Everyone gets a NetworkManager!

He's a fan of NetworkManager 0.7
He’s a fan of NetworkManager 0.7!
(photo by exfordy, reused under cc attriubtion 2.0)

I’m pleased to formally announce the release of NetworkManager 0.7, after about 2 years of development.  You asked, we delivered.  Top feature requests for 0.6 were:

  • Static IP
  • Mobile broadband
  • Multiple active devices
  • Internet Connection Sharing
  • Networking at boot / across logins
  • A connection editor

How did we do?  100% baby! With this much awesome, little Susie and Paul certainly won’t be disappointed to find NetworkManager 0.7 goodness under the tree on Christmas morning.  You can get the new hotness in your latest distro, or download tarballs of the applet and the core daemon.

There will be a 0.7.1 release pretty soon to fix up a few issues and add a few things we didn’t quite get to until now.  After that, it’s full afterburner towards NetworkManager 0.8, where we’ve got some great stuff in the works, like Bluetooth, full IPv6, and yet more mobile broadband enhancements.  Come and get it.

The Road to NetworkManager 0.7

Let’s start off with an artsy photo1 and an obscure-but-related caption2, becuase that’s the trendy thing to do these days on a blog:

Door (Thumb)

Almost home…

We’ve been working on NetworkManager 0.7 for almost 2 years; it’s been on the rotiesserie’s tasty-slow-cook setting for a long time.  And it’s so close to being done that your Mom is already yelling at you to stop pounding the little kids from across the street and come inside for dinner.  I’ve put up a wiki page with some work items for the NM 0.7 release. This list is by no means complete.  But in the interest of not being a black hole let’s get the stuff out in public and hey, maybe some patches will even show up on networkmanager-list@.  The driving features have been done for a few weeks now, and what’s left are a few UI things, and lots library best-practices stuff like documentation, symbol visibility, API review, and bug fixes.

But what’s not on the list?

  • Bluetooth: a bunch of work, but will be a major driver of 0.7.1 or 0.7.5
  • IPv6: probably won’t be ready by the time 0.7 ships
  • Your broken driver: it’s in the same place as your mom, in a gimp suit in my basement.  Some things just don’t cooperate; you have to keep ’em in the dark and learn ’em with a whip until they stop acting up.

but don’t worry, these will get fixed up over time.

As a bonus, I ported the PPTP VPN plugin to the 0.7 API over the weekend.  You’re welcome. Enjoy.  File bugs.  Await the release of 0.7 breathlessly.

1 To show you how cool I am because I can take photos

2 To show you how cool I am because I can write witty captions

Great Taste, Less Filling

Or, how NetworkManager 0.7 transcends decadence and totally respects your distro’s persistent network configuration if you want it to.

With NetworkManager 0.7, the system settings service provides system-wide network configuration, allowing network connections at boot time and across login or fast user switches.  It also reads your distro-specific config files (there are plugins for Fedora and OpenSUSE right now, and an Ubuntu one in-progress) and thus integrates with your normal workflow doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel.  So to put it differently, NetworkManager 0.7 does not ignore your distro configuration unless you really want it to.

Full of Easy

Tambet fully anticipated the decadence of which Alberto Ruiz speaks and wrote the ‘keyfile’ system settings plugin.  We’ve said that if you want a cross-distro persistent, human-readable, text-based network configuration format for interfaces, VPN, 3G, PPP, etc, you can use the keyfile plugin instead of your distro’s format.  A certain class of users really benefits from this.  The other class can just get on with their life and not care what the backend format is, because it simply doesn’t matter to them.  Everyone is happy.

Time for Change

During the 0.7 cycle the new features we added (connection sharing, multiple active devices, 3G to name a few) were pushing the applet’s menu-based design to the limit.  It neither looks good nor behaves well to cram multiple devices and multiple connections into the menu.  Thus, back in January 2008, we asked Bryan Clark and Mike Langlie to come up with some design ideas for an nm-applet that doesn’t suck.  The most intriguing mockup was window-based, which allows for much more streamlined interaction than the menu:

new applet mockup

It’s a mockup.  It deserves your love, not your flames.

Right away you’ll probably notice:

  • Simple yet convenient: you have both a general overview of your system, but you’re not punched in the face with stuff you don’t care about.  Just like the current applet, but better.  If you want more info, it’s just a click away.
  • Disconnect at will: you can already disconnect devices in NM 0.7 (the D-Bus API is there), but adding a disconnect option for every device in the current menu sucks.  Since this isn’t a GtkMenu, there’s a lot more room to play with.
  • Dynamicity ™: since it’s not a  GtkMenu, it can update things like device state, signal strength, and addresses dynamically.
  • Only shows what you care about: the current applet shows everything around you.  99% of the time, you care about only one or two of those networks, the ones you actually use.  The other 1% of the time, you want to connect to a network you’ve never connected to before.  Why show all 32 other networks all the time, and make you search for the one you want?  Uncool.
  • More information if you want it: but not if you don’t.  Becuase there’s more space to work with, we can show stuff you might care about, like the IP address of the device, or the security features of the wifi network you’re current connected to.
  • Streamlined Connection Sharing: given the larger layout and ability to tie relevant actions to a specific device, it’ll be a lot clearer to “Share this connection” than the current applet allows.

But as always, it’s a delicate balance between making the stuff you use every day prominant and easy to get to, and keeping the stuff you use only a few times a week out of your way.  I like the fact that I don’t have to care about what I’m connected to, I just want to stay connected and keep working on making stuff awesome.  I don’t want or need to know what the IP address of my VPN server is, for example, or whether my AP uses AES+CCMP for both the pairwise and group ciphers instead of AES+CCMP for the pairwise cipher and TKIP for the group cipher.  But if you really want that information, you should be able to find it within a click or two.

