I wanted to set up a home server for sharing data across a little home network for the several devices in our home (data like files, media, small stuff like that).

I installed Ubuntu server on the laptop. It's strictly command line interface, and when trying to update and configure the server I realized it does not have any internet connection. It did during the initial install, but when I ping google, it says "host unknown" or something like that.

So I Googled and started reading guides about configuring the network, and I realize, I don't even known what it actually means to configure a network. Does this mean get a device hooked up to the internet? What does that actually imply?

https://www.swiftstack.com/docs/install/configure_networking.html is the page I was following. The following is a list of instructions is says to follow:

Open your /etc/network/interfaces file, locate the: "iface eth0..." line and change dynamic to static address line and change the address to the static IP address netmask line and change the address to the correct subnet mask gateway line and change the address to the correct gateway address dns-nameservers line and change (or add) the nameserver information If you aren't certain which IP address, subnet mask, gateway or dns-nameservers you need, please consult with your network administrator for the correct information.

I don't have a network admin to consult with because this is at my home. I am comfortable following these instructions from the command line, but what is a subnet mask? What is a gateway address? Nameserver information? I'm not sure what these things are, why I am changing them, or if any of this is going to get my server connected to my home wifi.

  • At the terminal can you type ifconfig, and post what is printed on screen? Jul 5, 2016 at 19:29
  • lo link encap: local loopback inet addr: mask: inet6 addr: ::1/128 scope: host UP LOOPBACK RUNNING MTU:65536 metric:1 rx packets:29888 errors; 0 dropped: 0 overruns: 0 frames: 0 TX packets:2988 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns: 0 carrier: 0 collisions:0 txqueuelen:1 RX bytes: 2367616 (2.3 MB) TX bytes: 2367616 (2.3mb)
    – user74091
    Jul 5, 2016 at 19:35
  • For a typical home network, the subnet mask is usually Your router's address (the gateway) can vary, but is usually or Usually an ISP will leave a label on the router, or with your paperwork when you got your internet hooked up that should have the gateway address on it along with an admin username and password to access router configuration. You can also call you ISP to ask what the gateway IP is, as well as nameservers (DNS Servers). Or use and from OpenDNS (I recommend).
    – Delorean
    Jul 5, 2016 at 19:57
  • thank you. the question was more generally asking what it means to configure a network, and if i impliment those instructions i listed, what will that actually change for the server and the network
    – user74091
    Jul 5, 2016 at 19:59
  • @user74091 By setting these things, you're telling the computer how to connect to the network. Like giving it direction on where the route is to the network and the internet.
    – Delorean
    Jul 5, 2016 at 20:01

1 Answer 1


A computer network consists of computer devices that are connected, so configuring a network would mean performing the necessary configuration of those devices to achieve the defined requirements for that network, which could involve hardware configuration(plugging cables, installing network interfaces) as well as software configuration(setting up rules for routers, configuring network services on hosts). Basically, it can be a lot of different stuff.

The linked instructions assume basic knowledge of computer networking, like what is the TCP/IP stack or OSI model and how they interoperate, which is part of the minimum knowledge for an entry-level position in a computer networking realated career, basics in other words. If you don't want to be confused, first that I suggest for you is filling in those blanks. I believe this article on howstuffworks.com explains it in sufficient detail without requiring much domain-specific knowledge. You can try looking for other network-related articles there or in other places on the web. Additional suggestion of mine is webopedia.com for looking up meaning of network-related terms terms explained in a simple language.

The instructions you linked describe just the software configuration that might be required to do on an Ubuntu device to ensure it is properly connected to a network, assuming all other devices are already set up properly. So, this configuration is necessary for your device to know how to connect to the network. Quick run-down of highlights:

  • Checking current network configuration via commands and by looking at confguration files
  • DNS configuration(where to look up IP addresses for website names)
  • Interface configuration. Ethernet interface for example is where you plug in your ethernet cable. An IP address actually contains two datum: Network address and the device's address in that network. There is no unified boundary for every case between them. Subnet mask is used to determine where the former ends and latter begins. A network gateway is a gateway of sorts between your devices network and other networks. It routes communication back-and-forth between your device and devices in other networks. It is usually a dedicated device called router. The gateway address in the network is usually or by default, but default configuration could've been modified, so it's better to verify it yourself, either by checking what is the gateway address on other devices that are already connected to the network, or if you're its owner and/or the one who sets up the network by accessing router's configuration interface. How it's done varies between manufacturers, so it's better to consult the product user's guide, but often a web interface is available by connecting to the router directly with an Ethernet port and accessing some specific IP address or domain name in web browser. Watch out for unaffiliated domains.
  • Change name that identifies your device.
  • could you add a comment about which address i should use for static ip address when editing the /etc/network/interfaces file
    – user74091
    Jul 5, 2016 at 23:44

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