server backup are included to avoid data loss. With the integrated virtualisation software, m23 can create and manage virtual m23 clients, that run on real m23 clients or the m23 server. Scripts and software packages (for installation on the clients) can be created directly from the m23 web interface.

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m23 features

Administration via webbrowser

The entire administration is done via webbrowser and is possible from all computers having access to the m23 server via network. The installation of additional administration software is not necessary. A remote access to the m23 server via PDA or laptop is easily possible. Authentification and SSL encryption secure the communication and prevent undesirable access.

Three steps to your complete client

Installing a client with m23 is rather simple. Only three steps are required for a completely installed client.

1. Adding the client 2. Partitioning, formatting and installation of the operating system 3. Installation of additional software

First, you need to enter some values for the client. These are, for example, the network settings (IP, networkmask, etc.), user name and password or the name of an LDAP server that manages your user accounts. All clients can be partitioned and formatted individually. The resulting partitions can be used for the installation of the operating system, the creation of software RAIDs, for data storage or as swap space. The installation will start after the selection of the operating system. You can install additional software packages in the last (optional) step.

Integration of existing clients into m23

Existing Debian-based systems (Debian, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu) can be assimilated into the m23 system easily and are then administered like a normal client that was installed with m23. Only the specification of the client's name, its IP or hostname and the root password are required. The client, which is to be integrated, is then scanned and its hardware information and the status of installed packages are transmitted to the m23 server.

Group functions

You will like the convenient group functions if you have a big amount of clients that need to install new software or if other routine jobs need to be done. E.g. a new software package can be installed on all clients or be removed from all clients of a group. In addition, an update or a client recovery can be accomplished on all group members.

Mass installation

The mass installation tools are handy, if you need to install a big amount of clients with similar requirements (and maybe different hardware). The mass installation is done in three steps.
1. Creation of a defined client 2. Choosing the parameter generator options

A model client, that holds the basic settings (such as the default gateway or the group name), is defined (but not installed). The real clients are to be derived from this defined client. The defined client gets a partitioning and formatting for its virtual harddrive (as well as rules what to do if the real harddrives are differing in size or type), the operation system and appropriate software packages. Now you have to choose which of the settings, that can or have to be different on each client, shall be kept (e.g. user name), generated automatically (e.g. client name) or read from a file or entered by hand (e.g. MAC address). The partitioning of the virtual harddisk will be adjusted on client deployment.
3. Final review of the client parameters
In this last step you see all the parameters and values of all clients in a table and you can change the values by hand. It is possible to change the number of clients, too. Automatically generated client parameters will be calculated in the required amount or existing clients will be removed.

Client features

Operating systems

m23 supports:
Linux Mint

m23 supports Debian, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Fedora, Linux Mint, CentOS and openSUSE. The choice of the Linux distribution is a matter of taste and a question of the functional range. m23 gives the administrator the chance to choose the right distribution for each client individually which can be installed automatically. m23 allows to manages all clients via the same m23 administration interface, no matter which distribution is installed.

Free partitioning and formatting

In addition to the automatic partitioning and formatting, m23 supports individual harddrive setups. The resulting partitions can be used for the operating system, to store data and for swapping. The m23 interface includes all necessary functions for deleting, adding and formatting of partitions and for assigning them to mountpoints, installation or swap usage. In addition, it is possible to reuse the existing partition layout for the installation.

Support for software RAIDs

Partitions or entire harddrives can be combined into software RAIDs. m23 supports the RAID levels 0, 1, 4, 5, 6 and 10. These RAID levels have advantages and disadvantages in relation to speed increase and data reliability. RAIDs can be used like normal partitions to install operating systems to or to use them as swap or storage space. You can install the Linux kernel and its modules on a separate (non-RAID) partition to be able to install an operating system on all possible RAID levels.

User management with LDAP

Powered by OpenLDAP


User accounts can be managed with a central LDAP server. This increases the ease of use in environments with many clients and a lot of users. The OpenLDAP server is shipped with the m23 server and can be administered via the highly integrated phpLDAPadmin. m23 can use existing LDAP entries for new m23 clients or add extra entries on adding an m23 client.

