Gui for editing the fstab

Registered by Pablo Quirós on 2006-06-11

A gui for easily editing the fstab file.

Blueprint information

Status:
Not started
Approver:
None
Priority:
Undefined
Drafter:
None
Direction:
Needs approval
Assignee:
None
Definition:
New
Series goal:
None
Implementation:
Unknown
Milestone target:
None

Related branches

Sprints

Whiteboard

I'm fairly active on #ubuntu, and see requests for something like a GUI fstab editor come up relatively frequently. However, I'm not sure that this is a good idea. In my experience, most people really want one of these three things:
1) They want their NTFS drives to be automounted read/write (i.e. with the ntfs-3g driver)
2) They want their Samba mounts automatically mounted (somewhat less common)
3) They've changed the partition layout of the hard drive (e.g. moved /home to a separate partition), and want to fix /etc/fstab to reflect this change (also not too common)
I think that the most optimal solution for problem (1) is too have an option in gnome-volume-properties to use ntfs-3g when automounting NTFS drives, if that driver is present. This would solve most user's problems without editing fstab at all. Solving problems (2) and (3) is a little bit more difficult, and I'm not sure that having an fstab GUI would help tremendously here. Another issue is that the /etc/fstab file is enormously complex -- just look at the man page for mount, and you'll see that the valid mount options (and even their meanings) are different for each filesystem. I'm at a loss to how this information would be presented to users through a simple and easy to GUI and still have the tool be useful.

On the basis of these observations, I am not sure that the value that an fstab GUI would add would be worthwhile. Specifically what use cases would this be trying to solve? Are there any mockups for the interface? I like the idea of making it easier for users to solve these problems, but I think that they are probably best solved by improving the Gnome automount facilities rather than actually providing a mechanism for editing the /etc/fstab file.
-- Evan Klitzke (eklitzke2 on LP)

I have reformated a partition from ntfs to ext3, and it was a major pain just to make it writeable for users.
Such a tool should capture UUID from the devices, set the type of the partition, set mount point, set who can un/mount it, if it is writeable or read only, and maybe to set the option for filesystem checks at boot time. Future versions could test the partition and detect its type. In the end this tool should do exactly what the livecd installer does to make the fstab initially.
This should be the result:
[CODE]
/dev/sda4 /media/multimedia ext3 defaults,user,rw 0 0
UUID=a6f051b4-ef2d-410b-a94f-37e15d718d8a /home ext3 defaults 0 2
[/CODE]

Further enhancements in fstab should be done manually, not everything must be gui. In the end this should just get the user some basic functionality.
-- ion vasili

I think such a GUI would be quite useful for some users. I know I am one of them (actually, my most common use-case is the 3rd). The GUI could support both simple and advanced modes. Common tasks, such as getting a list of partitions and defining mount points could be done on the same page. For file system-specific parameters there could be a screen for each FS type, and for exotic file-systems the parameters may be edited manually.

IMHO, one big reason for such a GUI is that it could be implemented not to allow any syntax errors in the file and to perform many other semantic checks.

-- Yegor Jbanov

I think that the intent of this idea is to bring Ubuntu into parity with Mac OS and Windows with respect to adding and removing storage. They do it right. Nobody should *ever* have to touch a text configuration file (as root, no less) just to plug in a new storage device, network or otherwise, and get access permissions right.

I think the process of storage devices being connected and disconnected happens a lot more often for a lot more people than some of us would like to think, especially use case #2, which I think is far from being "less common." In fact, virtually everyone in my office who runs Windows does exactly that, every day, and would probably like to continue to do that even after I talk them into switching to Ubuntu -- which I can't, because of things like /etc/fstab.

- Geoff Pursell

You are probably referring to mounting Windows shares on a per user basis as opposed to system-wide. This is actually pretty easy to achieve in Ubuntu. Just go to the Places menu and select Connect To Server... There you will see a drop-down with different types of connections including Windows shared folders.

fstab, on the other hand, allows you to mount devices permanently system-wide and do a little more than just file sharing and external storage.

I am still not sure if we need a separate GUI or an extension to GNOME Partition Manager.

