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Linux Network Administrator's Guide, 2nd Edition

Linux Network Administrator's Guide, 2nd Edition

By Olaf Kirch & Terry Dawson
2nd Edition June 2000
1-56592-400-2, Order Number: 4002
506 pages, $34.95

Chapter 5
Configuring TCP/IP Networking

Mounting the /proc Filesystem
Installing the Binaries
Setting the Hostname
Assigning IP Addresses
Creating Subnets
Writing hosts and networks Files
Interface Configuration for IP
All About ifconfig
The netstat Command
Checking the ARP Tables

In this chapter, we walk you through all the necessary steps to set up TCP/IP networking on your machine. Starting with the assignment of IP addresses, we slowly work our way through the configuration of TCP/IP network interfaces and introduce a few tools that come in handy when hunting down network installation problems.

Most of the tasks covered in this chapter will generally have to be done only once. Afterward, you have to touch most configuration files only when adding a new system to your network or when you reconfigure your system entirely. Some of the commands used to configure TCP/IP, however, have to be executed each time the system is booted. This is usually done by invoking them from the system /etc/rc* scripts.

Commonly, the network-specific part of this procedure is contained in a script. The name of this script varies in different Linux distributions. In many older Linux distributions, it is known as or rc.inet. Sometimes you will also see two scripts named rc.inet1 and rc.inet2; the former initializes the kernel part of networking and the latter starts basic networking services and applications. In modern distributions, the rc files are structured in a more sophisticated arrangement; here you may find scripts in the /etc/init.d/ (or /etc/rc.d/init.d/) directory that create the network devices and other rc files that run the network application programs. This book's examples are based on the latter arrangement.

This chapter discusses parts of the script that configure your network interfaces, while applications will be covered in later chapters. After finishing this chapter, you should have established a sequence of commands that properly configure TCP/IP networking on your computer. You should then replace any sample commands in your configuration scripts with your commands, make sure the script is executed from the basic rc script at startup time, and reboot your machine. The networking rc scripts that come along with your favorite Linux distribution should provide a solid example from which to work.

Mounting the /proc Filesystem

Some of the configuration tools of the Linux NET-2 and NET-3 release rely on the /proc filesystem for communicating with the kernel. This interface permits access to kernel runtime information through a filesystem-like mechanism. When mounted, you can list its files like any other filesystem, or display their contents. Typical items include the loadavg file, which contains the system load average, and meminfo, which shows current core memory and swap usage.

To this, the networking code adds the net directory. It contains a number of files that show things like the kernel ARP tables, the state of TCP connections, and the routing tables. Most network administration tools get their information from these files.

The proc filesystem (or procfs, as it is also known) is usually mounted on /proc at system boot time. The best method is to add the following line to /etc/fstab:

# procfs mount point:
none		/proc		proc	defaults
Then execute mount /proc from your /etc/rc script.

The procfs is now configured into most kernels by default. If the procfs is not in your kernel, you will get a message such as: mount: fs type procfs not supported by kernel. You will then have to recompile the kernel and answer "yes" when asked for procfs support.

Installing the Binaries

If you are using one of the prepackaged Linux distributions, it will contain the major networking applications and utilities along with a coherent set of sample files. The only case in which you might have to obtain and install new utilities is when you install a new kernel release. As they occasionally involve changes in the kernel networking layer, you will need to update the basic configuration tools. This update at least involves recompiling, but sometimes you may also be required to obtain the latest set of binaries. These binaries are available at their official home site at, packaged in an archive called net-tools-XXX.tar.gz, where XXX is the version number. The release matching Linux 2.0 is net-tools-1.45.

If you want to compile and install the standard TCP/IP network applications yourself, you can obtain the sources from most Linux FTP servers. All modern Linux distributions include a fairly comprehensive range of TCP/IP network applications, such as World Wide Web browsers, telnet and ftp programs, and other network applications, such as talk. If you do find something that you do need to compile yourself, the chances are good that it will compile under Linux from source quite simply if you follow the instructions included in the source package.

Setting the Hostname

Most, if not all, network applications rely on you to set the local host's name to some reasonable value. This setting is usually made during the boot procedure by executing the hostname command. To set the hostname to name, enter:

# hostname name

It is common practice to use the unqualified hostname without specifying the domain name. For instance, hosts at the Virtual Brewery (described in Appendix A, Example Network: The Virtual Brewery) might be called or These are their official fully qualified domain names (FQDNs). Their local hostnames would be the first component of the name, such as vale. However, as the local hostname is frequently used to look up the host's IP address, you have to make sure that the resolver library is able to look up the host's IP address. This usually means that you have to enter the name in /etc/hosts.

Some people suggest using the domainname command to set the kernel's idea of a domain name to the remaining part of the FQDN. This way you could combine the output from hostname and domainname to get the FQDN again. However, this is at best only half correct. domainname is generally used to set the host's NIS domain, which may be entirely different from the DNS domain to which your host belongs. Instead, to ensure that the short form of your hostname is resolvable with all recent versions of the hostname command, either add it as an entry in your local Domain Name Server or place the fully qualified domain name in the /etc/hosts file. You may then use the --fqdn argument to the hostname command, and it will print the fully qualifed domain name.

