Virtualmin in 2021

Howdy all,

I want to wish you all a happy new year, reflect on the past year, and fill you in on where we’re going in 2021.

As with many of you, 2020 has been a tough year for us as a company and as individuals. We’ve been luckier than many; none of us experienced serious illness, tech was not as adversely impacted by Covid-19 as many other sectors of the economy, and we’ve all had the privilege of being able to work mostly remotely during this time. But, we still took a financial hit and we’ve never been exactly rolling in dough from our work on Virtualmin, so we’re ending the year in a pretty tight spot (I’ll talk about what that means in a moment).

But, there were some good aspects to a slowed economy and being stuck at home, as well. Jamie and Ilia, in particular, have done a lot of great development during this time. They’ve fixed tons of bugs, improved the Install Scripts experience (and removed several apps that we simply couldn’t provide a good experience for), Ilia made huge GUI and internationalization and translation improvements, the new forums have proven very popular and the better tools it provides are working great at keeping spam and abuse at bay, and I’ve even found a little time to work on migrating us off of Drupal for issue tracking and billing/licensing (not done yet, but in progress)! We’re grateful to the community members who’ve stepped up here in the forums to help report spam and abusive posts, and who have helped out answering questions and getting new users on the right track.

We’ve also added support for CentOS 8 and Ubuntu 20.04 in 2020 (once again, Jamie and Ilia get a lot of the credit here, but I always play a big role in new OS support development, too), and worked out tons of issues with supporting new versions of MariaDB and MySQL and the new networking configuration system on Ubuntu. Our projects had thousands of new commits from more than two dozen contributors, including a few new ones. Ilia blew the curve for everyone with his auto-translation project, making 5124 commits this year to Webmin alone! Anybody who hasn’t thanked Ilia lately for his work on Webmin and Virtualmin should do so, he’s been a major driving force for progress, and not just in the GUI (but especially in the GUI).

Behind the scenes, I migrated a bunch of services that were running on a creaky old server in colo to cloud-based services and upgraded them to newer distros and versions of the various services they depend on. In particular, Webmin documentation wiki has been migrated and all software upgraded after a server outage, and all of our software mirrors have been moved into cloud services running on new systems, and the forum is running on cloud-based services, as well. The only major things remaining on our colocated servers (which are 10 and 7 years old) are our Drupal instance for Virtualmin.com and one of our name servers. Moving Virtualmin.com will be a big ordeal, so I’m just going to finish migrating off of Drupal and then shut down that server once it’s done. Reliability of our website and related services, and the cost of providing them, should be improved by all of these changes.

So what’s coming next? Well, I’ve got some good news, and I’ve got some (maybe?) bad news:

Virtualmin 7 will finally see the light of day in 2021. Most of the new features we were aiming for in Virtualmin 7 are already out there in current 6.x Virtualmin releases (we don’t do big releases, we push new stuff all the time in small pieces), but a new streamlined and simplified and also more configurable installer will be coming out to complete the picture. A default install will be leaner and harder to mess up, while providing all of the commonly-used and recommended features. We’ll be dropping support for older distro versions (CentOS 6, Ubuntu 16.04, and Debian 9, at least) for new installs (existing installs on older distros will continue to be supported until the distro reaches EOL, as always), and simplifying the PHP environment and making it harder to break by focusing on PHP-FPM. Removing support for older distros frees us up to focus on implementing best practices rather than papering over weaknesses in older systems. We’ll probably also focus on getting newer PHP versions into every installation from the get-go, because a perusal of the forums indicates it is super common for folks to break their system while trying to upgrade PHP (we can’t stop people from installing five versions of PHP from multiple third-party repos for no good reason, so there will still be breakages, but maybe we’ll stop a few from embarking on that sort of crazy project if they have the latest PHP by default).

The time off of work from my other job while I was furloughed due to Covid-19 has freed me up for other projects including working on new billing and issue tracking systems for Virtualmin. Those aren’t ready yet, but will go live early in 2021, resolving a lot of the major complaints folks have with buying the software, managing upgrades, renewals, and cancellations, and with getting support for the Pro version. So, that’s undoubtedly good news for any Pro user, and for us, since we suffer more than anyone due to the poor experience from the current Drupal-based system.

