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Linux Mint – Connecting to Networks

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A computer isn’t much of a computer if it can’t communicate with resources over networks. For the most part, networking in Mint is quite simple, especially if all you want to do is plug in an Ethernet cable and let the automatic configuration do the work for you. However, there are some important aspects specific to Mint and the way that it handles networking that are worth knowing. In addition, features such as SSH paired with the power of the Linux shell add even more power to administration. In this chapter, we’ll not only explore how networking is handled in Mint, but we’ll also go over some neat tricks that will allow you to control your computer from any other computer.

In this chapter, we will discuss the following topics:

  • Connecting to a wired network
  • Setting up a static IP
  • Connecting to a wireless network
  • An introduction to SSH
  • Accessing your system via SSH
  • Accessing FTP servers
  • Sharing files with Samba
  • Sharing files with NFS

Connecting to a wired network

With most computers, Mint handles networking pretty much flawlessly. When an Ethernet cable is inserted, it will most likely automatically configure itself using DHCP ( Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol), and then you’ll immediately see other computers on your network, and you can also access the Internet. However, perhaps, you’d like to set your own address or have a bit more control than just letting Mint do the work for you. In some cases, you may run into an issue where your machine includes a network interface card ( NIC) that’s not immediately recognized, causing you to need to do some configuration before your machine is up and running.

In general, drivers for NICs are built into the Linux kernel. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is that quite a few NIC drivers are included by default; there is no need for you to configure anything. However, in other cases, your NIC may not be included. This happens most often when you use a computer that is newer than the date on which your kernel was released. For example, if you have a computer with a Broadwell chipset, but you’re using a version of Mint that was published before Broadwell was released, there are chances that your integrated network card will not be supported. We’ll talk a bit more about troubleshooting later in this chapter.

As a rule of thumb, you should always download a Linux distribution that was released around the same time or a distribution that is new compared to the manufacturing date of your PC or NIC. For example, if you download a Linux distribution that features the 3.2 kernel (which was released in January, 2012) you’re likely to run into problems with hardware support if you use a computer manufactured in 2013 or 2014. In most cases, this may mean issues with your NIC, wireless card, or video card. With this in mind, using a release of Mint closer to or newer than the manufacturing date of your computer is the best approach.

With a recent release of your distribution, in our case, Linux Mint, it’s a very rare occurrence that your networking hardware is not recognized. When you plug in an Ethernet cable, you should see the following icon on the panel near the clock that looks like two cables connected together:

If all goes well, the automatic configuration will suffice. Once the Ethernet cable is connected, DHCP will assign the computer an IP address, and away it goes. If you would like to set more advanced settings, such as a static address, you’ll need to open your network connections settings to edit them. To do so, click on the icon mentioned earlier on your panel and then click on Network Settings to see a list of the connections stored for your system. The following screenshot shows the settings dialog for network connections stored on the system:

By default, when you first open the tool, you’ll most likely see a list of wireless networks or a wired network if your system doesn’t contain a wireless card. To edit your wired connection, first click on Wired on the left pane, then click on the Options… button in the bottom-right corner of the window. A new window will appear that will allow you to fine-tune your wired connection. For example, if you click on the IPv4 Settings tab, you’ll be able to set a static IP address by selecting Manual from the dropdown instead of the default Automatic (DHCP) option.

With DHCP, configuration is much easier, as your computer will contact your local DHCP server (which, in most cases, would be a home office router), request an address, and then configure itself. The problem with DHCP addressing is that an IP address can and will expire, and these are subject to change. If you would like to predictably contact your computer on the network via a specific and dedicated IP address, setting a static address is the key.

Note

A complete set of instructions on networking is beyond the scope of this tutorial. However, a brief look at configuring a static address follows in the next section.

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