NFS for storing home directories

An NFS server for storing the user's home directories is a good supplement to an existing LDAP server. Using an NFS server simplifies the making of backups dramatically in contrast to a lot of clients storing the home directories on local harddrives. As a benefit of this combination the user has the alternative to log in into any client and find her or his own desktop and files.

Software packages

Thousands of software packages like office packages, graphic tools, server applications or games can be installed via the webinterface. Software installation or removal jobs are carried out at boot time or while the client is in normal use.

Software choice in different distributions

The Linux distributions that are installable with m23 offer a large variety of free software, which can be installed easily. In addition to the package sources recommended by m23 other package sources can be added to install software from other suppliers.

Package dependency check

You can check if the removal or installation of software will be sucessful before the actual process. The administration interface gives a warning message, e.g. if a package can not be installed due to unsolved dependencies.

Automatic software package caching

Software packages are downloaded from the internet to keep them up-to-date. The packages are then cached to ensure that every package is downloaded only once. If a certain package is installed a second time, the package will be installed from the cache. In case that a new version of the package exists, the latest package will first be downloaded and stored in the cache. On your m23 server this job is done by the proxy cache Squid.

Pool builder for building package sources

The pool builder makes it possible to combine software packages from different media (CD, DVD, internet) on the m23 server and convert them to a package source. These package sources can be used to install clients. This can be done without an internet connection or if the internet connection is rather slow. It is possible, too, to add selfmade packages to the pool.

Graphical desktops

Support for:







The m23 clients can be installed as workstation with the graphical user interfaces KDE, Gnome, XFce, LXDE and pure X11 or as a server without graphical subsystem. In most server setups, the server doesn't need a user interface because most of the server software runs in text mode. If you choose the Ubuntu distribution you can also install Unity, for Linux Mint Mate or Cinnamon and for Kubuntu "Kubuntu desktop" (KDE based).

Imaging: Installation using image files

An image file of a partition or entire harddisk can be used to install other clients. These image files are taken from installed clients with all their software packages and settings. The creation of these image files is included in the m23 administration interface for your comfort. Image files can be compressed to save storage space and bandwidth on rollout. An image file can be used to install any number of clients. After the end of the transfer, the client will be adjusted like a client that was installed from software packages. This is done on Debian, Ubuntu, Kubuntu and Xubuntu clients. These "image clients" can be managed like "normal clients" with m23, this includes software installation and other administrative tasks.

Client backup

Personal data and additional settings can be backupped and restored with the integrated software BackupPC. This is necessary for all personal data which is not handled by m23.

Client recovery

A client can be reinstalled with excactly the same software selection and configuration as it was installed with m23 before. This is done with the recovery feature directly from the m23 interface. The recovery includes the complete installation with partitioning and formatting. All settings done with m23 will be restored. Manual changes need a recovery from a backup medium.

Rescue system

The m23 rescue system is a minimal Linux environment that can be booted on the clients via the network. You can use it for on-location maintenance or via an SSH console. The administrator has full access to the client and can do all administrative work. Additional tools (e.g. the client log) support the administrator with his/her fault analysis.

Client virtualisation

The free virtualisation solution VirtualBox OSE is now (optional) part of m23 and can be installed directly on the m23 server as well as on the managed m23 clients. Required for virtualisation is a current Debian system (Debian Lenny or Squeeze). Virtual m23 clients which act on the network just like normal m23 clients are managed via the m23 server as usual. These virtual clients can be partitioned and formatted like a normal PC and of course the operating system and additional software can be installed as well.

VirtualBox OSE packages are available for 32 and 64 bit machines, that can be installed directly via the m23 web interface on the m23 clients. These m23 clients are virtualisation hosts for virtual m23 clients after the installation. Virtualisation may be useful to use the existing ressources of your computers better (e.g. office PCs that usually wait for user input most of the time or on a web server).

You can check the usage of harddisk and memory on the virtualisation host in the "VM creation dialog" before you create a new virtual m23 client. So you can take care not to assign too much harddisk space or memory to the VM. The newly created VM runs through the usual 3-step-setup after the creation is done.

