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unifi-pfsense

A script that installs the UniFi Controller software on pfSense and other FreeBSD systems

Purpose

The objective of this project is to develop and maintain a script that installs Ubiquiti's UniFi Controller software on FreeBSD-based systems, particularly the pfSense firewall.

Status

The project provides an rc script to start and stop the UniFi controller, and an installation script to automatically download and install everything, including the rc script.

This project uses the latest branch from Ubiquiti rather than the LTS branch. From December 2020, this means the 6.x branch.

Compatibility

The script is known to work on FreeBSD-based systems, including pfSense, OPNsense, FreeNAS, and more. Be sure to check the forks for versions specific to other systems.

This script will destroy a legacy BIOS system booting from an MBR formatted ZFS root volume; see #168. Again, using this script on a system with an MBR formatted ZFS root volume will break your system. It appears that one of the dependency packages may cause this. We have not isolated which. To avoid this problem, use UEFI mode if available, use GPT partitions, or use a filesystem other than ZFS. If you have already set up your system to use legacy BIOS, MBR partitons, and ZFS, then do not run this script.

Challenges

Because the UniFi Controller software is proprietary, it cannot be built from source and cannot be included directly in a package. To work around this, we can download the UniFi controller software directly from Ubiquiti during the installation process.

Because Ubiquiti does not provide a standard way to fetch the software (not even a "latest" symlink), we cannot identify the appropriate version to download from Ubiquiti programmatically. It will be up to the package maintainers to keep the package up to date with the latest version of the software available from Ubiquiti.

Upgrading UniFi controller

At the very least, back up your configuration before proceeding.

Be sure to track Ubiquiti's release notes for information on the changes and what to expect. Updates, even minor ones, sometimes change things. Some involve database upgrades that can take some time. Features come and go, and behaviors change. Proceed with caution.

You should know that upgrading from earlier versions may be no small task. Ubiquiti sometimes makes substantial changes, especially between major versions. Carefully consult Ubiquiti's release notes for upgrading considerations. Proceed with caution.

Upgrading pfSense

The pfSense updater will remove everything you install that didn't come through pfSense, including the packages installed by this script.

Before updating pfSense, save a backup of your UniFi controller configuration to another system.

After updating pfSense, you will need to run this script again to restore the dependencies and the software.

Usage

To install the controller software and the rc script:

  1. Log in to the pfSense command line shell as root.
  2. Run this one-line command, which downloads the install script from Github and executes it with sh:
  fetch -o - https://git.io/j7Jy | sh -s

The install script will install dependencies, download the UniFi controller software, make some adjustments, and start the UniFi controller.

The git.io link above should point to https://raw.githubusercontent.com/gozoinks/unifi-pfsense/master/install-unifi/install-unifi.sh

Starting and Stopping

To start and stop the controller, use the service command from the command line.

  • To start the controller:

      service unifi.sh start
    

    The UniFi controller takes a few minutes to start. The 'start' command exits immediately while the startup continues in the background.

  • To stop the controller:

      service unifi.sh stop
    

    The the stop command takes a while to execute, and then the shutdown continues for several minutes in the background. The rc script will wait until the command received and the shutdown is finished. The idea is to hold up system shutdown until the UniFi controller has a chance to exit cleanly.

After Installing

After using this script to install the UniFi Controller software, check the UniFi controller documentation for next steps.

Troubleshooting

Step one is to determine whether the issue you’ve encountered is with this script or with the UniFi controller software.

Issues with the script might include problems downloading packages, installing packages, interactions with pfSense such as dependency packages being deleted after updates, or incorrect dependencies being downloaded. Feel free to open an issue for anything like this.

Issues with the UniFi Controller software or its various dependencies might include not starting up, not listening on port 8443, exiting with a port conflict, crashing after startup, database errors, memory issues, file permissions, dependency conflicts, or the weather. You should troubleshoot these issues as you would on any other installation of UniFi Controller. For some, the first stop is UniFi technical support; for others, ready answers to most questions about setting up UniFi controller are found most quickly on the UniFi forums.

