This is a read-only archive. Find the latest Linux articles, documentation, and answers at the new Linux.com!

Linux.com

Feature: Tools & Utilities

Three graphical mount managers

By Bruce Byfield on December 02, 2008 (4:00:00 PM)

Share    Print    Comments   

Mounting and unmounting filesystems used to be straightforward in GNU/Linux. A basic knowledge of the mount command or some editing of /etc/fstab in a text editor and you were done. However, with the addition of udev in the 2.6 kernel for autoplugging, and the demand for hotswapping USB devices, along with the increased use of logical volume managers and other complications, the process is now more complicated -- perhaps too complicated for many among the growing number of desktop users. That is where graphical mount managers such as Forelex Mount Manager, PySDM, and MountManager find their niche.

Forlex Mount Manager

Forlex Mount Manager was developed for the ForLEx live CD, a forensic disk originally written in Italian and based on Knoppix. Although the mount manager is most useful alongside the live CD's other tools, its source code is also available separately.

By itself, Forlex Mount Manager is a relatively simple utility. It opens on a list of filesystems that are currently on the system. Click on a device, and a window opens that gives you the option to mount it as readable and writable, or as read-only, or to remount a drive that has been unmounted.

In other words, Forlex Mount Manager is the graphical equivalent of the mount command, useful chiefly when you want to mount or unmount a filesystem to do maintenance on it -- which explains its inclusion on a forensic CD.

PySDM

PySDM is a more sophisticated program than Forlex Mount Manager. Written in PyGTK, it serves as not only a graphical editor for /etc/fstab, but also for setting up of udev rules for on-the-fly configuration of devices.

PySDM begins with a listing of basic information. On the left is a tree of all devices on the system. The rest of the window is occupied by a tab that summarizes basic information about the device: Its name, mount point, filesystem format, and the options used to mount it. Except for the format, which would require a partition editor like gparted to change, all this information is editable.

If you want to change the options used to mount the device, you click the Assistant button to open a sub-dialog. This dialog divides the options into five tabs. From the Mounting tab, you can set such basic options as who can mount the device, whether it is mounted at boot time, and whether it is mounted read-only. Under Special Files, you can change permissions, while under Journaling, you can turn off the journaling if you are using a filesystem that supports it, which will give you a slight increase in speed at the cost of making any recovering less certain. Under Performance, you can tweak the speed of disk access by whether you toggle such options as updating a file or a directory's time stamp each time that you open it, while Miscellaneous provides a home for other options, such as whether the filesystem requires a network to use. As far as I can see, most of the available options for mounting a command at boot time are listed.

The second tab in the main window is an editor for setting udev rules. To create a rule, you highlight a filesystem in the tree, then click the New button to open a sub-dialog. From this dialog, you can specify conditions such as the device name or bus type, as well as specifying the user, owner, the file name under which to mount it, and user rights.

PySDM is a very thorough tool, but its one major defect is the absence of any detailed help. True, the options are carefully written, so you can probably identify them if you have even moderate expertise, and the mount options appear in a field so you are less likely to make a mistake (and, incidentally, so you can learn what changes you are making to the file, rather than just editing from the desktop with no sense of what you are doing). Still, in the wrong hands, PySDM could lead to rash, even system-crippling choices.

MountManager

Designed for Qt 4.x, MountManager is the newest of these three utilities. It is also by far the most user-friendly. It shows a tip of the day upon opening, and provides help and summary panes on the right side of the window that can be dragged to float independently, making them easy to read. As a result, while the main window is otherwise laid out in a way very similar to PySDM, it is much easier to use without courting disaster.

Some basic information, such as the filesystem format, is given in the tree pane on the left of the MountManager window. Other information, such as the mount point, is given in the middle of the window. However, unlike PySDM, MountManager not only allows you to edit the options in /etc/fstab, but also two of the file's lesser-known columns: Whether dump is used to back up the filesystem, and whether it is included when you use the fschk command to check and recover the system.

Under the Tool menu, you can run the USB wizard to configure the udev rules. This wizard explains options concisely and clearly, and makes configuring the rules much easier than PySDM does.

Another option in MountManager is the ability to enable or disable plugins. Available plugins include the tip of the day, which gives you a random page from the help, as well as the floating windows that dock on the right of the main window. In addition, they include plugins for mounting ISO images and NFS or Samba shares.

Although still in rapid development, MountManger is so clearly laid out and so careful to explain most of what you are doing at any particular moment that it can quickly give even relatively new users a sense of what they are doing. It still has some rough spots -- for example, it might explain within the window why a setting for the fschk command is included -- but, in general, MountManager seems on track to be an ideal graphical utility, neither explaining too little nor failing to show what changes will look like in the configuration file it manipulates.

Conclusion

I would recommend these utilities in the order in which I presented them, from least to most desirable. There's nothing wrong with the Forlex Mount Manager, but, compared to the other two, it is limited in functionality. And, while PySDM and MountManager are roughly comparable in features, MountManager's ease of use gives it an advantage with most users, although advanced users might find its constant explanations irritating.