But windows don’t just go away when click outside them.  We could grab the pointer and close the window when you click elsewhere, but that might be weird.  It might also be weird to make this window act like and be positioned in the same place as the current popup GtkMenu, a la gnome-main-menu.  Maybe we should use effect bling to make the window genie out of the NM icon.  It’s something that needs to be prototyped and tested so we can figure out how it feels before we commit to it.  But we’ve been so busy making NetworkManager 0.7 Just Work for you that it’s taken longer than I’d like to start rewriting the applet.  Comments?  Jump #nm on freenode and discuss.

Anything less than the best is a felony

Pedal to the metal on the way to NetworkManager 0.7.

Connection Editor

Tambet and I have landed the last real bits of Add/Edit and gotten the pages pretty much finished. The applet and the connection editor retrieve and fill in your passwords too.

Connection Editor Page Montage

Contribute Back to the Community (or, Unmanaged Devices)

A few weeks back, I added an unmanaged devices interface to the system settings service. With 0.6.x, the most often asked question is “I’m an Ubuntu user; why can NM find my network device?”. This was for two reasons: (1) because Ubuntu ships a bunch of shady out-of-kernel wireless drivers (at76, prism2_usb, acx, madwifi, ndiswrapper) that often just don’t implement WEXT correctly and therefore won’t work well with wpa_supplicant, and therefore won’t work with NetworkManager, and (2) Ubuntu patched NetworkManager so that most devices in /etc/network/interfaces are ignored by NM, instead of helping to fix up the Debian backend to proxy that configuration so NM could have a chance to manage the device. So when anything goes wrong, the user is encouraged to configure the device in “Manual” mode instead, and it disappears from NetworkManager.

With 0.7, the system settings plugin for your distro will recognize these devices, tell NetworkManager they aren’t supposed to be managed, and the applet will make you aware of the horror of what you’ve just done 🙂

(as an aside, distros need to help push drivers and patches upstream, not stuff random bits into the kernel and hope everything is kittens and roses and puppy dogs tails and bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens)

Network Before Login

So this time around, distros can write much more capable plugins to proxy their native config files to NetworkManager connections, and they will just show up in the menu. It also makes the connections available at boot. Static IPs, custom DNS servers, and whatever other crack you’d like to inflict on your network adapter. Both Fedora and SUSE have plugins, and Tambet just wrote a GKeyFile plugin that stores connections in a legacy-free/crack-free format too.

Other Hotness:

  • Users are notified of VPN failures and what might have gone wrong
  • Static WEP keys on indexes other than 1
  • PPPoE
  • Wired 802.1x
  • Your Mom

Next up: making the serial driver code more robust, fix bugs, fix up ad-hoc Wifi, and fix more bugs. But 0.7 is already cooking MCs like a pound of bacon.

NetworkManager 0.6.6 for Fedora 7

I’ve build NM 0.6.6 for Fedora 7; I’d appreciate as much testing as possible! You’ll need both NetworkManager and libnl RPMs from Koji.

Or, if you wait until updates are pushed later tonight, you can:

yum update --enablerepo=updates-testing libnl NetworkManager

Let the bugs roll in.

Free, Fast and Hot

I’m not talking about anyone’s mom even though a few come to mind.  I’m talking about NetworkManager 0.6.6.  Almost a year after the previous release of 0.6.5, we bring you some awesome improvements:

  • A connection editor for Gnome
  • Support for WiFi killswitches
  • Better compatibility with various wireless and wired drivers
  • 802.1x wired authentication support
  • Better handling of VPN and WPA Enterprise security
  • Better handling of weird SSIDs
  • Populate the passphrase dialog with previous options
  • Translation updates and piles of bug fixes

Huge thanks again to Tambet Ingo who’s been the other invisible hand of NetworkManager World Domination over the past year.


Gnome.org bugs fixed: 432401 354565 343679 354565 437396 420216 350061 499565 491047 334883 346833 466954 332953 464215 498887 511323 399292 435036 372154 449271 394264 449111 359541 332951

NetworkManager, your GSM mobile, and you…

Due to happy coincidence, the existing NetworkManager mobile broadband support isn’t just limited to mobile broadband cards.  You can most likely use your GSM mobile phone with NetworkManager (and the VPN too!) if you add the appropriate stuff to the HAL .fdi file.  Tag the serial port the phone exposes like so:

      <!-- Nokia N80 -->
      <match key="@info.parent:usb.vendor_id" int="0x0421">
        <match key="@info.parent:usb.product_id" int="0x0445">
          <match key="@info.parent:usb.interface.number" int="8">
            <append key="info.capabilities" type="strlist">modem</append>
            <append key="modem.command_sets" type="strlist">GSM-07.07</append>
            <append key="modem.command_sets" type="strlist">GSM-07.05</append>

and as long as you’ve got a data plan, it’ll probably Just Work.

NetworkManager 0.6.6 rc2

I’ve just rolled NetworkManager 0.6.6 rc2 (ie,  Grab hot, fresh, tasty tarballs tarballs tarballs.  Stuff you’ll like in 0.6.6:

  • A connection editor, available from the right-click menu of the GNOME applet
  • Handles weird SSIDs like “http://myhouse” nicely
  • Wired 802.1x support!
  • VPN connections terminate when you log out
  • Scanning is more responsive
  • Better handling of hidden SSIDs in conjunction with the ‘scan capability’ kernel patch
  • Many bug and leak fixes

Thanks go to many people, but more thanks go to Tambet Ingo than just about anybody else.  Barring major bugs, NetworkManager 0.6.6 will be released next week.

Now that 0.6.6 is almost wrapped up, we’ll keep rocking on 0.7, filling in the missing pieces and bringing seamless networking to the masses.