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Easy VPN Setup

April 4, 2010

Remobo is an alternative to the popular Hamachi VPN application. It doesn’t suffer from some of Hamachi’s limitations such as the 16 machine limit and for now, while the program is beta, the full version is completely free. A Linux version is available, as a .deb for Ubuntu no less, and it’s easy to get everything installed and running on both Windows and Linux. In a matter of minutes all your Linux and Windows boxen can be happily networking together. Thanks to Remobo’s file sharing support you can also easily browse your shared disks no matter where they happen to be on your network.

The only problem with Remobo is that it doesn’t really work. Admittedly, the system is still in beta, but having a VPN that “mostly” works may not be acceptable to most people, particularly if critical services, such as automated backup, rely on the VPN.

One immediate problem with Remobo is that sometimes buddies will appear offline when they’re really online. In this case you’ll have to keep removing and re-adding the buddy until they appear online. A bigger problem is that the linux version isn’t stable. It will fail randomly and then not recover. As an added bonus you’ll get cryptic error messages like error renewing Presence: 9 (NULL/15) that offer no hint as to the solution. This is a big problem: at the very moment I needed to remotely scp into a linux server Remobo had failed. You also can’t run Remobo as a system service (yet) and configure it to launch automagically at startup.

The end result is that an instant private network that isn’t reliable isn’t a very useful instant private network. For now, you’re better off sticking with Hamachi. Sucka.net’s Hamachi Tutorial is an excellent guide to getting Hamachi up and running on Ubuntu as a system service. It takes five minutes and then you mostly don’t need to worry about it. Don’t forget to go-online.

There does appear to be some problems with the latest incarnation of Hamachi on Windows. Hamachi 2.x doesn’t seem to like the “legacy” protocol used by the Linux Hamachi (0.9.9.0) version. The behavior I saw was that the tunnels to the Linux boxen were very unstable. Every few minutes there would be a problem and then the tunnel would essentially disconnect. At this point the only solution was to log out and log back in on Windows.

That sucked.

Fortunately the old Hamachi 1.0.3.0 version works great on Windows and has a much more attractive UI to boot. If Hamachi 2.x is giving you issues, or you just don’t like its naggy UI, give the old version a try.

Enjoy.

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