Assigning IP Addresses

If you configure the networking software on your host for standalone operation (for instance, to be able to run the INN Netnews software), you can safely skip this section, because the only IP address you will need is for the loopback interface, which is always

Things are a little more complicated with real networks like Ethernets. If you want to connect your host to an existing network, you have to ask its administrators to give you an IP address on this network. When setting up a network all by yourself, you have to assign IP addresses yourself.

Hosts within a local network should usually share addresses from the same logical IP network. Hence, you have to assign an IP network address. If you have several physical networks, you have to either assign them different network numbers, or use subnetting to split your IP address range into several subnetworks. Subnetting will be revisited in the next section, "Creating Subnets".

When picking an IP network number, much depends on whether you intend to get on the Internet in the near future. If so, you should obtain an official IP address now. Ask your network service provider to help you. If you want to obtain a network number, just in case you might get on the Internet someday, request a Network Address Application Form from, or your country's own Network Information Center, if there is one.

If your network is not connected to the Internet and won't be in the near future, you are free to choose any legal network address. Just make sure no packets from your internal network escape to the real Internet. To make sure no harm can be done even if packets did escape, you should use one of the network numbers reserved for private use. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) has set aside several network numbers from classes A, B, and C that you can use without registering. These addresses are valid only within your private network and are not routed between real Internet sites. The numbers are defined by RFC 1597 and are listed in Table 2.1 in Chapter 2, Issues of TCP/IP Networking. Note that the second and third blocks contain 16 and 256 networks, respectively.

Picking your addresses from one of these network numbers is not only useful for networks completely unconnected to the Internet; you can still implement a slightly more restricted access using a single host as a gateway. To your local network, the gateway is accessible by its internal IP address, while the outside world knows it by an officially registered address (assigned to you by your provider). We come back to this concept in connection with the IP masquerade facility in Chapter 11, IP Masquerade and Network Address Translation.

Throughout the remainder of the book, we will assume that the brewery's network manager uses a class B network number, say Of course, a class C network number would definitely suffice to accommodate both the Brewery's and the Winery's networks. We'll use a class B network here for the sake of simplicity; it will make the subnetting examples in the next section of this chapter a little more intuitive.

Creating Subnets

To operate several Ethernets (or other networks, once a driver is available), you have to split your network into subnets. Note that subnetting is required only if you have more than one broadcast network -- point-to-point links don't count. For instance, if you have one Ethernet, and one or more SLIP links to the outside world, you don't need to subnet your network. This is explained in more detail in Chapter 7, Serial Line IP.

To accommodate the two Ethernets, the Brewery's network manager decides to use 8 bits of the host part as additional subnet bits. This leaves another 8 bits for the host part, allowing for 254 hosts on each of the subnets. She then assigns subnet number 1 to the brewery, and gives the winery number 2. Their respective network addresses are thus and The subnet mask is

vlager, which is the gateway between the two networks, is assigned a host number of 1 on both of them, which gives it the IP addresses and, respectively.

Note that in this example we are using a class B network to keep things simple, but a class C network would be more realistic. With the new networking code, subnetting is not limited to byte boundaries, so even a class C network may be split into several subnets. For instance, you could use two bits of the host part for the netmask, giving you 4 possible subnets with 64 hosts on each.[1]

[1] The first number on each subnet is the subnetwork address, and the last number on each subnet is reserved as the broadcast address, so it's actually 62 hosts per subnet.

Writing hosts and networks Files

After you have subnetted your network, you should prepare for some simple sort of hostname resolution using the /etc/hosts file. If you are not going to use DNS or NIS for address resolution, you have to put all hosts in the hosts file.

Even if you want to run DNS or NIS during normal operation, you should have some subset of all hostnames in /etc/hosts. You should have some sort of name resolution, even when no network interfaces are running, for example, during boot time. This is not only a matter of convenience, but it allows you to use symbolic hostnames in your network rc scripts. Thus, when changing IP addresses, you only have to copy an updated hosts file to all machines and reboot, rather than edit a large number of rc files separately. Usually you put all local hostnames and addresses in hosts, adding those of any gateways and NIS servers used.[2]

[2] You need the address of an NIS server only if you use Peter Eriksson's NYS. Other NIS implementations locate their servers only at runtime by using ypbind.

You should make sure your resolver only uses information from the hosts file during initial testing. Sample files that come with your DNS or NIS software may produce strange results. To make all applications use /etc/hosts exclusively when looking up the IP address of a host, you have to edit the /etc/host.conf file. Comment out any lines that begin with the keyword order by preceding them with a hash sign, and insert the line:

order hosts

The configuration of the resolver library is covered in detail in Chapter 6, Name Service and Resolver Configuration.

The hosts file contains one entry per line, consisting of an IP address, a hostname, and an optional list of aliases for the hostname. The fields are separated by spaces or tabs, and the address field must begin in the first column. Anything following a hash sign (#) is regarded as a comment and is ignored.

Hostnames can be either fully qualified or relative to the local domain. For vale, you would usually enter the fully qualified name,, and vale by itself in the hosts file, so that it is known by both its official name and the shorter local name.

