VPN Client on Linux Mint

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while. This is more for me than for the public so that I will remember what I did to get a VPN client running on my Linux Mint 10.

Since I am a Systems Administrator a lot of my work can be done from my desk, when I am not building new servers or troubleshooting hardware issues. Thanks to the powers where I work I am allowed to work from home from time to time. In the past, before I made the switch to Linux full-time, I used the Cisco VPN client on my Windows machine. Since moving to Linux, I needed a VPN client that worked with our Cisco ASA 5500 and then a good Windows RDP client to remote into my work computer once connected to my work network.

I searched around for a while and finally found a good client for Linux Mint called VPNC. You can find it in the Software Manager or by typing the following at the terminal:

sudo apt-get install vpnc

Of course after installing this I had to work with the Network Engineers in my IT department to configure my profile on the Cisco ASA. Once that was done I needed to edit the config file for VPNC found here:

/etc/vpnc/default.conf

The configuration looked something like this (excerpt of my file):

IPSec gateway IP address goes here
IPSec ID identification goes here
IPSec secret secret password goes here
#IKE Authmode hybrid
Xauth username username goes here
#Xauth password password goes here

Of course, the hash tags comment out the lines. I hashed the password so that I would be prompted once I connected to my corporate network for additional security. Then once I had a connection, validated by having a tun0 interface, I use Gnome-RDP for my remote connection to my work PC. That simple. The only problem is DNS on my personal computer. Since I am on Linux and not Windows my personal machine’s DNS does not get updated to the DNS at work. There are ways to fix this but I know the dynamic IP address of my computer at work so once that Gnome-RDP profile is created with that IP address, I don’t have to remember it. Also, if the IP address of my computer ever changes I know the IP address of our domain controllers/DNS/DHCP servers at work so I can connect to them to get the updated IP address of my workstation.

One issue I found with Gnome-RDP is that there is no clear way to exit out of full screen view of the RDP session. I found you have to select, on your keyboard, Ctrl-Alt-Enter to exit and enter full screen mode of Gnome-RDP.

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Linux Mint 10 Alternate Login Screen

As those of you that use Linux Mint 10 with Gnome and the default GDM are aware, the login screen is just plain out ugly. Since going full time Linux Mint 10 on my main desktop a couple of months ago, I have been on a mission to change that. After searching everywhere and posting on the Linux Mint forum, the experts had made me aware that we are pretty much stuck with this bland login screen.

Well, finally someone came along on the forum and pointed me to SLiM – Simple Login Manager. The link he pointed me to that gave a step-by-step guide to setting it up was over at Ubuntuguide.net. After installing it and testing it on a Linux Mint 10 virtual machine in VirtualBox, I liked what I saw. In fact I liked it so much I decided to try to create my own SLiM theme. I took elements from this GDM splash login that, apparently, only works on Mint prior to version 10 and this is what I came up with.

If you are interested in downloading this theme and using it, you can get it from here.

After much research, though, I have found that the project doesn’t seem to be in development any longer, which is unfortunate. You can find out more on SLiM at the wiki too here. One of the things I found pretty neat about SLiM is this:

  • To launch a terminal, enter console as the username (defaults to xterm which must be installed separately… edit /etc/slim.conf to change terminal preference)
  • For shutdown, enter halt as the username
  • For reboot, enter reboot as the username
  • For suspend, enter suspend as the username
  • To exit to the shell, enter exit as the username

So, if you are using my theme those tips may come in handy if you need to reboot or shutdown for whatever reason. You’ll need to provide the root password for those steps to work.

Please note (as per comments on the Ubuntuguide.net post) that there have been some people who have had issues with SLiM, so use it at your own risk. Also note that I have also tested SLiM in Linux Mint 11 virtual machine and it works, with some minor issues. The minor issue I have found, so far, is that once you log into your session, in order to shutdown or reboot you will have to send that through the terminal as the option is grayed out when you select Quit in the menu. I haven’t found a fix for this yet but I am still searching.

Desktop System Monitor on Linux Mint 10 and OS X

Hello. My name is Ed and I’m a tech geek.

I thought I would get that confession out of the way first. Of course, those close to me already know that about me. This post will be evidence enough that I really am a tech geek. Desktop system monitoring is something that can be used as a badge to show off just how geeky you are but in all actuality, it can be very useful. Behold the badge of my geekiness with this screenshot of my MacBook OS X desktop using GeekTool.

MacBook desktop with custom text embedded with GeekTool

And more recently:

MacBook desktop with custom text embedded with GeekTool

As you can see there are some useful monitors on my desktop that gauge my memory, CPU and drive space. Just in the past few months since that last Tron Legacy screenshot I have also added a fan speed monitor of my MacBook. The calendar portion at the bottom, though, is not part of GeekTool and can be found here as a free download. The easiest way I have found to configure GeekTool is by installing Geeklets. Basically, they are preconfigured scripts to add to GeekTool to give you the monitors you see on those screenshots. Now as you see above I have a pretty basic desktop on my MacBook. There are some guys and gals out there that have done some AMAZING desktops as evident on this page. I especially like the comic book strips toward the middle; more so, the desktop monitor story as told by the Buffy comic. Look closely at the dialog.

Now over on the Linux side we have something called Conky. I had heard of the utility before but had never used it until today. The guys over at Web Upd8, the Ubuntu/Linux blog, posted a really cool article on Conky Lunatico Rings that someone created over at  Gnome-look.org. I followed the instructions posted on Web Upd8 and configured my own version with a green color scheme instead of the orange using Andrew’s ‘no wireless’ tweak found in the post and posted a brief video to display my desktop.

The video quality isn’t so great, I know, so I apologize. Here is a closer screenshot to get a better view.

Conky Lunatico Rings using Conky on Linux Mint 10 http://www.webupd8.org/2011/06/conky-lunatico-rings-displays-system.html

Other than the color, I was also able to change the position as the default was more toward the middle of my display and I changed the disk monitor from used space to free space.

For Windows users out there you are probably wondering if there is anything like this for you, and there is. I’ve not used them so I’m not too familiar with them but go check out Rainmeter and Samurize.