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When Windows is attached to a network but cannot reach a DHCP server, it defaults to an IP address of the form 169.254.XXX.XXX.

Does Ubuntu do something similiar?

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Yes, Ubuntu does that, too, if you use NetworkManager to manage your network interfaces (that's the default for most graphical environments in Ubuntu).

It is a common standard defined in RFC3927 and used by most modern operating systems.

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Thank you for the answer! But what if I run Ubuntu server edition as a headless system? – Martin J.H. Oct 20 '13 at 12:48
The server edition doesn't do that by default but only uses the configuration in /etc/network/interfaces. If you don't have a DHCP server you usually use static IP addresses. See chapter Network Configuration in the Server Guide for how to do this. – Florian Diesch Oct 20 '13 at 13:08
So what happens if that file specifies iface eth0 inet dhcp, but no dhcp server is present? I am sorry to press this point, but this is actually what I (might) be dealing with. – Martin J.H. Oct 21 '13 at 9:30
Then eth0 gets no IP address at all. – Florian Diesch Oct 21 '13 at 11:03

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