Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Getting Connected to Illinois State University ISUNET from Linux

This week I started a masters program in mathematics and a job as a graduate assistant at Illinois State University. My laptop is never far from my side, so of course one of the first things I did on campus was connect to the internet.

Or at least attempt to.

There are three main wireless networks at Illinois State University.

isunet - The main network for staff, students and alumni
isunet-guest - A guest network
isunet-setup - A wireless network for "easily configuring your isunet"

I connected to ISUNet-Setup, opened a webrowser and was on my way. It checked my browser for java plugin support (which of course it had) and then I was promptly informed my operating system did not support automatic setup. I was told to contact the Help Desk for the manual configuration instructions.

The page was poorly designed though. It did not provide a link to Help Desk website or provide a phone number. After finding the website via Google on my N900, I noticed they had a search function. I was shocked to find that searching "linux wireless" did not yield any results. In fact even searching simply "linux" did not find anything in any of their pages.

What a shame.

Being the persistent person that I am (and having an hour to kill before class). I marched myself on over to the help desk building and found their main office. The person behind the desk was fairly friendly and actually ended up being fairly useful. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: "I need the manual configuration instructions for ISUNet."

Him: "Are you sure? Are you running Windows or Mac?"

Me: "Linux."

I was slightly surprised at this point, normally saying that "L" word to customer support for tech trips them up a whole lot, this guy seemed to know his stuff though.

Him: "Oh, well the setup will vary with your system - but what you are looking for is WPA2 Protected EAP (PEAP) in your security settings. Once there just use your ISU login for the user name and password."

He jotted down what he said on the back of a piece of paper. I nodded, took the notes and was on my way.

Once I turned my laptop back on, I discovered connecting was fairly simple using the Gnome desktop's nm-applet (which is what Bodhi Linux and a number of others also use). You simply click on the network manager icon and select isunet, after clicking this a security window will pop up, automatically detecting the Security type. You will however need to change the Authentication setting to use PEAP (I think mine defaulted to TLS).

Towards the bottom of the main window, there will now be a spot for entering a user name and password (after selecting PEAP). Here, you enter the same thing you use to log onto iCampus. After filling in this information, hit connect and you should be on your way.

Needless to say this setup is not hard if you know what you are doing/what you are looking for. What is disappointing though is that these simple settings are not found anywhere on the ISU tech help website (or anywhere I could find on Google for that matter). I know for a fact I am far from the only Linux user at ISU - I saw someone using an Ubuntu powered tablet in one of my classes already :)

~Jeff Hoogland


  1. That is a crazy story. You were lucky to get the right person. A University of all places should be the easiest place to find information. Learning and information is what schools are all about. They certainly have more than 2 choices for computer programming courses, right? Thanks for the laugh but I'm sorry it came at the expense of your frustrations.

  2. Jeff, I'm not sure why it seemed like a big hassle. My university switched to PEAP in January and since I'm using the nm-applet as well. All I had to do was click on the network of choice, (in this case the PEAP one) and enter in my login details.

    I don't see why you had to go through so much trouble.

  3. @Jon, sometimes its worth bothering the IT so that they realise it's worth putting a little information about linux configurations on their help pages...

  4. @jon, I think if the issue is there was no advertising of the fact that PEAP was needed or indeed any info that could have saved the trip to it support. That I believe is Jeff's point

  5. Jarope hit the nail on the head.

    At any rate I'm going to make a HOWTO in PDF form with screenshots and send it to their IT section. Hopefully they can post it on their website.

  6. Just for reference:

    "To use "isunet," your computer or device must support one of the following:

    MS-PEAP and WPA2/AES (recommended)
    LEAP and WPA2/AES"

  7. @anonymous...the link would be more relavent in this case if there was a mention of Linux as an option or they could simply supply other OS as an option. At least then the instructions would be clear and searchable.

  8. :) ... I´m curious about the tablet with Ubuntu the other guy was using :)

  9. Ehh it was just a laptop/tablet convertible. Toshiba I think.

  10. Jeff...thank you for posting this...I googled Ilstu Ubuntu because I couldn't connect (I'm a 'dual booter' as you say) and this was the second link for me.

    Worked great.


  11. Thank you for this entry. I am using Mint.Mate
    One thing to add, I had to tell it not to fret about security certificates.

  12. I wasn't able to get this working with PEAP, but it did work with LEAP auth.