GNS3 is an open source graphical network simulator for Windows, Linux and macOS

GNS3 is a graphical network simulator which lets you to create a virtual network. You don’t need any hardware like routers, switches, or even endpoints (workstation computers).

This open source tool can be useful for setting up a local network in an office or other environments, and also for troubleshooting purposes.

GNS3 Windows Client

The tool consists of two parts, a virtual machine that acts as a server and a client program that you use to interact with the server and access all of GNS3’s features.

Note: If you want to download GNS3 from the official website, you will need to register for an account, and that requires a lot of personal information. You can download the program and the server VM from the GitHub or SourceForge pages without registration.

Installing the GNS3 client on Windows, Mac, and Linux

The GNS3 client is what you use for controlling the virtual machine server and simulating the network.

Windows users should download the all-in-one (EXE) from GitHub or SourceForge. The installer has quite a few third-party network tools that are pre-selected for installation. You can uncheck any of these, though I would suggest you install them unless you know that you don’t require some of them; I did so for the purpose of reviewing them. But then I noticed that the GNS3 client integrates these tools and you can use them directly from within the program’s interface. For e.g. Npcap is required for your network cards to communicate.

Note: However, pay attention to the final step of the installation, because there is one more optional program (Solarwinds toolset) that you can download. You don’t need this for GNS3 to work.

How to install the GNS3 VM server

This is basically an Ubuntu virtual machine. Download the VM image of your choice. It’s available for Virtual Box, VMWare Workstatiom, VMWare Pro, ESXi anbd HyperV. Since I use VMWare Workstation Player, I used the GNS3 package which was available for it. Extract the archive which the VM image comes in to a folder.

How to start GNS3 VM server 3
How to start GNS3 VM server
GNS3 VM Server step 2

VMWare Player users can click on Player > Open and browse to the folder where the GNS3 VM.ova file is located. Click on open again, and choose the folder where you would like to import the virtual machine to. Hit the import button and wait for it to complete the process.

Interface tour + Creating a virtual network

Now for the fun part. Run the client program and wait for it to connect to the server. You will see a dialog box and you need to wait for it to close which may take a moment. You’ll see the local server displayed on the right pane. The program won’t function correctly until a working server is detected. Before you begin, you will need to start a new project (to save your work).  Give it a name, select where to save it  and many of the options on the GNS3 client interface will become usable.

The sidebar on the left displays the nodes (or interfaces) that you can add to the workspace in the middle. It has the following options: routers, switches, end devices, security devices, and links. Drag a symbol from the sidebar to the workspace to add a new interface. To connect them to one another, add a link. Essentially, this is very similar to creating a flowchart. You can enable the grid if you want things to look tidy.

The topology summary pane on the right corner lists each of your devices.

Let’s create a graphical network for demonstration purposes? Our virtual office is going to have 5 computers (Virtual PCs) and these will be connected to a local ethernet via a switch.

GNS3 basic topology

So we drag 5 VPCS to the workspace, a switch, and draw links between the devices. Congratulations, you have created your first topology. You can use the toolbar at the top to start, pause or stop the nodes to give you an idea of the network’s connectivity.

GNS3 working nodes

In this particular setup, Hovering over the switch shows you the status. Three of the computers are connected to Ethernet0 on the switch, while two PCs are offline, as indicated by the colored box next to each interface. Click on the console button to open up a PUTTY console for each linked PC and run commands.

GNS3 status

You don’t need the VM server for such simple setups, it’s only required for VIRL or other images. How about adding a Cisco router? To do this you will need to install its image and you need to get this from Cisco. If you have one you can import it from the file menu.

How to get the GNS3 VM server working with VMWare Workstation Player

Once it appears in VMWare Player’s main screen, power on the new VM by clicking “Play Virtual Machine”. The VM should boot and you should see a window with the version details of the GNS3 server. Click on OK, and it should display a list of commands that you can use. Highlight the command using the arrow key and hit the enter key to execute it. For now let’s shut it down. Why? Because we need to use the client to make some changes.

To run the VM server and manage it via the client, you will need to navigate to Edit > Preferences > GNS3 VM server. Click the checkbox here to enable the VM server. Now restart the server and it should work with the GNS3 client.

Fix for WinError 10049 in GNS3

You may get an “error connecting to GNS3 server”, or if it keeps saying connecting…, or if the error reads “Could not connect to port 0.0.0.0:3080 [WinError 10049]”.

I ran into this when I installed the client. The fix for it is simple. Click on the Client’s Edit > Preference > Server > Host Binding and set it to use 127.0.0.1. This will tell it to use the local host address. This is only required if you’re going to be using the GNS3 client for your project.

