Deploying tollgate

Deploying tollgate into a Django project

The “proper” way to deploy tollgate is to install the software (using, and then create a Django project with tollgate setup inside of it.

This is achievable fairly simply, however be aware that tollgate only manages routing, it does not manage things like DNS and DHCP which you’ll need to make your network actually accept clients.

This has the advantage of allowing you to easily customise configuration and templates. Be aware though that all modifications to tollgate must be made available, as well as the software itself, to all of your users, as a condition of the license.


I’m assuming here that you have:

  • Installed and configured an apache2 server with mod_wsgi and mod_ssl.
  • Installed and configured a database server, for example, MySQL, as well as installed appropriate Python bindings to allow interaction.
  • Installed everything else you need to make your network work – that is, DHCP server, DNS server, multiple network interfaces in your tollgate machine (which will be your router / default gateway).
  • Installed and configured D-Bus.
  • Installed other dependencies.

Installation and configuration of those is outside of the scope of this document. If you’re looking up HOW-TO documents on the Internet, do not do anything with iptables, as setting up a NAT and routing itself is part of tollgate.

Install tollgate

Install tollgate, either using an official stable build, git repository, or distribution package. You can install the latest master version of tollgate using pip with this command:

$ sudo pip install git+

This may not work though, as the state of git master may be in flux.

This will install the entire tollgate package into your Python path, and install the captivity and backend daemons.

Alternative installation

Check out the code from git:

$ git clone git://
$ cd tollgate

Install some required depedencies that are needed to use the infrastructure. One of the dependancies (URLobject) requires a newer version of distribute than what is in Debian stable, but we first require pip in order to install that:

# apt-get install python-setuptools python-pip
# pip install --upgrade pip distribute
# apt-get remove python-setuptools python-pip

Now the rest of the installation can be resumed:

# apt-get install build-essential libxml2-dev libxslt-dev python-dev module-assistant
# m-a a-i xtables-addons
# pip install -r requirements.txt

This will automatically upgrade any packages which are missing or out of date.

You can then install tollgate proper:

# ./ install

Configure D-Bus

We need to add some configuration files for tollgate to D-Bus’ configuration in order to allow the web server process to use tollgate’s backend.

In docs/example/dbus/system.d/tollgate.conf are some example configuration you can use with tollgate. Copy this to /etc/dbus-1/system.d/, and modify with the appropriate username that the web server uses (if it is not www-data).

Then reload the D-Bus configuration with /etc/init.d/dbus reload.

Create a project

Now, you should create a Django project for tollgate to use. This won’t have any of tollgate’s code in this folder – it will reference a the system-installed copy.

$ django-admin startproject mylanportal

This will create some boilerplate code for a Django site. Currently, tollgate doesn’t support not being at the root of the site, but this may change in the future.

From here on in, I’m going to assume your project name is mylanportal.

Configure the project

Jump into the mylanportal/mylanportal/ Change it so it includes tollgate.urls. tollgate.urls will also give you the Django admin site, and the internationalisation configuration app. It should look something like this:

from django.conf.urls.defaults import patterns, include, url
urlpatterns = patterns('',
      (r'^', include('tollgate.urls')),

The next step is to setup

Near the top, add these lines:

from os.path import *
PROJECT_PATH = realpath(dirname(__file__))

This is a handy trick because you can use it to setup other paths later.

Setup the location of the database. It is recommended you use MariaDB (MySQL).

You should also setup a STATIC_ROOT for where all the static files should be served from, and a STATIC_URL. Be aware that if you are deploying on a HTTPS site (which you should!) you need to make your resources also be on a HTTPS site. The purpose of this is that outside of DEBUG mode, you’re expected to serve static files external to Django – as it is much faster.

To your INSTALLED_APPS, append:


You should also add the following extra settings for tollgate and configure appropriately:

AUTH_PROFILE_MODULE = 'frontend.userprofile'

The final setting to add is a URL where you are hosting the tollgate sources with your modifications, SOURCE_URL. You should never link back to the official tollgate repository using this method (there is already a link to the official repository on the source page).

Not hosting the source code yourself may expose you to legal liability.

