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Welcome to m23!

Twitter article 2014-04-03 22:45



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

Debian
Ubuntu
Kubuntu
CentOS
openSUSE
Fedora
Linux Mint
Xubuntu


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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Features

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:
Debian
Ubuntu
Kubuntu
CentOS
openSUSE
Fedora
Linux Mint
Xubuntu

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
OpenLDAP

phpLDAPadmin

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:

KDE

Gnome

XFce

LXDE
Mate

Unity

TDE
Cinnamon

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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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.

LDAP

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.

AutoTest

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).



m23 at LinuxTag Berlin and admin workshop

Twitter article 2014-04-21 22:45

Little Robo

This year, everything is different at LinuxTag in Berlin (May, 8-10): That is, almost everything, because we will be present with an m23 booth again :-)

This year's LinuxTag will no longer be located at the halls of Messe Berlin, but at STATION Berlin for the first time. Aside from the location, also the concept has changed considerably. For example, the first day of LinuxTag is also the last day of the re:publica.de 14, which also takes place at the "STATION". Linuxtag is running in parallel with the droidcon for all three days. We are already looking forward to all those visitors, who would never have stumbled about m23 otherwise :-)

Even if the booths will probably be smaller this time, we will demonstrate m23 for you and answer every single question about m23 you may have. Depending on the available space, we will take more or less of our usual decoration material and hardware to our booth ;-)

Workshop

I was told, that my workshop "Administration von Debian & Co. im Textmodus" (Administration of Debian and Co in text mode) will take place on May 9, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. in the room called "Stage C", but this isn't yet announced on the official LinuxTag web site. Make a note of this if you are interested in the topic and prepare with the workshop PDF file (German), as our time seems to be limited to only one hour. The workshop was planned as a two-hour-workshop for the "Kieler Open Source und Linux Tage" (which was also quite a tight schedule), so that I will only go into the parts of the workshop you are really interested in in Berlin. Please especially take a look at the part "Workshopvorbereitungen" (workshop preparations), as we will not have the time for installing the virtual machine together.

Contents of the workshop

This workshop is aimed at everyone who has to / wants to deal with Debian or Debian-based distributions (Ubuntu, Linux Mint, ...) in one way or the other. It is not important, if this is your server or desktop computer at home, the virtual server for your homepage or the computers of the enterprise you're working at.

The subject of the workshop is the administration using the command line tools: Those command line tools allow for a deeper understanding of the distribution - and, just in case - the option to administer and repair the system without a graphical interface. And of course, every administrator should have an (at least basic) understanding of the administration powers of the command line.

The topics treated in the workshop include: network configuration, software management and finding errors (and eliminating them). Of course, the practice cases "repair a broken boot manager" and the all-time classic "forgotten password" will also be part of the workshop.

The workshop is based on practical experience of 15 years of Linux- and 10 years of Debian usage.

You will need to bring: Laptop/Notebook with VirtualBox and imported Debian-Admin-Workshop-Appliance (download link in the pdf), and a working W-LAN (and possibly a network cable) and the workshop PDF file.

Have fun and maybee meet you in Berlin!



m23 talk / Meeting at CeBIT

Twitter article 2014-04-03 22:45

Of course, there will again be a talk about m23 at this year's CeBIT. The slightly "misty" talk bearing the title "m23 Softwareverteilung - Auch für die Cloud (m23 software distribution - also for the cloud" will be given on Monday, 10 March 2014, at 3:15 p.m. at the Special Conference Open Source 2014 (Hall 6, Block H01).

A live stream of this (and all the other talks) will be available at the Linux-Magazin web site, and later, the videos will be made available in their video archive. Please don't let this discourage you from being present ;-)

In my talk, I will be reporting on the new m23 version which offers support for Apache CloudStack® serving as a platform for m23, using a customer's project as an example. I'm not going to talk you into buying a "cloud" product, but instead will explain the processes in the background on the source code level. If everything works as planned, I will even show you a live demo of the m23 interface on a little m23 Raspberry Pi server.

Aside from the m23 talk, there will of course also be many other talks ;-) Information abotu all talks can be obtained at "Special Conference Open Source 2014".

I'd be delighted to also meet you before or after my talk at CeBIT. Please notify me about your wish to meet (e.g. by using the 'message to developer' box at m23.sf.net), so I can coordinate the meet-ups ;-)

Have fun and maybe we'll meet at CeBIT!



m23 rock 14.1 is ready!

