Ubuntu Linux, Day 12: VPN Success, Finally!

30 Days With Ubuntu Linux: Day 12

We'll call this Day 12.5 of 30 Days With Ubuntu Linux. It took me a while, but the good news is that I now have VPN connectivity with PCWorld so I can just write in LibreOffice Writer and post straight from Ubuntu Linux. Getting there was less than intuitive, and quite frustrating, though.

I want to reiterate something for the many commenters who seemed incredulous that I would try to get the actual Cisco AnyConnect client for Linux, and couldn't understand why I didn't just search for “VPN” in the Ubuntu Software Center. I know that it is the Cisco AnyConnect client that I use in Windows. I was not aware that you could just use any random open source VPN client to connect with the Cisco VPN, so there is nothing intuitive about that solution.

VPN
It wasn't as easy as it should be, nor as simple as comments implied, but I got the VPN access working in Ubuntu finally.
The implication in some comments that I overlooked the obvious or simple solution are ludicrous. Having gone through the exercise, I now have a better understanding of how to go about finding suitable tools in the Ubuntu Software Center, but if someone tells me they want a Big Mac, I am going to go to McDonald's. I would not assume that any random burger-like sandwich will suffice, and just go to a grocery store and search for “burger” to see what comes up, and hope it will work.

That said, even with the Ubuntu Software Center, and guidance from a number of helpful readers, getting the VPN connectivity set up was not as simple as I might have hoped. Scratch that. It was simple—but because the VPN app lacked simple feedback that I could act on, it was made much more frustrating than it had to be.

I used the Ubuntu Software Center to install the openconnect and network-manager-openconnect apps, then I logged out and logged back in so that Cisco AnyConnect Compatible VPN (openconnect) appears as an available option for setting up a VPN connection. I added the PCWorld VPN gateway URL, but I didn't have any further information to fill in the remaining blanks, so I save the profile and tried to connect.

Nada. No such luck. I got an error message that read something to the effect of “Connection was not provided by any settings service”.

I tried clicking different checkboxes, and changing any aspects of the configuration I could to no avail. I thought maybe there was some profile I needed that I might be able to Import from the Cisco AnyConnect TAR file I got from PCWorld, so I tried to import every file in the TAR one at a time. No luck.

Then, I decided to boot back into Windows and see if there was some way to export or save the profile from the Cisco AnyConnect client there so I could import it to my Linux VPN connection. Nothing.

Back to Ubuntu Linux. I booted up the OS, and clicked to connect the VPN, and this time it verified the certificate info for PCWorld, and went to the login screen as it should. Voila! The connection works.

As far as I can tell, the app needed a reboot, but wasn't smart enough to do it automatically. The error message I was getting was not helpful at all, and instead should have said something like “you must reboot your system before this VPN app will work.”

The bottom line is that the VPN connection was easy...in retrospect. However, the solution was not as obvious or intuitive as Linux gurus may believe, and implementing it was not as simple as it could or should have been.

Read the last "30 Days" Series: 30 Days with Google Docs

Day 11: Weighing LibreOffice as a Microsoft Office Alternative

Day 13: Playing Tunes in Banshee

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