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Quick-Start Networking
By Edgar Howell

Quick-Start Networking


1. Ethernet
2. Ssh
3. Screen
4. File Transfer
5. Nfs
6. Samba
8. Further Reading
9. A Future without Windows?


Over the holidays I finally had a block of time large enough to work on a network at home. But getting started is always my biggest problem and it took a while to understand what had to be done on which machine. In retrospect it was quite easy to get started.

This article is essentially little more than my notes, taken during the experience, less false starts. To the best of my knowledge it documents what I had to do and will be my reference if the need arises to repeat any of this.

To avoid inflating this unnecessarily and because I'm really just an experienced newbie, almost nothing is explained. There are references to some relevant articles but I assume you know how to find the standard documentation.

To my mind there is no reason for anyone with two or more computers not to have them networked. My first step was with an Ethernet card for the PC, a cross-over cable, and a PCMCIA Ethernet card, all for 87.50 euro. Once that was working, another PCMCIA card (should have known by the price that it was Windows-only), 8-port switch and 3 3-meter cables cost 67.50 euro. Roughly $160 wasn't bad. And it shouldn't cost much more than $25 to connect 2 PCs point-to-point.

The current status of this home office network is as follows:

  • Toshiba 486 500MB/24MB, SuSE 8.0 (kernel 2.4.18-4GB) without X
  • PC Pentium 166 2x4GB/32MB, SuSE 6.3 (kernel 2.2.13)
  • Toshiba AMD 4GB/64MB, SuSE 8.0 (kernel 2.4.18-4GB) or Windows 98

    By the way, the asymmetry in the following is not due to anything inherent in networking or the different Linux kernels. Rather, the 486 will one day be my portal to the Internet. It shouldn't be able to do much of anything other than responding to someone it knows. On the other hand the other two should have no restrictions.

    Other than that, be careful: this is merely intended to get up and running as quickly as possible. Everything else has been pretty much ignored. Consider this just a small but important first step. Your next step has to be the relevant documentation because this is quite superficial!

    1. Quick-Start - Ethernet

    Other than a PCMCIA problem (see below), installing and configuring Ethernet is rather straight-forward. To keep things simple I started out with a cross-over cable, i.e. point-to-point, and moved on to a switch only after everything else was known to work.

    Rather than having each machine connect to the network at boot, there are scripts in /root to run when it is time to connect. Here are the relevant scripts and files from two of the machines (less comments and stuff not relevant here):

    Toshiba 486

         /etc/hosts:      localhost
                    Toshiba486.Lohgo  Lohgo486
                   ToshibaAMD.Lohgo  LohgoAMD
                   PC.Lohgo          LohgoPC
         /etc/hosts.allow: sshd:,
         /root/eth-up:     #!/bin/bash
                           /sbin/ifconfig eth0 \
                                          broadcast \
                                          netmask up

    Pentium 166

         /etc/hosts:      localhost         PC
                    Toshiba486.Lohgo  Lohgo486
                   ToshibaAMD.Lohgo  LohgoAMD
                   PC.Lohgo          LohgoPC
         /etc/hosts.allow: sshd:
         /root/eth-up:     #!/bin/bash
                           /sbin/insmod rtl8139
                           /sbin/ifconfig eth0 \
                                          broadcast \
                                          netmask up

    The following are the same on all 3 machines:

         /etc/hosts.deny:  ALL : ALL
         /root/eth-down:   #!/bin/bash
                           /sbin/ifconfig eth0 down
         /root/eth-stat:   #!/bin/bash
                           /sbin/ifconfig eth0; /bin/netstat -r

    The extra entries for the P166 in /etc/hosts.allow are to support nfs. And insmod in /root/eth-up is due to the Ethernet card in the PC vs PCMCIA on the notebooks.

    Be aware that SuSE at installation has an option to "re-organize" /etc/hosts that defaults to CHECK_ETC_HOSTS=yes in /etc/rc.config. My suspicion is that this is what can cause the 192-IP-address to be replaced by a 127-address for the host itself in /etc/hosts on reboot. I don't reboot often enough to feel like checking this out. But if you get an inexplicable inability to access the network, do verify the contents of this file.

    2. Quick-Start - Ssh

    Without a doubt this is the most complex of the Linux facilities described here but is the key to a couple of things that are extremely useful and it certainly should be set up, for both convenience and security.


