game, game. repeat.

Winot and My OpenBSD Wifi Adventures

Tue 01 March 2016 #code

I run OpenBSD on my main laptop. OpenBSD doesn’t come with a Gnome-like Network Manager…you are on your own to keep your laptop connected to the wifi network, to manage your wifi passwords, etc. The OS makes it easy to connect to the wireless network to be sure…it just doesn’t automate away connecting to a different network at work and home and such.

So I thought, I’ll see if anyone has written a tool, and lo and behold, wiconfig is a great start, written in Bourne Shell, so it has no requirements besides OpenBSD itself. I used wiconfig for a while and was happy with it.

But then I got to thinking, that I’d like to not only stay connected to wifi, but also to VPN at all times, so that when on a wifi network, my traffic will be routed through my VPN and be protected from the local snoops. I also wanted to fallback to my cellular wwan connection when a familiar wifi was unavailable. Thus winot was born. It started life in Ruby and did all the things I needed, but it was plagued by dropped connections that it couldn’t recover from. Well, plagued may be an exaggeration–a couple times a day I had to manually intervene…but for a tool like this it should be 0 times a day! I added more logging and slowly worked through the edge cases including: wake from sleep, a weak (but still connected) wifi signal, etc.

In the middle of this, I upgraded to a new release of OpenBSD. I always install from scratch and use Ansible to setup my machine again, to avoid any unintended cruft from my previous install. But this time, getting Ruby up and running again proved more difficult than expected, and it got me thinking, maybe I should switch to Bourne Shell. I had hitherto avoided doing much shell scripting in Bourne, but I figured it would be a good excuse to learn it, and the stuff winot does shouldn’t be too hard to implement as a shell script.

So winot became Bourne Shell based, and that brings the story up to the present day. Winot works pretty well, but there are a few challenges with it. I need to add more logging to troubleshoot the existing issues. The CPU usage is way too high. And there are, once again, conditions where it gets stuck I need to manually intervene to get connected again.

Who knew staying connected to the wifi at home and work, always routing over an SSH based VPN, falling back to WWAN when the VPN is down, all automagically, would be so tricky? :)

So now I’m using this an excuse to learn (more) Haskell…all the locking, reading files, awking, seding, tailing, cutting, and forking is probably much less efficient than it needs to be, and a library that will help me with logging levels and such would be really nice. Less portable to be sure, but I want to learn Haskell and I’ve got only so much time available for my coding side projects!