Note: much of this information is very out of date, being last updated in 2009.
Linux is a free, open-source operating system. Some College computers use Linux (examples include the lab computers in MBH 632, which run Fedora, and the thin clients, which connect to a Windows 7 OS but themselves use Linux). A few members of the College also elect to use Linux on their personal machines. It can be advantageous to run Linux because it is available for free, it generally does not take up much hard drive space, and it tends to foster a greater knowledge of how computers work.
However, Linux is not officially supported by Middlebury College. This page is merely intended to be an overview of the best things to try in order to get Linux to work with Middlebury systems. Feel free to contact the Helpdesk for additional support, but please understand that we do not guarantee that Middlebury systems will work with Linux, and Helpdesk consultants may be unfamiliar with Linux or with your specific distribution and may not be able to help you.
Lastly, because Linux is such a broad category, with many different distributions and numerous individual configurations, all contributions to this page are much appreciated.
Accessing the Middlebury Network
You should be able to use an Ethernet cable to connect to the network without a problem. If you're having trouble and want to troubleshoot, here are a couple pieces of relevant information:
- To find your IP address, go to the terminal and type in "ifconfig" (not "ipconfig" as on a Windows machine!). There should be a section for each connection. For a wired Ethernet connection, the section you want is probably eth0. There should be a line beginning with "inet addr:" and then your IP address. If there isn't, you aren't connected via Ethernet.
- Releasing and renewing one's IP address can solve some connection issues. To do this on Linux, use the command "dhclient eth0". You may have to run it as root ("sudo").
You should be able to connect to midd_secure without a problem. Here are the relevant settings:
- The network name is midd_secure.
- The method of security is WPA2 Enterprise.
- The authentication protocol/EAP method is PEAP.
- The inner authentication method is MSCHAPv2.
- Key Type and Phase2 Type should be left to their default values.
- Do not require an authorization certificate.
- Your "credentials" or "identity" or "username" will be your Middlebury username, and the next field should let you enter your password.
- Leave all remaining fields blank or at their default values.
If this does not work, one thing to try is leaving the password field blank, so that you are prompted for the password after a connection is established. If you still have no luck, try connecting to Midd-standard. You will need to contact the Helpdesk (802.377.2200 or firstname.lastname@example.org) for the password.
General information about our wireless networks can be found here.
NOTE: This feature is currently disabled; you can connect to the network without registering. This info is outdated but is being preserved for informational purposes.
Registration with Campus Manager supports Linux by offering a small .sh script for download instead of the RSA.exe file run on Windows. This script must be downloaded and run, requiring that basic compile-related packages be installed (particularly libgcc), so ensure that the necessary packages are installed or available on the default system before trying to register.
As a side note: you can try asking the helpdesk to manually register your machine if you have trouble with the CSA.sh file. Please try to figure out the .sh file first though and realize that your request may be placed near the bottom of the helpdesk's massive pile of requests or you may simply be directed back to the .sh script.
There is no supported method for Linux users to access VPN. If you want to make your best go at it, you can reference our VPN Setup Instructions for Windows and Mac.
Ubuntu Remote Desktop
Ubuntu has a built in remote desktop client. The client uses VNC to more or less transmit a video of your computers screen to the remote machine. To enable, do the following:
- System menu->Preferences->Remote Desktop
- Check Allow other users to view your desktop
- Check Allow other users to control your desktop
- Not required, but highly recommended: check the Require the user to enter this password box and enter a secure password.
- You can find your computer name and IP address in the yellow box that should appear under Sharing when you check the two boxes in step 2 and 3.
- Connect using the VNC viewer of your choice (tightvnc is a good cross platform choice, vinagre works well from other linux boxes)
- Able to connect successfully but the screen doesn't appear to refresh?
- You need to disable compiz: System->Preferences->Appearance->Visual Effects tab, then check None
- Unable to connect?
