Jump to content

Developing a portable user-land AppleTalk stack


Recommended Posts

Rather than posting randomly in the "what did you do to your mac today" thread, I thought I'd make a separate thread for this project in here.  Hope it's in the right place and people find it interesting and want to throw ideas at me.

 

The plan/project is to write a userland AppleTalk stack aimed at UNIX-like OSes that prioritises talking to vintage macs, especially from the 68k era.  Netatalk no longer bothers with DDP, and AppleTalk in-kernel support in operating systems will, at some point, go away, probably rather sooner than later.  It is being written in Go, partly because it's the main programming language currently in my short-term memory and partly because channels are useful.

 

The other important theme here is that I want to write this prioritising code clarity and readability rather than performance.  I've often been trying to work out how to interact with a device and looked at the sample code, and then I have two problems rather than one, the second being to understand the sample code.  I'd prefer that not to be the case for this.

 

Due to the terms of my employment, I can't release any code until I get the project signed off (sigh), but code *will* be coming.  At the moment, you're not missing much anyway, honestly.  Also, updates to this will be very sporadic for various life and health reasons.

 

State of affairs as of mid-December 2019:

  • I've implemented a slightly hacky Localtalk over UDP multi/broadcast thing for minivmac, using most of the same code as the existing LToE code.  I think this is more flexible for reasons I am happy to go into if anyone wants me to, but is mostly for my own dev convenience.   There is actually a bug in minivmac, even using LToE, that prevents duplicate address detection working.  The chances of anyone hitting this in the wild are fairly remote, but I think I've fixed it and I'll submit a patch when I can.
  • I have the ability to send and receive LLAP packets over an LToUDP network and parse them.  The "physical" layer and the LLAP layer are separate, so in theory it ought to be possible to swap out LToUDP for LToE or "real" localtalk later.
  • I have the ability to acquire a network address on this network and participate in the duplicate address detection protocol with a virtual network of minivmac instances.
  • I can parse short-header DDP packets, but if I want to send any I have to craft them by hand.

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 61
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

First off, thanks for a great writeup, I enjoyed reading through your blog post.  This is an *excellent* idea for long term maintainability - the moldering AppleTalk code in the kernel and/or old versions of netatalk are causing headaches for people, and this seems like a solid way to solve that problem.

 

I did have a question about how addressing is working: as far as I can grasp, you're just passing the LLAP packets, and letting the Macs fight it out for LLAP address resolution?  Or is there something going on on that front that I'm missing?  I know you mentioned this would hopefully be the start of a full userland AppleTalk stack, so was the routing side of things something further down the pipeline? (and if I'm off base, feel free to correct my ignorance, I probably need to crack Inside AppleTalk again sometime...)

 

As for your comment about proper LocalTalk networks: it's been a while since I've messed around with it, but at one point I came up with a pretty simple piece of hardware to take raw SDLC data off the LocalTalk network and send it into a standard UART.  The idea at the time was to offload the real-time Manchester decoding onto a small microcontroller, so a piece of userland software could participate in the LocalTalk network.  I got far enough with it to be able to decode packets and read them with an Arduino, but I got distracted with other projects, and I was not looking forward to the looming problem of how to get the LLAP data into a format that could be useful.  It looks like you may have solved my problem! ;-D

 

Anyway, awesome job with this, and best of luck getting the code release signoff soon.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the feedback and the kind words!

 

11 minutes ago, saybur said:

I did have a question about how addressing is working: as far as I can grasp, you're just passing the LLAP packets, and letting the Macs fight it out for LLAP address resolution?

As far as address allocation goes, yes, I'm just passing the LLAP packets and letting the macs and whatever else are listening sort out address allocation using the normal ENQ/ACK code.  This seems to be working quite well so far: I have a reimplementation of address acquisition in Go which seem to play nicely with several hacked mini vmac instances.  One thing I am worried about is latency; the LLAP spec is very ... tight about timings.  IP is a comparatively leisurely protocol in many ways, and I need to intentionally introduce some latency and then induce some address collisions to see how well they're handled.  This may require revisiting, but I hope MacOS is a little more permissive than the spec says it ought to be.

 

Once I've got this working reliably, the next step is to try to implement EtherTalk, then implementing the router protocols and trying to get routing working between the two.  In fact, my plan, inasmuchas I have one, boils down to working through Inside Appletalk in order...  I'm concentrating on LToUDP at the moment because I'm stuck in a hotel room an ocean and a continent from home and it's something I can run on a single laptop.  And also my home network is in a state of profound disarray...

 

15 minutes ago, saybur said:

it's been a while since I've messed around with it, but at one point I came up with a pretty simple piece of hardware to take raw SDLC data off the LocalTalk network and send it into a standard UART.  The idea at the time was to offload the real-time Manchester decoding onto a small microcontroller, so a piece of userland software could participate in the LocalTalk network.

 

Oh, very nice.  My dream was to take something like an ESP8266 and make a little "wireless dongle" that would wrap LLAP packets in LToUDP and fire them out on the local wireless network, which sounds like something doable with your hardware perhaps?  The IP side is where I live most of the time, I'm woefully inadequate at electronics.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I do vaguely remember the timing on LLAP being oddly tight for hardware of that vintage.  I'm not familiar with the Zilog chips they used for serial, but maybe the low-level handshaking was done completely in hardware, so they figured they could get away with very low timeouts to improve performance?  I'd be interested in hearing how that part of the project goes.

 

I don't know much about the ESP8266.  To do the line decoding, you do need some decent control over timing, or at least have a pretty good idea of how long your code will get interrupted by the WiFi handling.  At minimum, it should be possible to strap a micro to the ESP module and do things that way to get more control.  It's a pretty cool idea though: LocalTalk over WiFi, what a world!

 

And safe travels as well!

Link to post
Share on other sites

This is neat and I’m interested in trying it out (after Christmas, maybe…). I’m reminded of two other pieces of software that do AppleTalk over IP, both by bbraun:

  • abridge (source), which bridges AppleTalk between two networks with pcap. It seems like this approach might be usable to bridge LToU and EtherTalk networks, similarly to LocalTalk Bridge.
  • avpn, which is a System 7-9 extension that tunnels AppleTalk over IP. Unfortunately, the source doesn’t seem available. It would be great to get genuine hardware speaking LToU!
Link to post
Share on other sites

Don't get your hopes up too much!  At the moment this is literally just an LLAP packet parsing/construction and address acquisition library.  I haven't got any further than that yet, along with mini vmac support.  I think I've got all the stuff I need to do done for the paperwork to release code at my end, so the first thing I'm going to do is to get the patches to Mini vMac to the point where they're not embarrassingly bad and submit those, then I'll try to write a couple of demo applications and release that for comments.  But yeah, this isn't yet at the stage where you'll be able to write an AFP server on top of it or anything.

 

40 minutes ago, sfiera said:
  • avpn, which is a System 7-9 extension that tunnels AppleTalk over IP. Unfortunately, the source doesn’t seem available. It would be great to get genuine hardware speaking LToU! 

I do actually have the source code to avpn - it is around on his website somewhere, because I got it then had to ask on his forums what license it was under. :-) I did hack it to speak (an earlier version of) the LToUDP protocol, but it's very unstable and I don't really know why.  It's below the level I usually hack at on the classic MacOS, I'm afraid.  I also vaguely remember that MacTCP doesn't speak multicast (very well? at all?) and multicast is actually quite useful (the loopback interface on OS X doesn't support broadcasts, so if you want to run multiple emulators on an OS X box, it's multicast all the way!).

 

edit: the source code to avpn is in the archive with the binary that can be downloaded from here: http://www.synack.net/~bbraun/macapps.html.  It requires to be built with a specific version of CodeWarrior, I can't remember which one off the top of my head.

 

The real problem here is that any computer that could talk LToUDP through an atlk/adev probably already has Ethernet, and so EtherTalk is a better option.  EtherTalk will be supported in this library/implementation, it's just I haven't got to it yet.  The only other option would be running LToUDP over MacIP over LocalTalk through a bridge, which frankly seems like a recipe for total disaster.

 

The other thing is that all the documentation on how to write atlk/adevs seems to have disappeared completely, unfortunately: there was, at one point, a developer document telling you how to do it, but I have never found a copy, and when I asked on his forum, bbraun hadn't found a copy either.  So this makes writing one/hacking on one a frustrating and intricate experience.

 

So, with all that in mind, I much prefer the idea of giving real macs LToUDP using a hardware dongle, as discussed a bit upthread.  That way, you just get something you can plug in and it goes, even on Macs without the wherewithal to run their own IP stack.  I've got this idea in my head that you could configure it by sending DDP packets to a "magic" address that would actually do things like select the wireless network.  But that's ... definitely further down the line.

Edited by cheesestraws
found source code.
Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, saybur said:

I do vaguely remember the timing on LLAP being oddly tight for hardware of that vintage.  I'm not familiar with the Zilog chips they used for serial, but maybe the low-level handshaking was done completely in hardware, so they figured they could get away with very low timeouts to improve performance?  I'd be interested in hearing how that part of the project goes.

If the "algorithms" section at the back of Inside AppleTalk is accurate, the RTS/CTS stuff at least is done in software, but wired off interrupts from the SCC.  I'm not sure if this accurately reflects the actual code in use, but the timings seem achievable if you are able to immediately drop everything and service RTS/CTS state or ENQ/ACKs.

 

Also according to that section, duplicate address detection should work outside those timings, but what it doesn't seem to specify is what the LocalTalk stack does with the knowledge that there is a duplicate address.  If it just reruns address acquisition, then that's great - if it does something less predictable, then that might be a problem.

 

I have a suspicion that the very low timeouts especially on ENQ/ACK and address acquisition and so forth are to improve the interactive latency of the system - LocalTalk always feels to me far snappier than it has any right to given its age and actual available bandwidth - and I suspect that's because the latency of the system is kept intentionally as low as it can be.

 

4 hours ago, saybur said:

I don't know much about the ESP8266.  To do the line decoding, you do need some decent control over timing, or at least have a pretty good idea of how long your code will get interrupted by the WiFi handling.  At minimum, it should be possible to strap a micro to the ESP module and do things that way to get more control.  It's a pretty cool idea though: LocalTalk over WiFi, what a world!

 

Yup, I was assuming I'd have to have one of the more modern SCCs wired up to the ESP.  An auxiliary microcontroller squirting data over a high-speed UART to the ESP, or something along those lines, would be even more sensible, and probably pretty easy, since many of the uses of the smaller ESP stuff seems to be "various serial stuff to IP" bridges.   Did you ever manage to get sending working?

Link to post
Share on other sites
32 minutes ago, cheesestraws said:

The real problem here is that any computer that could talk LToUDP through an atlk/adev probably already has Ethernet, and so EtherTalk is a better option.  EtherTalk will be supported in this library/implementation, it's just I haven't got to it yet.  The only other option would be running LToUDP over MacIP over LocalTalk through a bridge, which frankly seems like a recipe for total disaster.

The main reason would be to bridge the physical hardware with emulators. I’m assuming this is difficult or impossible with Mini vMac. I tried and gave up with SheepShaver. If the multicast situation isn’t a dealbreaker, it might even work over Wifi. I assume wireless EtherTalk is impossible, and wired EtherTalk might be impossible in userspace—do you have an idea yet?

 

LToU avpn doesn’t really sound feasible (in the near future? ever?), though an LToU abridge sounds like something I might like to try hacking on. I don’t expect to be able to write an AFP server, but if I could bridge my Quadra to an AFP server running in Mini vMac, that would still be something I’d have a use for.

Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, sfiera said:

The main reason would be to bridge the physical hardware with emulators. I’m assuming this is difficult or impossible with Mini vMac. I tried and gave up with SheepShaver

I think the way to go about this is at first a bridge, and then a full router, between LToUDP and EtherTalk, running on the UNIX side of things.  This is pretty much my first "major" project planned with this stack once I have EtherTalk support in it.

 

7 hours ago, sfiera said:

assume wireless EtherTalk is impossible

EtherTalk is just standard Ethernet frames with a SNAP header.  So in theory there's no reason it wouldn't work over wireless - that said, a lot of home-targetted wireless equipment is inadequately-tested rubbish, so whether it will actually pass anything other than IP is a little questionable.  That said, IIRC, IP on wireless is also transmitted with a SNAP header so it will probably work in more situations than people expect.

 

7 hours ago, sfiera said:

wired EtherTalk might be impossible in userspace—do you have an idea yet? 

You just posted a link to abridge, which already does EtherTalk in user-space :-).  It's just ethernet.  The software will either need to be run as root or use an unprivileged tap device bridged to the real ethernet device, or something, but that's pretty much par for the course with software doing weird stuff with Ethernet.  There's nothing at all magical about EtherTalk that it needs to be implemented in the kernel.

 

This isn't particularly relevant to the dongle discussion though, as that will not be doing any EtherTalk at all: it will be just talking bog-standard IP multi/broadcast, which should be coped with by even fairly rubbishy home infrastructure.

 

7 hours ago, sfiera said:

if I could bridge my Quadra to an AFP server running in Mini vMac, that would still be something I’d have a use for. 

When I've got half-reasonable EtherTalk support this will basically be the first project I'll be doing with it.  If you would like to hack on it with me your input would be very welcome :-).

Link to post
Share on other sites

cheesestraws, There was some AppleTalk networking code written for Unix systems back in 1984-85 at Stanford and other universities. Look up the SUMMacC, EFS, and SEAGATE projects. Towards the bottom of this AppleTalk article in the section "AppleTalk Overview" are some links to get you started.

 

There are other projects as well, so look around and I think you'll find that a lot of the groundwork is already done for you.

Link to post
Share on other sites
32 minutes ago, Dog Cow said:

There are other projects as well, so look around and I think you'll find that a lot of the groundwork is already done for you.

 

I have looked at quite a lot of AppleTalk code and often learned from it.  But the goals of those projects are not the same as this one: they often will not build properly with recent tooling, they were built for people who already knew what they were doing, and a non-trivial number of them seem to require kernel support.  Also, 1980s C code has not aged well in terms of security and the network conditions it is likely to find itself under.

 

This makes them unsuitable for use in the situations where I intend this to be used (see the first post in this thread for my rationale for doing this).  So far, at least for the link-layer stuff, the appendix to Inside Appletalk has been much more useful, as it is designed to be read and to be explanatory.

Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, cheesestraws said:

You just posted a link to abridge, which already does EtherTalk in user-space :-).  It's just ethernet.  The software will either need to be run as root or use an unprivileged tap device bridged to the real ethernet device, or something, but that's pretty much par for the course with software doing weird stuff with Ethernet.  There's nothing at all magical about EtherTalk that it needs to be implemented in the kernel.

Ah, right, I’m mixing up my terminology. I said “userspace” (non-kernel) but I was thinking “unprivileged” (non-root). Needing root was where I gave up with SheepShaver. Running network infrastructure as root on a Pi sounds totally fine to me, but running a crashy emulator as root on my laptop, not so much…

Link to post
Share on other sites
25 minutes ago, sfiera said:

Ah, right, I’m mixing up my terminology. I said “userspace” (non-kernel) but I was thinking “unprivileged” (non-root). Needing root was where I gave up with SheepShaver. Running network infrastructure as root on a Pi sounds totally fine to me, but running a crashy emulator as root on my laptop, not so much… 

Ah, yes.  No, I'm quite in agreement with you here.  The way I have done it under personally is to have a script that as root creates a tap device, chmods its corresponding file in /dev and adds it to the bridge, then drops privileges to run the emulator with its ethernet port aimed out the tap interface.  This is ... not trivial to set up but works rather well.

 

One of my "nice-to-haves" would be a "port" for this bridge that could talk the BII AppleTalk-over-UDP hack.  The way that works is that the IP address in the "real" network is encoded in the MAC address for the "virtual" network, so DDP packets can be sent directly wrapped in IP just knowing the MAC address of the destination.  I can't remember if this is in SheepShaver too, but if it *is*, this would be a sensible way to bridge "virtual" networks together without needing any special privileges on the emulators at all.

Edited by cheesestraws
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, saybur said:

That's actually easier than receiving, it turns out.  I'll get my old notes together and post the work thus far in a separate thread to keep from derailing this discussion.

 

Yes, please!  I'm intrigued.

 

Today's progress: I have an LLAP ping utility working, analogously to ARP pings on Ethernet.  It can both scan an attached LToUDP network and ping an individual node on the network:

 

prydwen:llapping cheesey$ ./llapping 
usage: ./llapping -a
       Scan the LToUDP network and report on all up nodes

       ./llapping [node]
       Pings the given node with LLAP ENQs

prydwen:llapping cheesey$ ./llapping -a
Node 44 responded in 7.003581ms
Node 118 responded in 14.570215ms
Node 235 responded in 10.000884ms

prydwen:llapping cheesey$ ./llapping 118
lapACK from 118 in 12.545842ms
lapACK from 118 in 12.169505ms
lapACK from 118 in 13.506241ms
lapACK from 118 in 17.27405ms
lapACK from 118 in 5.377009ms
^C

prydwen:llapping cheesey$ 

I think I've done all the paperwork now to make the git repo public.  If people would like to have a go, I'll publish it tomorrow and post links and an experimental minivmac build...

Link to post
Share on other sites

OK, here's a Mini vMac with LocalTalk over UDP support.  Please play with it.  Source code is, of course, included

  • If you don't like running random binaries, rebuild it; make clean && make will work
  • LocalTalk ought to just be plug and play.  You should be able to launch multiple Mini vMacs and have them just be able to see each other automatically
    • (though I have only tested this build with multiple copies of the emulator on the same machine, because I'm still in a hotel.
    • small print: this will only work inside a single IP subnet, but most home networks etc are single IP subnets.
  • If you have WireShark installed or similar you should be able to see the packets whizzing around :-)  If you've managed to build the code I posted earlier, you should be able to use llapping -a to see all the nodes on your virtual network, and llapping <node> to ping a node.
  • I've only tested this on my personal MacBook Pro running 10.11.  It may or may not work on other platforms at the moment.

Please let me know if this works for you / does not work for you.

minivmac-upload.zip

Link to post
Share on other sites

A quick update on this: I'm back home! 

 

1. I started working on EtherTalk support on the plane.  The next milestone is getting an EtherTalk "port" with the same interface as the LocalTalk "port".  The next thing after that is starting working on a DDP bridge between EtherTalk/LToUDP.  This will allow Mini vMac to talk to "real" Macs on an Ethernet network, and indeed BasiliskII working in bridged ethernet mode.

2. It looks like my code might be getting merged into mainline mini vMac (if it's good enough :) ).  It needs a bit of tidying first but I'll try to send that off in the next few days.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yup!  I found your work while I was doing research into this.  Haven't tried it yet, my home network is in something of a mess right at the moment.  Also—purely personally—I'm not so interested in getting IP connectivity to vintage macs, partly because I prefer to network things on "their own terms" (but of course MacIP does qualify as this), and partly because I debug moderately low-level software for IP networks all day for my dayjob so it's nice to do something else at home :-).

 

That said, since my first "big" milestone for this will be a LToUDP to Ethernet gateway, which you will be able to run on a tap interface, perhaps support for this could be added to macipgw pretty easily just by using a tap interface as well as the actual ethernet interface on the machine, especially if @saybur or I or both end up building actual hardware to talk this that can be plugged into real Macs.  LocalTalk-to-ethernet bridges are increasingly tricky to find, after all...

Link to post
Share on other sites

FWIW, GSport already does what you want to do with Mini vMac. There is code to inject AppleTalk packets from the virtual SSC onto the pcap interface to allow the emulated Apple IIgs to use AppleTalk like its connected via the onboard printer port.

 

https://github.com/david-schmidt/gsport/tree/master/src/atbridge

 

https://github.com/david-schmidt/gsport/blob/master/src/scc_llap.c

 

The code was written by Peter Neubauer and works great.

Edited by NJRoadfan
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...