Configure daemons

Install the init scripts and backend configuration:

$ sudo cp platform/debian/init.d/* /etc/init.d/
$ sudo cp platform/debian/default/* /etc/default/
$ sudo mkdir /etc/tollgate/
$ sudo cp docs/example/tollgate/backend.ini /etc/tollgate/

Modify the scripts (tollgate-backend and tollgate-captivity) as appropriate to match the path to the tollgate_backend and tollgate_captivity scripts.

Edit /etc/default/tollgate-captivity to point to the URL where tollgate is hosted.

To make the daemons start, run:

$ sudo update-rc.d tollgate-backend defaults
$ sudo update-rc.d tollgate-captivity defaults

Modify the backend configuration as appropriate for your network (/etc/tollgate/backend.ini).

We won’t start the daemons just yet, though.

Configure cron

tollgate requires a periodic cron job to refresh the list of hosts in it’s database.

An example configuration is given in docs/example/tollgate.cron. You will need to adapt it to point to the path of your Django project.

Configure web server

You’ll need to now configure your web server.

If you are using Django 1.3 or earlier, you may wish to copy tollgate/tollgate.wsgi and use it in your own project folder. However, be sure to change the DJANGO_SETTINGS_MODULE to the name of your project (eg: mylanportal.settings), as tollgate itself includes a tollgate.settings for use in development deployment.

In Django 1.4 or later, it will create a file named like mylanportal/ with settings that you should use instead.

There is an example apache2 configuration, including all vhosts, in docs/example/apache2/tollgate-vhost.

You will need to modify the path of static items (like the WPAD and WFC vhosts, and aliases for static files) to the appropriate locations, and URLs.

Included in the examples is how to configure a gitweb instance. You could also push code changes to an external repository, however it must be accessible to users at all times (ie: you should mark it as “unmetered”).

Configure DHCP server

You require a small wrapper script in order to be used with the dhcp-script, as follows:

cd /var/tollgate_site; ./ dhcp_script $*

There is an example of this in /docs/example/ You must also make the script executable.

This script allows your DHCP server to notify tollgate when a system goes comes online or goes offline.


You can then use the dhcp-script parameter in dnsmasq.conf:


ISC dhcpd

In order to handle events in ISC dhcpd, you require the following configuration:

on commit {
        set clip = binary-to-ascii(10, 8, ".", leased-address);
        set clhw = binary-to-ascii(16, 8, ":", substring(hardware, 1, 6));
        set hname = pick-first-value(host-decl-name, option host-name, "");
        execute("/usr/local/bin/", "add", clhw, clip, hname);

on release {
        set clip = binary-to-ascii(10, 8, ".", leased-address);
        set clhw = binary-to-ascii(16, 8, ":", substring(hardware, 1, 6));
        set hname = pick-first-value(host-decl-name, option host-name, "");
        execute("/usr/local/bin/", "del", clhw, clip, hname);

on expiry {
        set clip = binary-to-ascii(10, 8, ".", leased-address);
        set clhw = binary-to-ascii(16, 8, ":", substring(hardware, 1, 6));
        set hname = pick-first-value(host-decl-name, option host-name, "");
        execute("/usr/local/bin/", "del", clhw, clip, hname);

Start the daemons

The first time you run you’ll need to manually start the daemons. They will start automatically on next boot.

Deploying tollgate in development

In development, you can run and deploy tollgate from within a git clone of the repository. This is the “old” way of deploying tollgate in production, and has since been superseded.

You can run tollgate in development either out of a WSGI-compatible web server, or using Django’s single-threaded development server.

Useful Functions


$ python repair_permissions

Repairs execute permissions on scripts.


$ python setup_settings

Creates a tollgate/settings/ for your local settings, and configures your SECRET_KEY.

Clustering tollgate with CARP

tollgate can run in a clustered configuration with CARP (Common Address Redundancy Protocol). You’ll need to also set up redundant DHCP, DNS and database (eg: multi-master MySQL, or a single external database server) for this to work.

tollgate’s quota saving procedures are written in such a way that it will work with multiple copies of tollgate simultaneously. No special configuration of tollgate is required in order for it to work (apart from possibly changing database settings).

