A Guide to Network Connectivity in Linux

Networking Basics

Linux from its very inception has always been oriented around being used on a networked machine. Since then it has risen to be the

ifconfig example

premiere server operating system and has often found its way into other network devices such as routers. If you are going to use your Linux machine to its full potential, then you are going to have to plug it into some kind of network.

That starts with mastering the fundamentals. An understanding of the basic networking commands will help you establish your connection. Then learning about configuration provides the know how to keep that connection going. All through out learning these things, you will absolutely need to acquire a knack for troubleshooting. Something will go wrong, and when it does fixing it will provide great insight into how the whole networking process works.

Wireless Connectivity

Linux makes for a fantastic laptop operating system. However, the lack of driver support and other incompatibilities often leads to

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fantastic headaches. Awareness of which manufacturers have excellent Linux support has become a requirement for anyone wanting to use Linux on their laptop. Barring that knowledge, a familiarity with utilities like NDISwrapper, which allows Windows wireless drivers to be used by Linux, helps when there is no support.

Then once the drivers are installed and Linux can utilize the wireless card, connections need to be established and managed. Fortunately the Linux platform offers many different ways to accomplish this. From iwconfig to wicd to NetworkManager there is a tool for every kind of user. Many of these utilities also feature the ability to remember the details of various hotspots, so that users do not have to remember network passwords and keys.

Services

Having a network connection is great, but it's not as useful without running services on the network. There are many things your network can provide you with, and Linux makes a great platform for building those wonderful new services.

First things first, you need remote access. When something goes wrong with one of your servers having remote access allows you to fix and trouble shoot problems whether the machine is in the next room or anywhere in the world.

Servers also provide the opportunity to organize and protect your data. A Network Attached Storage (NAS) device or a file server allows you to store, organize, and access your files from any machine on your network. Also if configured properly, these services protect your files through redundancy so that you never lose your important documents or family photos.

Security

Your network is a very useful tool not only to you but potentially to others as well. Securing your network requires good defences, the right tools, and above all else constant vigilance.

Your network and the systems on it vitally need to be configured properly. If any of the services you are running or your firewall have any insecure settings activated, then you could easily lose control of your network. Make sure that you set up everything correctly as this is your first line of defence.

Beyond configuration, your network's security requires monitoring. The Linux platform offers many tools that can be used for keeping track of everything going through your network. For example wireshark can be used to capture every packet sent or received by a device on your network. This allows you to watch your network traffic for strange behavior and catch malicious activity.

Slightly More Advanced Topics

There are other things that can be done to customize and tailor your netwok that are slightly more advanced (though not all that difficult). For instance, you could turn one of your Linux machines into an Internet gateway for your local network. Then as another project you could set up a machine to handle Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), which allows you to determine how ip addresses are assigned on your network among other things. You could also set up a Domain Name Service (DNS) to manage a domain name. Allowing you to be able to type files.yourdomainname.com instead of the ip address of your file server.

References

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