One of the simplest Linux desktop distributions to date is Lycoris Desktop/LX (formerly Redmond Linux). From installation to use, this distribution proves itself a viable solution for nearly any ordinary desktop need.

But where Desktop/LX really shines is in its simplicity in dealing with network connections—particularly connecting to workgroups.

In this Daily Feature, I will show you how to connect a Desktop/LX desktop system to a Windows-based workgroup. Once this simplified Linux desktop is deployed, your end users will have a stable computing environment at a low cost that can be easily controlled, administered, and updated without the overwhelming licensing issues that accompany other OSs.

The means to the end
Connecting to a Windows workgroup can be accomplished via the command line or through the Control Center. This is standard Linux fare. However, Desktop/LX is not a standard Linux distribution. There are obvious reasons why you might want a command-line configuration (for example, you might have a server where no GUI is installed). However, because Lycoris is a desktop solution (and not a server solution), the benefits of configuring network connections via the command line quickly disappear.

With that introduction, I give you the KDE Control Center.

Configuring Lycoris networking
Let’s take a look at the KDE Control Center method first. The Control Center is actually a KDE configuration tool that also contains network configuration tools.

The Control Center is started from the Lycoris Main menu (click the far left icon in the panel). Navigate through System Management | Configure Desktop/LX, and the Control Center will open.

To start the configuration, click on the Plus sign (+) to expand Network And Internet Settings. Click on Hostname And DNS, and the right windowpane will look similar to Figure A.

Figure A
Three tabs allow for the configuration of hostname, DNS servers, and host entries for the /etc/hosts file.

The primary settings you will need to provide in the Hostname And DNS window will be the system’s Hostname and the Default Domain. If the client machine is using DHCP, the DNS server configuration will not have to be completed. The Hosts tab will allow you to make entries that will be written to the /etc/hosts file, which can serve as a very simple name service. After you’ve made any changes or additions to this section, click Apply before moving on.

Now click on the Interfaces entry (in the left pane) to open the interface configuration (as shown in Figure B).

Figure B
Even before you click on a specific interface, you can quickly see the configuration highlights in the right pane.

From the Interface Configuration window, you can configure specific networking interfaces to use DHCP or manual addressing. If you are working within a larger environment where manually configuring IP addresses for each client machine is out of the question, use DHCP. If your environment is smaller, or you must have absolute control over what addresses are used and where they are used, configure with manual addressing. Make sure you apply any changes before you move on to the next configuration.

The most important configuration is the Windows Shares options. Click on this item (from the left pane) to reveal the Shares configuration pane (shown in Figure C).

Figure C
As a network administrator, you will generally not want hidden shares to be visible.

The Shares configuration is where you will supply a user’s username, password, and workgroup name. Unlike many other Linux-to-Windows Samba configurations, you will not have to supply the username in the form of Workgroup\username. All you need here is the user’s standard Window’s logon name. After you enter these values, click Apply.

With all of the configurations complete, you will have to restart networking through the Control Center in order to enable the changes. Go back to the Interface configuration window, deselect the Interface Enabled check box, and click Apply. In the main section of this screen, it will list eth0 as Disabled. Reselect the Interface Enabled check box, and click Apply. The eth0 interface will now show up as enabled, and the changes you make will be applied.

Configuration requiring a reboot

When you make a change to the hostname of the machine, you will have to reboot the machine for that change to take effect.

Browse away
To test your configurations, click on the Network Browser icon on the desktop (as shown in Figure D).

Figure D
The Lycoris icons resemble the Windows XP icons.

The Network Browser icon will open Konqueror in file-browsing mode and reveal the All Domains icon. Click this icon and all of the domains available on your network will appear. When you attempt to access resources on that domain, you will be prompted for a username and password. For this logon, you will have to enter DOMAIN\username (where DOMAIN is the name of the domain you are accessing and username is the actual username of your domain account) and then the user password. You will then have access to the domain resources.

Of course, with this level of configuration, the user will only be able to access the resources of the domain (and not actually become a member of the domain itself). In order to get the Linux client to connect to the Windows domain, you must employ a tool called winbind. For more information on winbind, see Scott Lowe’s article “Easy Samba user administration with winbind.”

Drag-and-drop networking

One nice trick is to drag and drop a desktop shortcut from the Domain Listing window. With this shortcut in place, the user can, with a single click of the mouse, browse that particular domain or workgroup.

Networking made easy
Lycoris has done something that most other Linux distributions have not—made network configuration simple. To prove this concept, I installed Lycoris on our test network, and—without touching the configuration post-install—I was able to browse the test workgroup. No other Linux distribution has made such strides with network configuration.