However, there is a window (between refresh_hosts calls, normally every 10 minutes) where you can use all of your quota via one tollgate and still have it available on the other, because the counters aren’t synchronised live (and doing so is quite expensive).

In typical deployments however I haven’t had this as a real problem, as it hasn’t been possible to use more than 50% of the allocated quota in 10 minutes. Doing so would require quite fast Internet access, and you’re generally competing for that resource with other clients on the network.

Be sure when configuring your network infrastructure for redundancy that:

  • Your two tollgate machines have different power sources. This could mean they’re supplied via a different mains circuit, or one of them has a battery backup.
  • You also provide redundancy for the switch, if you have one.
  • You have either a multi-master database server setup, or a single database server with redundant power supplies or battery backup.
  • If running with one database server, make sure that if one half of your power goes down, that the database server is still accessible (ie: use two switches and two network cards in your database server).
  • Use protocols like Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) on your switches to break routing loops.

At the moment, tollgate doesn’t support running multiple instances of itself managing different subnets. That’s a plan for down the track.

Running on large subnets (bigger than /24) or with more than 128 hosts

You may encounter performance issues and hosts dropping out “randomly” when running the software on subnets larger than a /24. This is because of the size of the ARP table in Linux is effectively limited to 128 hosts, and the software will automatically send large amounts of ARP requests to see who currently holds each IP address on the network.

Reality Check!

It is at this point you should seriously consider the size of your subnet. If you have less than 200 hosts on your network, then you really only need a /24. If you have a proper network plan in place, with DNS and static DHCP entries setup, you can still segment your network a lot more tightly. You can use hostnames to provide memorable names to services, rather than wanting when all your other hosts are in

When you’re planning for a LAN party, I generally do the math based on:

hosts = (maximum_attendance * 2) + static_hosts

You should only be using a /16 if you’re expecting in excess of 30,000 people attending your LAN. And even then you should consider slicing it up into subnets, because most operating systems have an ARP cache limit of about 1024 hosts, and you’ll have problems with broadcast packets. Even something as simple as a Master Browser Election could knock out your network (though you should be Using WINS at this point).

With dynamic DNS assignments by DHCP and routing in place, you can even keep it so that hostnames across subnets can still talk to each other by name. Without this, you’ll end up with a lot of “noise” on your network from all sorts of multicast protocols.

At this point of time though, you’ll need to setup multiple copies of tollgate: one to service each network. However, each instance should be able to share a single database provided the IP addresses are unique.

There are, of course, some applications and games which simply won’t work because they require multicast or link-local packets. But it is also those games which become increasingly unreliable on large networks.

Tweaking Linux’s ARP table

You can tweak the behaviour of the ARP cache on Linux to let you have a bigger ARP table. But this comes at a price – it uses more memory, and the cron job for tollgate’s refresh process will take much longer.

Linux provides three settings in /proc/sys/net/ipv4/neigh/default/:

  • gc_thresh1: 128 hosts. This is the minimum number of entries to keep in the ARP cache. The garbage collector will not run if this amount isn’t exceeded, and will reduce the number of entries every 30 seconds by default.
  • gc_thresh2: 512 hosts (gc_thresh1 * 4). This is the soft-maximum number of entries to keep in the ARP cache. The garbage collector will allow this to be exceeded for 5 seconds.
  • gc_thresh3: 1024 hosts (gc_thresh2 * 2). This is the hard-maximum number of entries to keep in the ARP cache. It will always run if there are more entries in the cache.

You should keep those ratios if you adjust it, but gc_thresh needs to be able to handle the base amount of hosts on your network.

tollgate-backend will automatically set this for you if you set the arp_table_size option in backend.ini.

This will automatically set all three garbage collector thresholds appropriately according to the ratios above.

You absolutely require this value to be set to the number of hosts in your subnet, with a little bit of leeway for your WAN Ethernet interface. Which means if you have a /23 (512 IP addresses) on your LAN side, and about 10 machines on your WAN side, you should set the value to about 530 (enough for both sides with some leeway):

arp_table_size = 530

If you set it to exactly 512, then the non-result ARP table entries will push out legitimate ones, and also entries from your WAN side will push out entries from your LAN size.

MySQL / MariaDB quirks

There is an issue where Django will not create a big enough field type for PositiveIntegerFields, resulting in data collection failing when there has been more than 4GB used, or if more than 4GB is allocated to a user.

You can patch the tables with this command on your deployed project:

python mysql_bigint_patch

Windows Clients

While this isn’t a core issue inside of tollgate, there’s a pretty strong chance when running LAN Party events that you will have a large amount of Microsoft Windows hosts.

There are many things that Windows doesn’t handle properly, which will require some manual tweaking to sort out. Most of these problems you will be blamed “for breaking it”, despite there being problems in the Windows OS.


These issues are not caused by tollgate. They are simply included in this guide because they are problems not often documented in a single place.

Here are some problems your author has encountered in the past:

Multiple search domains do not work

In DHCP options, you can offer multiple DNS search domains. On Windows, only the first search domain will be used.

You should separate your static (official) hosts and dynamic (user) hosts into two subnets still:


You should then specify the resolution order as follows:

example.lan      (Windows will only use this one)

You can work around this bug, however it is an “opt-in” and requires some manual configuration in Windows:

  1. Open Network and Sharing Centre.
  2. Select the adapter to modify that is connected to the local network.
  3. Click Properties.
  4. Click Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4).
  5. Click Properties.
  6. Click Advanced.
  7. Click the DNS tab.
  8. Select Append these DNS suffixes (in order):.
  9. Add entries for each DNS suffix your network uses.
  10. Click OK.
  11. Click OK.
  12. Click Close.
  13. Click Close.

Then this brings us to the next bug in Windows’ DNS resolver:

Dotted-domain lookups are never recursive

On a non-Windows machine, say you have a search domain set to example.lan. If you lookup jimmy-pc.dhcp, it will look up jimmy-pc.dhcp.example.lan. then jimmy-pc.dhcp..

On a Windows machine, it assumes any name being resolved with a dot in it is actually being resolved as a root object (ie: jimmy-pc.dhcp internally becomes jimmy-pc.dhcp.), so it will never try to look up jimmy-pc.dhcp.example.lan.

We can work around this with a DNAME zone for dhcp similar to this:

dhcp. IN SOA (
      2010012301 ; serial
      60         ; refresh (1 minute)
      60         ; retry (1 minute)
      3600       ; expire (1 hour)
      60         ; minimum (1 minute)
      NS      tollgate.example.lan.

dhcp. IN DNAME dhcp.example.lan.

Web Proxy Auto-Discovery Vulnerabilities

Internet Explorer on Windows will try to discover a proxy server by doing NetBIOS lookups for the server called WPAD by default. As a result, a local network user may intercept all traffic from a vulnerable computer by specifying proxy settings that redirect traffic.

Included in tollgate’s source repository is a site at /www/wpad/. This should be hosted at the server named wpad.example.lan. and wpad. (where example.lan. is your search domain).

Likewise, you should send DHCP option 252 to indicate an absolute path to the WPAD configuration. In ISC DHCPd, you can do this with:

option auto-proxy-config code 252 = string;
subnet netmask {
  # ... some other configuration here

  option auto-proxy-config "";

See also:

Using WINS

In an effort to help reduce the master browser election traffic, and assist in NetBIOS name resolution, you should setup a WINS server.

In ISC DHCPd, this is done with the following configuration option:

option netbios-name-servers;

You’ll also need to run an actual WINS server too. Samba 3 provides a WINS server, but it is not enabled by default. In the [global] section of /etc/samba/smb.conf, you can enable this functionality with:

wins support = yes
dns proxy = yes

After this, reload your Samba and DHCP daemon.

Mass-mailing Worms

It’s pretty much a given you will have problems with infected Windows hosts. One major thing you will want to consider is blocking external SMTP traffic to at least prevent your network from becoming a spam hub, and angering your ISP (as well as other Internet users). You can do this with an entry in backend.ini, under the section blacklist:

externaldns =

Normally you only have to block port 25 traffic. SMTP over SSL is generally never used by such worms, and mail servers running on SSL generally also require authentication (which the spam bots won’t have).

It will also allow legitimate senders of mail on your network to be able to continue sending mail.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple way at this time to exempt blocking of SMTP over TLS (which uses port 25 and STARTTLS command). Additionally, many ISPs do not offer encrypted SMTP servers – until they are lobbied by users. ;)

Nintendo Consoles / WFC


This information is subject to change and revision while the author further investigates the effects of these workarounds on the WiiU. At the moment there are some assumptions that the 3DS and WiiU work similarly, which may not be correct. Tracking for this is Issue #47.


In this article, “Nintendo DS” also refers to the DSlite, and “Nintendo DSi” also refers to the DSi XL.

Nintendo DS, DSi and Wii require a workaround in the form of DNS interception in order to make them work with captive portals.

However, the 3DS and Wii U now support captive portals natively, and are broken by this DNS interception method because they perform an additional test which attempts to register with WFC servers over a non-HTTP method.

Additionally, different versions of DS and Wii consoles make little attempt by DHCP to identify themselves differently, and DS games on the 3DS bring the DS’ flawed version of WFC.

At the moment, the only solution is to allow either 3DS/WiiU consoles to work on the network (by having no interception), or allow DS/DSi/Wii consoles to work on the network (by having interception).

Enabling the interception method (for DS, DSi and Wii)


Enabling this will break internet connectivity for the 3DS and WiiU. For this reason it is no longer enabled by default.


Nintendo DS, and DS games on later hardware, will only support connecting to open or WEP access points. WEP contains fundamental security flaws.

DS, DSi and Wii expect a “200 OK” response to probes to If something else is returned, or it is inaccessible, they will fail WFC’s connection test, not connect to the access point, and not save the connection profile to enable you to login using Opera/Internet Channel.

Included in tollgate’s source repository in /www/wpad/ is a website you can host at, with a DNS record pointing to your server. This must be accessible inside of your LAN.

PlayStation Portable (PSP)


PlayStation Portable will only connect to 2.4GHz 802.11b networks, and does not support WPA2 encryption.

Because of the additional radio bandwidth that 802.11b clients require, it is recommended that you run a separate 802.11b-only network for those devices.


PlayStation Portable E-1000 does not have WiFi.

PSP System software v2.00 includes a web browser. Earlier versions of the system software do not include a web browser.

If you wish to sign earlier versions of the PSP into tollgate, you will need to do it from another device with a web browser.

Consoles without web browsers

The general process for logging a system into tollgate when the device does not have a web browser is:

  1. Set the hostname of the device to be something uniquely and easily identifiable.
  2. Connect the device to the network.
  3. Attempt a connection test (this will fail).
  4. Find the device in tollgate’s login other computers screen, and sign it in.
  5. Reattempt the connection test (this should succeed).

After this, the device will be registered with that user’s account. Whenever they are signed into the event they will automatically grant access to the Internet for all of their devices.

Rogue DHCP / DNS Servers

There have been several instances at events your author has administered where Windows worms propagating on the network will send out rogue DHCP server responses, attempting to either route traffic through the infected machine, or replace DNS with a third-party server that will redirect traffic to popular websites through an attacker’s server.

There are two major mitigation steps you should take:

Block external DNS servers

This can be done in backend.ini, by adding a blacklist line like:

externaldns =

This will only allow your DNS server, and any white-listed / unmetered servers to have DNS traffic passed through to them.

Use layer 3 managed switches with DHCP filtering

Layer 3 managed switches offer various filtering options. You can limit the spread of a rogue DHCP server by:

  1. Only allowing DHCP to be served from the tollgate server(s) port(s) on the backbone switch.
  2. Only allowing DHCP to be served from the port(s) connecting to the backbone switch for leaf switches.

If you are low on budget, there’s a good chance that you will not be able to afford all Layer 3 managed switches. In this case, save the money for at least one on your backbone, so any rogue DHCP server issues will be limited to one leaf switch, and you’ll be able to quickly determine which host is compromised.

Allocating quota, “one free reset” and at present hard-coded policies

Tollgate has a “quota reset” function whereby a user may gain their allocated quota again for their use. No usage information is discarded. So for example, if a user has 300 MiB of quota, they will gain an additional 300 MiB of quota for a total of 600 MiB.

At present, tollgate has a hard-coded “one free quota reset” function, which is user accessible. This becomes available to a user once they have used 70% of their quota allocation.

There are several settings relating to this function:

  • RESET_EXCUSE_REQUIRED: Toggles whether a user must provide a reason for having their quota reset.
  • RESET_PURCHASE: Changes the language of the quota reset page to imply that a user may purchase additional data blocks. Be aware, generally ISPs will disallow selling Internet access as part of a residential access plan, and may disallow it as part of a sponsorship agreement (if you have one). Use with caution.
  • UserProfile.maximum_quota_resets: Controls the number of times a user with can_reset_quota permission can reset another user’s quota.
  • Permission can_reset_own_quota: Controls whether a user with can_reset_quota permission can reset their own quota more than once.

As a result, you should generally allocate a user about half of the total amount of quota you want them to use. Your author has observed the following that makes these restrictions useful, and has some other notes:

  • When offered a free reset immediately (or if no reset is used at all), the user will often take it straight away, either through not understanding it’s function or wanting all the quota they can get.

    However, if they do reset their quota early, they’ll often use it all up without realising, and not properly manage the use of their quota. They’ll then demand more quota to compensate.

    As a result tollgate only offers it after the user has used 70% of their quota allocation.

  • Administrators will often also reset themselves numerous times without regard, and fall into the same trap. There is an “unmetered” function if it is really required to have unlimited access, however this is prone to abuse.

    As a result, tollgate prevents administrators from resetting their own quota more than once (no more than any other user), unless can_reset_own_quota has been granted.

  • If you are tracking regular attendees, it is generally a good idea to lower the quota of non-regular attendees. Non-regulars more frequently try to exhaust as much quota as possible, often citing a right to use as much of the venue’s bandwidth as possible. They will also often not be familiar with what kind of traffic their computers use.

    Regular attendees are generally more respectful of the event and it’s resources.

Reporting quota metering errors

So you think tollgate is counting your traffic wrong? I’m open to hear about it, and I want to fix it if there is a problem! However, please be aware of the following before you report it as an issue:

Windows network accounting is broken

Most Windows-based traffic monitoring programs (like DU Meter, NetLimiter) do not accurately record Internet usage. Generally, these programs will show lower amounts of traffic as to what is actually produced.

NetLimiter in particular is notoriously bad at recording usage accurately, and will report several orders of magnitude low. [1] [2] [3] [4]

The WinSock hooks that these software use in Windows are unreliable, and require that each packet be sent to a user space program. If the program does not record the usage in a timely manner, it is possible for them to miss information about other packets.

It is also for this reason that at present tollgate will never be able to act as a router on Windows.

Windows network byte counters are optionally provided by the network card driver. Irregularities may occur as a result between different network card chipsets.

TL;DR: It is impossible to get accurate traffic information out of Windows operating systems, ever.

Raw packets

Some programs that create “raw” packets may not be accounted for properly by the OS in either traffic counters or firewall quota records, nor might they be filtered by outbound rules. Tollgate will also count traffic that the firewall may have rejected or dropped – it has no way to tell if the client is ignoring or using the traffic or not.

Blacklists and whitelists, traffic from other sources

Most accounting information will fail to take into account things like blacklisted and unmetered site access, as well as access from other sources (such as home Internet use, or mobile broadband), which can cause them to read higher amounts of usage.

Binary gibibytes vs. metric/drivemaker’s gigabytes

Tollgate reports all values in it’s web interface either in bytes, or binary units.

This means that 1 KiB == 1024 bytes.

Other usage monitoring programs using tollgate’s API may report this information differently – quota values are provided in the API in bytes.


It is important when reporting irregularities to come up with solid evidence that proves it. I’m welcome to reproducible reports of these issues.

Please include all details in your report, including tollgate versions, kernel versions, network hardware, packet captures, database server, deployment steps, etc., enough so that I can try to reproduce the problem and verify that there is not an issue with your reporting device or something else.

I have had issues in the past where tollgate has read quota usage low (or has stopped counting). These were due to integer overflow issues in backend and MySQL at 4 GiB. These have been fixed in later versions.

Any reports incorporating data from only Windows machines will be ignored for the above reasons. Incomplete, vague or non-reproducible reports will also be ignored.


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