Shallow Thoughts : tags : networking

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Fri, 02 Feb 2018

Raspberry Pi Console over USB: Configuring an Ethernet Gadget

When I work with a Raspberry Pi from anywhere other than home, I want to make sure I can do what I need to do without a network.

With a Pi model B, you can use an ethernet cable. But that doesn't work with a Pi Zero, at least not without an adapter. The lowest common denominator is a serial cable, and I always recommend that people working with headless Pis get one of these; but there are a lot of things that are difficult or impossible over a serial cable, like file transfer, X forwarding, and running any sort of browser or other network-aware application on the Pi.

Recently I learned how to configure a Pi Zero as a USB ethernet gadget, which lets you network between the Pi and your laptop using only a USB cable. It requires a bit of setup, but it's definitely worth it. (This apparently only works with Zero and Zero W, not with a Pi 3.)

The Cable

The first step is getting the cable. For a Pi Zero or Zero W, you can use a standard micro-USB cable: you probably have a bunch of them for charging phones (if you're not an Apple person) and other devices.

Set up the Pi

Setting up the Raspberry Pi end requires editing two files in /boot, which you can do either on the Pi itself, or by mounting the first SD card partition on another machine.

In /boot/config.txt add this at the end:


In /boot/cmdline.txt, at the end of the long list of options but on the same line, add a space, followed by: modules-load=dwc2,g_ether

Set a static IP address

This step is optional. In theory you're supposed to use some kind of .local address that Bonjour (the Apple protocol that used to be called zeroconf, and before that was called Rendezvous, and on Linux machines is called Avahi). That doesn't work on my Linux machine. If you don't use Bonjour, finding the Pi over the ethernet link will be much easier if you set it up to use a static IP address. And since there will be nobody else on your USB network besides the Pi and the computer on the other end of the cable, there's no reason not to have a static address: you're not going to collide with anybody else.

You could configure a static IP in /etc/network/interfaces, but that interferes with the way Raspbian handles wi-fi via wpa_supplicant and dhcpcd; so you'd have USB networking but your wi-fi won't work any more.

Instead, configure your address in Raspbian via dhcpcd. Edit /etc/dhcpcd.conf and add this:

interface usb0
static ip_address=
static routers=
static domain_name_servers=

This will tell Raspbian to use address for its USB interface. You'll set up your other computer to use

Now your Pi should be ready to boot with USB networking enabled. Plug in a USB cable (if it's a model A or B) or a micro USB cable (if it's a Zero), plug the other end into your computer, then power up the Pi.

Setting up a Linux machine for USB networking

The final step is to configure your local computer's USB ethernet to use

On Linux, find the name of the USB ethernet interface. This will only show up after you've booted the Pi with the ethernet cable plugged in to both machines.

ip a
The USB interface will probably start eith en and will probably be the last interface shown.

On my Debian machine, the USB network showed up as enp0s26u1u1. So I can configure it thusly (as root, of course):

ip a add dev enp0s26u1u1
ip link set dev enp0s26u1u1 up
(You can also use the older ifconfig rather than ip: sudo ifconfig enp0s26u1u1 up)

You should now be able to ssh into your Raspberry Pi using the address, and you can make an appropriate entry in /etc/hosts, if you wish.

For a less hands-on solution, if you're using Mac or Windows, try Adafruit's USB gadget tutorial. It's possible that might also work for Linux machines running Avahi. If you're using Windows, you might prefer CircuitBasics' ethernet gadget tutorial.

Happy networking!

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[ 14:53 Feb 02, 2018    More linux | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Fri, 09 Nov 2012

How to talk to your Rapsberry Pi over an ethernet crossover cable with IP masquerading

I've been using my Raspberry Pi mostly headless -- I'm interested in using it to control hardware. Most of my experimenting is at home, where I can plug the Pi's built-in ethernet directly into the wired net.

But what about when I venture away from home, perhaps to a group hacking session, or to give a talk? There's no wired net at most of these places, and although you can buy USB wi-fi dongles, wi-fi is so notoriously flaky that I'd never want to rely on it, especially as my only way of talking to the Pi.

Once or twice I've carried a router along, so I could set up my own subnet -- but that means an extra device, ten times as big as the Pi, and needing its own power supply in a place where power plugs may be scarce.

The real solution is a crossover ethernet cable. (My understanding is that you can't use a normal ethernet cable between two computers; the data send and receive lines will end up crossed. Though I may be wrong about that -- one person on #raspberrypi reported using a normal ethernet cable without trouble.)

Buying a crossover cable at Fry's was entertaining. After several minutes of staring at the dozens of bins of regular ethernet cables, I finally found the one marked crossover, and grabbed it. Immediately, a Fry's employee who had apparently been lurking in the wings rushed over to warn me that this wasn't a normal cable, this wasn't what I wanted, it was a weird special cable. I thanked him and assured him that was exactly what I'd come to buy.

Once home, with my laptop connected to wi-fi, I plugged one end into the Pi and the other end into my laptop ... and now what? How do I configure the network so I can talk to the Pi from the laptop, and the Pi can gateway through the laptop to the internet?