There is some uncertainty looming in 2021 for a lot of Virtualmin users, and for us, in the form of the dramatic change in CentOS development. They’ll be ending the traditional release-based version of CentOS and switching to a stream-based model, where stability is a little more uncertain and server lifecycle will require a bit more active management on the part of users. We don’t know what this will look like for Virtualmin, but you’ll find plenty of discussion about it here in the forums. I think we can say with some level of confidence we’ll end up supporting at least one RHEL rebuild distribution, probably Rocky Linux (but there are other possibilities). And, I think we’re also likely to try supporting CentOS Stream (probably with a beta label and some warnings, because I don’t know how well it’ll work out, and we want the option of backing out, if it’s just too flaky).

And, here’s the maybe bad news:

Some of our Pro prices are going to go up when the new billing system goes live. We’ve maintained the same prices for many years, even while all of our major competitors implemented multiple price hikes in that time (including a very large one from our biggest competitor who shall not be named). Frankly, we can’t keep asking Ilia and Eric to work for peanuts. And, Jamie and I have mostly been volunteering on the project for the past few years. It’s unsustainable. We ended 2020 with approximately $250 in the company bank account (and $900 in outstanding debt to our colo provider). I said we’d be raising prices more than a year ago, and then never actually flipped the switch to do so, so we’re long overdue on this change. We’ve always tried to keep the product very affordable, but we’ve got to price it realistically to support the needs of developing and maintaining and supporting such a complex product, and we haven’t been doing that.

We’re also going to begin asking GPL users to contribute, in a pay-what-you-want subscription model, when you download the software. Free software isn’t free to build (not even close), and we’ve been carrying too much of the weight ourselves for too long. We really need some help. We’re hoping that by simply asking for GPL users to voluntarily sign up as donors when they download the installer we’ll see enough additional revenue to not need to implement anything more drastic (I honestly don’t know what “more drastic” means here, so hopefully we won’t have to find out…). I know many GPL users want to help out and we haven’t really provided a good path for that desire (we’ve tended to just suggest buying a Pro license), so it’s a priority going forward to make it easy for GPL users to support development and also make it obvious how they can do that. That will also go live with the new billing system, since we don’t currently have a way to accept arbitrary payment amounts.

Of course, the flip side of asking for more money is we will hopefully have more resources to devote to making Virtualmin better, and the ability to outsource some kinds of projects that we don’t have the skills for in-house. I think that’d make everyone happy.

I think that’s it! I hope you all have a great 2021 and I hope you’re able to do all the things you missed out on in 2020! And, let us know about your plans for using Virtualmin in 2021 and what you wish you could do more easily!

Cheers,
Joe

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Happy New Year, and thanks for all the work you do. The price hike is perfectly understandable. No one (well, at least not most people) expect you to work for free.

As for my contribution, I just ate a whole pot of lentil soup. I figured the benefits accrued beyond those obtained from the usual single bowl could be assigned to others who lacked access to lentils this year.

Accordingly, I’m expecting a great 2021: and in the more immediate future, quite a case of gas.

Richard

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I probably won’t ever need or justify a Pro license but I’ve thought about buying one anyway. Supporting the GPL release with dollars is the perfect compromise and not bad news at all.

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Sounds like not all lentils aren’t resolving. Try this as root…

./flabber-gassed.sh --release | flush-x /renew

Regular flush will work but the extended flush-x executes both flush-1 as a courtesy and flush-2 for resolvability.

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:rofl:

Richard

Happy New Year & Thanks To Webmin/Virtualmin Devs!

I have been using Virtualmin since I rolled up my first VPS over 10 years ago. For most of that time my servers have been little more than hosts for personal services and sites, but in the last four years they have taken on more and more importance for my business, now hosting several mission-critical websites and services for my clients. I quite frankly couldn’t do my job without the ongoing efforts of Jamie, Ilian, Joe, et al–so I want to thank you all very much and wish everyone a very happy new year!

I have maintained a Pro license on one of my two primary servers for a long time, and I will gladly continue to do so after the price increase. Since my income is increasingly coming from hosted services that I provide, I will also add a Pro license to the second. Hopefully this sort of small gesture will be a common theme as you roll out your new pricing and donations. In the last year I have received excellent support from Jamie both here in the forums and in the Github issues section, that’s well worth the price alone.

