March 19, 2009

Lighten Up!

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:11 am by dgcombs

A few weeks ago I needed to put together a test network to use ipTables to forward TACACS authentication packets to the replacement server while logging the IP address of the requestor. I couldn’t use the live systems to test while I debugged the admittedly complex ipTables configuration. So I built a small network on my computer using VirtualBox.

I had three virtual computers running the SLAX distribution of Linux. One was the TACACS server being replaced, one the new TACACS server and one the authentication requestor. Once I had them all built, I realized I needed a DHCP server to complete the network and so I fired up another little computer to do that.

The process worked very well. I debugged the ipTables script in less time than I thought I would need because of the complete freedom I had to reboot and reconfigure the computers on the fly. I didn’t need to ask permission or apologize for a reboot!

It worked so well, that I decided to build a RADIUS authentication server in VirtualBox to test Linux authentication using pluggable authentication modules (PAM). Along the way, I put together a small virtual machine running FreeBSD. It simply worked with a text based interface. But along the way, I decided to build a little more pizzaz into the system.

I backed up my FreeBSD virtual machine (doesn’t everyone?). Then I installed X.org on it so I could have a GUI. But I’ve been very unhappy with Gnome in spite of its widespread adoption by Ubuntu, OpenSolaris and Fedora (no! not that one!) Fedora. And in spite of the overwhelming attachment that so many people have to KDE, I just can’t get into it. So rather than trying to build my own Linux distribution,  I decided to try out another option.

I installed OpenBox as a desktop environment and SLIM as a graphical login manager. I finished it up sitting on the cold aluminum bleachers while watching Tyler’s evening soccer practice. I think it looks pretty good. I’ll keep adding little odds and ends to see if it becomes a usable desktop.

And all this in a virtual machine inside my little work laptop.

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