Virtual m23 clients can run in graphical mode or without visible output. A modified VNC server was integrated for the graphical output to replace the VRDP feature of the non-free VirtualBox edition. It can be used to access the virtual clients from the boot on and allows to engage if problems occur. The VNC session contains the VirtualBox window with the running virtual m23 client and is based on the lightweight window manager flwm. An analog clock, a terminal and a button to shut down the session together with the VirtualBox machine are visible too.

Improve m23

The m23 interface and the entire m23 system can be improved with extra functions.

The MDK (m23 Development Kit) is a powerful environment to adjust m23 to your needs. E.g. you can create your own m23 server installation CD or build new network boot images with new modules.

Using the m23 extension halfSister, the ambitious administrator can easily make his or her favourite Linux distribution installable with m23, like it was already done with CentOS, openSUSE and Fedora.

Server features

How does it work?

m23 differentiates between servers and clients. An m23 server is used for software deployment and the management of the clients. Computers which are administered by the m23 server are the clients.

The client is booted over the network during the installation of the operating system. It is possible to start the client with a bootrom on its network card, with a boot disk or with a boot CD. The client's hardware is detected and set up. The gathered hardware and partition information is sent to the m23 server. Afterwards, this information is shown in the m23 administration interface. Now the administrator has to choose how to partition and format the client. Other settings include e.g. the distribution to be installed on the client.

Server backup

Server backup
The server backup function stores the m23 server with all its data at given points in time. The backups contain all information necessary to restore the whole m23 server functionality. Multiple points in time can be selected for this purpose. GPG encrypted backup files can be transferred to external servers automatically.

A GPG key management was integrated into the m23 webinterface, too. After a data fault the restore script will first install an "empty" m23 server and use the backup to bring it into a previously saved state. A short guide showing the restoring steps can be printed out directly from the m23 web interface (and should be before an emergency occurs!).

Variable firewall

A variable firewall makes sure that only safe values will be handed to the database. This should make SQL injection attacs impossible.

IP manager

The IP management allows you to connect network settings to a MAC address, so that the necessary values are sent to the respective device via DHCP. Aside from this direct assignment, IP ranges can be defined, within which the IPs can be assigned dynamically (e.g. to notebooks). Specific settings (e.g. client name, MAC address) or specific IP ranges can now be blocked, so m23 cannot wrongly use these for m23 clients.

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Creative Commons License

This text is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License. And of course we would be very happy, if we got a copy of your article or a URL where to find it ;-)

m23 at Chemnitzer Linux-Tage

Twitter article 2015-03-28 20:07

Chemnitzer Linux-Tage 2015 This year, we've been at the Chemnitzer Linux-Tage (March 21-22) for the first time :-)

Chemnitzer Linux-Tage 2015 - Gewinner

Beforehand, everyone who had already been there told us that this event was one of the best. After those two days we spent there, we can confirm this emphatically. It worked out wonderfully and was very well organized. We would like to praise and thank everyone who made this happen. Keep going :-)

We'd also like to thank our T-shirt sponsor, who again supported our project by supplying geeky T-shirts for our lotteries on both days :-) The winners were obviously very happy.

We were also pleasantly surprised by the big number of visitors and the many interesting conversations. The Linux-Tage at Chemnitz have preserved the community atmosphere which was common to many Linux-Tage in the past™. They are proof that big Linux events still have a right to exist, even if most information is available via the internet at any time.

Thanks to the good organization of the premises by the team of the Chemnitzer Linux-Tage, all participants in the workshop "Administration of & Co. in text mode" could partake in a concentrated and efficient way. But not only did the participants learn something during the workshop, also Hauke was able to collect a bunch of ideas for the next run of the workshop.

