GNU/Linux systems have often come under attack for the difficulty involved with setting-up and configuring various wireless devices. Thanks to Network
Manager we now have a system that allows us to quickly and easily connect to different networks. As a result of improvements made to Network
Manager during the Fedora 8 release cycle the developers are ready to deliver some incredible new features, including ad-hoc networking, multiple active devices and internet connection sharing. To find out more we talked with Dan Williams, Fedora project member and Network
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Occupation: Software Engineer, Red Hat inc
Location: Boston, MA
IRC Nick: dcbw
Interviewed by: JonathanRoberts
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Fedora 8 saw a big push to get Network
Manager 0.7 included. What were
the benefits of doing this for Fedora 8?
Dan Williams: The point of including NM 0.7 in F8 was current and future functionality. The big thing we did with 0.7 was to rewrite the configuration interface to be much more flexible, specifically to allow things users wanted like:
- static IPs, multiple IPs per interface
- connections before login (just landed)
- multiple active devices
- internet connection sharing
- mobile broadband card and better PPP support
None of this is really possible with 0.6.x, and where some of it is
(dial-up connections) it's an ugly inflexible hack. We tried to match
feature parity of Network
Manager in F8 with that of F7, and we mostly
hit that goal. Since then each update to Network
Manager has brought
additional functionality to users of F8.
Presumably, with the rewritten architecture in 0.7 and Fedora 8, there
are now a lot of possibilities for what can be achieved with
Manager. What are you specifically hoping to see delivered in
Fedora 9, and what are the potential benefits for end-users?
Dan Williams: The multiple active device rework is on track for F9. This will enable connection sharing and make for smoother connectivity since NM won't take the wireless device down right away when you plug in the cable.
We'll also probably land a rewrite of the of the applet just after F9 to better support multiple active devices. The current applet menu doesn't scale well here. Brian Clark has some pretty awesome mockups for what the applet might look like, which would make it much more functional for users.
Driver are also getting a lot better for F9. Since most new hardware is supported by mac80211, there's so much more consistency there than when we had 3 or 4 different implementations of Wireless Extensions that NM and the supplicant had to talk to. Many of the issues people have with connecting to wireless networks can be traced to poor, inconsistent driver implementations.
All of the Network
Manager-specific improvements should also land in F8
as updates, simply because we pushed to get NM 0.7 into F8 in the first
To me, ad-hoc networking and connection sharing sound like particularly exciting benefits - would you like to talk about these a bit?
Dan Williams: These depend on multiple active devices, of course. NM supports three device types right now, mobile broadband cards, wired, and wifi. Ideally you'll be able to share any of these connections with any one other connection.
So you bring up your mobile broadband card and tell NM to share that connection over wireless. NM might create a new Ad-Hoc wireless network, get an automatic IPv4 address, set up NAT, and advertise itself as a router for other wireless clients like Mac OS X does. Magic.
Manager going to be the default across the whole of the
Fedora Project for this release? With the plans to use Policy
allow for system-wide configuration changes from nm-applet, will this
Dan Williams: I expect it will replace system-config-network for a large class of users. I don't expect NM will soon replace advanced networking use cases like bonding, vlans, or really complex routing configuration. There's enough work to make NM solid without irresponsibly expanding its use-cases to things we can't yet handle well. At some point I'd like to see ifup/ifdown poke NM to do the right thing instead of running a pile of shell.
KDE 4 is shaping up to be a major feature, for all the next major
distribution releases, yet K
Manager hasn't been functioning
Manager 0.7. Has this problem been resolved, or will it be
by the release of Fedora 9?
Dan Williams: While I don't directly work on K
Manager (I have enough to do with
NM itself), I'm excited about having it solid for KDE users. Newer
snapshots that work for wired & wireless devices have hit rawhide and
are in-process for update in F8. There's more work going on upstream to
whack it into shape too. I'd expect that the K
will be significantly better for F9 than it is for F8.
And finally, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? What got you interested in free software originally? What do you like to do with your spare time when not at a computer!?
Dan Williams: I did a lot of Mac development before and during college. I worked on
the PennMUSH Mac port for a few years, and got involved in the
Office.org Mac port after that, helping to release the first usable,
packaged version for Mac OS X. I got hired by Red Hat originally to
work on Open
Office.org in late 2003.
Outside of work, I enjoy cooking, playing with electronic gadgets,
watching movies, reading & buying cellular telephony and used
archaeology books, and hacking on Network
Manager :) I sometimes suck it
up in various Half-Life-based games (CS, TF, DoD, etc) as 'fa'.