Bringing a Linux box to Work - Part 2

Posted by smartlp on Aug 10, 2006 8:05 PM EDT
Jason Elwell; By Jason Elwell
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Part 2 of the article series detailing my attempts to use a Linux computer in a Microsoft enviroment.

Day 1

On Monday morning, I packed up my spare PC with a freshly installed copy of PCLinuxOS MiniMe 0.93, put it in the car, and took it to work with me.

For those of you that have not read Part 1 of this article series, my goal is find out if I can manage to use a Linux workstation in our Microsoft-based office.

I pre-loaded the machine with a whole slew of software that I thought I would need. I have been using Linux at home for many years, so I am familiar with many of the Linux compatible alternatives.

Biggest Unknown Factors:

Evolution's ability to function with our Exchange server.

Once I booted the machine, and confirmed that I had an IP, I began to configure a mail account in Evolution. My plan to utilize the Evolution Exchange Connector paid off. I am thoroughly impressed with the Exchange Connector's ability to sync my Mail folders, Calendar, Tasks, and Contacts. I had read several complaints with regard to the connector being slow because it utilizes the Exchange OWA interface. The 3000 messages in my Inbox appeared in a very timely manner. However, this may be attributed to the fact that I was on the LAN, and our Exchange server has minimal traffic.

Ability to login to the Microsoft Active Directory server.

I have absolutely no experience in getting a Linux machine to authenticate against Active Directory. Furthermore, I only have a limited working knowledge of managing Active Directory and LDAP in general. Please take that into consideration as you read the next paragraphs.

Authenticating against Active Directory turned out to be a nightmare.

When I began this process, I wasn't even sure that it was necessary, but I soon found that many of the shared drives on our network were inaccessible when attempting a “peer-to-peer” authentication/connection. So... my fight with Active Directory began.

My distro of choice, PCLinuxOS, is geared towards home users. Unfortunately, that means that very little effort has been put forth to make sure that PCLinuxOS has to tools to communicate with Active Directory. Since, I had work to do, I decided that I would start sshd and vncserver to make sure that I could access the machine from home.

Once I got off from work (5pm), until 11:30pm, I learned WAY too much about Kerbos, winbind, “tickets”, “net ads join”, PAM, etc. By some miracle, I was able to successfully join the domain, but things got worse from there. After spending a couple of hours tinkering with configuration files in the /etc/pam.d directory, I gave up. I came to the conclusion, that PCLinuxOS was not fit to work seamlessly with my AD server.

Hello OpenSuse 10.1

Before I went to bed on Monday (actually Tuesday morning :(), I started downloading the OpenSuse 10.1 ISOs. I have used OpenSuse in the past, and remembered that they have a GUI Kerberos Client in Yast as well as the choice to setup the system to “Login to a Windows Domain” during the installation process.

Day 2

Honestly, I was a little disappointed with the results of Day 1. It started off great with Evolution's compatibility with Exchange, but turned sour after I spent countless hours trying to configure PCLinuxOS to play nice with Active Directory.

I came prepared today with the 5 freshly burned OpenSuse CDs. I arrived a work a little early so that I could get the installation started with minimal disruption to my daily routine. Installing OpenSuse takes forever, but you can't imagine how excited I was when the options to configure the system to “Login to a Windows Domain” appeared. I plugged in my credentials, and it responded that I had successfully joined the domain. I was even able to setup the system automatically create /home directories upon domain user login, as well as cache the domain users' passwords for off-line use. Two words... Very Slick.

From this point forward, things went much smoother. I setup Evolution again, along with all my other apps. Also, I setup Samba mount points for all of my frequently used network folders. I expect that I will be saving a lot of data to the network so that I can swap files with my Windows box.

By the end of day 2, my system was configured to my liking, my email was working, and I was able to move files between my PCs. I feel, that I am off to a good start. Keep you eye out for another update in the near future.

Happy (Linux) Computing!

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