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May 2010
July 2010

2010-05-10 »

sshuttle 0.30: automatic route and hostname discovery

My fancypants new sshuttle transproxy VPN could already work even if all you had was a ssh session to the other side. And it avoided the TCP-over-TCP trap. And sure, I even made it upload itself to the other end automatically so you wouldn't have to. And it apparently works on MacOS clients now, except Snow Leopard which is not-so-shockingly buggy, and maybe even on FreeBSD. And it manages latency, even under heavy use, so performance doesn't start sucking when you transfer a big file.

So in all those ways, it was already much better than the old Tunnel Vision, which among other things, you had to install by hand on both ends of the connection, and after that the performance was a bit random.

But Tunnel Vision still had a few tricks that sshuttle missed. The first one is automatic route guessing. When TV connected to the other end, the server would tell the client what subnets it was able to reach, and then the client would automatically set up routes for those subnets to go through the tunnel. Neat, right? But with sshuttle, you had to tell the client what to route by hand. No more:

     sshuttle -N -r username@servername

The new -N option enables automatic network determination. You can still add additional subnets (like 0/0 for people who want to route "everything") if you want.

Another fun feature of Tunnel Vision was automatic hostname mapping. You know what sucks about connecting to a remote VPN? You probably don't, so I'll tell you. What sucks is DNS. Your local DNS server doesn't know anything about the hostnames on the other end, and of course they're private so they're not in the public DNS either. So when you try "ssh internalserver", and "internalserver" is some server on the remote internal network, you get an error.

This one is a lot trickier to solve. After all, there's no good way to get a list of hostnames for you to replicate. And once you do, there's also no good way to add them to the local DNS. But does that stop us? Certainly not. It merely confuses us.

     shuttle -H -r username@servername

The new -H option tells the remote sshuttle instance to start prodding around wherever it can (currently, that means at least the local /etc/hosts file, samba nameservers and browse masters, and a bit of DNS) to try to find good hostnames and their matching IP addresses. As it finds them, it beams them back to your client, which adds them temporarily to your local /etc/hosts file. Gross? Oh boy, is it ever! But it works. More or less.

It would be kind of neat to have it get browse lists from things like mdns (aka "zeroconf" aka "bonjour") but I have no idea how to do that.

The old Tunnel Vision sort of had this feature, but it didn't have sshuttle's amazing Name Prodding Technology(tm). You had to configure the names yourself. As it happened, our proprietary Nitix servers had some very scary code to automatically track local hostnames and configure Tunnel Vision appropriately, so the name mapping worked pretty well there. And Nitix servers were usually acting as your DNS, so they could set that up nicely too. Sadly, Nitix's old name prodding is mostly obsolete due to the way modern networks are run (mdns, domain controllers, names-by-dhcp, switched ethernet, and so on). But life marches on. And we all still want the same things.

Anyway, anybody who knows how to get a good list of hostname/ip pairs out of mdns, ideally in a portable fashion, send me an email :) You might also want to look at and see if you can think of any other interesting sources to scan for names.

Try Tailscale: mesh networking, centralized administration, WireGuard.

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