  • "local" is the machine whose keyboard you want to use
  • "remote" is the machine whose keyboard you don't want to use
  • "<user>" has been set up on both machines
  • "<host>" is the 3rd column of the entry for the "remote" host in /etc/hosts on the "local" machine
  • the entries in /etc/hosts.allow and /etc/hosts.deny on the "remote" machine permit use of sshd from the "local" machine
  • use of the mount command does mean playing disk-jockey between the two machines as appropriate.
  • the following is based on SuSE 6.3 (2.2.13) and 8.0 (2.4.18-4GB)

    This is what you have to do if you don't bother to set ssh up:

    Remote        Local          Comment
                  <logon as user also known to remote host>
                  ssh <host>
                                 warning:... SOMETHING NASTY
                  yes            accept it

    This is setup:

    Remote        Local          Comment
                  <logon as user also known to remote host>
                                 accept default: .ssh/identity
                                 no passphrase
                  mount /floppy
                  cp .ssh/identity.pub /floppy/
                  umount /floppy
    logon as <the same user>
    mkdir .ssh                   if necessary
    mount /floppy
    cp /floppy/identity.pub .ssh/authorized_keys
    cp /etc/ssh/ssh_host_key.pub /floppy/known_hosts
    umount /floppy
                  mount /floppy
                  cp /floppy/known_hosts .ssh/
                  umount /floppy
                  vi .ssh/known_hosts
                                 add <host> at start of line and
                                 remove root@<host> at end

    And this is what you have to do to logon after setting things up:

    Remote        Local          Comment
                  <logon as user also known to remote host>
                  ssh <host>

    Note that the host key is generated as part of system installation (with SuSE anyhow). And there can be differences in directory structure (SuSE's kernel 2.2 didn't have 'ssh' under 'etc'). Also note that this is just intended to get someone unfamiliar with ssh up and running. Do not blindly follow these steps if you have used ssh before! In particular most 'cp's certainly ought to be 'cat ... >>'. In the office at home I don't want a passphrase to begin work on a different machine, but you might.

    3. Quick-Start - Screen

    Although it has been mentioned in Linux Gazette several times and I actually did play with it briefly, the need for screen wasn't at all obvious to me. Given 6+ vt's and X running on at least two others with unlimited windows under whatever window manager one has running, it seemed just another level of complexity.

    The need became obvious as the network at home began taking shape. The rationale behind screen boils down to this: if you start sessions on remote machines under screen, they remain available to you as long as the remote machine isn't shut down -- independent of what happens on the communication link or your local machine. Like one of my PCMCIA Ethernet cards only works under Windows and I can thus only connect one of the notebooks to the PC at a time, if the AMD is also running Linux, as it usually is -- but no need to shut the 486 down, just eject the card, pop it into the AMD and screen keeps sessions active on the 486 for later access.

    To start screen:

        screen -R   restart session if available, otherwise start one

    Within screen (not at all apparent, it hides well) use Ctrl-a followed by:

        ?   help
        w   show list of windows
        n   switch to next window
        c   create new window
        d   disconnect
        A   assign title to window

    4. Quick-Start - File Transfer

    If you are using ssh, you can get rid of rsh -- and telnet and ftp as well for that matter. Here are a couple of alternatives that to me are more convenient than the lot.

    Netcat is a nifty little tool, analogous to cat. You start it to receive a file on one machine

        netcat -vv -l -p <port> > <file>

    and then tell the other machine what to send

        netcat -vv -w 10 <host> <port> < <file>
        tar -czvf - <directory> | netcat -vv -w 10 <host> <port>

    Use netstat and /etc/services to find an available port. The option "-w 10" tells the sender to terminate the connection after 10 seconds of inactivity and the option "-vv" lets you verify that the correct number of bytes was sent and received.

    While netcat holds promise for scripts to backup to a different machine as the network at home gradually takes shape, Midnight Commander has amazing facilities for the things one simply has to do by hand.

    If ssh has been set up properly, the following entered in the command line makes mc's active panel point to the same user on the "other" machine -- yes, "#sh" not "#ssh", unfortunately

        cd /#sh:<host>

    And if the other side has anonymous ftp running, the following should be fairly self-explanatory

        cd /#ftp:www.tldp.org/

    5. Quick-Start - NFS

    I played around with nfs and it works but unfortunately my notes are non-existant (basically just check-marks in the printout of the HOWTO). As I recall, besides installing the relevant package on client and server all that was needed was to edit /etc/exports on the PC (server) as follows:

    See also /etc/hosts.allow under 1. Ethernet, above.

    At installation SuSE has a number of options to be selected, many (all?) of which wind up in /etc/rc.config. Here is an excerpt of those relevant to nfs:


    On the AMD (client) I added the following to /etc/fstab:	/Rhome	nfs	noauto,users,sync 0 0	/Rtmp	nfs	noauto,users,sync 0 0

    At that point the mount command works with /Rhome etc. just as well as /floppy or any other entry in fstab. One minor annoyance is that user ID's must be the same on all machines using nfs. This was not a problem for me because, when installing Linux, I create the few users in the same order.

