Which VPN questions?

So I've been using Hamachi for my VPN for a while now but since switching to Ubuntu, its felt a bit out of place. First of all installing Hamachi is painful – you must compile it, theres no debs or universe repository support. The basic version is command line only and some people have created a couple of gui's including YAHG, Ghamachi and quamachi. But to be honest even with the guis it sometimes doesn't work as expected. For example right now I'm at my parents house on a broadband connection but can only access one of my 3 machines I have acttached to my Hamachi network. Two of the machines before I left for Christmas failed to connect to the Hamachi Medation server for some reason. Another reason why I'm a little down on Hamachi is the propitery nature of it. I know its been looked at deeply but if there was something like Hamachi which was actually open, I would switch.

So I've looked around and come across quite a few technologies like PPTP, Open VPN, IPsec, FreeSwan and OpenSwan. After reading this very long entry, I started understanding some of the VPN technologies a lot better. So it seems to me that PPTP is Microsoft driven and there is a couple of server versions for Linux. PPTP seems to be old and insecure? IPSec seems to be better but not as good as L2TP with IPsec? FreeSwan has forked into OpenSwan and StrongSwan. I still don't understand the whole Open VPN thing, as it seems to be part of everything rather that a complete solution (do correct me if I'm wrong).

So I looked into OpenSwan and StrongSwan and choose OpenSwan because it gets more mentions online and hey it was clearly documentated on the site – apt-get install openswan. I know strongswan is the same but hey i needed to start somewhere and the windowsmobile tutorial seemed straight forward (if someone knows other reasons why I should use strong over open please do say). Anyway as Hamachi is, I restarted the server after installing openswan to find its not quite started up correctly and I can't remember my standard ip address to talk directly to my smoothwall server. So anyone with some good tips for small time VPN usage let me know.

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.