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Nice GUI for Network Manager

August 06, 2019 — BarryK

In the Pyro series of EasyOS, I experimented with various network configuration tools. There was Ultra Simple Network setup (USNS), then Network Manager with nmtui text-mode GUI.

Network Manager, often shown with the two words run together, NetworkManager, is used in many Linux distributions. It is intended to be a "just works" manager, so you don't have to configure much.

As I posted about yesterday, I wasn't happy with the dependencies of the NetworkManager DEB, so compiled it and created a PET. It comes with the simple 'nmtui' GUI, but this time decided to be more ambitious, and compiled 'network-manager-applet', which is a GTK3 GUI.

The applet is available as a DEB, named 'network-manager-gnome', which is compiled from the 'network-manager-applet' source. Once again, I compiled it. The good thing is that all required deps were available as DEB packages, so compiling was easy.

It works, have a nice icon in the tray, quite a sophisticated UI, lots of features. However, there are some issues...

Ethernet was fine, but had considerable difficulty getting wifi to work. In Pyro, NetworkManager took care of loading wpa_supplicant daemon, but that doesn't happen in the Buster build. I think that I found the dbus file that is supposed to launch wpa_supplicant:


But I am thinking that everything is geared toward systemd being there. I don't know what is different in Pyro, but in Buster I ended up starting wpa_supplicant in /etc/init.d/rc.networkmanager, before the 'NetworkManager' daemon is started. That's another thing, it has to be started first, and like this:

/usr/sbin/wpa_supplicant -u -B

Where the "-B" daemonizes it, and the "-u" tells it to communicate via dbus -- that is how NetworkManager talks to it.

 But there is still some oddness. With Pyro, once a wifi connection is established, it will automatically reconnect at future bootups. No so with Easy Buster -- have to click on the icon in the tray, and click on the wifi SSID entry, then it connects.

Have tested this a couple of times, and it is peculiar. First time click on the SSID entry, it gives an error, do it again, it connects.

This fancy GUI has added about 2MB to the .img.gz file, yet the simple 'nmtui' "just works".

Anyway, I will leave this new GUI in the build, perhaps these little issues can be fixed.

Other than those issues, it is very nice, with popup notifications, and lots of configurations in the GUI.

Hoping to get Easy Buster 2.0-beta out in a few days. 

If you want to read more about NetworkManager, the Arch guys have nice docs: 

Tags: easy