    6. Quick-Start - Samba

    Given the difficulty of keeping track of what one is doing under Windows, particularly with false starts and things that turn out to be wrong or simply irrelevant, this needs to be taken with a large grain of salt. It assumes that the driver for the PCMCIA card has been installed, if relevant. And if the terminology is slightly obscure, that is due to my translating from the German versions of Windows.

    The following is what was necessary to enable logon to the PC from the AMD under Samba, i.e. from Windows 98 to Linux 2.2.13 (SuSE 6.3). With appropriate adjustments the same steps worked in the other direction, i.e. from Windows 95 to Linux 2.4.18-4GB (SuSE 8.0). But note these differences:

  • encrypt passwords: 98: yes; 95: no
  • path to smb.conf: 2.4: /etc/samba; 2.2: /etc
  • path to smbpasswd: 2.4: /etc/samba; 2.2: /etc
  • path to netlogon: 2.4: /usr/local/samba; 2.2: /var/lib/samba
    Part 1 - Linux
                                 edit /etc/smb.conf
       workgroup = Lohgo
       encrypt passwords = yes
       smb passwd file = /etc/smbpasswd
       password level = 8
       username level = 8
       socket options = TCP_NODELAY
       domain logons = yes
       domain master = yes
       os level = 65
       preferred master = yes
       wins proxy = no
       wins support = yes
       hosts allow = 127.
       comment = Home Directories
       read only = no
       browseable = no
       comment = Network Logon Service
       path = /usr/local/samba/netlogon
       public = no
       writeable = no
       browseable = no
       path = /home/%U/profile
       guest ok = yes
       browseable = no
                                 confirm validity, should show no errors
    testparm | less
                                 create user w/password
    smbpasswd -a web
                                 verify user enabled
    smbpasswd -e web
                                 start Samba
    smbd -D
    nmbd -D
                                 at this point from the client -- under
                                 Linux, not Windows -- the following
                                 should give a meaningful response
    smbclient -L LohgoPC
                                 and the following should give you
                                 ftp-like access
    smbclient //LohgoPC/web
    Part 2 - Windows98
    control panel | network | configuration
      add | client for microsoft network
        Windows NT-domain: Lohgo
        quick logon
      add | protocol | microsoft | tcp/ip
      properties | set IP-address
        Subnet address:
      primary network logon: client for Microsoft network
    control panel | network | identification
      computer name: LohgoAMD
      workgroup:     Lohgo
      description:   ToshibaAMD.Lohgo
    control panel | passwords | user profiles
      users can customize: both
                                 if using PCMCIA the following puts
                                 a symbol on the task bar with which
                                 the PCMCIA card can be removed
    <insert PCMCIA Ethernet card and wait for lights to settle down>
                                 the following works ONLY after TCP/IP
                                 has been set up, shows configuration
    start | run | winipcfg
                                 test connection from within a dos-box
    ping -n 5
                                 edit c:\windows\hosts.sam       localhost   lohgopc
                                 edit c:\windows\lmhosts.sam   lohgopc

    At this point after booting, Windows will ask you to logon, which you can either do with a user known to Samba or cancel to use Windows without the network as before. Now, however, the pop-up window opened by Ctrl-Esc includes near the bottom a line to logoff that afterwards provides the same logon prompt as booting. And the entries in the task bar -- in the home directory, anyhow -- tell you who and where you are, as in

    "Explorer - <user> at <host>"

    where "<host>" is the 3rd column of the entry for the Linux machine in /etc/hosts on the Linux machine.

    Symbolic links work quite nicely. The following executed within the home directory of some user makes a directory -- even on a different partition -- on the Linux machine available to that user on the Windows machine:

    ln -s /dos/f/pictures pictures

    Due to a shortage of resources on the PC and the fact that I have no real use for Windows anyhow, I use the following scripts to start and stop the Samba daemons on the PC as needed:

    /root/samba-up:     #!/bin/bash
                        /usr/sbin/smbd    -d3    -l /tmp/sbd.log
                        /usr/sbin/nmbd -D -d0 -o -l /tmp/sbd.log
    /root/samba-down:   #!/bin/bash
                        kill -s SIGTERM $(ps aux | grep mbd \
                            | grep -v grep | awk '{print $2}')
    Once you have this working, it won't take you 5 minutes to set up a network printer. Uncomment (or add) the following to smb.conf:
       comment = All Printers
       browseable = no
       printable = yes
       public = no
       read only = yes
       create mode = 0700
       directory = /tmp
    And then spend some time with the archaic data entry system on the Windows machine:
    control panel | printer | new printer
      network printer | search
        network environment | Pc
        manufacturer: HP
        printer:      HP OfficeJet
    Shut down and re-start Samba and you're in business.

