Bluetooth Network Aggregation Point

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This article covers the setup of a Bluetooth Network Aggregation Point (NAP) on Gentoo Linux.

What is a NAP

The Bluetooth specification incorporates the ability to create a Personal Area Network (PAN). It is an Ethernet transparent protocol, thus all standard protocols (especially IP) can be used in such a PAN. A NAP can be thought of being the Master in such a network. It will provide the connectivity to other networks (Internet for instance), for up to eight via Bluetooth connected PAN devices (cell phones, PDAs, laptops maybe). These devices will consume less power using Bluetooth instead of Wi-Fi.

Scope of this article

We will deal with the creation of a Gentoo NAP, in order to connect a Bluetooth enabled cell phone with the Internet. Then for instance, one could synchronize the cell phone's contacts/calendar with a SyncML capable groupware server, located anywhere on the Internet (or the local network). We will henceforth call the NAP server "Gentoo-Box" and the PAN client "cell phone".


A Bluetooth installation must be done first. If you use simple-agent or bluetoothctl, no GUI programs or applets are needed. Set the "test-programs" USE flag on the net-wireless/bluez package, to get the latest bluez-test-nap script. We also need Network Bridging, but with our own host configuration.

Setting up a network bridge

As the BlueZ NAP server relies on Gentoo to handle the Ethernet link created by BlueZ, this section will create an Ethernet bridge using netifrc. Make sure to backup all files before editing them.

Consider the following scenario, as this is probably the easiest and most common case:

                             Global IP address  ┌─────>╎ Internet ╎
                                                │      +−−−−−−−−−−+
                          │                   Router                   │
                          │ (with DHCP and routing (NAT) capabilities) │
                                         ^              ^
                                         │              │
┌────────────┐       ┌────────────┐      │              │      +−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−+
│ Cell phone │<─────>│ Gentoo-Box │<─────┘              └─────>╎ Local network ╎
└────────────┘       └────────────┘                            +−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−+
                                         Local IP address

Execute ip addr to locate the network card which connects to the router:

root #ip addr
1: eth0: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qdisc pfifo_fast state UP group default qlen 1000
        link/ether 00:13:8f:a2:8e:76 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
        inet brd scope global eth0
           valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
        inet6 fe80::00:13:8f:a2:8e:76/64 scope link
           valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever

The line "inet brd scope global eth0" is the one to look for.

Remember the device name (eth0) and edit /etc/conf.d/net:

FILE /etc/conf.d/net
# Comment out this line, and add the following lines:

This tells netifrc to not ask for a DHCP lease on eth0 (actually it tells netifrc to do nothing for eth0), and create a new bridge br1, which contains eth0. As eth0 used to get its IP address via DHCP, br1 is set to do exactly that. The options "bridge_stp_state_br1=1" and "bridge_forward_delay_br1=100" make sure, the Spanning Tree Protocol is used, and the forwarding state of the bridge will be reached within one second of a topology change. The last options speed up the cell phone connection considerably, as Gentoo tends to default to around 10 seconds, thus every cell phone connect would take at least that long.

Create a new symbolic link, and restart the network:

root #ln -sr /etc/init.d/net.lo /etc/init.d/net.br1
root #rc-service net.eth0 stop && rc-service net.br1 start
 * Bringing up interface br1
 *   Creating bridge br1 ...
 *   Adding ports to br1
 *     eth0 ...                                                                                         [ ok ]
 * ...                                                                                    [ ok ]

Verify the connection to the Internet and, if everything works well, add br1 to the "default" runlevel:

root #ping -c1
root #rc-update add net.br1 default

Connecting a cell phone to the Internet

Start the NAP service and notice interface br1. Enter in a terminal:

root #bluez-test-nap br1

Watch Syslog when you tell your cell phone to connect to the Internet using the Gentoo-Box as NAP:

root #tail -F /var/log/messages
Nov 04 17:37:38 [bluetoothd] bnep: bridge br1: interface bnep0 added
Nov 04 17:37:38 [kernel] br1: port 2(bnep0) entered blocking state
Nov 04 17:37:38 [kernel] br1: port 2(bnep0) entered disabled state
Nov 04 17:37:38 [kernel] device bnep0 entered promiscuous mode
Nov 04 17:37:38 [kernel] br1: port 2(bnep0) entered blocking state
Nov 04 17:37:38 [kernel] br1: port 2(bnep0) entered listening state
Nov 04 17:37:40 [kernel] br1: port 2(bnep0) entered learning state
Nov 04 17:37:42 [kernel] br1: port 2(bnep0) entered forwarding state
Nov 04 17:37:42 [kernel] br1: topology change detected, propagating

You should now be able to connect and load webpages.

Background service

The NAP service can be started in four more ways:

  • To run the script in the background, and stop it (CTRL-C = KeyboardInterrupt = SIGINT):
root #bluez-test-nap br1 >/dev/null 2>&1 &
root #killall -SIGINT bluez-test-nap
  • To run at startup, let /etc/init.d/local read next scripts. These files must be made executable:
FILE /etc/local.d/bluez-test-nap.start
exec /usr/bin/bluez-test-nap br1 >/dev/null 2>&1 &
FILE /etc/local.d/bluez-test-nap.stop
killall -SIGINT bluez-test-nap
root #chmod +x /etc/local.d/bluez-test-nap.start /etc/local.d/bluez-test-nap.stop
  • Instead of the local.d files approach, it's better to use a real init script. This file must be made executable:
FILE /etc/init.d/nap
# Copyright 1999-2019 Gentoo Authors
# Distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License v2
description="Bluetooth NAP"
depend() {
	use net.br1
	need bluetooth
root #chmod +x /etc/init.d/nap
  • In case of plugging and unplugging an USB dongle, just an udev rule can do the job:
FILE /etc/udev/rules.d/90-bluetooth.rules
ACTION=="add", KERNEL=="hci0", \
  RUN+="/bin/sh -c 'sleep 0.5; exec /usr/bin/bluez-test-nap br1 >/dev/null 2>&1 &'"
ACTION=="remove", KERNEL=="hci0", \
  RUN+="/usr/bin/killall -SIGINT bluez-test-nap"
# In case of trouble (ugly):
#ACTION=="remove", KERNEL=="hci0", \
#  RUN+="/bin/sh -c 'killall -INT bluez-test-nap; killall -KILL bluetoothd; rc-service bluetooth restart'"


FILE /etc/udev/rules.d/90-bluetooth.rules
ACTION=="add", KERNEL=="hci0", \
  RUN+="/bin/sh -c 'sleep 0.5; rc-service nap start'"
ACTION=="remove", KERNEL=="hci0", \
  RUN+="/bin/sh -c 'rc-service nap stop'"


No webpages can be loaded

If the phone does not show any sign of being connected, try Wireshark to figure out what packets are being sent and received. Maybe a simple

root #echo 1 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward

can do the trick. Make sure no firewall settings on the Gentoo-Box interfere.

Restore your old Internet connection

If you lose your Internet connectivity, if things break, restore your backup of /etc/conf.d/net and restart networking:

FILE /etc/conf.d/net
(old file)
root #rc-service net.eth0 restart

Tools for testing

There is a bluez-test-network utility, that you can use for testing PAN connection initiated from server side, and a monitor-bluetooth utility to watch what is going behind the D-Bus scene, because watching /var/log/messages can be not enough.

See also

  • Bluetooth — describes the configuration and usage of Bluetooth controllers and devices.