Networks

This section describes how networking is setup by default in FreedomBox and how you can customize it. See also the Firewall section for more information on how firewall works.

1. Default setup

In a fresh image of FreedomBox, network is not configured at all. When the image is written to an SD card and the device boots, configuration is done. During first boot, FreedomBox setup package detects the networks interfaces and tries to automatically configure them so that FreedomBox is available for further configuration via the web interface from another machine without the need to connect a monitor. Automatic configuration also tries to make FreedomBox useful, out of the box, for the most important scenarios FreedomBox is used for.

There are two scenarios it handles: when is a single ethernet interface and when there are multiple ethernet interfaces.

1.1. Single ethernet interface

When there is only single ethernet interface available on the hardware device, there is not much scope for it to play the role of a router. In this case, the device is assumed to be just another machine in the network. Accordingly, the only available interface is configured to be an internal interface in automatic configuration mode. This means that it connects to the Internet using the configuration provided by a router in the network and also makes all (internal and external) of its services available to all the clients on this network.

network_single.png

1.2. Multiple ethernet interface

When there are multiple ethernet interfaces available on the hardware device, the device can act as a router. The interfaces are then configured to perform this function.

The first network interface is configured to be an WAN or external interface in automatic configuration mode. This means that it connects to the Internet using network configuration provided by the Internet Service Provider (ISP). Only services that are meant to be provided across the entire Internet (external services) will be exposed on this interface. You must plug your Internet connection into the port of this ethernet interface. If you wish to continue to have your existing router manage the Internet connection for you, then plug a connection from your router to the port on this interface.

The remaining network interfaces are configured for the clients of a router. They are configured as LAN or internal interfaces in shared configuration mode. This means that all the services (both external and internal) services are provided to who ever connects on this interface. Further, the shared mode means that clients will be able to receive details of automatic network connection on this interface. Specifically, DHCP configuration and DNS servers are provided on this interface. The Internet connection available to the device using the first network interface will be shared with clients using this interface. This all means that you can connect your computers to this network interface and they will get automatically configured and will be able to access the Internet via the FreedomBox.

Currently, it is not very clear which interface will be come the WAN interface (and the remaining being LAN interfaces) although the assignment process is deterministic. So, it take a bit of trail and error to figure out which one is which. In future, for each device, this will be well documented.

1.3. Wi-Fi configuration

All Wi-Fi interfaces are configured to be LAN or internal interfaces in shared configuration mode. They are also configured to become Wi-Fi access points with following details.

2. Internet Connection Sharing

Although the primary duty of FreedomBox is to provide decentralized services, it can also act like a home router. Hence, in most cases, FreedomBox connects to the Internet and provides other machines in the network the ability to use that Internet connection. FreedomBox can do this in two ways: using a shared mode connection or using an internal connection.

When an interface is set in shared mode, you may connect your machine directly to it. This is either by plugging in an ethernet cable from this interface to your machine or by connecting to a Wi-Fi access point. This case is the simplest to use, as FreedomBox automatically provides your machine with the necessary network configuration. Your machine will automatically connect to FreedomBox provided network and will be able to connect to the Internet given that FreedomBox can itself connect to the Internet.

Sometimes the above setup may not be possible because the hardware device may have only one network interface or for other reasons. Even in this case, your machine can still connect to the Internet via FreedomBox. For this to work, make sure that the network interface that your machine is connecting to is in internal mode. Then, connect your machine to network in which FreedomBox is present. After this, in your machine's network configuration, set FreedomBox's IP address as the gateway. FreedomBox will then accept your network traffic from your machine and send it over to the Internet. This works because network interfaces in internal mode are configured to masquerade packets from local machines to the Internet and receive packets from Internet and forward them back to local machines.

3. Customization

The above default configuration may not be fit for your setup. You can customize the configuration to suit your needs from the Networks area in the 'setup' section of the FreedomBox web interface.

3.1. PPPoE connections

If your ISP does not provide automatic network configuration via DHCP and requires you to connection via PPPoE. To configure PPPoE, remove any network connection existing on an interface and add a PPPoE connection. Here, optionally, provide the account username and password given by your ISP and activate the connection.

3.2. Connect to Internet via Wi-Fi

By default Wi-Fi devices attached during first boot will be configured as access points. They can be configured as regular Wi-Fi devices instead to connection to a local network or an existing Wi-Fi router. To do this, click on the Wi-Fi connection to edit it. Change the mode to Infrastructure instead of Access Point mode and IPv4 Addressing Method to Automatic (DHCP) instead of Shared mode. Then the SSID provided will mean the Wi-Fi network name you wish to connect to and passphrase will be the used to while making the connection.

3.2.1. Problems with Privacy Feature

NetworkManager used by FreedomBox to connect to the Wi-Fi networks has a privacy feature that uses a different identity when scanning for networks and when actually connecting to the Wi-Fi access point. Unfortunately, this causes problems with some routers that reject connections from such devices. Your connection won't successfully activate and disconnect after trying to activate. If you have control over the router's behaviour, you could also turn off the feature causing problem. Otherwise, the solution is to connect with a remote shell using SSH or Cockpit, editing a file /etc/NetworkManager/NetworkManager.conf and adding the line wifi.scan-rand-mac-address=no in the [device] section. This turns off the privacy feature.

