LJ Archive

LDAP Account Manager

John H. Terpstra

Issue #125, September 2004

If you want to give your company's Microsoft admins the ability to do routine user management on the Samba server, try this well designed Web-based tool.

The LDAP Account Manager (LAM) is an application suite for managing POSIX accounts as well as Samba SAM accounts for users, groups and Microsoft Windows machines. LAM can be used with any Web server that has PHP4 support. It connects to the LDAP server using either unencrypted connections or SSL.

LAM is written in PHP and is available from the LAM home page, sourceforge.net/projects/lam, under the GNU GPL. The default password is lam. You should use only an SSL connection to your Web server for all remote operations involving LAM. If you want secure connections, you must configure your Apache Web server to permit connections to LAM using only SSL.

LAM requirements are as follows:

  • A Web server that works with PHP4.

  • PHP4 (available from the PHP home page, www.php.net).

  • OpenLDAP 2.0 or later.

  • A Web browser that supports CSS.

  • Perl.

  • The gettext package.

  • mcrypt+mhash.

  • SSL support—not necessary, but good to have.

Installation instructions are provided in the distribution tarball and are easy to follow. When you have installed LAM, start your Web server, and then, using your Web browser, connect to the LAM URL. Click the Configuration Login link and then the Configuration Wizard link to begin executing the default profile. Your LDAP server needs to be running at the time LAM is configured. This permits you to validate correct operations.

Figure 1. Part of the LAM Configuration Page

Alternately, copy the lam.conf_sample file in the config directory to lam.conf. Then, using your favorite editor, change the settings to match local site needs. The comments and help information provided in the profile file the wizard creates are useful and can help many administrators avoid pitfalls.

The LAM configuration editor has a number of options that must be managed correctly (Figure 1), such as setting the minimum and maximum UID/GID values permitted for use on your site. The default values may not be compatible with a need to modify initial default account values for well-known Windows network users and groups. The best work-around is to set the minimum values to zero (0) temporarily to permit the initial settings to be made. Do not forget to reset these to sensible values before using LAM to add additional users and groups.

LAM is not without its oddities. For example, one unexpected feature present on most application screens permits the generation of a PDF file that summarizes configuration information. This is a well-thought-out facility.

When you log in to LAM, the opening screen drops you into the user manager (Figure 2), a logical action that permits the most common facility to be used immediately. The process of editing an existing user, as well as adding a new user, is easy to follow and clearly expressed in both layout and intent. It is a simple matter to edit generic settings, UNIX standard parameters and then Samba account requirements. Each step involves clicking a button that drives you through the process. When you have finished editing, simply click the Final button.

Figure 2. LAM opens at the most commonly used task, the user manager.

Figure 3. LAM makes it easy to manage Windows domain members.

As with the edit screen for user accounts, group accounts can be dealt with rapidly. Host accounts are managed automatically using the smbldap-tools scripts. This means the Hosts edit screen (Figure 3) is not used in most cases.

One aspect of LAM that might annoy users is the way it forces conventions on the administrator. For example, LAM does not permit the creation of Windows user and group accounts that contain uppercase characters or spaces, even though the underlying operating system may have no problems with them. Given the propensity for using uppercase characters and spaces (particularly in the default Windows account names), this lack may cause some annoyance. For the rest, LAM is a useful administrative tool.

John H. Terpstra is CTO of PrimaStasys, Inc., a company that mentors organizations in alternative information technology choice evaluation and facilitates profitable change in practices. He is a long-term member of the Samba-Team, a member of the Open Source Software Institute Advisory Board and author of The Official Samba-3 HOWTO and Reference Guide and Samba-3 by Example.

LJ Archive