This is an example how a hosts file at the Virtual Brewery might look. Two special names are included, vlager-if1 and vlager-if2, which give the addresses for both interfaces used on vlager:

# Hosts file for Virtual Brewery/Virtual Winery
# IP            FQDN                 aliases
#       localhost
#      vlager vlager-if1      vstout        vale
#      vlager-if2 vbeaujolais  vbardolino    vchianti

Just as with a host's IP address, you should sometimes use a symbolic name for network numbers, too. Therefore, the hosts file has a companion called /etc/networks that maps network names to network numbers, and vice versa. At the Virtual Brewery, we might install a networks file like this:[3]

# /etc/networks for the Virtual Brewery

[3] Note that names in networks must not collide with hostnames from the hosts file, or else some programs may produce strange results.

Interface Configuration for IP

After setting up your hardware as explained in Chapter 4, Configuring the Serial Hardware, you have to make these devices known to the kernel networking software. A couple of commands are used to configure the network interfaces and initialize the routing table. These tasks are usually performed from the network initialization script each time you boot the system. The basic tools for this process are called ifconfig (where "if" stands for interface) and route.

ifconfig is used to make an interface accessible to the kernel networking layer. This involves the assignment of an IP address and other parameters, and activation of the interface, also known as "bringing up" the interface. Being active here means that the kernel will send and receive IP datagrams through the interface. The simplest way to invoke it is with:

ifconfig interface ip-address

This command assigns ip-address to interface and activates it. All other parameters are set to default values. For instance, the default network mask is derived from the network class of the IP address, such as for a class B address. ifconfig is described in detail in the section "All About ifconfig".

route allows you to add or remove routes from the kernel routing table. It can be invoked as:

route [add|del] [-net|-host] target [if]

The add and del arguments determine whether to add or delete the route to target. The -net and -host arguments tell the route command whether the target is a network or a host (a host is assumed if you don't specify). The if argument is again optional, and allows you to specify to which network interface the route should be directed -- the Linux kernel makes a sensible guess if you don't supply this information. This topic will be explained in more detail in succeeding sections.

The Loopback Interface

The very first interface to be activated is the loopback interface:

# ifconfig lo

Occasionally, you will see the dummy hostname localhost being used instead of the IP address. ifconfig will look up the name in the hosts file, where an entry should declare it as the hostname for

# Sample /etc/hosts entry for localhost

To view the configuration of an interface, you invoke ifconfig, giving it only the interface name as argument:

$ ifconfig lo
lo Link encap:Local Loopback inet addr: Mask: UP LOOPBACK RUNNING MTU:3924 Metric:1 RX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0 TX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0 Collisions:0

As you can see, the loopback interface has been assigned a netmask of, since is a class A address.

Now you can almost start playing with your mini-network. What is still missing is an entry in the routing table that tells IP that it may use this interface as a route to destination This is accomplished by using:

# route add

Again, you can use localhost instead of the IP address, provided you've entered it into your /etc/hosts.

Next, you should check that everything works fine, for example by using ping. ping is the networking equivalent of a sonar device.[4] The command is used to verify that a given address is actually reachable, and to measure the delay that occurs when sending a datagram to it and back again. The time required for this process is often referred to as the "round-trip time":

[4] Anyone remember Pink Floyd's "Echoes"?

# ping localhost
PING localhost ( 56 data bytes 64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=255 time=0.4 ms 64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=255 time=0.4 ms 64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=255 time=0.4 ms ^C --- localhost ping statistics --- 3 packets transmitted, 3 packets received, 0% packet loss round-trip min/avg/max = 0.4/0.4/0.4 ms #

When you invoke ping as shown here, it will continue emitting packets forever, unless interrupted by the user. The ^C marks the place where we pressed Ctrl-C.

The previous example shows that packets for are properly delivered and a reply is returned to ping almost instantaneously. This shows that you have successfully set up your first network interface.

If the output you get from ping does not resemble that shown in the previous example, you are in trouble. Check any errors if they indicate that some file hasn't been installed properly. Check that the ifconfig and route binaries you use are compatible with the kernel release you run, and above all, that the kernel has been compiled with networking enabled (you see this from the presence of the /proc/net directory). If you get an error message saying "Network unreachable," you probably got the route command wrong. Make sure you use the same address you gave to ifconfig.

The steps previously described are enough to use networking applications on a standalone host. After adding the lines mentioned earlier to your network initialization script and making sure it will be executed at boot time, you may reboot your machine and try out various applications. For instance, telnet localhost should establish a telnet connection to your host, giving you a login: prompt.

However, the loopback interface is useful not only as an example in networking books, or as a test bed during development, but is actually used by some applications during normal operation.[5] Therefore, you always have to configure it, regardless of whether your machine is attached to a network or not.

[5] For example, all applications based on RPC use the loopback interface to register themselves with the portmapper daemon at startup. These applications include NIS and NFS.

Ethernet Interfaces

Configuring an Ethernet interface is pretty much the same as the loopback interface; it just requires a few more parameters when you are using subnetting.