Fix for VMrun issue in GNS3

I ran into another issue when selecting the VM server. GNS3 wouldn’t detect my VM server. The fix for that is at Edit > Preferences > VMWare. You will see a “path to vmrun”. The problem is that this “vmrun” file isn’t available in the default installation of VMWare Workstation Player. You can download it for free from the VIX 1.17 SDK.

When installed, it should be located at C:Program Files (x86)VMwareVMware VIXvmrun.exe. Use the browse button to navigate to the location of the vmrun to confirm the path.

That’s not enough though as you need to edit the last part of the vixwrapper-config.txt to add the following lines under #workstation 14.0.0

ws 19 vmdb 15.5.0 Workstation-14.0.0
player 19 vmdb 15.5.0 Workstation-14.0.0

The config file can be found at C:Program Files (x86)VMwareVMware VIX.

Fix for VMs located on other drives

In case your VM is stored on another drive (and not in C:), you will need to edit the VMWare preferences.INI (found inside C:UsersUSERNAMEAppDataRoamingVMware) and set the default path as follows

prefvmx.defaultvmpath = “VM folder location”.

For e.g. prefvmx.defaultvmpath = “H:VMs”

This got the VM name to appear in GNS3.

Closing words

GNS3 is not for the average user, but it is an excellent option for network engineers, developers, and admins.

Some parts of the official GNS3 documentation was used as a reference source for this article. Do checkout the videos made by David Bombal for more information.

GNS3

For Windows

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How to create a private torrent using qBittorrent

If you have a set of files that you wish to share with someone, but don’t want to use cloud storage services, there are a few options that you can use. Syncthing or Resilio Sync come to mind, or traditional options such as FTP.

But there is a simpler way: creating a private torrent. All you need is a BitTorrent client and a couple of minutes to set it up correctly so that your files can be shared to as many users as you like.

Things you will need

How to create a private torrent using qBittorrent

  • Files that you want to share
  • A Torrent client such as qBittorrent
  • Your external IP Address
  • An open port on your router

Let’s get started. We are going to assume that you know how to open a port on your router to configure port forwarding. Usually this involves accessing the router page in your web browser and selecting a port that you wish to forward. It varies for most models; refer to your router manual or the OEM’s website for instructions.

Tip: use the port forwarding tester to test if a port is forwarded properly.

Enabling the port in qBittorrent

  1. Open qBitTorrent and click on the Tools option in the menu.
  2. Navigate to Options > Advanced and scroll down to the embedded tracker port. This is required for the torrent to be seeded.

embedded tracker in qBittorrent

For e.g. qBitTorrent by default uses port 9000 for the embedded tracker. So if I were to open a port on my ZTE F612W router, I’d navigate to the following path in the router’s page: Application > Port Forwarding and set the port that I want to.

Example port forwarding

Why is this required?

If you don’t use the embedded tracker and private torrent options, the torrent that you create will be public, i.e., it will be visible to all and anyone may (in theory) download the files.

How to create a private torrent using qBittorrent

Seeding a private torrent using qBittorrent

  1. Run qBittorrent and select the Torrent creator option from the Tools menu. You should see a pop-up window. (refer to the 1st screenshot)
  2. Select the file or folder where the content that you wish to upload is located.
  3. The program should ask you to save the torrent file on your computer, choose a folder to save it.
  4. Enable the following options: “Private torrent”, “Start seeding immediately” and “Optimize alignment”.
  5. Find your external IP address. The simplest way to do this is to search for “What is my ip” and Google should display your public IP address. You may also open our IP checker here.
  6. Copy the external IP address and paste it in the “Tracker URLs” field in the following format. http://IPaddress:portnumber/announce
  7. Click on the “Create torrent” button. Wait for the process to complete; it might take a while to create the torrent as it depends on the number and size of files among other things. You can close the pop-up window once the progress bar reaches 100%.

Your torrent should start seeding immediately if you did it right. You can also verify this by navigating to the tracker tab, the status should say “working”.

How to fix the “Tracker not working” error in qBitTorrent

  1. Verify that the port that you selected is working. Double-check the settings in the router/modem, and run a port forwarding test.
  2. Re-check your computer’s local IP address (for e.g.  192.168.1.4). If you have more than 1 device connected to the router, it is possible that a new local IP address was assigned to your computer. You will need to edit the Port Forwarding settings to use the current local IP.
  3. Go to the tracker tab. Does it have the http:// prefix and the /announce suffix ?
  4. Check your Windows firewall or antivirus settings to ensure it isn’t blocking the connection.

