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 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 MiddleburyCollege without a problem. Here are the relevant settings:
- The network name is MiddleburyCollege.
- 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 email address, 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.
General information about our wireless networks can be found here. Remote Access
Linux versions of the Pulse Secure client can be found in the VPN client repository. Download the installer appropriate for your Linux version. Instructions from Junos on how to install and configure the client can be found here.
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. firstname.lastname@example.org)
- 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 and that your username and password are correct.
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 is the default web browser on Ubuntu.
Stable and full-featured. In many places, LibreOffice 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, LibreOffice saves documents as .odt, .ods, OpenDocument format. It's a good format but MS Office doesn't support it. In LibreOffice under Tools -> Options, under the Save/Load category, you can set LibreOffice to automatically save documents in the Microsoft format.
The default email client that comes with Ubuntu is Mozilla Thunderbird. However, while Thunderbird supports the IMAP mail protocol, Middlebury College is transitioning to multi-factor authentication which does not work with IMAP. As a result, your best option for mail access is to use Outlook webmail. If you really desire a native Linux email client that works with Exchange, Hiri is an option (not free).
For older computers
For older computers, Linux has a host of light-weight programs available as alternatives to the more popular ones. Consider:
- GnomeWeb (formerly Epuphany) or NetSurf web browsers, instead of Firefox
- AbiWord and Gnumeric, lightweight word processor and spreadsheet programs that can replace some of LibreOffice'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.
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.
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.