However, I have to admit that I sometimes wonder about just whom such administration tools are aimed at. I sometimes suspect that anyone who can use them well is probably competent to edit the configuration files directly. Anyone who cannot should probably not be trying to edit the configuration by any means, graphical or not.

Still, just because you keep graphical tools away from newcomers does not mean that they are not going to learn, and these mount managers can be useful for teaching adventuresome users about their systems, and as a memory aid for more advanced users. And, used with some caution, all three of these utilities can be worth having.

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for Linux.com.

Share    Print    Comments   

Comments

on Three graphical mount managers

Note: Comments are owned by the poster. We are not responsible for their content.

Three graphical mount managers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 81.132.124.7] on December 02, 2008 05:24 PM
I think they're useful for people like me who need to do the stuff they enable on an infrequent basis (once or twice a year), and so have to re-learn the config files and commands each time as we've forgotten how they work, where they are, etc.

#

Connecting everyday is not really ideal

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 67.88.249.34] on December 02, 2008 05:46 PM
One problem I have had with mounting items like network smb drives is the requirement of having to enter your password after every restart. This really becomes obvious in a typical office environment with a centralized file server. To fix that problem I moved to pam.mount which is not bad but in no way intuitive and trouble shooting can take a bit of patience. The one problem I have with Ubuntu 8.10 is how the network does not start before you get to gdm. This means trying to connect to a network mount point during logon (pam.mount) will fail unless you allow more time at the logon screen, anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute.

Also, Ubuntu's (gnomes) Virtual File system mounting is a great idea, many programs can't access these virtual mount points correctly so doing it the old fashion way seems to be the best option and even with the VFS you still need to re-enter a password. If you want to use fstab and not something like pam.mount you have to store your passwords (cleartext) in a file and point fstab to that file. That does not seem like a good option especially for a small business environment. This would be a great article of how other people are tackling this problem.

#

Re: Connecting everyday is not really ideal

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 64.128.214.5] on December 02, 2008 08:47 PM
>> Connecting everyday is not really ideal
Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 67.88.249.34] on December 02, 2008 05:46 PM
One problem I have had with mounting items like network smb drives is the requirement of having to enter your password after every restart. This really becomes obvious in a typical office environment with a centralized file server. To fix that problem I moved to pam.mount which is not bad but in no way intuitive and trouble shooting can take a bit of patience. The one problem I have with Ubuntu 8.10 is how the network does not start before you get to gdm. This means trying to connect to a network mount point during logon (pam.mount) will fail unless you allow more time at the logon screen, anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute.

Also, Ubuntu's (gnomes) Virtual File system mounting is a great idea, many programs can't access these virtual mount points correctly so doing it the old fashion way seems to be the best option and even with the VFS you still need to re-enter a password. If you want to use fstab and not something like pam.mount you have to store your passwords (cleartext) in a file and point fstab to that file. That does not seem like a good option especially for a small business environment. This would be a great article of how other people are tackling this problem.
<<

You don't need to enter the password manually, nor keep it as unsecured clear text. See my fstab entry below for an example.

//wfax.DOMAINNAME.com/ToConvert /oraapp/outfax cifs domain=DOMAINNAME,user=USERNAME,credentials=/root/smb-creds

The file /root/smb-creds holds the password. If you can't trust root, who can you trust :)

#

Another comment

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 116.72.65.127] on December 02, 2008 05:55 PM
Note that PYSDM is very easy too, and since MountManager is an KDE app expect truckload of options, so if you are a newbie go with Pysdm, it is very easy.

#

Three graphical mount managers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.67.214.220] on December 02, 2008 08:00 PM
You may also take a look at "Disk Manager", which is under the default Ubuntu 8.10 package libraries and which can be found at http://flomertens.free.fr/disk-manager. It is much simplier than PsSDM and has a gnome Interface.

#

Three graphical mount managers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 80.142.221.1] on December 02, 2008 09:52 PM
For those using xfce4 the xfce panel mount plugin might be worth a look. Although the website suggests pmount it works nicely with the usual mount command. You can easily set some options, for example which file systems to exclude or which mount command to use (you can of course use something like "sudo mount" instead of just "mount").

http://goodies.xfce.org/projects/panel-plugins/xfce4-mount-plugin

#

Three graphical mount managers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 65.38.40.33] on December 02, 2008 10:12 PM
Sounds like time for an article or two about udev, and other mount-related fundamentals...

#

Three graphical mount managers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 70.242.125.173] on December 04, 2008 12:01 AM
I personally like AcetoneISO-2 it seems to be the absolute best and adds more features to the list as well.

#

This story has been archived. Comments can no longer be posted.



 
Tableless layout Validate XHTML 1.0 Strict Validate CSS Powered by Xaraya