Monday, March 19, 2012

Cisco Clean

Screen shot of  Cisco Clean Agent running on a guest
Windows XP and sharing the Internet with Linux host.
As far as I can tell, and this should be considered a biased opinion, Cisco Clean is kind of useless. Granted, I am not a big network administrator, but I have experience with small public and private networks. I've never felt the need for anything that resembles Cisco Clean.

Just to simplify, Cisco Clean is a program that runs on potentially hostel client computers; to be specific, student laptops. The program's job is to make sure Windows updates have been applied and there is some kind of anti-virus software running.

My misunderstanding comes from why this is even necessary when the only reason to connect is to access the Internet? What am I missing here?

My problem comes from the University not allowing Linux clients on their network. From Cisco's FAQ:
Q: How Does Validation Work for Linux Users?
A: Linux users must authenticate by logging in via a web page. There is no client which is downloaded to Linux systems. The network connection timer is set for Linux systems; however, there is no icon that can be right-clicked to logout and subsequently login again.

What if the university has the web authentication disabled? That's the story here.

There is an open source project called freecca that looks very promising, but it is limited to Gnome last time I tried it (my old under-powered netbook runs Lubuntu). I have yet to attempt compiling the latest source which promises to run on any GUI. Until I get a chance to really delve into this I've come up with a temporary solution that surprised me it worked so well (In fact I'm using it as I write this post).

I ended up using VirtualBox. First I installed it right from the repositories, then installed Windows XP as a virtual machine. I mean the licence was just stuck there to the bottom of my netbook anyway, so why not? I was hesitant it wouldn't run well because the atom processor doesn't support virtulization extensions. And to be fair, Windows XP does run like crap, even when I allocate 1GB of the 2GB's available on my netbook (more than half after subtracting video memory). Even running like crap, it only has to boot up, and run the Cisco Clean agent. Once the connection is established I switch back to Lubuntu... which runs great on older hardware.

The trick, let the virtual Windows environment use the wireless adapter as NAT, and set up a second host only adapter. In Windows run the "Share Internet" wizard, chose the NAT network adapter as the Internet, and the other as the one to use for sharing. After connecting with Cisco Clean (assuming all the updates and anti-virus is ready) the guest Windows machine will share it's Internet with the Linux host.

It's not the ideal solution. It's not a simple solution. But it was one I understood and could work with. My only complaint is having to wait for the VM to boot up and shut down. Fortunately when I do need it, it is for long periods of time. Otherwise I'd spend more time getting the freecca to work.

No comments: