What's the most current reference documentation for configuring Debian networking?

I'm mired down in seeming old and outdated documentation. Here's what I've found so far:

  • Lots of man pages. Some of them are new and some old, and because most are undated, it's hard to see what is what, in terms of age and what replaces what.

    Here is some of what I'm looking at (which I think are the most current):

    • Layer 2 - links
      interfaces(5) - configure physical and logical network interfaces, i.e. local hardware
      ifup(8).. - run scripts to bring interfaces up or down
      ip link(8) - other ways of bringing interfaces up or down
      iw(8) - wireless network interfaces
      networkctl(1) - query the status of network links as seen by systemd-networkd

    • Layer 3 - network
      hostname(7) - set/get my hostname
      hosts(5) - mostly obsolete - seems now only to be used by browsers to browse local files
      networks(5) - define locally known network name, alias and ip addresses (obsolete?)
      ip addr(8) - manage local IP addresses
      networkmanager(8), nmcli(1), networkmanager.conf(5), nm-applet(1), nm-connection-editor(1) - newer way to locally manage network??
      minissdpd(1) - daemon keeping track of UPnP devices up
      inetd(8) - daemon that listens on various TCP and UDP ports and spawns programs that can't or won't do it for themselves
      nmap(8) - Network exploration tool and security / port scanner

    • Layer 4+ - transport or above
      ss(8) - manage sockets ssh(1) - remote login program
      nfs(5) fstab format and options for the nfs file systems

  • The Debian Administrator's Handbook - chapter 8.2. Configuring the Network - Undated, but it's now 2 major versions back, as Debian Buster is now up to version 10. Debian 8, or Jessie was released in April 2015, so this is now 5 years old.

  • Debian Reference - Chapter 5. Network setup - but sadly says: "This chapter is getting outdated since this is based on Debian 7.0 (Wheezy) released in 2013.", so now 7 years old.

  • Linux Network Administrators Guide - 3rd edition (2005), now 15 years old!

I'm hoping to better understand how the major network components fit together or replace each other on my system.

At the moment I'm trying to understand the ins and outs of using NetworkManager/nmcli, vs configuration files like /etc/network/interfaces, vs the ifup/ifdown and ip/ss commands, vs systemd.network (unit?) files.

I can see that ip, ss, and iw are the new command to learn, and am working on them. But I can also see that ifup and ifdown are not going away, because they run scripts that ip does not.

And I'm still confused about how exactly my system gets it's ip from the dhcp on my router.

(BTW, part of why I'm a little extra apprehensive about using old documentation. I already wasted a bunch of time learning iptables, only to later find that they were old and that I should be learning nftables.)



1 Answer 1


The most current reference for configuring Debian networking is the corresponding chapter of the Debian Reference, in spite of the warning you mention. The information contained there is still relevant for Debian 10.

You’ll also need to refer to various other documents, mentioned in the Debian Reference; for example, /usr/share/doc/network-manager/README.Debian if you’re using Network Manager, or the systemd documentation if you’re using systemd-networkd, or the manpages for ifup, interfaces, and the various iproute2 tools if you’re using /etc/network/interfaces.

Your system gets its IP address in the DHCP information it receives from your gateway.

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