Ubuntu in an Active Directory Windows Domain

Ok, the title's a bit contrived. It's for the keywords, mainly.

Anyway, to have an Ubuntu machine in your network environment has a number of benefits:

  • Learning Linux and trying out Linux software which for the most part is high-quality (and free).
  • Have a staging server for your Ruby on Rails applications.
  • Having an SSH access point into your network for (limited) remote administration, much easier to set up (less secure though) than VPN.

You can either have a full installation of Ubuntu on one of your network machines or you can use virtualization. I'm using the latter as it can leverage the more performant server hardware.ne

As you can now get a free license key for VMWare server, you can take the following steps to host Ubuntu in your network:

  • Download and install VMWare server.
  • **Download an Ubuntu .iso image**, desktop, server, whatever, any version can be easily extended later.
  • Create a Virtual Machine in VMWare server using this .iso image. Be sure to use enough RAM (256 MB is minimum to run Ubuntu) and disk space (minimum 5 GB to have some space left after installation, the days of Linux fitting on a few hundred MB are definitely over). I initially could not get a bridged network connection working and had to use the NAT option in VMWare to get Ubuntu connect to the host server and the Internet. After installing the desktop I can now use the bridged network option without problems. Network and Internet connection are vital for Ubuntu so get those straightened out before you proceed.
    If you downloaded the server version you might want to install a desktop with the command:
    sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop
    This makes many things easier down the road.
  • Join your Ubuntu machine to the domain. Follow the instructions here and here in PARALLEL as one will make the other easier to understand. You should then be able to see the the Ubuntu machine on your Windows Active Directory Domain and ping it.

You will soon experience first-hand that Windows comes in a shiny package but (quite a few) things DON'T WORK as expected, so often it's off to the Knowledge Base again. In Linux (most) things JUST WORK. And because much of the work is done on the command line you get much better and friendlier error messages that the Windows Message Boxes all over the screen.

You can now connect to your Ubuntu installation with a VNC client (Ubuntu has an VNC server built in via the Remote Desktop app) and also get an SSH (Secure Shell) windows client such as the excellent PuTTY which gives you shell access to your Ubuntu box. You can also set VMWare server to start the Ubuntu VM automatically when your Windows host OS starts via VM>Settings>Options>Startup/Shutdown and setting Run this virtual machine as: to anything but "User that powers on this virtual machine".


In my next post I will outline how to get Ruby on Rails running on the Ubuntu box and using Capistrano to deploy from a Windows workstation.

Savion: A million thanks for posting this inomfrtaion.

Posted: 27 August 2007

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