Jumat, 28 Januari 2011

Linux Plays well with Others

Two of my friends transfered out NIU this semester, both of them are running various forms of GNU/Linux on their personal computers. One of them is not so technically inclined and he asked me to help him trouble shoot why his Ubuntu system could not get an internet connection. After doing a bit of searching online I found that NIU had some special settings for connecting to their wired network via Cisco NAC.

What Cisco NAC does is monitor what systems are on the network and what they are running. The reason NIU provides for using Cisco NAC is that:

"In the past, due to the impact of viruses and worms on the NIU network:
  • The resources at the ResTech Helpdesk were stretched to the limit by the sheer volume of infected computers that needed disinfecting
  • Viruses destroyed information on student computers and compromised other computers on the NIU network
  • Hundreds of residents’ computers have been so severely infected that they have been removed from the network for days or even weeks"
Just a friendly reminder of one of the many reason I began using a Linux based operating system. Anywho - after I got past the big and scary I got to the section for getting your computer on the network. This is about the time I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. The four checks Cisco NAC performs are the following:
  • Microsoft Critical Updates
  • AntiVirus Software Installed
  • AntiVirus Definitions
  • Enable Windows firewall and Automatic Updates
After I read the first line my brain started going through what kind of hacks I could rig up to get the network to think he was running Windows. We tried a few different things, I even talked to my other more tech savvy friend that was at NIU and he was unsure as well. Alas it was as Saturday night and he wouldn't be able to get help from the tech desk till Monday morning. After about half an hour of trying we ended up calling it a night.

Now I would like to share a lesson with you that I have been taught a few times by this point in my life.

When reading directions always read all the directions before starting.

In case you didn't follow the link I provided earlier the very next line after all that mumbo-jumbo about Windows is:

Linux must authenticate by logging in via a web page.

Thats it. Just a web login. No anti-virus, no update monitoring, no mandatory firewall, no big-brother type behavior of any sort. To quote my friend "I guess they believe that linux machines behave well enough that they don't need big brother".

That there is even a mention of Linux on a page such as this reminds me of the fact that regardless of what people think the OS market shares are - there are obviously enough Linux users out there to provide support to them.

What about you? Ever found support for your operating system from somewhere you weren't expecting to find it?

~Jeff Hoogland

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