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Linux Remote Networking Tips and Tricks

The Mobile SOHO Worker

October 14, 2009

Linux has all kinds of great networking abilities built-in; here are some tips and tricks for navigating multiple computers at home or in an office.

I have the privilege of working at home. I get my own music, nobody steals my good chair or stapler, and there are no germy people infecting me because they're too lame to stay home when they're sick. Best of all, no commute. I have a room fixed up as an office, but I get tired of being stuck in the same room all day, so I wander between three computers-- office PC, laptop, and music studio computer. ("Music studio" might sound more grand than it is-- it's a small room where we keep our musical instruments and recording setup.)

I've toyed with the idea of setting up a central file server, but there are already too many computers cluttering up the place. So my office PC is the "master" computer; that is where I keep all of my data files. The studio computer holds music and photos. The laptop is random.

No Network Shares

One option is to set up some NFS shares. This is pretty easy, and I might do it someday. Or some Samba shares, since I keep a couple of Windows PCs around for testing. But I don't use either of those because I rely on SSH and SSHFS. SSH is a reliable old standby every computer user should know how to use; it's secure and endlessly adaptable.

Installation and Setup

On Debian, Ubuntu, and other Debian derivatives, you need both openssh-client and openssh-server installed. On Fedora and CentoOS it's openssh-clients (thanks a lot for silly package name differences, folks!) and openssh-server. The installer will automatically set them up so you can be lazy and not change the default configurations. After installation, start up sshd by running /etc/init.d/sshd start as root (Fedora), /etc/init.d/ssh start as root (Debian), or use your favorite graphical services manager.

You will need to configure sshd to start at boot if you don't want to start it manually every time. On Debian run this command:

# update-rc.d ssh defaults

On Fedora and CentOS use chkconfig:

# chkconfig sshd on

Of course your favorite graphical services manager will also do the job.

There is one configuration change that is wise to make, and that is to restrict sshd to listen for incoming connections only on your local LAN addresses. Open sshd_config as root (it will be somewhere in /etc, like /etc/ssh or thereabouts) and add a line like this to allow connections only from your LAN address range, using CIDR notation:

AllowUsers *@192.168.*.*

Of course you want to use your own LAN address.

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