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 From:  Jayden Phillips <trainguy77 at shaw dot ca>
 To:  Mark Wass <mark dot wass at market dash analyst dot com>, Manuel Kasper <mk at neon1 dot net>
 Cc:  m0n0wall dash dev at lists dot m0n0 dot ch, m0n0wall at lists dot m0n0 dot ch
 Subject:  Re: [m0n0wall] The future
 Date:  Fri, 14 Oct 2005 08:02:01 -0600
I also think we should get a forums to make things easier in communication.
I would be interested in helping set the up if you want, do we have our own

I think having a true module system would be great, it would be a great
step, making so other developers can write there own modules when they don't
have what they need.


On 10/12/05 11:15 PM, "Mark Wass" <mark dot wass at market dash analyst dot com> wrote:

> I think a survey would be a great place to start, would also be
> insteresting to update the stats from the previous survey.
> Manuel Kasper wrote:
>> Dear m0n0wall enthusiasts,
>> now that m0n0wall 1.2 is out and all (well, most) of the changes
>> since 1.11 are conserved in a (hopefully) stable release, we can
>> discuss what is going to become of m0n0wall in the future. I'm going
>> to present my point of view on what m0n0wall is today and what it
>> could become. Your (constructive) comments, suggestions and opinions
>> are very welcome, and I expect they'll be numerous as well. Please
>> post them to the m0n0wall-dev mailing list only (I'm just CC'ing this
>> to the main list to draw people's attention to this discussion).
>> First of all, I'd like to give a quick overview of m0n0wall as it
>> exists today - an experiment I started in 2003 that now runs about
>> 15,000 firewalls worldwide. m0n0wall is based on a FreeBSD 4.11
>> system, stripped down to its bare minimum. To make it as reliable as
>> possible and to allow the system to be unplugged at any time (just
>> like most commercial firewall boxes), the root file system is a
>> memory file system, loaded at boot time from an image. This is also
>> what made the popular CD-ROM version possible. Instead of the usual
>> /etc/rc.* shell scripts, m0n0wall uses PHP scripts that are
>> interpreted by a PHP CGI binary used as a CLI. These scripts contain
>> functions that configure various aspects of the system - interfaces,
>> the firewall, services. The configuration for the whole system comes
>> out of a single XML file, config.xml. It is parsed into a
>> multi-dimensional array and then used directly by the functions that
>> configure the system. They do this by translating certain elements of
>> the configuration into configuration files for daemons (like dhcpd,
>> dnsmasq, etc.) or by calling system tools that interact with the
>> kernel (like ifconfig or ipf). So far, so good.
>> m0n0wall also contains a web interface, called the webGUI, which is
>> probably its most important feature. mini_httpd is used as the web
>> server, and once again, PHP (in CGI mode) is used for the pages that
>> the webGUI consists of. Just like the boot scripts, these pages parse
>> and manipulate the configuration directly, and also write it back
>> into XML as needed (i.e. when the user modifies the configuration).
>> To enable most changes to be applied immediately (instead of having
>> to reboot each time), the webGUI pages call the respective functions
>> in the boot scripts directly. To prevent problems with parallel
>> access, a very simple form of locking is used. Certain configuration
>> options are mutually exclusive, and some depend on other options
>> being enabled in order to work. It's each webGUI page's own
>> responsibility to check that all prerequisites are met, but obviously
>> due to the way the webGUI works, pages are not informed if any of the
>> options they depend on change.
>> Upon external events - most commonly when PPPoE, PPTP or DHCP
>> indicate that the dynamic WAN IP address has changed - another PHP
>> script is run to make the necessary adjustments.
>> So far, this has worked remarkably well. However, with each new
>> feature that was developed, it has become more obvious that things
>> are too intertwined. The main reason why OpenVPN support was buggy
>> and had to be removed was that it used optional interfaces in ways
>> that weren't planned when the optional interface support was written.
>> However, it is clear why the initial author of m0n0wall's OpenVPN
>> support chose to use optional interfaces: otherwise, major parts of
>> the firewall code and many webGUI pages would have had to be modified
>> (keep in mind that the OpenVPN support was supposed to be a module).
>> m0n0wall has grown "organically" without a specific plan, so this is
>> a logical consequence.
>> At this time, I believe that it wouldn't be wise to continue hacking
>> new features into m0n0wall with its current architecture. I don't
>> have a ready-made plan yet, but in my opinion the web interface and
>> the configuration subsystem need to be separated. There's too much
>> important logic in the webGUI right now. m0n0wall needs a core, a
>> daemon, something that is always running in the background to
>> coordinate configuration changes and external events. The webGUI
>> should only display the data and send change requests to the core,
>> and the core should handle all the "business logic". This would also
>> open possibilities for alternate configuration methods (console,
>> Windows application, etc.). It would also be nice if the core was
>> highly modular, with services like DHCP, DynDNS, DNS forwarder, PPTP
>> VPN etc. implemented as separate modules and only the essential stuff
>> (like interface handling or firewall rule generation) in the core.
>> I have thought about this in the past, but PHP doesn't lend itself
>> well to that kind of application. The core could also benefit from an
>> object-oriented approach, finally abstracting things like interfaces,
>> so that new features like OpenVPN could be integrated without having
>> to modify existing code everywhere. Java would be a possibility -
>> there are now ways (GCJ, for example) to use its advantages without
>> the usual extreme bloat. There may be other candidates - I don't know.
>> For the web interface, I still think PHP is a good choice. We'd just
>> need a standards based interface between the core and the webGUI.
>> What do you think? Is it time to perform a major architectural
>> overhaul on m0n0wall? Or would you rather continue with m0n0wall's
>> current architecture, perhaps making small adjustments where
>> necessary, and on the other hand spend more time rewriting code to
>> get new features integrated?
>> No matter how the web interface and configuration system are going to
>> work, there's also another important question: which base operating
>> system should be used in the future? FreeBSD 4.x is at the end of its
>> lifespan. It has been a very good, reliable, fast and secure
>> platform. However, its age has become evident with missing support
>> for new hardware (wireless gear in particular). There are several
>> options for an alternative, each with its advantages and
>> disadvantages. It'll most likely have to be a Unix-style operating
>> system - the three BSDs (FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD), its descendants
>> (e.g. DragonFly) and Linux come to mind. FreeBSD 5.x has already been
>> evaluated in 1.2b5-7 and found to be too slow in comparison with 4.x.
>> FreeBSD 6 is currently being used by pfSense and is supposed to be
>> better than 5.x. NetBSD hasn't been evaluated at all, but OpenBSD has
>> been suggested by a few due to its emphasis on security. With all
>> three BSDs, the choice of packet filter is between ipfilter and pf -
>> with Linux, it would be something different altogether (iptables).
>> One thing that is very important to me is that m0n0wall remains (at
>> least) as clean and easy to configure as it is today. Users should
>> not have to deal with or need to understand the underlying operating
>> system (except where it's inevitable, like when assigning interfaces
>> or debugging).
>> Finally, something needs to be done about the development style as
>> well. So far, I've coordinated all changes to m0n0wall and analyzed
>> and tested most contributed patches. While I think this has resulted
>> in a relatively high code quality, I'd like other talented people to
>> get more involvement. Volunteers, step forward! One of the ways to
>> enable this will be a common version control system for the code -
>> either CVS or SVN.
>> That's it for now - again, please post your comments, and be sure to
>> let everybody know if you think you can and would like to help with
>> one of the things I've mentioned. We can also start a new survey on
>> m0n0.ch if it looks like it would help and we manage to agree on a
>> set of questions.
>> m0n0wall forever! ;)
>> - Manuel
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