Good detailed explanation of /etc/network/interfaces syntax?
I understood the very basic concept of how to use
/etc/network/interfaces, but all I find online are examples, example after example, which I can copy-paste from. What I miss is an explanation of the syntax, an explanation of the meaning of the commands and which order the commands require. I want to understand, because most of the time copy-paste is not enough, because I’m not working on a fresh machine, so I can’t just overwrite existing configurations because it would break a lot of stuff.
man interfaces was not very helpful since it is written very complicated.
Example questions I have: what does
inet in an
iface line mean exactly (I could not even find it in the manpage), what does
manual in an
iface line mean exactly (many examples use it, but according to manpage it needs an extra config file then, which the examples don’t present), when do I use or need them? When not? When I create a bridge, what exactly happens to the interfaces?
Well, let’s separate it into pieces, to make it easier to understand
auto interface – Start the interface(s) at boot. That’s why the
lo interface uses this kind of linking configuration.
allow-auto interface – Same as
allow-hotplug interface – Start the interface when a "hotplug" event is detected. In the real world, this is used in the same situations as
auto but the difference is that it will wait for an event like "being detected by udev hotplug api" or "cable linked". See "Related Stuff(hotplug)" for additional info.
These options are pretty much "layer 2" options, setting up link states on interfaces, and are not related with "layer 3" (routing and addressing). As an example you could have a link aggregation where the bond0 interface needs to be up whatever the link state is, and its members could be up after a link state event:
auto bond0 iface bond0 inet manual down ip link set $IFACE down post-down rmmod bonding pre-up modprobe bonding mode=4 miimon=200 up ip link set $IFACE up mtu 9000 up udevadm trigger allow-hotplug eth0 iface eth0 inet manual up ifenslave bond0 $IFACE down ifenslave -d bond0 $IFACE 2> /dev/null allow-hotplug eth1 iface eth1 inet manual up ifenslave bond0 $IFACE down ifenslave -d bond0 $IFACE 2> /dev/null
So, this way I create a link aggregation and the interfaces will be added to it and removed on cable link states.
Most common interface types:
All options below are a suffix to a defined interface (
iface <Interface_family>). Basically the
iface eth0 creates a stanza called
eth0 on an Ethernet device.
iface ppp0 should create a point-to-point interface, and it could have different ways to acquire addresses like
inet wvdial that will forward the configuration of this interface to
wvdialconf script. The tuple
option will define the version of the IP protocol that will be used and the way this address will be configured (
The online Debian manuals will give you more details about this.
Options on Ethernet interfaces:
inet static – Defines a static IP address.
inet manual – Does not define an IP address for an interface. Generally used by interfaces that are bridge or aggregation members, interfaces that need to operate in promiscuous mode (e.g. port mirroring or network TAPs), or have a VLAN device configured on them. It’s a way to keep the interface up without an IP address.
inet dhcp – Acquire IP address through DHCP protocol.
inet6 static – Defines a static IPv6 address.
# Eth0 auto eth0 iface eth0 inet manual pre-up modprobe 8021q pre-up ifconfig eth0 up post-down ifconfig eth0 down # Vlan Interface auto vlan10 iface vlan10 inet static address 10.0.0.1 netmask 255.255.255.0 gateway 10.0.0.254 vlan-raw-device eth0 ip_rp_filter 0
This example will bring
eth0 up, and create a VLAN interface called
vlan10 that will process the tag number 10 on an Ethernet frame.
Common options inside an interface stanza(layer 2 and 3):
address – IP address for a static IP configured interface
netmask – Network mask. Can be omitted if you use cidr address. Example:
iface eth1 inet static address 192.168.1.2/24 gateway 192.168.1.1
gateway – The default gateway of a server. Be careful to use only one of this guy.
vlan-raw-device – On a VLAN interface, defines its "father".
bridge_ports – On a bridge interface, define its members.
down – Use the following command to down the interface instead of
post-down – Actions taken right after the interface is down.
pre-up – Actions before the interface is up.
up – Use the following command to up the interface instead of
ifup. It is up to your imagination to use any option available on
iputils. As an example we could use
up ip link set $IFACE up mtu 9000 to enable jumbo frames during the
up operation(instead of using the
mtu option itself). You can also call any other software like
up sleep 5; mii-tool -F 100baseTx-FD $IFACE to force 100Mbps Full duplex 5 seconds after the interface is up.
hwaddress ether 00:00:00:00:00:00 – Change the mac address of the interface instead of using the one that is hardcoded into rom, or generated by algorithms. You can use the keyword
random to get a randomized mac address.
dns-nameservers – IP addresses of nameservers. Requires the
resolvconf package. It’s a way to concentrate all the information in
/etc/network/interfaces instead of using
/etc/resolv.conf for DNS-related configurations.
Do not edit the
resolv.conf configuration file manually
as it will be dynamically changed by programs in the system.
dns-search example.net – Append example.net as domain to queries of host, creating the FQDN. Option
wpa-ssid – Wireless: Set a wireless WPA SSID.
mtu – MTU size.
mtu 9000 = Jumbo Frame. Useful if your Linux box is connected with switches that support larger MTU sizes. Can break some protocols(I had bad experiences with snmp and jumbo frames).
wpa-psk – Wireless: Set a hexadecimal encoded PSK for your SSID.
ip_rp_filter 1 – Reverse path filter enabled. Useful in situations where you have 2 routes to a host, and this will force the packet to come back from where it came(same interface, using its routes). Example: You are connected on your lan(
192.168.1.1/24) and you have a dlna server with one interface on your lan(
192.168.1.10/24) and other interface on dmz to execute administrative tasks(
172.16.1.1/24). During a ssh session from your computer to dlna dmz ip, the information needs to come back to you, but will hang forever because your dlna server will try to deliver the response directly through it’s lan interface. With rp_filter enabled, it will ensure that the connection will come back from where it came from. More information here.
Some of those options are not optional. Debian will warn you if you put an IP address on an interface without a netmask, for example.
You can find more good examples of network configuration here.
Links that have information related to
/etc/network/interfaces network configuration file:
I would also add that:
- interfaces is for ifup/ifdown services.
- When u use allow-hotplug it will not start with ifup/ifdown, bcos u need to use flag –allow=hotplug.
U may track what is happening with ifup by using –verbose flag.
Im not 100% shure of this, but it seems that basically when ifup is called u will execute all from /etc/network/interfaces with up … if not stated otherwise.
Im not shure how it relates to : service networking …
Would be nice if someone would point whats happening after call:
service networking restart
in relation to ifup/ifdown.
If you need to add options when using the
resolvconf package, i.e. on Ubuntu you put that configuration in
# /etc/resolvconf/resolv.conf.d/base options timeout:1 attempts:1 rotate
Important thing for attribute names is:
There are no any file with standard description. This mean that this file is implementation defined
It can be lower, upper or mixed case
It does not matter ‘-‘ or ‘_’
It can not contain spaces and tabs
Except some common names like "pre-up" "down" and etc, that can not be written with another way