The Earth Sciences VPN Service.
The Department has its own virtual private network (VPN) server which supplements the service offered centrally by the University.
So, what is VPN?
Well, a simple description is that it's a method of connecting a computer outside of the Department so that it seems for all intents and purposes to be connected to a network socket inside the Department. The software which facilitates this also makes sure that all the data which moves to and from your computer within this virtual network connection is encrypted so that it's safe from eaves dropping.
Why do we need it?
Well, there are resources, such as web pages which are only accessible from computers within the Department for privacy reasons and Windows networking shared drives, and there are the library resources which are only available to people within the University. Also, if you want to use the OWL (Oxford Wireless LAN) WiFi network you need to use the software before you'll be able to access the network.
The VPN system is also useful if you use the Eduroam service or if your computer is connected to any network around the world as it encrypts the data transferred between your computer and our network.
What do I need to do then?
First of all, if you are using a computer running Microsoft Windows or MacOS X versions older than 10.6 "Snow Leopard", you will need to download and install some software. At the bottom of this page there are a series of links to the files you will need to download. Microsoft Windows Vista 64-bit and Microsoft Windows 7 are not currently supported.
The installation programs for Windows and MacOS will install the client with the default, central computing services (OUCS) configuration. Once the istallation has finished you will need to import the Earth Sciences configuration file after rebooting your computer (even if it's a Mac).
Linux systems often have the ability to import these files also within their VPN systems, which you may have to install as an extra package, depending upon the distribution. If you cannot import the .pcf file into the utility then you will have to enter the information manually.
As of MacOS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" there is now no need to install extra software as it has a Cisco VPN client built in. However, you will need to add the information manually.
Once you have connected your machine to either the OWL wireless service or to a network connection outside of the Department run the Cisco VPN Client program (or equivalent). All you need to do is select the Earth Sciences service and click on the Connect icon. You should now see a dialogue box pop up asking you for a user name and password, these are your normal Earth Sciences webmail user name and password. And assuming that the network you're connected to allows VPN that's it! You are now virtually connected to our network.
You will need to keep the VPN program running for as long as you need to be connected, on an Apple this can be quite annoying as it doesn't put itself away automatically, the simplest way is to use the Apple+H key combination to hide the program.
When you're finished, merely find the program again and click on the Disconnect button (which replaced the Connect one) and quit the program.
Getting the software.
Click on the links below to download the client software (you can only do this from within the Department network.):-
- Microsoft Windows XP
- Microsoft Windows Vista (32bit)
- Apple MacOS X
- Configuration file.
- Manual Configuration Information. (Useful for all systems not mentioned above, e.g. iPhones and other devices.)