At the Virtual Brewery, we have subnetted the IP network, which was originally a class B network, into class C subnetworks. To make the interface recognize this, the ifconfig incantation would look like this:

# ifconfig eth0 vstout netmask

This command assigns the eth0 interface the IP address of vstout ( If we omitted the netmask, ifconfig would deduce the netmask from the IP network class, which would result in an incorrect netmask of Now a quick check shows:

# ifconfig eth0
eth0 Link encap 10Mps Ethernet HWaddr 00:00:C0:90:B3:42 inet addr Bcast Mask UP BROADCAST RUNNING MTU 1500 Metric 1 RX packets 0 errors 0 dropped 0 overrun 0 TX packets 0 errors 0 dropped 0 overrun 0

You can see that ifconfig automatically sets the broadcast address (the Bcast field) to the usual value, which is the host's network number with all the host bits set. Also, the maximum transmission unit (the maximum size of IP datagrams the kernel will generate for this interface) has been set to the maximum size of Ethernet packets: 1,500 bytes. The defaults are usually what you will use, but all these values can be overidden if required, with special options that will be described under "All About ifconfig".

Just as for the loopback interface, you now have to install a routing entry that informs the kernel about the network that can be reached through eth0. For the Virtual Brewery, you might invoke route as:

# route add -net

At first this looks a little like magic, because it's not really clear how route detects which interface to route through. However, the trick is rather simple: the kernel checks all interfaces that have been configured so far and compares the destination address ( in this case) to the network part of the interface address (that is, the bitwise AND of the interface address and the netmask). The only interface that matches is eth0.

Now, what's that -net option for? This is used because route can handle both routes to networks and routes to single hosts (as you saw before with localhost). When given an address in dotted quad notation, route attempts to guess whether it is a network or a hostname by looking at the host part bits. If the address's host part is zero, route assumes it denotes a network; otherwise, route takes it as a host address. Therefore, route would think that is a host address rather than a network number, because it cannot know that we use subnetting. We have to tell route explicitly that it denotes a network, so we give it the -net flag.

Of course, the route command is a little tedious to type, and it's prone to spelling mistakes. A more convenient approach is to use the network names we defined in /etc/networks. This approach makes the command much more readable; even the -net flag can be omitted because route knows that denotes a network:

# route add brew-net

Now that you've finished the basic configuration steps, we want to make sure that your Ethernet interface is indeed running happily. Choose a host from your Ethernet, for instance vlager, and type:

# ping vlager
PING vlager: 64 byte packets 64 bytes from icmp_seq=0. time=11. ms 64 bytes from icmp_seq=1. time=7. ms 64 bytes from icmp_seq=2. time=12. ms 64 bytes from icmp_seq=3. time=3. ms ^C PING Statistics---- 4 packets transmitted, 4 packets received, 0 round-trip (ms) min/avg/max = 3/8/12

If you don't see similar output, something is broken. If you encounter unusual packet loss rates, this hints at a hardware problem, like bad or missing terminators. If you don't receive any replies at all, you should check the interface configuration with netstat described later in "The netstat Command". The packet statistics displayed by ifconfig should tell you whether any packets have been sent out on the interface at all. If you have access to the remote host too, you should go over to that machine and check the interface statistics. This way you can determine exactly where the packets got dropped. In addition, you should display the routing information with route to see if both hosts have the correct routing entry. route prints out the complete kernel routing table when invoked without any arguments (-n just makes it print addresses as dotted quad instead of using the hostname):

# route -n
Kernel routing table Destination Gateway Genmask Flags Metric Ref Use Iface * UH 1 0 112 lo * U 1 0 10 eth0

The detailed meaning of these fields is explained later in "The netstat Command". The Flags column contains a list of flags set for each interface. U is always set for active interfaces, and H says the destination address denotes a host. If the H flag is set for a route that you meant to be a network route, you have to reissue the route command with the -net option. To check whether a route you have entered is used at all, check to see if the Use field in the second to last column increases between two invocations of ping.

Routing Through a Gateway

In the previous section, we covered only the case of setting up a host on a single Ethernet. Quite frequently, however, one encounters networks connected to one another by gateways. These gateways may simply link two or more Ethernets, but may also provide a link to the outside world, such as the Internet. In order to use a gateway, you have to provide additional routing information to the networking layer.

The Ethernets of the Virtual Brewery and the Virtual Winery are linked through such a gateway, namely the host vlager. Assuming that vlager has already been configured, we just have to add another entry to vstout's routing table that tells the kernel it can reach all hosts on the Winery's network through vlager. The appropriate incantation of route is shown below; the gw keyword tells it that the next argument denotes a gateway:

# route add wine-net gw vlager

Of course, any host on the Winery network you wish to talk to must have a routing entry for the Brewery's network. Otherwise you would only be able to send data to the Winery network from the Brewery network, but the hosts on the Winery would be unable to reply.

This example describes only a gateway that switches packets between two isolated Ethernets. Now assume that vlager also has a connection to the Internet (say, through an additional SLIP link). Then we would want datagrams to any destination network other than the Brewery to be handed to vlager. This action can be accomplished by making it the default gateway for vstout:

# route add default gw vlager

The network name default is a shorthand for, which denotes the default route. The default route matches every destination and will be used if there is no more specific route that matches. You do not have to add this name to /etc/networks because it is built into route.