- Double check your computer's IP address. If you connect through a router (ie have a 192.168.x.x IP) you may not be able to connect without configuring your router
- Try using your computer's name
Working With File Servers
Note that Linux suffers from the same lack of compatability with our new DFS (read middfiles) system that Macs do, only worse. As of 9/4/09, Linux is almost entirely incompatible with DFS. The exception is a terminal based tool that allows only very basic functionality. There is a workaround, but is inelegant, time consuming, and requires the use of (potentially) large numbers of bookmarks to implement. Here we go:
A few terms:
- Username - This is your Midd username. It is the first part of your Midd email address (i.e. email@example.com)
- Distributed File System - Middfiles is an implementation of DFS. If you don't know what middfiles is and are still trying to find your tigercat or classes folder, try looking here or here.
Finding Middfiles Server Names
The real reason why Linux is incompatible with DFS has to do with what what DFS is. DFS is essentially a set of symbolic links used to connect a bunch of different servers. Linux is incapable at the moment of recognize where these symbolic links point. This means you can connect to one level of middfiles, but as likely or not, when you try to open a new folder, DFS will try to send you on a link to a new server, which Linux can't follow. The solution therefore is to bypass middfiles entirely and connect to the underlying servers directly. The first step then, is to determine the names of the underlying servers:
- Connect to middfiles using your username and password on a Windows System (see below)
- Go to the parent of the folder you are trying to access - e.g. if I want to map my home folder (username sjudd) which is located at middfiles/home/S-Z/sjudd, I would instead navigate to middfiles/home/S-Z
- Right click on the folder you want to be able to access in Linux and click on Properties
- Click on the DFS tab
- Under Path you should see a link in the form \\name\parent, where name is typically an animal (MOOSE, HOUND, ALPACA etc.) and parent is the name of the parent folder you opened in step 2. Record this path.
- Translate: name is the name of the server you are trying to connect to. parent is the name of the share you want to connect to
As a final note: It is likely these server names will change every once in a while. Just because the name of the server on which my home folder is stored happens to be MOOSE now doesn't mean it won't change to PARASTRATIOSPHECOMYIASTRATIOSPHECOMYIOIDES (ok well maybe not that name...) in the future. This is actually a feature of DFS: the overall structure of the filesystem remains stable even when the underlying server names change around. As a result, if you notice that you can't connect to a server that used to work, it may be because the server where the folder you are trying to access had a name change.
Accessing a Windows box from Linux
Neccessary for a number of tasks, including any that require access to exchange but can't be done on webmail (DFS permissions/distribution lists primarily), as well as advanced DFS tools (restore from backups, determining underlying server names).
Your options for getting access to a windows system from Linux (in order of most to least preferable, although option 3 might be more practical than option 2. Then again this is linux, if you wanted practical you would not be using linux):
- Connect to Coal (available to all middlebury users on campus, a remote access windows server) - use the command 'rdesktop coal.middlebury.edu' in a terminal. Enter your middlebury credentials to connect. If the command rdesktop doesn't work, you likely need to look up a way to install rdesktop for your particular distro (sudo apt-get install rdesktop for Ubuntu)
- Connect using rdesktop or a VNC client to another windows box elsewhere on campus...
- Cheat! Use a public lab computer, a friend's computer, dualboot windows, beg and plead from windows using friends
- Consider paying for software like crossover.
Connecting to File Servers
- In the panel: Places -> Connect to Server...
- For Service Type select Windows Share
- For Server enter: the name you looked up in windows
- For Share enter: the name of the parent folder you navigated to windows
- For Folder enter: the name of the folder you want to access (note that this isn't actually neccessary, if you want to access multiple folders on a single share or even if you don't feel like filling it in, you can leave this blank. Only a Server and a Share are strictly neccessary).
- For User Name enter: your middlebury username
- For Domain Name enter: MIDD
- Check Add bookmark if you plan on connecting to this folder repeatedly and name it whatever you would like (best to mention the folder name and the server it is on, but if you want to be a rebel go ahead, it doesn't matter). Note this assumes you are using Nautilus and Ubuntu, may be different for other file managers/distros.
- Ensure you are connected to the network using an ethernet cable or via midd_secure
- Spell the server and share names correctly
- Avoid using any kind of smb:// or / or \ in the server or share name. As long as you select Windows Share for the service type, linux will do all this for you
- Double check that the domain is MIDD, your username is correct, and there isn't a chance your password will have expired (generally once every 6 months, when in doubt check by going to go.middlebury.edu/activate)
Disconnecting to File Servers
If you saved your server as a bookmark: (again for Nautilus and Ubuntu)
- Open Nautilus
- Open the Bookmarks menu and select Edit Bookmarks...