How to share the private torrent using qBitTorrent

Remember the torrent file that was saved when you created the torrent? Send that to the people that you want to share the files with. If the files are important, use encryption or secure messaging options.

Is this secure? It depends on how the torrent file is shared and what kind of files you are sharing. Note that your network operator / ISP may still see what you are sharing and seeding.

This can be a great way to share tons of Gigabytes worth of content without having to upload them to cloud storage services.

I wrote this guide to simplify and explain the steps found in the official qBittorrent Wiki article.

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How to block Blockadblock manually using uBlock Origin

A few days ago I encountered an issue with a website. It was displaying a “disable your ad blocker” page; this particular site did not provide a choice in this regard as many other sites do. Many sites display an adblocking detected message but let users browse the site by giving them an option to continue with an adblocker.

The message itself may not be unusual as plenty of sites use it on today’s Internet but it was in this case a bit strange. I have been using uBlock Origin to block ads and Nano Defender to counter the ad blocker-blockers. I have used the website before and it used to work perfectly with the blockers but for some reason now it didn’t; something must have changed.

How to block Blockadblock manually in Ublock Origin

There was no other way to get the file I wanted as it wasn’t available anywhere else so I did what I had to: block Blockadblock. Hey, you can’t make me do what I don’t like.

How to block Blockadblock manually

1. Add the following script to your ad blocker. I used Ublock Origin (Dashboard > My Filters). It may work with other add-ons.

@@||example.com^$generichide
example.com##script:inject(bab-defuser.js)

2.Replace the address “example.com” with the URL of the website which has Blockadblock on it.

3. Click on Apply changes.

Reload the page which you were trying to access. And it should work perfectly even when your ad blocker is fully functional. You have to do this for every website which has blockadblock enabled if it does not work correctly.

How to block Blockadblock manually using Ublock Origin

Note: This issue was temporary and has since been fixed, but I wanted to guide users how to do it because this works with most anti-ad blockers. Who knows when it could come in handy?

Why you may want to do this?

There are lots of reasons why. Technical stuff can be a reason. Filters used by add-ons can get broken and it may take a while before it is fixed. You don’t have to wait for that. When this happens, you may want to (should) report it to the add-on/filter maintainer. Malicious scripts which force you to disable your ad blocker (yes I consider them malware) get smarter all the time and bypass ad blockers, and it takes some time before the maintainers of the filter list update them to make the filters work again.

When a website asks you to disable your ad blocker, assume the worst. Extensions like uBlock Origin are part of your computer’s security set-up along with your anti-virus and firewall.

You should never disable any of these just to get something working but you may do so if you use the site often and want to make sure that its receives revenue from ad interactions so that it can stay online.

Besides, ads are vulnerable to malware injections which in turn can affect your browser/computer. I don’t even have to mention the privacy issues with ads as they exist as well. Either use the script to block the anti-ad block, or if you feel bad about it close the page and move on. Do not disable your ad blocker and compromise your security just because a site attempts to force you to do so.

What about internet ethics?

In my opinion, any website which forces the visitor to disable your ad blocker to access the site does not really care about the visitor. While it is understandable that sites need to make money to survive, forcing users to disable adblockers is the wrong way to do that because the ad system is broken in its current form.

However, when a website asks you to consider disabling your ad-blocker to support them you can choose to do it provided that the site is trustworthy and does not bombard you with annoying ads. I do that sometimes as advertisement is essential for many sites on the Internet.

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Xtreme Download Manager is an open source download accelerator for Windows, macOS and Linux

Most people prefer to use their browser’s built-in download manager. Whether you’re using Firefox, Edge, Chrome, or something else, a basic tool to manage downloads is always included.

The built-in download manager works but it lacks features that full-blown download managers offer. Let’s say you download a large file; if the download completes without errors, great, but if you run into any errors (server-side issue, or your internet connection), your browser will simply stop the download with a failed tag next to the filename. There may be no way to resume the download and you’ve to start it from scratch.

This is where having a download manager can be of great help. It can attempt to resume the download, speed downloads up, and provide better manageability and organization options.

Tip: you may also want to use a download manager if you download from China.

Xtreme Download Manager is an open source download accelerator

Xtreme Download Manager is an open source download accelerator

Xtreme Download Manager is a download manager, and it is available for Windows, macOS and Linux and works with all major browsers.

The official page for the program says it can accelerate the download speed by up to 500%. I’m just going to say this here, the only way to increase your internet speed is by getting a better (more expensive) connection and use a wired connection instead of Wi-Fi. That being said, when I tried XDM, the speeds were indeed a bit faster than Firefox’s (or any other browser’s) download manager. For the price of free, it is quite impressive.