If you see high packet loss rates when pinging a host behind one or more gateways, this may hint at a very congested network. Packet loss is not so much due to technical deficiencies as to temporary excess loads on forwarding hosts, which makes them delay or even drop incoming datagrams.

Configuring a Gateway

Configuring a machine to switch packets between two Ethernets is pretty straightforward. Assume we're back at vlager, which is equipped with two Ethernet cards, each connected to one of the two networks. All you have to do is configure both interfaces separately, giving them their respective IP addresses and matching routes, and that's it.

It is quite useful to add information on the two interfaces to the hosts file as shown in the following example, so we have handy names for them, too:    vlager vlager-if1      vlager-if2

The sequence of commands to set up the two interfaces is then:

# ifconfig eth0 vlager-if1
# route add brew-net
# ifconfig eth1 vlager-if2
# route add wine-net

If this sequence doesn't work, make sure your kernel has been compiled with support for IP forwarding enabled. One good way to do this is to ensure that the first number on the second line of /proc/net/snmp is set to 1.

The PLIP Interface

A PLIP link used to connect two machines is a little different from an Ethernet. PLIP links are an example of what are called point-to-point links, meaning that there is a single host at each end of the link. Networks like Ethernet are called broadcast networks. Configuration of point-to-point links is different because unlike broadcast networks, point-to-point links don't support a network of their own.

PLIP provides very cheap and portable links between computers. As an example, we'll consider the laptop computer of an employee at the Virtual Brewery that is connected to vlager via PLIP. The laptop itself is called vlite and has only one parallel port. At boot time, this port will be registered as plip1. To activate the link, you have to configure the plip1 interface using the following commands:[6]

# ifconfig plip1 vlite pointopoint vlager
# route add default gw vlager

[6] Note that pointopoint is not a typo. It's really spelled like this.

The first command configures the interface, telling the kernel that this is a point-to-point link, with the remote side having the address of vlager. The second installs the default route, using vlager as gateway. On vlager, a similar ifconfig command is necessary to activate the link (a route invocation is not needed):

# ifconfig plip1 vlager pointopoint vlite

Note that the plip1 interface on vlager does not need a separate IP address, but may also be given the address Point-to-point networks don't support a network directly, so the interfaces don't require an address on any supported network. The kernel uses the interface information in the routing table to avoid any possible confusion.[7]

[7] As a matter of caution, you should configure a PLIP or SLIP link only after you have completely set up the routing table entries for your Ethernets. With some older kernels, your network route might otherwise end up pointing at the point-to-point link.

Now we have configured routing from the laptop to the Brewery's network; what's still missing is a way to route from any of the Brewery's hosts to vlite. One particularly cumbersome way is to add a specific route to every host's routing table that names vlager as a gateway to vlite:

# route add vlite gw vlager

Dynamic routing offers a much better option for temporary routes. You could use gated, a routing daemon, which you would have to install on each host in the network in order to distribute routing information dynamically. The easiest option, however, is to use proxy ARP (Address Resolution Protocol). With proxy ARP, vlager will respond to any ARP query for vlite by sending its own Ethernet address. All packets for vlite will wind up at vlager, which then forwards them to the laptop. We will come back to proxy ARP in the section "Checking the ARP Tables".

Current net-tools releases contain a tool called plipconfig, which allows you to set certain PLIP timing parameters. The IRQ to be used for the printer port can be set using the ifconfig command.

The SLIP and PPP Interfaces

Although SLIP and PPP links are only simple point-to-point links like PLIP connections, there is much more to be said about them. Usually, establishing a SLIP connection involves dialing up a remote site through your modem and setting the serial line to SLIP mode. PPP is used in a similar fashion. We discuss SLIP and PPP in detail in Chapter 7 and Chapter 8, The Point-to-Point Protocol.

The Dummy Interface

The dummy interface is a little exotic, but rather useful nevertheless. Its main benefit is with standalone hosts and machines whose only IP network connection is a dialup link. In fact, the latter are standalone hosts most of the time, too.

The dilemma with standalone hosts is that they only have a single network device active, the loopback device, which is usually assigned the address On some occasions, however, you must send data to the "official" IP address of the local host. For instance, consider the laptop vlite, which was disconnected from a network for the duration of this example. An application on vlite may now want to send data to another application on the same host. Looking up vlite in /etc/hosts yields an IP address of, so the application tries to send to this address. As the loopback interface is currently the only active interface on the machine, the kernel has no idea that actually refers to itself! Consequently, the kernel discards the datagram and returns an error to the application.

This is where the dummy device steps in. It solves the dilemma by simply serving as the alter ego of the loopback interface. In the case of vlite, you simply give it the address and add a host route pointing to it. Every datagram for is then delivered locally. The proper invocation is:[8]

# ifconfig dummy vlite
# route add vlite

[8] The dummy device is called dummy0 if you have loaded it as a module rather than choosing it as an inbuilt kernel option. This is because you are able to load multiple modules and have more than one dummy device.

