Re-evaluate Cockpit

I believe NS needs an even fresher GUI. Cockpit is indeed nicer than NethGUI, but also seems way less “fresh” than Zentyal’s interface. One important thing this is done wrong in Cockpit, is that the tree is “unbalanced”. (which is GUI Design 101) The first branches have many subbrances, while the rest don’t have… any. So why not be in some some-branch too?
I think it really needs to be re-evaluated before made the default.
Even worse, are some features that are completely out of place (I don’t have it in front of my right now, but I think smarthost is an example?).

I hope Cockpit is “extendable”, as many modules need to find a way to be configured within it (SOGo already mentioned in a support thread).
Even in the list of active modules (calling them “applications” -yikes- for the smartphone generation), the “email” label, should be clickable and send you to any active webmail. Like mattermost takes you to actual mattermost. These things need to be more intuitive.

Disclaimer part:
I actually evaluated several solutions (in VMs) and I found the strongest competitor to be Zentyal.
I hope this is not taken wrong, but here are my feelings about how NS could be improved. I.e. my list of things missing (and needed) that ARE available in Zentyal. Not a complete list, just what I believe is vital.
NOTE! My comparison between the two systems, also includes MANY positive things for NS. Thing is, positive things are not helping to improve a product. :smile: So I may list those in some other thread (or in my blog), not here. I am not bashing NS in any way. Actually I am heavily leaning towards NS for my home server (within an unRAID VM), this is why I post here what I think should be in. As it is “closer” than other “finalist” Zentyal, to what I need already.
Really hope some of these things do get implemented eventually.

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Unfortunately i don’t think that the project will evaluate something different from cockpit until the end of the development and a release.
Also, as far as i can remember, cockpit is used for the NOC, so the completation of the project will lead a more consistent look and feel between NethServer and the NOC.
Cockpit also already have a quite solid partition and mount manager tool, which could be quite a gamechanger outside the “common NethServer/Small medium business setup” (bare metal hardware, Raid Software) , so… leaving Cockpit means take care of this important feature, currently not available on NethGUI.
I think any good suggestion is appreciated, but… quite pointless for 7.x or 8.x. Cockpit is gone too far until now.

The wonderful thing of many OpenSource projects is that you can try everything you want, quite often without any limitation. The “power” of NethServer are the modules, but IMVHO it still lacks of several interesting things (better file sharing, more FTP options); as fars as i know, NethServer do not want to compete to NASes appliances, small or featured. The only “necessary” thing to pay is professional support and remote management/NOC. Zentyal limitate features, as ClearOS does.
Is NethServer better than Koozali, or Zentyal, or ClearOS ? I don’t know. But i am pleased to try…

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I don’t think there’s any real question here, though I regret saying so–I was with them well before the days of the (as yet only semi-implemented) Koozali branding, and indeed before the days of the SME Server branding. It was somewhere around e-smith 3.x that I started using it, IIRC (DistroWatch suggests that would be nearly 20 years ago), and I wrote the e-smith-horde and e-smith-imp integration RPMs. It’s sad to see it languish. Fortunately, though, since Neth forked from it and retains the same database/template system, migrations are relatively straightforward.

I think you misunderstood the topic. Cockpit can perfectly stay as an admin interface for NethServer. Only the way it is implemented now could probably more intuitive and structured.

I think it is good to have criticism on the implementation especially if it is posed in an open and positive way. @NLS is giving constructive criticism and giving alternative options.

I would love to hear ideas on how to make the cockpit interface (and the NethServer project) better.

You’re probably right :slight_smile: I am not english-mother language, so misunderstanding is always possible :slight_smile:

English is not my mother tongue either, but I believe I am pretty fluent in it.
Anyway, indeed I am not saying to scrap Cockpit. I am saying it needs to be improved:

  • Better branch balancing (again -no offence to anybody- this is basic GUI design… you learn about this in the first few lessons). This is #1.
  • Options that are related need to be together (many irrelevant things are now in “settings” IIRC etc.).
  • More “intuition” in the design (forgive my Amiga days). I.e. think “smart” what fits somewhere. I already gave an example. In the active modules (scrap the “apps” term… ffs!) “email” should be clickable and take you to webmail client, like mattermost already does right below in the list!
  • Easy way to “plug in” stuff to the interface (i.e. add branches and items).
  • Better coloring or make it customizable (implement a dark theme that is the trend nowadays).

Really it needs work. I try to be constructive, I give specific points that need work.

Having terminal right there in the control panel is great btw… thumbs up for that.
Also having all the logs available to read.

No, the “applications” term (Cockpit doesn’t use “apps” as far as I see) is completely appropriate, as that’s what they are–it’s a perfectly appropriate and descriptive term that was in widespread use long before smartphones existed.

You might have noticed that Webmail is clickable and takes you there (if you don’t see Webmail there, maybe you don’t have the webmail client installed, in which case having a link take you there would be rather tricky). Email isn’t, doesn’t, and shouldn’t–it’s simply a different thing, dealing with the server-wide email configuration. Generally speaking, it appears the applications that have a web interface link you there; the others don’t.

It is extensible, but I haven’t yet looked into how much work it would take.

Thank you for the reply.

