The WSU VPN on the Eee PC

With my new Eee PC, I took it to work to show it off and also to keep me entertained on my Lunch break and while I wait for Catherine to finish teaching. Unfortunately, when I booted it up to show it off, I tried to get it to connect to the Washington State University wireless network.

WSU uses a slightly different wireless setup than I am accustomed to, where the Wireless network itself is open to anyone who wishes to connect to it, however the only system that a wireless user can get to is the VPN gateway for campus, which I use periodically from home when wanted to search Google Scholar or something.

The system is really quite clever. This way users don’t need to register their device MAC addresses with central IT, but access through the wireless is restricted only to users who can authenticate to the VPN. It’s a pretty simple system, that is really quite effective,and pretty easy to set up and use on my Ubuntu Desktop and Catherine’s Ubuntu Laptop.

When, I unpacked my Asus Eee PC, I quickly set up the VPN connection so that when I got into the office today, I should have no trouble connecting. The Eee PC comes preloaded with a PPTP VPN client, and configuration was pretty straight-forward. I’m even able to configure the VPN connection to automatically open the wireless link before attempting to open the VPN link.

Unfortunately, the connection still didn’t work. When I ran the route command, I was greeted by two default routes. Apparently, the VPN configuration went great, except that it neglected to place itself above the unencrypted link as the default route, causing the system to try to route packets over the unencrypted, and mostly unroutable link.

Until I can figure out how to make the VPN client behave correctly, I’ve put together a simple workaround, which is simple, but not automatic. Functionally, I simply don’t want any traffic to go over the unencrypted link, so I simply deleted the unnecessary route using the following command at the terminal (reached from CTRL-ALT-T on the keyboard):

sudo route del default dev ath0

This ensures that all default routed traffic heads out over the VPN link (which is ppp0 by default), allowing my VPN link to work, and it’s been working like a charm. Not being a KDE user, I’m unsure if this is a KDE application issue, or an Asus Eee issue, though I suspect it’s a KDE problem.

A bit annoying, though the workaround is simple.

For those who have never set up the VPN client under Linux before, the process if very simple.

First, choose the Wireless Networks icon from the Internet menu, and choose one of the WSUNEXUS connections. This is the unencrypted wireless network.

Second, open up the Networks tag under the Internet menu and click the Create button. This will bring up a list of connection types for you to select. Scroll down to the bottom of the list and select “Virtual Private Network - PPTP VPN” and click Next.

ConnWizard1.png

Go ahead and tell the VPN connection to use the WSUNexus Wireless Connection created in step one and click next. The hostname of the VPN server is vpn-gateway.wsu.edu.

ConnWizard3.png

Leave the WINS server blank.

Enter in your username and password. You can choose if you want to save your password or not. I did, but I expect I’ll be the only one using my Eee.

ConnWizard5.png

Finally, click Finish on the last screen, and your connection will be saved.

From here on out, when you want to connect to the WSU VPN, you’ll need to open the Networks application, select your VPN connection, and click the Connection Button and choose Connect. From there, the VPN should automatically open the Wireless connection and then start the VPN.

Finally, to finish the problem listed above, open up a terminal window by pressing CTRL-ALT-T on the keyboard, and the terminal will open. In the terminal, type in

sudo route del default dev ath0
. This will remove the superfluous default route, and allow you to connect to the web through the VPN.