IP Alias

New kernels support a feature that can completely replace the dummy interface and serve other useful functions. IP Alias allows you to configure multiple IP addresses onto a physical device. In the simplest case, you could replicate the function of the dummy interface by configuring the host address as an alias onto the loopback interface and completely avoid using the dummy interface. In more complex uses, you could configure your host to look like many different hosts, each with its own IP address. This configuration is sometimes called "Virtual Hosting," although technically it is also used for a variety of other techniques.[9]

[9] More correctly, using IP aliasing is known as network layer virtual hosting. It is more common in the WWW and STMP worlds to use application layer virtual hosting, in which the same IP address is used for each virtual host, but a different hostname is passed with each application layer request. Services like FTP are not capable of operating in this way, and they demand network layer virtual hosting.

To configure an alias for an interface, you must first ensure that your kernel has been compiled with support for IP Alias (check that you have a /proc/net/ip_alias file; if not, you will have to recompile your kernel). Configuration of an IP alias is virtually identical to configuring a real network device; you use a special name to indicate it's an alias that you want. For example:

# ifconfig lo:0
This command would produce an alias for the loopback interface with the address IP aliases are referred to by appending :n to the actual network device, in which "n" is an integer. In our example, the network device we are creating the alias on is lo, and we are creating an alias numbered zero for it. This way, a single physical device may support a number of aliases.

Each alias may be treated as though it is a separate device, and as far as the kernel IP software is concerned, it will be; however, it will be sharing its hardware with another interface.

All About ifconfig

There are many more parameters to ifconfig than we have described so far. Its normal invocation is this:

ifconfig interface [address [parameters]]

interface is the interface name, and address is the IP address to be assigned to the interface. This may be either an IP address in dotted quad notation or a name that ifconfig will look up in /etc/hosts.

If ifconfig is invoked with only the interface name, it displays that interface's configuration. When invoked without any parameters, it displays all interfaces you have configured so far; a -a option forces it to show the inactive ones as well. A sample invocation for the Ethernet interface eth0 may look like this:

# ifconfig eth0
eth0 Link encap 10Mbps Ethernet HWaddr 00:00:C0:90:B3:42 inet addr Bcast Mask UP BROADCAST RUNNING MTU 1500 Metric 0 RX packets 3136 errors 217 dropped 7 overrun 26 TX packets 1752 errors 25 dropped 0 overrun 0

The MTU and Metric fields show the current MTU and metric value for that interface. The metric value is traditionally used by some operating systems to compute the cost of a route. Linux doesn't use this value yet, but defines it for compatibility, nevertheless.

The RX and TX lines show how many packets have been received or transmitted error free, how many errors occurred, how many packets were dropped (probably because of low memory), and how many were lost because of an overrun. Receiver overruns usually occur when packets come in faster than the kernel can service the last interrupt. The flag values printed by ifconfig roughly correspond to the names of its command-line options; they will be explained later.

The following is a list of parameters recognized by ifconfig with the corresponding flag names. Options that simply turn on a feature also allow it to be turned off again by preceding the option name by a dash (-).


This option makes an interface accessible to the IP layer. This option is implied when an address is given on the command line. It may also be used to reenable an interface that has been taken down temporarily using the down option.

This option corresponds to the flags UP and RUNNING.


This option marks an interface inaccessible to the IP layer. This effectively disables any IP traffic through the interface. Note that this option will also automatically delete all routing entries that use this interface.

netmask mask

This option assigns a subnet mask to be used by the interface. It may be given as either a 32-bit hexadecimal number preceded by 0x, or as a dotted quad of decimal numbers. While the dotted quad format is more common, the hexadecimal representation is often easier to work with. Netmasks are essentially binary, and it is easier to do binary-to-hexadecimal than binary-to-decimal conversion.

pointopoint address

This option is used for point-to-point IP links that involve only two hosts. This option is needed to configure SLIP or PLIP interfaces, for example. If a point-to-point address has been set, ifconfig displays the POINTOPOINT flag.

broadcast address

The broadcast address is usually made up from the network number by setting all bits of the host part. Some IP implementations (systems derived from BSD 4.2, for instance) use a different scheme in which all host part bits are cleared instead. The broadcast option adapts to these strange environments. If a broadcast address has been set, ifconfig displays the BROADCAST flag.


This option allows you to set the IRQ line used by certain devices. This is especially useful for PLIP, but may also be useful for certain Ethernet cards.

metric number

This option may be used to assign a metric value to the routing table entry created for the interface. This metric is used by the Routing Information Protocol (RIP) to build routing tables for the network.[10] The default metric used by ifconfig is zero. If you don't run a RIP daemon, you don't need this option at all; if you do, you will rarely need to change the metric value.

[10] RIP chooses the optimal route to a given host based on the "length" of the path. It is computed by summing up the individual metric values of each host-to-host link. By default, a hop has length 1, but this may be any positive integer less than 16. (A route length of 16 is equal to infinity. Such routes are considered unusable.) The metric parameter sets this hop cost, which is then broadcast by the routing daemon.

mtu bytes

This sets the Maximum Transmission Unit, which is the maximum number of octets the interface is able to handle in one transaction. For Ethernets, the MTU defaults to 1,500 (the largest allowable size of an Ethernet packet); for SLIP interfaces, it is 296. (There is no constraint on the MTU of SLIP links; this value is a good compromise.)