  • “Application” for a server side piece of software is “meh” I think. Anyway, it is not something important.
  • I have SOGo. Doesn’t make “email” clickable in Applications. I don’t have the interface here to check.

SOGo doesn’t yet have a panel in Cockpit (which is one of the ways in which Cockpit isn’t yet feature-complete, and I presume is already on the list to fix). That’s a separate module from Webmail, or WebTop, or Horde. You wouldn’t in any case have “Email” clickable, as Email itself isn’t a web application; you’d instead have a clickable link for Webmail, SOGo, and/or WebTop (whichever is/are installed). It would look like this:
image
You can see that the link to WebTop is live; click there and it will pull up in its own window or tab.

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I agree with the idea that there is opportunity for improvement with the Cockpit Menu Structure.

I like the idea of having end users login (not network admins) and providing a quick launch for end-user facing application such as NextCloud, MatterMost, WebMails, etc. I would have a top category tree item of Applications. This would be a page with categories of applications. The first group would be for end-user applications. Then below that could be additional categories like Network Monitoring (NTOP), Suricata, Evebox, etc.

  1. Applications - Any web interface that is fully developed by a 3rd party and integrated with NethServer. (NextCloud, SOGO, NTOP, WebTop, etc.
  2. Services
    1. Users & Accounts
      1. Account Provider
      2. Account Policies (formerly password policies, plus any future related items)
      3. Users & Groups (This should use separate tabs for Users functions and Groups Functions)
    2. Mail
    3. Network
      1. Networks & Interfaces
      2. DNS
      3. DHCP
      4. Bandwidth Monitoring
    4. Storage
      1. Shared Drives
      2. FTP
    5. Security
      1. Certificates
      2. VPN
      3. Firewall
    6. Web
      1. Apache Virtual Hosts
      2. Reverse Proxy
  3. System Management
    1. Dashboard
    2. System Services
    3. Software Center
    4. Storage
      1. Current Storage as a tab
      2. Current Data Usage as a tab or module
    5. Backups
    6. SSH Access
    7. Logs
    8. Subscription
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I also believe if we can have a way to attach an optional email, where a temporary password link is sent to the user to be able to login and change their password. or even be able to request a password reset request.

I would call it SERVING applications. And that’s perfectly feasible for a server. A webbased mailclient is also an application.

I have several webbased “applications” running on my NethServer instance:

  • Nextcloud (with Onlyoffice)
  • Moodle
  • Diaspora*
  • SOGo

Just to name a few.

Hi,

The unbalanced entrance is not a Cockpit feature…
It’s seem that you are unsatisfied wuth the way informations are presented in the left menu.

And I agree with you

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HI, thank you for sharing your tough!
I’m not an UI expert, but I can answer some question on why some decisions have been taken.
Maybe @edoardo_spadoni or @davidep will correct me if I’m saying something wrong :slight_smile:

Even I don’t fully understand your point (maybe a screenshot could help), we are facing an upstream limitation here.
The most-left menu comes from upstream and the behavior can can’t be really changed: only minor CSS overrides are possible.

And one of the first goal was to not have a very long menu on the left.

We can still move something around: where do you expect to have the smarthost configuration?
Consider that it must be available even if the mail server is not installed.

It is, check out the full dev documentation: https://nethserver.github.io/nethserver-cockpit/

Please, provide at least some screenshot on how you thing it should be refactored. We will evaluate if the framework can give us enough freedom.

Please fill a complete list, you can even open a new topic on this.

I think that @danb35 already gave a great answer on it.

You can already do it, please see the above doc or the code.

Upstream project supports partial branding and we are already using it. Feel free to follow upstream doc to further customize the look and feel: https://github.com/cockpit-project/cockpit/blob/master/doc/branding.md

We already have such thing, without need of login. Please see http://docs.nethserver.org/en/v7/base_system2.html#add-to-home-page

About the menu organization, we could split the system menu in 2 or more items as you suggested.
But please bear in mind that you can’t mix system pages with applications one (eg. shared drives and ftp are different applications).

Davide already has some ideas for it, but it’s still a work in progress in a developer mind :smiley:

Well, you already have it, try to install cockpit-bridge: the UI will display 2 nested vertical menus. See also https://blog.patternfly.org/navigation/going-vertical-a-look-at-multi-level-vertical-navigation-for-enterprise-applications/

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Thank you for the reply.
I will give a more balanced menu proposal at a later time (read: few weeks) when I am more comfortable with the interface.
Right now, I am just still testing it.

What is smarthost needed when no mail server is installed?
(even then I believe I can find a better spot for the setting - give me time)

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We already have such thing, without need of login. Please see http://docs.nethserver.org/en/v7/base_system2.html#add-to-home-page

So… does this work? I cannot visit the FQDN in the test environment, but going to server NS IP address without a port, it does not take me to a “home page”, but rather to a generic page linking me to NethServer project web page and a link to the configuration GUI.
I don’t see a link to apps or a way to configure which apps show up.
Maybe it doesn’t work with IP?

EDIT: It works. This is the page. The applications are added in Cockpit Applications, by clicking the 3 dots.
Elementary but it works.

It’s needed to send any kind of mail notifications like cron output.

You can even customize it, see the doc here.

This the customization in our own installation:

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A post was split to a new topic: Launcher customization