Update – November 2017:Added descriptions for the other tools I had investigated. Update – October 2018: Although it’s not based on Netflow, Al Caughy’s YAMon provides a good view of the traffic flowing through an OpenWrt or DD-WRT router. I use it myself.
Now that LEDE Project has an official release, I hungered for a way to see what kinds of traffic is going through my network. I wanted to answer the question, “who’s hogging the bandwidth?” To do that, I needed a Netflow Collector.
A Netflow Collector is a program that collects flow records from routers to show the kinds and volumes of traffic that passed through the router. The collector adds those flow records into its internal database, and lets you search/display the data. (You also need to configure your router to send (“export”) flow records to the collector. My experiments all employ the softflowd Netflow Exporter. It is a standard package you can install into your LEDE router.)
In an earlier life, I used a slick commercial Netflow monitoring program. But it wasn’t free, so it isn’t something that I can recommend to people for their home networks.
There are many open-source Netflow collectors which have varying degrees of ease of installation/ease of use/features. Most have install scripts that show the steps required to install it on an Ubuntu or CentOS machine, but they are fussy, and require that you have a freestanding computer (or VM) to run it.
Consequently, I created Docker containers that have all the essential packages/modules pre-configured. This means that you can simply install the Docker container, then launch it on a computer that’s continually operating, and let it monitor the data.
This is the first of a series of postings about Netflow Collectors. They include:
DDWarden This claims to work with DD-WRT’s rflow protocol (very similar to Netflow v5). No further investigation because I was interested in something to work with LEDE/OpenWrt.
But… Boing Boing does. Go to https://boingboing.net/. You’ll see a popup window with a place to enter your phone number. Click OK, and they pop up a script on-screen.
They call you, you answer, then you supply your zip code.
Then they place calls to each of your legislators (in the House and Senate), then if you have time, they call the offices of Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, and other leaders, so you can deliver the message.
I say my name, home town, and then ask that the FCC preserve the current Title II Net Neutrality rules. The staffer who answers is gonna be busy – you might chat them up though to see if they’re getting slammed. (Mitch McConnell’s office wasn’t even answering(!))
Although I usually agree with him, one of my favorite bloggers, Dave Winer, recently said this:
One of the ideas circulating is that your ISP has a monopoly, owns the only way for you to get to the Internet, but that’s an old idea, it’s no longer true. Where I live the wireless vendors are just as fast as the wired ISP. The cost is still prohibitive, I still need wifi, but given an economic incentive to replace Comcast and Spectrum et al, some wireless vendor is going to step in, probably the smaller ones who aren’t yet owned by one of the big ISPs. Google could buy Sprint for example, and provide a route-around.
I wish I had the same competitive landscape that Dave enjoys. I wish this were true for the rest of the country. But the FCC’s own report from June 2016 (see page 8) shows that 58% of the country’s census blocks have 0 or 1 provider of 25/3 Mbps internet service. This seems a lot like a monopoly.
Let me tell you about the facts on the ground in my town of 1700 people in rural New Hampshire. My conversations with others in the region indicate these conditions hold in huge numbers of communities throughout much of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.
The best internet service in town is from Fairpoint. It’s possible to get DSL service to any home, but it’s still just DSL (and often very slow): they’re the only game in town.
There is a wireless ISP, but the hilly terrain means their service is OK (10/1 Mbps) if you can get it, but only selected areas can be served.
What about cable? Comcast finagled their claim to serve the entire zip code by providing service to one cluster of homes on the southern town border. They refuse to provide cable/internet service to the town center, let alone any place a mile away from there.
And cell service? There’s only one bar in the center of town. You can’t make a phone call, so you sure couldn’t use the cell service for data.
So our incumbent ISP (Fairpoint) has a de facto monopoly position, with no alternatives in sight.
I wish that we could rely on the entrepreneurial impetus to sweep away bad, monopolistic ISPs. But we can’t – at least not in any reasonable time frame. The incumbents have rigged the system. NH law (instituted at the behest of the incumbent providers) prevents towns and cities from bonding to create their own municipal networks.
Back to the initial point: The FCC is making rules that seem to assume that we can “just switch carriers” if we don’t like their offering. Yet they fail to provide evidence that any such competitive service exists.
I say, leave the Net Neutrality rules alone until there’s a far better competitive landscape that would allow me to shop around for an ISP that provides options I might care for.
A Portugal ISP (with no net neutrality constraints) appears to be charging 4.99€ (about US$5.86) per month for access to social media. And another 4.99€ for streaming video (Youtube, Netflix, etc). Oh, and another 4.99€ for streaming music. And additional charges for other kinds of network traffic. Here’s a link to their web page. which I ran through Google Translate to make it easier to read.
The FCC has proposed to end the rules that prevent ISPs from slicing and dicing up your access to the entire internet.
The FCC rules (released this week) are scheduled to be voted into effect on 14 Dec 2017.
This will be really bad for consumers. But it’ll be worse for entrepreneurs who’re not big companies (yet), and could easily be left “below any horizon”, and simply not visible to general customers.
What can I do?
John Oliver’s TV shows generated over 22 million comments on the FCC site, but they chose to disregard the public’s sentiment.
However, the Congress can tell the FCC not to issue these rules. But they need to know that people really care. The easiest way to make your voice heard is to call Congress directly. It sounds like a hassle, but it really isn’t…
The folks at Battle for the Net make it super easy. Give them your phone number, then they dial up your congressperson’s office, then ring your phone. They even give you a script to tell the staffer (who’ll probably answer the phone) and you tell them what you’re thinking. A 30-second call would be enough to let them know your thoughts.
DRY – Don’t Repeat Yourself – is it relevant for documentation? I recently saw this comment on a forum…
I’m not sure how useful it is to remove duplication [from the documentation pages]. It’s not code…
IMHO, duplication in documentation is a couple orders of magnitude worse than duplication in code (and duplication in code is bad) because bad documentation has the power to waste more people’s time.
With code, a single (knowledgeable) developer must take the time to read through the duplicated code to look for subtle differences.
But with documentation, every reader – perhaps hundreds of far less knowledgeable people – must mentally diff the two pages looking for common threads/important items/gotcha’s to try to be sure that they will succeed.
For example, these two documentation pages describe [some procedure…], and each describes an substantially different procedure. I often find the differing explanations so difficult to reconcile that I simply give up (or maybe resolve to come back some day), rather than bricking my router/leaving it inoperable/etc.
So, for common tasks, I believe it is always better to have a single well-curated page that correctly and concisely describes the procedure, instead of having multiple people write their own incomplete, or marginally correct procedure.