- Select the bookmark for the server folder you want to delete and click Remove
- To disconnect the server for your current session, see below
To disconnect from a server for the current session:
- Right click on the server folder on your desktop (it will appear when you first connect) and select Unmount Volume
- Open Nautilus and click the disconnect symbol next to the server folder name that appears under Places:
Mozilla Firefox 3 is the default web browser on Ubuntu.
Stable and full-featured. In many places, OpenOffice is used as a zero-cost alternative to Microsoft Office.
When setting up anyone with Ubuntu, strongly consider setting document file format defaults. By default, OpenOffice saves documents as .odt, .ods, OpenDocument format. It's a good format but MS Office doesn't support it. In OpenOffice under Tools -> Options, under the Save/Load category, you can set OOo to automatically save documents in the Microsoft format.
The default email client that comes with Ubuntu is Evolution. Thunderbird is a better-known alternative that you may want to consider. Both are good, sturdy email clients and both can connect via IMAP to Midd servers.
Evolution has native support for connecting to MS Exchange servers versions 2000 and 2003 but no native support for connecting to 2007. And yes, we did upgrade to MS Exchange Server 2007. One possible solution to keep an eye on is the evolution-mapi plugin. This will kind of allow you to connect using OWA (mail.middlebury.edu) if you use the IP address (why that would matter, I don't know, but it does). It has a tendency to crash when you try to open calendars (which don't work), it doesn't really allow you access to the global address book, notes and tasks etc. appear to be out, and mail is kind of sketchy. Hopefully evolution or the MAPI plugin will be updated in the near future.
If you need to use exchange, use outlook and windows. See above for suggestions on ways of doing so.
MAPI and Evolution
Configuring the MAPI plugin for Evolution (as of 9/4/09): (remember this is broken, completely broken, but it at least allows you to authenticate, which is more than you can do with the exchange plugin...):
- In Identity - enter required info, ensure your email address is correct nothing else particularly matters
- In Receiving Email - Sever type is Exchange Mapi, Server is the IP address of panther.middlebury.edu, username is your middlebury username, domain name is MIDD. Enter this info, then click authenticate, enter your middlebury password when prompted. After authenticating you can continue.
- In Receiving Options - Most of this doesn't matter ad.middlebury.edu and puma.middlebury.edu are possibilities for the GAL/active directory, under options make sure to check 'Automatically synchronize account locally'
- In Account Management - enter whatever you like
- In Timezone - same as 4
Congrats, you now have a broken exchange client! Careful with the calendar though, if you open it too quickly after opening the MAPI exchange account for the first time the program can crash. If you force quit it, it will probably refuse to start until you delete its config file (no reinstalling won't help).
Since you are using panther.middlebury.edu and ad.middlebury.edu or puma.middlebury.edu, this won't work at all if you go off campus unless you VPN. Of course since it doesn't really work to begin with you might not notice...
For older computers
For older computers, Linux has a host of light-weight programs available as alternatives to the more popular ones. Consider:
- Epiphany Browser, instead of Firefox
- AbiWord and Gnumeric, lightweight word processor and spreadsheet programs that can replace some of OpenOffice's functionality
If the system has 128MB RAM or less, consider the alternative distribution Xubuntu. Xubuntu is great for older/slower systems and comes with many such programs pre-installed.
If you're adventurous, you can get some Windows programs to work great under Linux using Wine Windows Emulator. More details pending...
Greatest thing about Ubuntu is that it has a huge support/fan base and chances are whatever you are stuck trying to figure out, someone has a solution out there. Google and conquer.
There are also a few linux users at the helpdesk and elsewhere on campus. If you have a question or have found a solution to a problem mentioned in this wiki or elsewhere, feel free to share it (at least with me ~Sam).
Unfortunately, Ubuntu is not an officially supported Operating System by the Helpdesk. The level of support that you will receive from the helpdesk will be limited. However, if you are stumped by an issue, you should not hesitate to place a call (email might be somewhat better, you are likely to get the "Ubuntu is not supported" line either way though) or preferably stop by the Walkin section of the Helpdesk for assistance. The knowledge pool of the consultants is pretty impressive and a solution or answer to your problem is likely to be found.