Have fun and maybe we'll meet again at Chemnitz in 2016!

m23 at the Chemnitzer Linux-Tage and Admin Workshop

Twitter article 2015-03-23 10:02

Chemnitzer Linux-Tage 2015

We are happy to be part of the Chemnitzer Linux-Tagen (21.3. und 22.3.) with an m23 booth for the first time :-)

At our booth, we will demonstrate m23 (live) on virtual machines and will be answering all your questions and be available for technical discussions. So if you always wanted to know why your enterprise / organisation etc. really needs to use m23, visit us at our booth ;-)
If our booth is big enough (tbd), we will also bring our Tux Droid Quiz (video), which allows you to demonstrate your vast knowledge about Linux, m23 and penguins.
And it may just be that we also bring m23 rock 15.1 (containing a completely reworked partitioning and formatting API) :-)


On Sunday, March 22 2015, you can take advantage of participating in Hauke's workshop "Administration von Debian & Co. im Textmodus" (administration of Debian and its derivatives in text mode). As there is only a limited number of seats available, you should hurry to reserve yours! ;-) Reservation deadline is on March, 13th 2015.
Further info (room etc.) and the reservation form can be found at Administration von Debian & Co. im Textmodus.
Even if this time, we have a full 3 hours time for the workshop, please prepare for it so we can use the available time efficiently. In the workshop pdf, especially read the section "Workshopvorbereitungen", so we won't spend our valuable time downloading and setting up the Debian admin workshop appliance. It may be that the three hours are sufficiently long to completely follow the workshop manual, but just in case, make note of which parts are of special importance to you. If time becomes an issue, we will only train the most desired parts. The workshop will be held in German. If necessary, small explanations in English can be added.

Workshop contents

This workshop is addressed to everyone who has to / wants to work with Debian or Debian-based distributions (Ubuntu, Linux Mint, ...) in some way or other. For the workshop, it is not important whether you want to administer your home server or desktop, your virtual server for your home page or the machines at your workplace.

We will focus on administration using the command line tools, as those don't only allow you to get a deeper understanding of your distribution, but they also allow to administer the system in case of a severe problem and to fix that problem. And of course, it's just good practice for an administrator to have some (at least basic) knowledge of the administration options on the command line.

We will cover the following topics (and more): network configuration, software management as well as identifying errors (and fixing them). The frequently occurring cases "repair broken boot manager" and the classical problem "lost password" will of course also be practised together.

This workshop is based upon 19 years of practicale experience with Linux, and 13 years of them with Debian.

Please bring the following: laptop with VirtualBox installed, and imported Debian admin workshop appliance, as well as a working WiFi (if possible, additionally network card + cable) and the workshop PDF.

Have fun - and hope to see you soon in Chemnitz!

We won!

Twitter article 2014-08-29 14:02

In this year's Thomas-Krenn Open Source Förderung (Thomas-Krenn Open Source promotion), the m23 project has ended in the third place :-) At this point, we would like to thank Thomas-Krenn again for the prize and congratulate the other winner projects.

If you'd like to know more about the prize and the other winners, visit the article of the tkmag at Thomas Krenn.

For our prize money, we compiled a selection of hardware from Thomas-Krenn, which we want to use for being able to execute a whole bunch of virtual client installations at the same time. In the long term, we are planning to automate most Tests using the newly introduced test framework "AutoTest", to avoid doing all those tests manually, which was the case until now. We hope to spend less time on manual testing and at the same time to be able to expose a larger range of functions to continuous testing.

We will publish a small report on the new hardware after having tested it extensively.

Our sincere thanks are given to Thomas-Krenn and, of course, to our users for their support :-)

m23 rock 14.2 is released!

Twitter article 2014-08-07 14:15

Linux Mint 17 Mate and Cinnamon

The latest version of m23 extends the spectrum of supported client distributions by adding support for Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and Linux Mint 17 Qiana. For Linux Mint, the desktop environments Mate, Cinnamon, Xfce and KDE are available - for Ubuntu, there are a minimal KDE/Kubuntu Desktop, Unity (3D), Xfce, the Lubuntu Desktop and Gnome.

Even while adding support for the two new distributions - and especially the desktops - accounts for most of the time needed to build this new release, there have also been made other improvements to m23. Among these you will find the improved user authentification by LDAP or the new testing framework "AutoTest" which automatically checks the m23 server installation ISOs.


From this m23 version on LDAP users (on clients with Debian 7.x, Ubuntu 14.04 and Linux Mint 17) will automatically be added to the local groups to which local users would also be added. This ensures that users logged in via LDAP can also access the client's resources (for example the sound card). Also, when adding an LDAP user via the m23 interface, the corresponding LDAP group is created or the user is added to the group with the number of the admin's choice.


