OpenWrt VM with a desktop environment?

I run OpenWrt as an VM and I'd like to install a full fledged desktop environment on top of it.
Resources for the VM are not a problem. I can give it as much CPU/Memory power as needed.

Are there restrictions on what DE's I can install since there might be essential aspects not available in the x86 build of OpenWrt needed for some of them.

My motivation is that I am not yet accustomed to CLI and LUCI does not do yet much in terms of debugging iptables. I would like to try some iptables GUI apps available to see if I can get a little further that way.

There are no limitations, your only challenge is that no such packages exists for openwrt so you would have to build them by yourself :wink:


This sounds more convoluted than learning proper tools... Maybe you can describe your use case and hopefully there is an easier solution?


:frowning: I am not advanced as of yet for that I am afraid

I'd like to be able to see a packet arrive at OpenWrt and then see the iptables logic being applied to it and be able to determine why my OpenWrt firewall is not doing what I want it to do.
Granted it might be a configuration issue to begin with but I have tried and asked so many times it is time to get out the big guns if available.

also, I'd like to be able to trace why the DHCP server is not handing out leases when coming in via a locally connected WAP. Other WAP's also running OpenWrt do get a DHCP lease for clients connecting via a VLAN.

So many things going on behind the scenes that I feel it is time to lay bare the exact flow of packets, what process is doing what with them as to be able to debug and get a solid OpenWrt configuration

You'd better forget about it, as it won't happen for multiple reasons.
If you really want to learn, install a modern general purpose Linux distribution.
It provides the most comfortable remote access over SSH and file transfer with SFTP.
The rest is up to you to study CLI and experiment with tools and settings.


I am more than willing to do that. So the idea theb becomes I import the configuration files to the system running the DE and then use that as a testing bed of some sorts?

1 Like

This can help you achieve maximum synergy between the GUI and the CLI to easier learn the latter by flattening the learning curve and improving the usage experience.
Transferring OpenWrt configs to a different system only makes it more difficult to troubleshoot.

Note that the best method to understand iptables is to carefully study the iptables-save output and learn how to enable logging and read logs, and I'm afraid there's no decent GUI to help you with that.
By the way, iptables is mostly deprecated and should be replaced by nftables in the next major release.


Just to state the obvious, if you can run one VM, there's no reason why you can't run another with a general purpose linux distribution and run wireshark (yes, linux live media on a notebook or other device would also do, afaik there are also windows builds for wireshark). Managed switch can also do port mirroring to facilitate logging.


If you don't use UCI or Luci and want a GUI, please install Debian or whatever else.

Debian (or any other Linux distro) can 100% do all that OpenWrt can do, just don't expect them to have any GUI to do any real networking task. So yes you would have a desktop but to do all configuration you would still need to open a terminal window and edit text files with a GUI notepad-like application

there is nothing that can show this even if you have a GUI. You can set up a packet capture VM or PC somehwere in your network with wireshark, but that is looking at traffic in the network, not what happens inside the OpenWrt VM

also as above.

You need to learn commandline and do tests, consider that what I said above applies also in reverse, you can look at network troubleshooting guides for Debian/Ubuntu or whatever else and as long as they are for using iptables (firewall) or dnsmasq (dhcp) they will mostly work the same. OpenWrt adds its own centralized configuration layer (UCI) and web interface (Luci) but it is still a perfectly normal Linux-based router/firewall.

That will tell you what's wrong with the applications, then you can adjust the config from UCI.

Also opening a thread and asking for assistence with your specific setup would not be a bad idea