Living with dialup

Remember dialup? It’s what I’m using to speak to you now. Broadband switchover to my new home will take 10-14 days and I don’t yet have the requisite username or passwords at my new workplace to escape beyond campus. There’s nothing worse for a computational biologist than to be offline. It’s like being disabled! What’s going on in the world?

Incidentally, I’m about to face the challenge of setting up a Linux server inside of a campus-wide VPN. If anyone has been in a similar situation, I’d like your comments as to how you deal with little problems like logging in via ssh from outside.

5 thoughts on “Living with dialup

  1. chris

    Hmm. Serving to the outside world is a bit of a pain. The best idea I’ve found so far is to get your vpn admin to issue an exception certificate for your machine/ip which will allow you to serve out etc. Ditto ssh. An alternative is to use a general ssh portal if one is available (which it should be) and then ssh to your box from there.

    I’d recommend vpnc to connect remotely to the vpn. Make sure you use the –udp flag though…

  2. Neil

    Good tips. I’m not very familiar with vpn, but Google and Debian are my friends as ever. I see the rationale – secure, standardised across campus, easy to regulate and monitor, but it’s something of a shock to those of us used to running our own servers with static world-acessible IP, no questions asked.

    Useful tools I’ve found so far – vpnc obviously, whereami (perhaps), ike-scan and pptp, though the latter seems superceded by vpnc. SSH in from outside is not a priority for now, but I’ve discovered SSH out is also blocked. Apparently it’s not too hard to tunnel your ssh through something like HTTP via port 80 – need to look into a package called corkscrew. I can see the campus Linux users will need to band together and hassle IT.

  3. Pedro Beltrao

    I have moved recently and I am also with dial up at my new place right now. I really understand the discomfort :) It’s soooooo slowwwwww. I am hoping that in some 5 to 10 years most major cities will have total wireless coverage. I will probably still have to move a couple more times before I can settle anywhere.

  4. chris

    Pedro: there are moves afoot in Boston, amongst other cities, to set up muni-networks of blanket, free wifi coverage for the whole city. See http://www.bostonwag.org/ for more details… Should be cool if/when it gets up.

    Neil: the ssh out block appears to be a general feature of campus-wide vpn setups – we suffer from it too. It’s probably to prevent viruses certain OSs are prone to from creating zombie farms. With the rise of Ubuntu (powered in part by the final emergence of the Debian installer) there’s now a case to be made to migrate everyone to… Linux, of course. A back of the envelope calculation on the potential savings in licencing fees for OS + software should get the administrators drooling, if no one else. Ah, pipe-dreams :-)

  5. neil

    I believe there are a few free wireless areas around Brisbane too and plans for more.

    I’ll keep attacking the ssh vpn problem – I’ve played with corkscrew, which is supposed to tunnel via http but no joy yet, perhaps need to configure the remote server side. We have a vpn client for Linux which should allow ssh from home into campus – it works rather well.

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