This is an option specific to broadcast networks such as Ethernets or packet radio. It enables the use of the Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) to detect the physical addresses of hosts attached to the network. For broadcast networks, it is on by default. If ARP is disabled, ifconfig displays the NOARP flag.


This option disables the use of ARP on this interface.


This option puts the interface in promiscuous mode. On a broadcast network, this makes the interface receive all packets, regardless of whether they were destined for this host or not. This allows network traffic analysis using packet filters and such, also called Ethernet snooping. Usually, this is a good technique for hunting down network problems that are otherwise hard to detect. Tools such as tcpdump rely on this.

On the other hand, this option allows attackers to do nasty things, such as skim the traffic of your network for passwords. You can protect against this type of attack by prohibiting just anyone from plugging their computers into your Ethernet. You could also use secure authentication protocols, such as Kerberos or the secure shell login suite.[11] This option corresponds to the PROMISC flag.

[11] ssh can be obtained from in /pub/ssh.


This option turns promiscuous mode off.


Multicast addresses are like Ethernet broadcast addresses, except that instead of automatically including everybody, the only people who receive packets sent to a multicast address are those programmed to listen to it. This is useful for applications like Ethernet-based videoconferencing or network audio, to which only those interested can listen. Multicast addressing is supported by most, but not all, Ethernet drivers. When this option is enabled, the interface receives and passes multicast packets for processing. This option corresponds to the ALLMULTI flag.


This option turns multicast addresses off.

The netstat Command

netstat is a useful tool for checking your network configuration and activity. It is in fact a collection of several tools lumped together. We discuss each of its functions in the following sections.

Displaying the Routing Table

When you invoke netstat with the -r flag, it displays the kernel routing table in the way we've been doing with route. On vstout, it produces:

# netstat -nr
Kernel IP routing table Destination Gateway Genmask Flags MSS Window irtt Iface * UH 0 0 0 lo * U 0 0 0 eth0 UG 0 0 0 eth0

The -n option makes netstat print addresses as dotted quad IP numbers rather than the symbolic host and network names. This option is especially useful when you want to avoid address lookups over the network (e.g., to a DNS or NIS server).

The second column of netstat's output shows the gateway to which the routing entry points. If no gateway is used, an asterisk is printed instead. The third column shows the "generality" of the route, i.e., the network mask for this route. When given an IP address to find a suitable route for, the kernel steps through each of the routing table entries, taking the bitwise AND of the address and the genmask before comparing it to the target of the route.

The fourth column displays the following flags that describe the route:


The route uses a gateway.


The interface to be used is up.


Only a single host can be reached through the route. For example, this is the case for the loopback entry


This route is dynamically created. It is set if the table entry has been generated by a routing daemon like gated or by an ICMP redirect message (see "The Internet Control Message Protocol" in Chapter 2).


This route is set if the table entry was modified by an ICMP redirect message.


The route is a reject route and datagrams will be dropped.

The next three columns show the MSS, Window and irtt that will be applied to TCP connections established via this route. The MSS is the Maximum Segment Size and is the size of the largest datagram the kernel will construct for transmission via this route. The Window is the maximum amount of data the system will accept in a single burst from a remote host. The acronym irtt stands for "initial round trip time." The TCP protocol ensures that data is reliably delivered between hosts by retransmitting a datagram if it has been lost. The TCP protocol keeps a running count of how long it takes for a datagram to be delivered to the remote end, and an acknowledgement to be received so that it knows how long to wait before assuming a datagram needs to retransmitted; this process is called the round-trip time. The initial round-trip time is the value that the TCP protocol will use when a connection is first established. For most network types, the default value is okay, but for some slow networks, notably certain types of amateur packet radio networks, the time is too short and causes unnecessary retransmission. The irtt value can be set using the route command. Values of zero in these fields mean that the default is being used.

Finally, the last field displays the network interface that this route will use.

Displaying Interface Statistics

When invoked with the -i flag, netstat displays statistics for the network interfaces currently configured. If the -a option is also given, it prints all interfaces present in the kernel, not only those that have been configured currently. On vstout, the output from netstat will look like this:

# netstat -i
Kernel Interface table Iface MTU Met RX-OK RX-ERR RX-DRP RX-OVR TX-OK TX-ERR TX-DRP TX-OVR Flags lo 0 0 3185 0 0 0 3185 0 0 0 BLRU eth0 1500 0 972633 17 20 120 628711 217 0 0 BRU

The MTU and Met fields show the current MTU and metric values for that interface. The RX and TX columns show how many packets have been received or transmitted error-free (RX-OK/TX-OK) or damaged (RX-ERR/TX-ERR); how many were dropped (RX-DRP/TX-DRP); and how many were lost because of an overrun (RX-OVR/TX-OVR).

The last column shows the flags that have been set for this interface. These characters are one-character versions of the long flag names that are printed when you display the interface configuration with ifconfig:


A broadcast address has been set.


This interface is a loopback device.


