is there a tool/daemon available that automatically fills /etc/ethers in the background with the proper hostname:mac pairs to have a up to date database when needed with for example wake on lan (wol) ? maybe something that does not "scan" the network, but cassually dumps the arp cache or something ?


  • 1
    Try arpwatch as a starting point – roaima Jan 7 '16 at 22:19
  • oh thats already a good one! thanks for the tip. does not yet fill the /etc/ethers , but keeps track of everything required. – Axel Werner Jan 7 '16 at 23:01

A tool that will handle the majority of this is arpwatch. By default (on Debian, at least) is that it writes to /var/lib/arpwatch/arp.dat. This file is flushed and updated each time arpwatch is stopped.

The file contains entries of this form:

52:54:00:aa:bb:cc  1452252063  somehostname  eth0

The /etc/ethers file requires only the MAC address and either the IP address or resolvable hostname:


It is then quite straightforward to keep /etc/ethers updated and in sync with a small script, run daily from crontab:


# Flush arp.dat
service arpwatch restart

# Save a copy
test -f /etc/ethers || touch /etc/ethers
cp -fp /etc/ethers /etc/ethers.old

# Check to see if anything new has arrived. If so rebuild the file
    echo '# This file is updated automatically from /var/lib/arpwatch/arp.dat'
    echo '# Take care when editing'
    echo '#'
        awk '{print $1,$2}' /var/lib/arpwatch/arp.dat
        grep -v '^#' /etc/ethers.old
    ) |
        sort -u
) >/etc/ethers.tmp

# Update ethers with the new file
cmp -s /etc/ethers.tmp /etc/ethers || cat /etc/ethers.tmp >/etc/ethers
rm -f /etc/ethers.tmp

# All done
exit 0

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