For those of us who are not Apache experts but are aching to run our own Webservers, relief is finally at hand! Or at least, it appears to be under development. At long last there is a graphical front end for configuring and administering Apache — the Comanche project. Comanche is primarily written in Tcl, and makes heavy use of XML. It is extensible, and according to the documentation can accept plugins written in a variety of different languages. The project is being sponsored by Covalent Technologies and is distributed under the Apache license.
Comanche was born out of a desire to find a shortcut for configuring Apache. Unfortunately, unless you already know a decent amount about Apache, setting up Comanche is almost as intimidating as setting up Apache was before.
Comanche’s installation process is a bit complicated for newbies, requiring the user to set and configure various PATH names and such. If these are not set correctly, Comanche will not recognize your httpd server. To make matters worse, Comanche doesn’t have any option to undo the configuration once you’ve entered it. The only way we could figure how to do this was to delete and re-install Comanche. Not the most convenient way to go about things, to say the least.
Our configuration problems continued beyond that point — on our next attempt, we managed to lock Comanche up during the configuration. However, the third time seemed to be the charm, and Comanche finally came up ready to do our bidding.
Two For One
Not only does Comanche allow you to work with Apache, it also handles Samba. The ability to administer both from one tool should come as a pleasant surprise to most sys admins.
While setting up Comanche is a little difficult, it is worth the effort. Once installed it is easy to add and remove Apache modules, set up virtual hosts, and configure security options — all from a fairly friendly graphic interface. While Comanche did crash once during setup, it seemed to be very stable the rest of the time. After putting Comanche through its paces (playing with various configurations, adding and removing modules, etc.) we never experienced any further problems.
Another advantage to Comanche over other front-ends, is that it can handle direct changes to the httpd. conf and other configuration files gracefully. Configuration changes not currently handled by Comanche can still be made by hand without confusing Comanche.
Comanche appears to be a work in progress. Some of the features come up with “to be continued” when they are clicked on, and the program is still a bit confusing for users who are unfamiliar with Web server jargon. Even still, most sys admins will probably find it to be a very welcome addition to their arsenal of tools.
Overall, Comanche needs a bit of improvement, but it’s an excellent program for anyone who is looking to simplify basic Web server administration tasks. And hey, if its shortcomings really bug you, don’t forget that the project is open to anyone who wants to roll up their sleeves and lend a hand.