It may turn out that some issue with the UniFi Controller software is caused by something this script is doing, like if MongoDB won’t start because you’re running it on a PDP-8 with 12-bit words, and this script is installing the build of MongoDB for PDP-11 systems with 16-bit words. In a case like that, if you can connect the behavior of the UniFi Controller with the actions taken by the script, please open an issue, or, better yet, fork and fix and submit a PR.

Java compatibility on FreeBSD

This script may create a conflict that breaks Java on a FreeBSD upgrade. To resolve this conflict do the following:

pkg unlock -yq javavmwrapper
pkg unlock -yq java-zoneinfo
pkg unlock -yq openjdk8
pkg unlock -yq snappyjava
pkg unlock -yq snappy
pkg unlock -yq mongodb36
pkg remove -y javavmwrapper
pkg remove -y java-zoneinfo

Uninstalling

This script does three things:

  1. Download and install required dependency packages
  2. Download and unpack the UniFi controller software binaries from Ubiquiti
  3. Install an rc script so that the UniFi controller can be started and stopped with service

Uninstalling therefore means one of two things:

  • Removing the UniFi controller software at /usr/local/UniFi and removing the rc script at /usr/local/etc/rc.d/unifi.sh
  • Removing the dependency packages that were installed

Uninstall the UniFi controller software

  1. Back up your configuration, if you intend to keep it.
  2. Remove the UniFi controller software binaries and rc script:
      rm -rf /usr/local/UniFi
      rm /usr/local/etc/rc.d/unifi.sh
    

Removing the dependency packages

To remove the packages that were installed by this script, you can go through the list of packages that were installed and remove them (look for the AddPkg lines). You will have to determine for yourself whether anything else on your system might still be using the packages installed by this script. Removing a package that is in use by something else will break that other thing.

Note that, on pfSense, all of them will probably be removed anyway the next time you update pfSense.

Contributing

UniFi controller updates

The main area of concern is keeping up with Ubiquiti's updates. I don't know of a way to automatically grab the URL to the current version, though there has been work done on this. For now we have to commit an update directly to the install.sh script with every UniFi release.

If you're aware of an update before I am:

  1. Create a branch from master, named for the version you are about to test.
  2. Update the URL in install.sh to the latest version.
  3. Test it on your pfSense system.
  4. Optional, but ideal: test it on a fresh pfSense system, as in a VM.
  5. If it checks out, submit a pull request from your branch. This helps bring my attention to the update and lets me know that you have tested the new version.

I will then test on my own systems and merge the PR.

Other enhancements

Other enhancements are most welcome. Much of the script's most intelligent behavior is the work of contributors, including the package dependency resolution and the java version spoofing. This project would not be alive without these efforts. I am excited by this support, and I can't wait to see what else develops.

Potential areas of improvement include but are not limited to:

  • Error handling
  • Automatic latest-version detection
  • More robust backup and restore
  • LTS/Latest branch selection options and defaults. Command line options? Prompts?
  • What else?

Issues and pull requests

Of course. That's why it's on github.

Roadmap

This project may never reach its original goal of becoming a pfSense package. The packaging scheme for pfSense has changed. Doing this as a pfSense package requires doing it as a FreeBSD package first. Doing it as a FreeBSD package means we may as well make it portable to other FreeBSD systems. All of this changes how this would be implemented. Some of the concepts we can borrow, but it's substantially new work. Moreover, because the requirements of the UniFi controller deviate from what's strictly available in the FreeBSD package repos, I'm not even sure it's possible.

As a helper script for installing the UniFi controller, this tool remains effective and robust, which is great. I see no reason not to continue development here.

It is also less pfsense-specific than originally imagined. If you're here to run UniFi on your NAS, welcome!

With all this in mind, the future of this project is clearly as an installation tool, and I envision enhancements to it as such. So let's just make it a smart and capable installer for UniFi Controller on FreeBSD-type systems.

Licensing

This project itself is licensed according to the two-clause BSD license.

The UniFi Controller software is licensed as-is with no warranty, according to the README included with the software.

Ubiquiti has indicated via email that acceptance of the EULA on the web site is not required before downloading the software.

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