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Usable VPN on Droid

When I purchased my Droid, I immediately began comparing it to my iPhone.  The general absence of features that I took for granted, on my iPhone, started me down a road to set things right and make my Droid what I wanted it to be.

So what were my key needs?  Now to be fair, even the iPhone couldn’t & can’t do some of this.

  • VPN Connectivity to Cisco ASA – I need this for work
  • Microsoft Exchange Global Address List Search – I need this for work
  • Pinch Zoom – It’s just cool
  • Act as a WiFi hotspot  – share the 3G connection over wifi

Over the past couple weeks, I have achieved all but one of these features.  That last item being VPN.  Android does come with a VPN client, but it does not support connections that require a group and shared password in addition to username and password.  There are lots of complaints on the Google Code site, but as of update 2.1 nothing has been produced by Google to fix this.

The reality is, if you need something for Android wait a couple weeks and some intrepid developer will also need it and make it.  Or you could learn to code yourself and do it, thus becoming that intrepid developer.  So after waiting, and searching, I finally hit upon a plan that would give me the VPN access I need.

Ready?  Here we go!

If you’re read my blog at all, you know what I will tell your first:  Read my disclaimer.

The act of setting up the VPN software is pretty easy.  The road to getting here is not; it is littered with bricked phones, tears and many sleepless nights.  (not mine mind you)

I have written a few posts that outline the road.

Step 1:  Root your Droid
Step 2:  Understand and Install a ROM (I used Cyanogenmod, which worked for me)
Step 3:  VPN Happiness

So we’re really on Step 3 now, as I’ve already done the first two.  If you’ve made it to step 3 as well, then you’re going to laugh at the simplicity of this.  Ready?  I know you are!

Instructions

  • Go to the Android Market on your Phone
  • Search VPN Connections by Wade Mealing
    • You can see his application here:  http://www.cyrket.com/p/android/org.codeandroid.vpnc_frontend/
  • Select and Install

You can then open your application drawer and configure your VPN connection.

If you wanted to take a a manual approach to the installation, you can follow the instructions here:  http://code.google.com/p/get-a-robot-vpnc/

Let me explain why it was so simple – because it didn’t have to be.

In order to set up a VPN connection that works with Cisco ASA, you have to install a different VPN client.  The client requires that you have a tun (tunnel) driver installed for the connection.  If you wanted to take the complicated path you would need to do this:

  • root your phone
  • install (compile) busybox
  • install (compile) tunnel driver
  • install (compile) vpn driver
  • configure vpn connection vpn command line

The method I chose allows for someone else to do the compiling and making sure it all works.  Most ROMs have the necessary components built in (thus my statement about improved features in ROMs).  So by installing Cyanogenmod, I avoided having to do all those steps myself.  Could I do it later if I wanted to?  Sure, but I do like to get some sleep at night.

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