Edit a file:

$ sudo nano /etc/NetworkManager/NetworkManager.conf

Add the following:

[device]
wifi.scan-rand-mac-address=no

Then reboot the machine.

3.3. Adding a new network device

When a new network device is added, network manager will automatically configure it. In most cases this will not work to your liking. Delete the automatic configuration created on the interface and create a new network connection. Select your newly added network interface in the add connection page.

3.4. Configuring a mesh network

FreedomBox has rudimentary support for participating in BATMAN-Adv based mesh networks. It is possible to either join an existing network in your area or create a new mesh network and share your Internet connection with the rest of the nodes that join the network. Currently, two connections have to be created and activated manually to join or create a mesh network.

3.4.1. Joining a mesh network

To join an existing mesh network in your area, first consult the organizers and get information about the mesh network.

  1. Create a new connection, then select the connection type as Wi-Fi. In the following dialog, provide the following values:

    Field Name

    Example Value

    Explanation

    Connection Name

    Mesh Join - BATMAN

    The name must end with 'BATMAN' (uppercase)

    Physical Interface

    wlan0

    The Wi-Fi device you wish to use for joining the mesh network

    Firewall Zone

    External

    Since you don't wish that participants in mesh network to use internal services of FreedomBox

    SSID

    ch1.freifunk.net

    As provided to you by the operators of the mesh network. You should see this as a network in Nearby Wi-Fi Networks

    Mode

    Ad-hoc

    Because this is a peer-to-peer network

    Frequency Band

    2.4Ghz

    As provided to you by the operators of the mesh network

    Channel

    1

    As provided to you by the operators of the mesh network

    BSSID

    12:CA:FF:EE:BA:BE

    As provided to you by the operators of the mesh network

    Authentication

    Open

    Leave this as open, unless you know your mesh network needs it be otherwise

    Passphrase

    Leave empty unless you know your mesh network requires one

    IPv4 Addressing Method

    Disabled

    We don't want to request IP configuration information yet

    Save the connection. Join the mesh network by activating this newly created connection.
  2. Create a second new connection, then select the connection type as Generic. In the following dialog, provide this following values:

    Field Name

    Example Value

    Explanation

    Connection Name

    Mesh Connect

    Any name to identify this connection

    Physical Interface

    bat0

    This interface will only show up after you successfully activate the connection in first step

    Firewall Zone

    External

    Since you don't wish that participants in mesh network to use internal services of FreedomBox

    IPv4 Addressing Method

    Auto

    Mesh networks usually have a DHCP server somewhere that provide your machine with IP configuration. If not, consult the operator and configure IP address setting accordingly with Manual method

    Save the connection. Configure your machine for participation in the network by activating this connection. Currently, this connection has to be manually activated every time you need to join the network. In future, FreedomBox will do this automatically. You will now be able reach other nodes in the network. You will also be able to connect to the Internet via the mesh network if there is an Internet connection point somewhere in mesh as setup by the operators.

3.4.2. Creating a mesh network

To create your own mesh network and share your Internet connection with the rest of the nodes in the network:

  1. Follow the instructions as provided above in step 1 of Joining a mesh network but choose and fix upon your own valid values for SSID (a name for you mesh network), Frequency Band (usually 2.4Ghz), Channel (1 to 11 in 2.4Ghz band) and BSSID (a hex value like 12:CA:DE:AD:BE:EF). Create this connection and activate it.

  2. Follow the instructions as provided above in step 2 of Joining a mesh network but select IPv4 Addressing Method as Shared. This will provide automatic IP configuration to other nodes in the network as well as share the Internet connection on your machine (achieved using a second Wi-Fi interface, using Ethernet, etc.) with other nodes in the mesh network.

Spread the word about your mesh network to your neighbors and let them know the parameters you have provided when creating the network. When other nodes connect to this mesh network, they have to follow steps in Joining a mesh network but use the values for SSID, Frequency Band and Channel that you have chosen when you created the mesh network.

4. Manual Network Operation

FreedomBox automatically configures networks by default and provides a simplified interface to customize the configuration to specific needs. In most cases, manual operation is not necessary. The following steps describe how to manually operate network configuration in the event that a user finds FreedomBox interface to insufficient for task at hand or to diagnose a problem that FreedomBox does not identify.

On the command line interface:

For text based user interface for configuring network connections:

nmtui

To see the list of available network devices:

nmcli device

To see the list of configured connections:

nmcli connection

To see the current status of a connection:

nmcli connection show '<connection_name>'

To see the current firewall zone assigned to a network interface:

nmcli connection show '<connection_name>' | grep zone

or

firewall-cmd --zone=internal --list-all
firewall-cmd --zone=external --list-all

To create a new network connection:

nmcli con add con-name "<connection_name>" ifname "<interface>" type ethernet
nmcli con modify "<connection_name>" connection.autoconnect TRUE
nmcli con modify "<connection_name>" connection.zone internal

To change the firewall zone for a connection:

nmcli con modify "<connection_name>" connection.zone "<internal|external>"

For more information on how to use nmcli command, see its man page. Also for a full list of configuration settings and type of connections accepted by Network Manager see:

https://developer.gnome.org/NetworkManager/stable/ref-settings.html

To see the current status of the firewall and manually operate it, see the Firewall section.


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