-- Yegor Jbanov

"Connect to server" is indeed a pretty good interface for doing that, and it's a pleasure to use, but unfortunately, it carries with it all the problems of gnome-vfs. Almost every time I do it, I end up needing a non-gnome app to work on the contents of my share, and then I'm back to hacking on my fstab. If gvfs/FUSE solves that problem (eventually), then great, but locking SMB shares to Gnome apps only is not really an acceptable solution, while it is a good start.

- Geoff Pursell

I like the idea of a tool that checks fstab corectness. This can be a command line tool - at first.
But I also belive one must be able to read in plain English about the effects of fstab settings that he made.

Grandpa barely sits at the computer. How do you convince him to read the fstab manual? Let alone change fstab and test it to see if it works...
(Supposing he knows how to add a hdd or you also teach him that part!)
--ionvasili070529

"I'm fairly active on #ubuntu, and see requests for something like a GUI fstab editor come up relatively frequently. "

People asking for GUI fstab already know what they need, they are fairly linux literates. What's your take on people who do not know what they need?
Those who know nothing about linux, partitions and command line interface. Even worse: how to explain fstab settings to people who do not know what FAT32 and NTFS are?
--ionvasili070529

There's already a GUI for editing fstab here: http://pysdm.sourceforge.net and it's been in the universe repos since Dapper: http://packages.ubuntu.com/cgi-bin/search_packages.pl?searchon=names&version=all&exact=1&keywords=pysdm --seandiggity

Let me mention this--- Disk Manager. Available here:
http://flomertens.free.fr/disk-manager/features.html -----yochaigal

--pedrobl
There's a very nice GUI called fwfstab, it's open source, by Diffingo that I use in fedora. I'd be great if it could be included with the rest of the admin tools:
http://www.diffingo.com/content/view/32/47/lang,en/

KDE has one too:
http://kfstab.sourceforge.net/

The part that we are all missing is Ubuntu for business users. I would suggest that a GUI for easy creation/modification of fstab, raid creation, resizing/partitioning/changing file system would help adoption. I know that gParted is available, but I would recommend it "blended" into or with all of the above operations. What I look at is a usability example "similar" to OSX's Disk Utility.

I was stupid enough to start codeing without doing my homework properly, and now I see that plenty of fstab editors exists already. I have made a small application to edit fstabs as well, nothing fancy but (still) has a lots of quirks. I would like to make it more user friendly, but for now it is just the very basics implemented. Link: http://zpon.dk/blog/?page_id=129
-- Søren Juul

I'm thinking that while making a comprehensive fstab editor is a little bit of a complicated task, there are many examples of far more complicated tools that we've come to depend on.. Linux itself for example.. Gparted is another example. I think for now, a decent fstab editor would provide a GUI and a manual editing option. I'm thinking in terms of helping Windows admins make the switch. The more we can do to help them find the right stuff the better. Even if we only had a basic GUI for editing all the main plain-text config files that merely provided a text editor to them, I think this could smooth the learning curve out a bit. Also, I'd love sshfs support in a fstab editor. I think the first logical step is to either pick an existing fstab editor or define the crucial features of such an editor and build it. I'm keen to build it, it's about time I learn PyGTK.. Thoughts?
-- Dawning

There is also the opportunity to give more options to the Media part. Let me explain : When you have multiple partitions in your hard drive, they are usually listed (on the left) in nautilus/dolphin. When you click on them, the file manager will try to mount them in /media. So far, so good. But usually, you want that one of the partition (for example if you have your data on it) be automagically mounted on startup. And that you don't have to give a password everytime at startup. Then you have to add an entry in fstab. I guess, this is the most used case. But, what if, directly integrated into the file manager, we would have an option "Automount this volume" that would automagically add the entry to fstab, with the default options ? I guess that would help the greater part of the user needing a GUI for fstab. And I'm not sure it is that much work.
-- Joel

IMHO functionality as provided by the "Map Network Drive" menu item found in Windows Explorer is sorely missing from *buntus. This should be accessible via System Settings and/or Nautilus and Dolphin menus. For handling disk partitions there are already various variations of disk- or partition-managers available...
-- Bernd

(?)

Work Items