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I wish you guys a happy new year too.

I am in the same spot as @ramin . Personally I think that idea is a good one. If you let people the choice to voluntary do something (with an explanation why), then more are willing to do something in comparison to “force to pay”. At least that is my experience. At least I am fine with that. :slight_smile:

I think I already did that often in different places, but I like to do it once again:
Thank you @Ilia, @Joe, @JamieCameron and all the others for the great work, the effort you guys put into this and the fantastic software we are able to use due to that.

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Joe,
Good move, I think.
A man is worthy of his hire.
Your Team needs paid for the work they do.
A little volunteer work is good for the society, community and our own soul but we need bills paid, a running car, etc…
Honestly…Get a few document guides on common installs completed and offered to *min products, narrow the supported OS’s *MIN products are supported on, for free product users… Getting to a place where users can get a few common basic setup scenarios completed without any need for support is a milestone.
I would pretty much deny GPL users any more support than that.
I mean, if you can test and verify that your documents work for a specific limited distros, and basic scenarios, I would think getting a free products, and valid guides to most common setup is more than fair offer to free users.

I’m a noob, novice user and I did have issues but only in 1 area which was the SSL/Let’s Encrypt process. It that goes bad, it causes all kinds of mayhem.

About GPL users helping out.
Those that are very familiar with your installs and basic setups could do screenshot guide setups. The detailed guides would really help visually, and they are a “Create Once - Re-Use Often” and would really ease your teams support burden.

I really love your Webmin/Virtualmin…it is an amazing and powerful tool! Coding way above my understanding. :crazy_face: :yum:

I only glanced over your other comments, but I’m pretty sure you had DNS issues, not Let’s Encrypt or SSL issues. (Without DNS being setup correctly, Let’s Encrypt cannot possibly work.)

DNS is often hard to provide an easy path for, because unless Virtualmin is managing your DNS locally, it is out of our control and not something we have any expertise with…there are hundreds of DNS providers you could be using. I have occasionally written up docs for some of the popular ones, but they go out of date, sometimes really fast as those providers change their GUIs. I spent hours to make one for NameCheap that was already broken within days of publishing it because they completely changed their GUI.

And, also, DNS (when hosted outside of Virtualmin) is not Virtualmin specific. DNS is DNS, no matter where you host it. It’s generally your provider’s job to tell you how to use their GUI to manage their service. If you let Virtualmin manage DNS, you just need to figure out how to create glue records to delegate DNS for your zone(s) to your server. But, if Virtualmin is not managing it…well, best of luck, and talk to your DNS provider if they don’t have good docs. :wink:

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Happy New Year to you Joe and all of the VM staff, volunteers and users.

I had no idea that you were facing difficulties, in fact I recently saw a site say your revenue was in the millions! :scream::man_facepalming:

Have you thought about introducing a priority based support-subscription system? Now that you are using Discourse you could create a special category where those who have an annual support sub can post in, and you and your staff can prioritise answering threads there first, before you look at the general forums. (I would still make them visible to all (for seo purposes) but only postable by those with an active sub).

Perhaps you could offer two tiers, one at $50 a year and another at $99 a year? Perhaps adjust perks accordingly?

I think this could prove popular as there are a lot of people who don’t like monthly subscription based services for things they depend on just in case circumstances one day dictate they can no longer afford them. Something like this could complement your existing offerings, as it would be primarily for those who perhaps would appreciate a more speedy response to their questions (although that has never been an issue in my experience anyway and I am sure many would take out a sub just to help support you) and those who want the additional features of your monthly model can continue with that. You could also add a title and badge for those who are supporters to help draw focus to it and hopefully help nudge others in to doing the same too.

This is a model that works well for some other platforms Joe, so I hope you will consider it :blush:

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PS, I would have missed this thread if you hadn’t linked to my thread and it show up in my notifications - you can actually pin this thread by going to the spanner in the top right and selecting ‘Pin globally’ (perhaps for a month?).

I would also considering changing the default homepage to show by latest threads too (rather than categories) as this may encourage more general interaction.

