A Linux Island in a C:\ of Windows, Part 2

by Eric Clapsaddle

If you followed along last time, you now have a complete working Linux virtual machine running on the same physical machine as your company-issued workstation. You still should be able to get all of your work done using the Windows tools your company purchased for the workstation, but let's see about moving some of that work over to Linux. Let's set up networking for the Linux VM.

While you were installing your chosen Linux distribution, you probably were prompted to enter some network settings. If these settings were entered properly and your system detected the network, you're all set. If not, you have to do a little research about your company network.

Most major Linux distributions come with pretty good tools for setting up and detecting a network--Linux was born on the Internet after all. Most of these tools ask a few basic questions to get started: What is your computer's name? Is your IP address static or dynamic? What is your netmask? What is the gateway computer's IP address? What are your name servers?

For now, most of these questions can be answered by checking some information on your Windows PC. If you go to the control panel and click on Network Connections and then right-click on your network card and select Properties, you should see most of the information you need in order to connect to the network. You do need to use a different name from the one your Windows PC uses, however. I simply added "lx" to the end of my Windows PC name. If you have a dynamic IP address (DHCP), plug these numbers into your Linux network setup tool and off you go.

If you have a static assigned IP address, things get a little trickier--you have to ask your network staff for an additional IP address. If the network staff is competent, someone will want to know what you're going to be adding to the network. I have found that honesty, if not total disclosure, is indeed the best policy. How you handle this question depends on your working relationship with the network staff. Try not to sell too much, though. Telling them that you are adding a Linux test machine to the network is a lot less scary to them than saying you are working on total Linux domination in the workplace. This is the step that can make or break the move to a Linux desktop; you need to connect to the outside world for it to be effective. I have heard of cases in which less-informed network admins insist that the network cannot support Linux. You may have to be a bit firmer in cases such as this. And try not to gloat when it works fine.

Because I am using SUSE Professional 9.1, I used YaST to configure the network settings. Click on Network Device, choose Network card and find your card among the ones listed in the drop-down box. Click on the card and select Configure. Here, I entered the settings that I found on the Windows control panel.

After you have plugged in all the information and done whatever voodoo your distribution requires, or once you have finished hand editing your /etc/sysconfig/network/ files, you are set. The first thing to do is to make sure your VM actually has an IP address. This can be done using the ifconfig command: ifconfig -a. This command should bring up information from all of the interface connections. The one we are concerned with now is the Ethernet connection; it should be eth0 (or eth1, eth2 and so on). The number after inet addr is the machine's IP address.

Now, make sure you can talk to another server. The most basic test is to ping your gateway server.

ping -c 3 <gateway IP address>

After three packets (-c 3) go, it should tell you that three packets were transmitted and three were received. Try to ping some other servers on your network to make sure you can get to them as well.

Connecting to Other UNIX Machines

Now that you can get to other machines on the network, it's time to connect to a UNIX server. Open a command window and use SSH or telnet to connect to another UNIX machine. If you are not sure how to do this step, the SSH and telnet man pages are a big help.

Typing in the complete machine name every time you want to connect to another UNIX machine can get old quick. If you are using the KDE desktop, kssh can help you keep track of multiple sessions. In addition, the tool that I find to be useful for managing multiple SSH connections is SecPanel, which has a nice, clean GUI. If SecPanel is not included in your distribution, it can be downloaded from the SecPanel home page (see Resources).

Connecting to the Internet

If your company is like mine, internal Web servers are in place to provide everything from document management to tape backup and storage facilities to help-desk applications. So you need to be able to connect to the Internet and/or intranet. I loaded the default KDE desktop when I installed SUSE, and the Konqueror Web browser it provides worked well--not perfect, but well. Some Java scripts didn't run properly, and every time I attempted to correct the problem, more problems arose. I tried other browsers to take care of the problem; Opera and Mozilla worked with varying degrees of success. So I then installed Firefox, and all of those pesky problems went away--the Java applications now work flawlessly. I even loaded a Windows version of Firefox on my workstation so I can use the same application on different platforms. It's a beautiful thing. Currently, I use Firefox for browsing Web sites and Konqueror for file browsing.

I now can do most of my UNIX administration tasks by using a Linux desktop. I say most because the documentation we use is available in either Microsoft Word documents or a Lotus Notes/Domino database. I also have to administer an application that offers only a Windows clients--for now. Using Wine, SMB, OpenOffice.org, CUPS and other open-source applications, I now can use Linux to get my work done and to interact with the rest of the company.

Load Disqus comments