All packets are received (promiscuous mode).


ARP is turned off for this interface.


This is a point-to-point connection.


Interface is running.


Interface is up.

Displaying Connections

netstat supports a set of options to display active or passive sockets. The options -t, -u, -w, and -x show active TCP, UDP, RAW, or Unix socket connections. If you provide the -a flag in addition, sockets that are waiting for a connection (i.e., listening) are displayed as well. This display will give you a list of all servers that are currently running on your system.

Invoking netstat -ta on vlager produces this output:

$ netstat -ta
Active Internet Connections Proto Recv-Q Send-Q Local Address Foreign Address (State) tcp 0 0 *:domain *:* LISTEN tcp 0 0 *:time *:* LISTEN tcp 0 0 *:smtp *:* LISTEN tcp 0 0 vlager:smtp vstout:1040 ESTABLISHED tcp 0 0 *:telnet *:* LISTEN tcp 0 0 localhost:1046 vbardolino:telnet ESTABLISHED tcp 0 0 *:chargen *:* LISTEN tcp 0 0 *:daytime *:* LISTEN tcp 0 0 *:discard *:* LISTEN tcp 0 0 *:echo *:* LISTEN tcp 0 0 *:shell *:* LISTEN tcp 0 0 *:login *:* LISTEN

This output shows most servers simply waiting for an incoming connection. However, the fourth line shows an incoming SMTP connection from vstout, and the sixth line tells you there is an outgoing telnet connection to vbardolino.[12]

[12] You can tell whether a connection is outgoing from the port numbers. The port number shown for the calling host will always be a simple integer. On the host being called, a well-known service port will be in use for which netstat uses the symbolic name such as smtp, found in /etc/services.

Using the -a flag by itself will display all sockets from all families.

Checking the ARP Tables

On some occasions, it is useful to view or alter the contents of the kernel's ARP tables, for example when you suspect a duplicate Internet address is the cause for some intermittent network problem. The arp tool was made for situations like this. Its command-line options are:

arp [-v] [-t hwtype] -a [hostname]
arp [-v] [-t hwtype] -s hostname hwaddr
arp [-v] -d hostname [hostname...]

All hostname arguments may be either symbolic hostnames or IP addresses in dotted quad notation.

The first invocation displays the ARP entry for the IP address or host specified, or all hosts known if no hostname is given. For example, invoking arp on vlager may yield:

# arp -a
IP address HW type HW address 10Mbps Ethernet 00:00:C0:5A:42:C1 10Mbps Ethernet 00:00:C0:90:B3:42 10Mbps Ethernet 00:00:C0:04:69:AA

which shows the Ethernet addresses of vlager, vstout and vale.

You can limit the display to the hardware type specified using the -t option. This may be ether, ax25, or pronet, standing for 10 Mbps Ethernet; AMPR AX.25, and IEEE 802.5 token ring equipment, respectively.

The -s option is used to permanently add hostname's Ethernet address to the ARP tables. The hwaddr argument specifies the hardware address, which is by default expected to be an Ethernet address specified as six hexadecimal bytes separated by colons. You may also set the hardware address for other types of hardware, using the -t option.

For some reason, ARP queries for the remote host sometimes fail, for instance when its ARP driver is buggy or there is another host in the network that erroneously identifies itself with that host's IP address; this problem requires you to manually add an IP address to the ARP table. Hard-wiring IP addresses in the ARP table is also a (very drastic) measure to protect yourself from hosts on your Ethernet that pose as someone else.

Invoking arp using the -d switch deletes all ARP entries relating to the given host. This switch may be used to force the interface to re-attempt obtaining the Ethernet address for the IP address in question. This is useful when a misconfigured system has broadcasted wrong ARP information (of course, you have to reconfigure the broken host first).

The -s option may also be used to implement proxy ARP. This is a special technique through which a host, say gate, acts as a gateway to another host named fnord by pretending that both addresses refer to the same host, namely gate. It does so by publishing an ARP entry for fnord that points to its own Ethernet interface. Now when a host sends out an ARP query for fnord, gate will return a reply containing its own Ethernet address. The querying host will then send all datagrams to gate, which dutifully forwards them to fnord.

These contortions may be necessary when you want to access fnord from a DOS machine with a broken TCP implementation that doesn't understand routing too well. When you use proxy ARP, it will appear to the DOS machine as if fnord was on the local subnet, so it doesn't have to know about how to route through a gateway.

Another useful application of proxy ARP is when one of your hosts acts as a gateway to some other host only temporarily, for instance, through a dial-up link. In a previous example, we encountered the laptop vlite, which was connected to vlager through a PLIP link from time to time. Of course, this application will work only if the address of the host you want to provide proxy ARP for is on the same IP subnet as your gateway. vstout could proxy ARP for any host on the Brewery subnet (, but never for a host on the Winery subnet (

The proper invocation to provide proxy ARP for fnord is given below; of course, the given Ethernet address must be that of gate:

# arp -s fnord 00:00:c0:a1:42:e0 pub

The proxy ARP entry may be removed again by invoking:

# arp -d fnord

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Back to: Linux Network Administrator's Guide, 2nd Edition

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