Also I am not sure if this is just affecting me, but when I go to the main site and click on forums I get Access denied. You may need to login below or register to access this page..

Happy New Year!

Thanks for all your work @Ilia, @Joe, @JamieCameron!!

GPL Donors: Great idea!

Also, please, could you consider adding different subscriptions plans for small entrepeneurs?

I do not know the perfect formula :slight_smile:

Thanks!

lol. That’s so absurd as to not even be worth talking about how wrong they are. I guess they’re extrapolating based on our large user base (which is much larger than some of our competitors who make a lot more money, but they don’t give away nearly everything they do for free, and we, being the brilliant business minds that we are, do, so that explains that, I guess).

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That is the intention for all of our subscriptions, small entrepreneurs make up nearly all of our customer base and everything we ever do is targeted to those folks (which is probably a mistake, we should have been targeting big hosts and ignoring the small web designer/hoster market). What would you want to be different about such a subscription?

I used Virtualmin simply because it was free and wanted to try it out. It’s worked brilliantly. I use it to host a website for a few friends and that’s it.

That said, I’ve seen a lot of sites that have a PayPal “buy us a beer” or “cup of coffee” where people can donate to the cause. That’s an easy way to get folks like me to hurl 10 bucks or so your way from time to time.

There’s a Vmax forum I frequent that has a “supporting member” option. You can pay 20 dollars for a year and you get a “Supporting Member” tag on your profile (like your Virtualmin Staff tag) and it allows them access to a special section of the forum.

You could try some small things like that and I’m sure some folks would buy in. It’s not going to be a windfall lotto of course, but it can get you at least a small trickle of money coming in.

Just some ideas.

Happy New Year, and thanks for all the great work you guys do.

p.s. I was sweating bullets about my upgrade to Ubuntu 20.04. It went like clock work.

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happy new year folks

those are great news nothing bad at all! I have been saying this all the times - and I am virtualmin user my self from times in early days.

suddenly code and knowledge takes time even decades etc… that is not for free for one. this forums had tendency to turn out like to be stack over flow - which was quiet bad. whenever I did try to help out to anyone with advanced steps and asked for donation - got nothing back except lost time and happy end user for my time and knowledge and sometimes smallish ;thankyou; - its sad I know and that is why I am supporting idea for what joe announced.

Long life to virtualmin! love you guys!

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I am not sure Joe… (sorry for my English in the next paragraphs :grimacing:)

I know that your offer in Virtualmin is very generous. Cheap prices if you compare with other control panels…

Some ideas:

  • Yearly Premium Support Incidents (with a maximum or other policies to avoid problems)

  • In the front page of Virtualmin (https://www.virtualmin.com): It would be interesting to see clearly that we have the option to buy Virtualmin. Actually, the offer is very good, but it is very complicated to find it…

  • A Virtualmin Pro plan to combine several servers with less domains in the plan?

…Not sure… I don’t know all the problems of managing Virtualmin, webmin…

Hope this help to you :slight_smile:

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It’s amazing how many people will cough up a few bucks for a badge. Hey, if it works, go for it.

Just simple “please donate” links often work, though. Before I sold my consulting business in the Metro NYC area, I was running ConfigServer firewall on a lot more servers than I am now, mainly at client locations. I also had more money coming in.

ConfigServer had a link to donate by PayPal subscription, and being the sport that I am, I started donating a few bucks a month.

A couple of years later, I got an email from PayPal that ConfigServer had canceled the subscription, followed shortly thereafter by an email from ConfigServer thanking me, and telling me that I’d donated enough.

That was a first: a company turning down money.

Considering the massive installed base of Webmin and Virtualmin GPL, if only a small percentage of the users gave USD $1.00 / month (or the equivalent in their local gelt), I imagine it would be a nice piece of change.

In any case, @Joe don’t be afraid to ask. It’s a good product. People should support it. Too many open-source projects disappear for lack of funding. People who use free software need to also support it to the extent that they are able.

Richard

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I pay people to help run my virtualmin/webmin servers so why would I not pay you guys who build it? There are two things to think about:

  1. if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
  2. an easy visible link is gold. Put it after a download and in support areas. I’ll do a monthly subscription just like my Linode server that hosts your software. It is how I make money.

Good luck

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