    7. Quick-Start - PCMCIA

    To be honest I have no idea whether this is generally applicable or is specific to SuSE (8.0). And it was only the 2.4 kernel that had problems with PCMCIA, not 2.2 strangely enough. Also, it has nothing to do with networking per se. But if you're going to connect a notebook to your network, you'll probably have to confront the alphabet monster. And a PCMCIA Ethernet card makes a delightful docking station.

    Omitting many details, I initially failed to note an inconsistency with references to irq 5 and 10 that later led to tons of error messages. But this was due to having inserted the PCMCIA card before starting the installation of Linux.

    In my case at least, by not inserting the PCMCIA card before starting installation, there was a reference to only one irq which led to my doing the following.

    After initial boot in /etc/sysconfig/pcmcia add

    and then run /sbin/SuSEconfig and reboot.

    However, installing the PCMCIA software before doing this causes the notebook to hang irrevocably on boot. The only way to boot is by giving LILO the parameter NOPCMCIA=yes. Instead, I installed the PCMCIA software after SuSEconfig and before reboot.

    After that, inserting the PCMCIA card produces a couple of beeps and it works as advertised. Since this is my first personal experience with Ethernet, I can't comment on alternatives but the D-Link DFE-650TXD PCMCIA Ethernet card works well, Linux-to-Linux anyhow (a couple of hours sending stuff over the network before risking the wretched "Recovery CD-Rom" to make Windows 98 work again) and has lots of LEDs to let you know what is going on.

    Here is the output from /sbin/cardctl config and ident.


    Socket 0:
      not configured
    Socket 1:
      Vcc 5.0V  Vpp1 0.0V  Vpp2 0.0V
      interface type is "memory and I/O"
      irq 10 [exclusive] [level]
      function 0:
        config base 0x0400
          option 0x60 status 0x00 copy 0x00
        io 0x0300-0x031f [auto]


    Socket 0:
      no product info available
    Socket 1:
      product info: "D-Link", "DFE-650TXD", "Fast Ethernet", "Rev. A1"
      manfid: 0x0149, 0x0230
      function: 6 (network)

    8. Further Reading

    See also the following articles in the issue of Linux Gazette indicated:
    36: Introducing Samba by John Blair
    39: Expanding Your Home Network by J.C. Pollman
    44: DNS for the Home Network by J.C. Pollman and Bill Mote
    47: Backup for the Home Network by J.C. Pollman and Bill Mote
    48: SAMBA, Win95, NT and HP Jetdirect by Eugene Blanchard
    50: Sharing your Home by J.C. Pollman and Bill Mote
    57: Making a Simple Linux Network Including Windows 9x by Juraj Sipos
    61: Using ssh by Matteo Dell'Omodarme
    64: ssh suite: sftp, scp and ssh-agent by Matteo Dell'Omodarme
    67: Using ssh-agent for SSH1 and OpenSSH by Jose Nazario
    74: Play with the Lovely Netcat by zhaoway

    The Linux Gazette Answer Gang Knowledge Base under Network Configuration has numerous relevant tidbits among which Routing and Subnetting 101 is mandatory reading.

    And the Linux Focus Index by Subject under System Administration has several articles well worth looking at, e.g.:
    Replacing a Windows/NT/2000 server using Linux and Samba by Sebastian Sasias
    Through the Tunnel by Georges Tarbouriech
    Samba Configuration by Eric Seigne
    Network File System (NFS) by Frederic Raynal
    Home Networking, glossary and overview by Guido Socher

    9. A Future without Windows?

    Coming from pre-TRS-80 days, I've used DOS, various versions of Windows, at least 3 releases of OS/2, Coherent, and now 5 releases of SuSE Linux over at least 5 years. I am convinced that anyone in a position to "compare and contrast" would agree that at best Windows is unstable junk. One of my goals for quite some time had been to gain complete independence from Windows.

    But consider: our ISDN phone system has an RS-232 connector with which it can be programmed via -- yeah, you got it. One of the printers is USB for the notebook and guess whose drivers are available. Our digital camera uses smart media and the USB smart media reader... Oh, well, you get the picture.

    I've only had Samba working for a week and actually hadn't even intended to check it out but everything else worked so well that it seemed worth a try. And it's so slick that I question whether it would really be worth my effort to try to find replacement drivers for this legacy stuff. How many hours, how many experiments, what guarantee of success? Doesn't it make more sense to boot the notebook under the "silly system" (I hope Monty Python put that under GPL) and use the Samba connection to the rest of the network? At least until the last Windows-legacy device eats it.


    [BIO] Edgar is a consultant in the Cologne/Bonn area in Germany. His day job involves helping a customer with payroll, maintaining ancient IBM Assembler programs, some occasional COBOL, and otherwise using QMF, PL/1 and DB/2 under MVS.

    Copyright © 2003, Edgar Howell. Copying license http://www.linuxgazette.com/copying.html
    Published in Issue 87 of Linux Gazette, February 2003

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