Twitter article 2014-04-03 22:45

The latest m23 release focuses on two main new features: For one, on support for Apache CloudStack® and on the other hand on the extended options to clone machines.

From this version on, m23 supports Apache CloudStack® as a platform for the m23 server and the m23 clients. This way, an m23 server, which can add further instances for the m23 clients, can now be installed on an Apache CloudStack® instance. The virtual clients can be created via the m23 interface and afterwards they can be installed and administered with m23, just like this was already possible with the integrated solution for VirtualBox. The Apache CloudStack® credentials can be entered directly into the m23 web interface. An extended version of the CloudStack® PHP Client is the basis of this new functionality.

As access to cloud systems typically™ is a remote access ;-), m23 now contains the option to install the X2Go server automatically on clients with Debian, Ubuntu and Linux Mint. Using an X2Go client for the local operating system, the virtual client can be accessed graphically. The desktop image of the m23 client is transferred to the X2Go client. Mouseclicks and keyboard strokes are transmitted in the other direction. In contrast to the X11 network protocol, X2Go offers an elaborate compression to be able to transmit the image information fast enough even using small bandwidth network connections.

A lot of time was invested into upgrading the cloning functionality. Now, you can also use Partclone instead of dd as file format for partition images. Contrary to dd, Partclone only saves the used sectors if the filesystem of the partition is supported. This way, the size of the image file is diminished, especially for big partitions and the process is far faster than saving every single sector. Similarly, the recovery of a client is sped up. We also added the automatical adaptation of the file system size to partitions bigger than the original one when using dd. Another development ensures that now also systems which have been integrated into m23 after their installation can be saved into image files.

Aside from these two big 'construction sites' there were, of course, many smaller ones. Many of our users will be delighted that the package search for Debian and its derivatives via the m23 interface has severely been sped up (feels like the factor of 100). During the update of the m23 server via the m23 interface, a new live status now shows the output of the update program. When installing a new m23 server, from this version on half of the free disk space is used as the maximum size of the Squid package cache. The page containing the server settings was completely reworked and extended by a help page. We also corrected client installation status bar, which now should really stop at 100% after the installation is completed ;-). The update interval was prolonged to five seconds (instead of every second as before). The creation of new local users was now separated into a single job for every distribution, which will soon allow to create additional users easier. In the background, the m23 API 2.0 was extended by everything necessary to add and boot a client.

Concerning bugfixes: As most corrections already found their way into the stable branch of m23 via updates, this time there is little to write about. New is the automatical deactivation of Plymouth, as this program led to crashes of the X-server at multiple times. In addition, the m23 administrator accounts can now be deleted, until only a single one remains (before, there wrongly had to remain two).

Caution
The mirror for the m23 server installation packages has changed (switch.dl.sourceforge.net contains an old version). Please use the current mirror as described in the Installation guide.

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



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Development blog
2014-08-06
cha: SERVER_runInBackground: Now
chmod's /var/run/screen to 775.
fix: PKG_updatePackageInfo,
PKG_preparePackageDir: Now is able
to create diretories with spaces in
the name.
fix: PKG_updatePackageInfo: Now
checks for (eventually) missing
package search cache file.
+++++
2014-08-05
cha: en / fr / i18n and help:
Completed.
+++++
2014-07-30
cha: exportDBsourceslist.php:
Removed then outdated and
unsupported package sources lists
"unstable", "sid", "testing",
"lucid" and "lenny".
+++++
2014-07-28
new: CLIENT_getAllClientNames: Gets
the names of all clients.
new: m23cli / getSourcesList: Shows
the contents of a package sources
list.
+++++
2014-07-27
new: CLI_getModuleExitcodes: Gets
the exit codes about a given
module.
cha: CLI_getModuleParameterLine:
Now returns information about
(optionall) exit code(s).
cha: CHECK_FW: Disables showing the
PHP warning, when using a one
character rule.
new: m23cli / getClientMac: Shows
the MAC address of a client.
new: m23cli / isClientPingable:
Checks, if a client could be
pinged.
cha: CLIENT_query: No warnings,
when used from CLI.
new: m23cli / getGroupIPs: Fetches
the IPs of all clients in a group.
Last 5 entries
Full changelog

Download status

m23 was updated with the m23 update manager 6532 times. All m23 files were downloaded from Sourceforge 26866 times with a total size of 7114.71 GB.
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