Outsmarting an aging router and other tales of regeneration

So after a week of preparation and a couple more weeks of frustration and perseverance, my somewhat ancient laptop has transformed from a dual-boot Kubuntu/Windows XP system to a dual-boot openSUSE 11.3/Windows XP system.

The whole process wasn’t really as bad as I’d feared, nor as bad as you might think after reading that lead paragraph. I pretty much thought I’d have to reformat my hard drive and start over and backed up all my data accordingly. Once I did that, I remembered to install Windows first, even though I never ran into any issues when I earlier installed Windows on what it considered the H: drive.

What I was not really expecting was having to fight my DSL router to get access to openSUSE’s software repositories! This is the story I want to share with you.

First, let me say that one of the great things about Linux is its ability to make old tech useful and productive (setting a great example for human society as a whole). Back in the day, folks made the case for people to try turning their old desktop PC into a Linux network server when they got some shiny new piece of hardware. You can still do that with your ancient Pentium processor, as long as you don’t need a graphical interface to run it.

This laptop I’m typing into was the first portable I ever bought, and it’s just three years old. One of the first Dell machines to ship with Ubuntu in the summer of 2007. I bought a copy of Windows XP to add to it another while back. But I’ve had this 2WIRE DSL router since I moved into my last apartment on New Year’s Day 2004, and it’s still going. Hardly ever caused me a lick of trouble, except when I installed openSUSE 11.1, and YaST Online Update wouldn’t update. I brought my problem to the openSUSE mailing list, and eventually discovered the problem was with Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6). Disabling IPv6 in the YaST network manager solved the problem, presumably for all time, or at least till the engineers figured out why IPv6 wasn’t working.

Not quite two years later, with no update trouble either on Windows or Ubuntu, I proceeded to rebuild the laptop. The install(s) went quite smoothly—until we got to the update part. My old friend “cannot resolve download.opensuse.org” returned to my screen. Well, “download.opensuse.org” was a new thing, and a very cool item at that. For most of my (open)SuSE installs, I had to find and designate my own closest mirror, to ease the burden on the ‘net pipes. Now you connect to this one download URL, and a piece of software called MirrorBrain finds a nearby download site for you!

To make a long story a little shorter: It turns out the mirror selected for me has a problem with that aging router of mine. When you use the domain name, the router spits it out—”No packets from you!” But one of the search engines found me a piece of the puzzle. I tried using nslookup to get the IP address of download.opensuse.org. To my surprise, changing the address of the repositories in YaST from letters to numbers appeased my router!

A few problems remained, mainly that I couldn’t access the list of community repositories that house so many fine applications (apologies to those readers who aren’t using openSUSE; I know this is probably too detailed, but this is my way of helping the next person). Every time I’d try to get the list from YaST, it would dutifully go off to download.opensuse.org and come up empty. <sigh>

But now nslookup stopped being friendly! For some reason, when I’d try:

nslookup http://packman.unixheads.com/

I’d get in response:

** server can't find http://packman.unixheads.com/
.gateway.2wire.net: REFUSED

Just when I was about to cave in and buy a new router, I tried one more search on this error message. The results led me to a post on a Red Hat Linux forum (of all things), suggesting I try using the Host command (as root) instead of nslookup. Lo and behold, that got me real IP addresses.

While I still don’t have the complete list of community repositories, this page offers a good list that I was able to configure in YaST. So I’m happily back in openSUSE. Yes, I’ll probably be replacing the router soon, but I can get on with my work for now.

Thanks to all who helped, whether they knew it or not! This community is stellar! Now I just have to get my old KMail restored, and I’ll be even happier.


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