Rage3D Kombuting // Linux Mint edition

Author: Pete Vagiakos
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: March 13th, 2013

exFAT, SSL and Windows sharing

On exFAT, NTFS and SD Cards

One of the things that always irked me was the fact that NTFS partitions are not mounted by default when you login to your desktop - I usually run dual boot systems, so I have files on NTFS partitions that are accessible by both operating systems. So I need them mounted at all times - fortunately ntfs-config is a good tool that does exactly that; you install it, and you can configure how you want these partitions mounted. If you need a more in-built way of doing things, you have to load the Disks application and do it from there - I prefer the old fashioned way :)

One thing that was missing though, was exfat support - you know, the format all SD cards you use in tablets, smartphones etc. have. I wanted to copy some MKV files to my SD card, so I can watch them in my tablet, but the card wasn't recognised when I tried to mount it. After googling it, I realised that the support isn't there by default, you have to add it. So I did exactly that - opened up my trusty Terminal and typed:

  • sudo add-apt-repository ppa:relan/exfat
  • sudo apt-get update
  • sudo apt-get install fuse fuse-exfat exfat-utils

After that, it was all peaches; I could see the card just fine and add files to my heart's content. I sure wished there was an easier way to configure this things though, I am not sure people with little experience would be able to pull it off.

Work and VPNs

While I was doing all that things, toying with Linux Mint that is, it was already late and I was about to call it a day. That's when I got a call from work - a server had crashed and they needed me to login remotely and fix it. In order to access my work's internal network, we use a VPN to access Watchguard Firebox, the company's Firewall. Under Windows, all I had to do was to use a Watchguard application, which allows me to setup a VPN and connect to the corporate network via SSL. Obviously, such a thing does not exist for Linux, so I had to improvise. Where, improvise, see Google Search :) Thankfully, I didn't have to search much; it seems that all that I needed was to install OpenVPN from the repositories, and use the in-built VPN creation features of Gnome to make a connection. Of course there's a how-to involved, and you can find it here, but thankfully it's not very complicated and can be easily done.

So this actually went better than expected; meaning that instead of using the command-line openvpn client to connect, I created the VPN connection from the Gnome Network Manager, fired it up, and indeed, I was able to connect to my company's VPN without any problems. Fortunately, Radmin Viewer also works fine with Wine, so I didn't have any problems accessing several internal servers that require it. I was curious though, because Remmina, which is the tool preinstalled by Ubuntu to access remote desktops (either by using RDP, VNC or SFTP/SSH) was not installed by default here. That's easily fixable though, so I didn't give it much thought.

Sharing with Windows / Samba

You know what they say; sharing is caring, and in a home network with three PCs, a laptop running Vista (don't ask), a Home Theatre PC running Windows 7 and a Home PC running Windows 8, I had to make sure the other PCs could read my MP3 and Video collection, which exists on my 3TB disk. I still have memories trying to configure Samba correctly on Linux PCs - some Windows PCs would see the Linux machine, some wouldn't, some others would but wouldn't be able to access any files. Fortunately, those days are long gone - all I had to do, was to add one line to the fine /etc/samba/smb.conf, and that's because the OS told me about it. Meaning, I right clicked on a folder, selected Sharing Options, and tried to give full access to the Public folder to all users of the network, even those that don't have a local account. I performed the change as root (sudo gedit /etc/samba/smb.conf), restarted the service and voila!

Ok, almost voila. The other PCs couldn't see my computer on the network. I then decided to check out whether there were some more configuration options for the networking to... well... work. So I came across Personal File Sharing (it's in Preferences), and I thought, here we are! Not quite:

So I decided to NOT google it immediately, but give Mint the benefit of the doubt. Yes, I actually clicked on the Help button. The result was a page on Mint's website, giving me links to download a PDF in various languages. Yes, you've guessed it, that PDF was a generic user guide for Mint, that had nothing to do with the problem I was facing. So Google to the rescue one more time. Apparently, that dialog has nothing to do with sharing files, it needs a light version of Apache web server to work, and it's totally misleading - people in the Ubuntu forums also have that problem. You can find a very thorough walkthrough here of what I did and trust me, it's not for the faint of heart. But then again, you are already used to getting your hands dirty with the OS, so don't complain.