AutoTestAutoTest is a new framework which was developed to automate repetitive testing tasks (which occur before the release of a new m23 version). Currently, it does not yet contain all the features we have planned, but it's enough to install the m23 server installation ISO on a virtual machine in VirtualBox without any user action. AutoTest defines the parts of a testing process using an XML file. Each part consists of a trigger event (for example a sequence of letters on the VM's screen), one or more actions (for example emulated keyboard strokes) and the following comparison with letter sequences on the screen which signal success, warnings or fatal results of that action. The output picture on the VM's screen is interpreted using the gocr character recognition.
The test definition file also contains the parameters used to create the VM (for example RAM and hard disk size). A test can be executed on a local machine (on the same computer with the same user as the one starting AutoTest) as well as on a remote machine (in a running X- or X2go-session).
Future versions of AutoTest will also allow to automagically test the m23 web interface, for example to add a new client and install it.

m23 command line interface

cliThe m23 command line tool (m23cli) was extended by four features: It can now output the contents of a package sources list and a client's MAC address. One m23cli plugin lists all clients' IP addresses in one group. Another one checks if the clients can be accessed by network.

Odds and ends

Debian based clients now do a "dist-upgrade" after the installation of the base system to update the software which is in the compressed operating system archive. If the hardware detection cannot find a harddisk (either because the driver module is missing or because there really is no harddisk), an error message in the partitioning dialogue in the m23 interface now alerts the user and stops further setup of the client. The recovery method "Set status to "Add"" does no longer add the task "reboot" or "shutdown". The new script "fixPHPFilePermissionsAndCR" (in /m23/bin) allows that the Apache user can access the PHP scripts in /m23 and that they use the correct end of line markers for BASH. When installing a language pack, this automatically required the installation of k3b. From this version on, k3b will automatically be removed again if it has not been installed before the language pack was added. The m23 virtualbox functions were modified to be able to get status informations from all VirtualBox versions.

Bug fixes

Of course, we have also fixed some (small) bugs ;-) A change to the function which suggests a free IP address (used in the "Add client" dialog) now only refers to the currently valid (and not some previously used) IP range of the m23 server. At the start of the mass installation, the debconf settings are now also replicated and the second DNS server of the model client is also added to the real clients' settings. In the file list of the package architect, the file size of files bigger than 2 Gb on 32bit m23 servers is now shown correctly. And, lastly: In the HTML version of the user manual, all quotation marks are now supposedly in their correct place ;-)

The new version is available as update from the m23 interface, via APT, as ISO file to burn the m23 server installation CD, as preinstalled virtual machine or as Raspberry Pi image file (the last three can be found in the download section).

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Development blog
new: CScredit::saveScript: Saves
the script in the editor to the
cha: de /
Added UEFI boottype and
cha: de / clientBuilder.hlp: Added
hint for UEFI.
cha: de / Added
the new function descriptions of
the editor.
Searches for the first vfat
partitions and if one if found,
sets it as EFI boot partition.
cha: MSR_importPartHwData: Now
calls findAndSetEFIBootPartDev.
cha: m23hwscanner / getPartFS: Now
works with GPT partitions too.
cha: disableNetworkOnDHCP: Now
works, if the client should be
: Generates a dialog with
JavaScript to choose a client and
to open the script output viewer
for the currentry saved script.
new: PKG_removeSpecialFromJobList:
Removes a special job from the
joblist identified by package name
and priority.
new: CClient::delSpecialJob:
Removes a special job from the
joblist identified by package name
and priority.
ithoutInstallPhp: Gets the current
script filename without
"Install.php" at its end.
Now has an optional job parameter,
and if set, this job will be taken
instead of the job with the lowest
fix: client_distr.php: Corrected
variable name typo.
cha: CLIENT_addClient: Now sets
system in UEFI mode, if UEFI
booting is choosen.
Last 5 entries
Full changelog

Download status

m23 was updated with the m23 update manager 6611 times. All m23 files were downloaded from Sourceforge 27812 times with a total size of 7632.13 GB.
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