The answer is IP masquerading. Originally I'd hoped to give the Pi a network address on the same networking (192.168.1) as the laptop. When I use the Pi at home, it picks a network address on 192.168.1, and it would be nice not to have to change that when I travel elsewhere. But if that's possible, I couldn't find a way to do it.

Okay, plan B: the laptop is on 192.168.1 (or whatever network the wi-fi happens to assign), while the Pi is on a diffferent network, 192.168.0. That was relatively easy, with some help from the Masquerading Simple Howto.

Once I got it working, I wrote a script, since there are quite a few lines to type and I knew I wouldn't remember them all. Of course, the script has to be run as root. Here's the script, on github: masq.

I had to change one thing from the howto: at the end, when it sets up security, this line is supposed to enable incoming connections on all interfaces except wlan0:

iptables -A INPUT -m state --state NEW -i ! wlan0 -j ACCEPT

But that gave me an error, Bad argument `wlan0'. What worked instead was

iptables -A INPUT -m state --state NEW ! -i wlan0 -j ACCEPT
Only a tiny change: swap the order of -i and !. (I sent a correction to the howto authors but haven't heard back yet.)

All set! It's a nice compact way to talk to your Pi anywhere. Of course, don't forget to label your crossover cable, so you don't accidentally try to use it as a regular ethernet cable. Now please excuse me while I go label mine.

Update: Ed Davies has a great followup, Crossover Cables and Red Tape, that talks about how to set up a subnet if you don't need the full masquerading setup, why non-crossover cables might sometimes work, and a good convention for labeling crossover cables: use red tape. I'm going to adopt that convention too -- thanks, Ed!

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[ 16:57 Nov 09, 2012    More hardware | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sat, 24 Mar 2012

Find out what processes are making network connections

A thread on the Ubuntu-devel-discuss mailing list last month asked about how to find out what processes are making outgoing network connectsion on a Linux machine. It referenced Ubuntu bug 820895: Log File Viewer does not log "Process Name", which is specific to Ubuntu's iptables logging of apps that are already blocked in iptables ... but the question goes deeper.

Several years ago, my job required me to use a program -- never mind which one -- from a prominent closed-source company. This program was doing various annoying things in addition to its primary task -- operations that got around the window manager and left artifacts all over my screen, operations that potentially opened files other than the ones I asked it to open -- but in addition, I noticed that when I ran the program, the lights on the DSL modem started going crazy. It looked like the program was making network connections, when it had no reason to do that. Was it really doing that?

Unfortunately, at the time I couldn't find any Linux command that would tell me the answer. As mentioned in the above Ubuntu thread, there are programs for Mac and even Windows to tell you this sort of information, but there's no obvious way to find out on Linux.

The discussion ensuing in the ubuntu-devel-discuss thread tossed around suggestions like apparmor and selinux -- massive, complex ways of putting up fortifications your whole system. But nobody seemed to have a simple answer to how to find information about what apps are making network connections.

Well, it turns out there are a a couple ofsimple way to get that list. First, you can use ss:

$ ss -tp
State      Recv-Q Send-Q      Local Address:Port          Peer Address:Port   
ESTAB      0      0                     ::1:58466                  ::1:ircd     users:(("xchat",1063,43))
ESTAB      0      0        users:(("xchat",1063,36))
ESTAB      0      0                     ::1:ircd                   ::1:58466    users:(("bitlbee",1076,10))
ESTAB      0      0        users:(("xchat",1063,24))
ESTAB      0      0   

Update: you might also want to add listening connections where programs are listening for incoming connections: ss -tpla
Though this may be less urgent if you have a firewall in place.

-t shows only TCP connections (so you won't see all the interprocess communication among programs running on your machine). -p prints the process associated with each connection.

ss can do some other useful things, too, like show all the programs connected to your X server right now, or show all your ssh connections. See man ss for examples.

Or you can use netstat:

$ netstat -A inet -p
Active Internet connections (w/o servers)
Proto Recv-Q Send-Q Local Address           Foreign Address         State       PID/Program name
tcp        0      0 imbrium.timochari:51800 linuxchix.osuosl.o:ircd ESTABLISHED 1063/xchat      
tcp        0      0 imbrium.timochari:59011 ec2-107-21-74-122.:ircd ESTABLISHED 1063/xchat      
tcp        0      0 imbrium.timochari:54253 ESTABLISHED 1063/xchat      
tcp        0      0 imbrium.timochari:58158 s3-1-w.amazonaws.:https ESTABLISHED

In both cases, the input is a bit crowded and hard to read. If all you want is a list of processes making connections, that's easy enough to do with the usual Unix utilities like grep and sed:

$ ss -tp | grep -v Recv-Q | sed -e 's/.*users:(("//' -e 's/".*$//' | sort | uniq
$ netstat -A inet -p | grep '^tcp' | grep '/' | sed 's_.*/__' | sort | uniq

Finally, you can keep an eye on what's going on by using watch to run one of these commands repeatedly:

watch ss -tp

Using watch with one of the pipelines to print only process names is possible, but harder since you have to escape a lot of quotation marks. If you want to do that, I recommend writing a script.

And back to the concerns expressed on the Ubuntu thread, you could also write a script to keep logs of which processes made connections over the course of a day. That's definitely a tool I'll keep in my arsenal.

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[ 12:28 Mar 24, 2012    More linux | permalink to this entry | comments ]