Let’s test that claim

For testing purposes I downloaded several files and videos in Firefox and XDM. My laptop’s wireless adapter is shoddy, so the downloads were averaging at about 3MB/sec and the peak speed was just over 4 MB/sec in the browser.

When I tried it on XDM the result was slightly better; the average speed was around 4MB/sec while the peak speed was around 5.5MB/sec. The difference in the speed was about 22% but mileage varies as multiple factors such as the server load and speed, and the speed of the Internet connection.

Xtreme Download Manager speeds

Wired LAN is usually faster, so here are the XDM test results from the wired connection. Peak Speed – About 36 MB/sec averaging in the 18-20 range. Internet Download Manager delivered slightly higher average speeds at 22MB/s, while Firefox disappointingly averaged at 12MB/s.

Xtreme Download Manager speeds 2

Forget the peak speeds, the average speed is what’s important. So, does using XDM make a difference? Yes, it is better than the speed that you get from your browser, and if you don’t have a download manager I’d definitely recommend XDM. Again, mileage varies and you don’t know how beneficial (or not) a download manager is until you gave it a try.

XDM Browser Monitor

When you install Xtreme Download Manager and run it, you will see some options to install the browser add-on which is called XDM Browser Monitor. The extension is available on Mozilla’s repository and the Chrome Web Store which means you can install it on any Firefox based or Chromium based browser. XDM uses the Browser Monitor to capture the URLs to download the file.

XDM Interface

The GUI of Xtreme Download Manager has a dark theme with flat icons similar to Metro UI. The interface comprises a menu bar, a tab bar, a search box, a side bar and a toolbar.

Download options in XDM

The easiest way to download files using Xtreme Download Manager is obviously to use the web browser and selecting the download option. But, the File menu has a few other options. You can manually add a URL to download a file or add one from the clipboard. There is even a batch download option which you can use for downloading multiple files at once.

Managing Downloads

The Downloads menu in XDM can be used to pause, resume or restart a download. It also has a task scheduler, which allows you to set the URLs in a queue and start/stop it at a time and date of your choice.

Tip: The Queue menu is rather long and the toolbar on the bottom overlaps the menu. Either use XDM in maximized mode or use the vertical scroll-bar to navigate to the settings in the menu.

Options

You can configure the Xtreme Download Manager settings from the Tools menu. This includes selecting the download folder, maximum number of simultaneous downloads, overwrite existing files option and a few other  Network, Scheduler, Password Manager options. You can also set XDM to make your antivirus scan each downloaded file and define exceptions from the Advanced Settings.

XDM places the downloaded files in different folders (Documents, Compressed, Music, Video and Programs) based on the file’s extension. For e.g TXT or DOCX are saved to documents, MP3 or FLAC to the music folder, and so on. This is exactly how IDM handles downloads too. You can change the folders for each category from the Tools> Options menu.

Tools

Xtreme Download Manager can refresh the link for a download, just like IDM. This is useful for resuming time-limited downloads and otherwise downloads that don’t support resume. You can set a speed limit for the downloads if you don’t want the program to use all your bandwidth.

The toolbar on the bottom can be used to

  • Start a new download
  • Delete downloaded files
  • Pause/Resume downloads
  • Access the settings
  • Run the built-in video downloader and video converter

Video Downloader

Downloading a video using XDM is simple. Go to the web page which contains the video and you will see an option to download the video provided that you have installed the extension. Click it and pick a resolution from the list and XDM does the rest. You can also manually start the built-in video downloader in XDM and paste a video’s URL.

XDM download video
XDM download video

If you have an account/subscription with the service you are downloading the video from, you can enter your credentials in the program. This step is only necessary in case the streaming service prevents unregistered users from accessing the videos.

Video Converter

The video converter didn’t work for me when I clicked it. Perhaps it is designed to only work when downloading videos through the program. Go to a video’s page and click download, a pop-up should appear prompting you to select where to save the file. It also has an option to “Convert” the video. The formats which XDM can covert to are: 3GP, 3G2, MP4, MP4 HQ and MP3. When I tested this, the resultant videos were fine.

XDM convert video

I was slightly surprised that Xtreme Download Manager does everything that IDM can do. Sure there are a few bugs here and there, but for the price of free, I have no complaints. A portable version of XDM is available on SourceForge.

As a long time user of Internet Download Manager (I paid for two licenses about 5 years ago), I have no regrets about my decision. It still is the best, in my opinion. I might still keep XDM on the laptop.

Now You: Which download manager do you use?

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