For a while now I’ve been wanting to know when a new host joins my home network. I’ve (rightly) been accused of being a bit paranoid at times but as the sole administrator of our family’s network really I just like to know what is going on so that I’m prepared when I get complaints about e.g. the Netflix not working. In any case, a couple weeks ago I decided to spend an hour whipping up a script to help me do this.

The Script

Here is the script.

Why Ruby?

First you’ll probably notice that the script is written in Ruby. Lately for any non-trivial script I’ve had to write I’ve chosen Ruby over Bash. It’s what I know best and almost any system I’m going to use comes with a relatively modern version out of the box. I find Ruby much more readable than Bash and then when I have to come back to tweak it I’m not wasting time brushing up on obscure Bash syntax.


  • Modern Ruby version
  • arp-scan and nslookup installed
  • A working local mail server listening on port 25
  • Some kind of scheduling software (e.g. cron)
  • Root privileges

How it works

The heavy lifting is handled by arp-scan. This utility scans the local network and reports any hosts that it finds. The result is parsed by the script and a set of known MAC addresses is serialized to a YAML file so that the script can remember hosts that have been seen before. When a new host is found, nslookup is used to try to find the hostname and then the script sends an email alert to a predefined email address.

How to run it

First, the script needs to be edited to add the email address. Then the script just needs to be scheduled (e.g. via cron) and run as root because arp-scan needs to run as root. It could probably be pretty easily setup to run it as a normal user with some sudoers tricks etc. but I chose to keep it simple. Here is my crontab entry which runs the script once an hour (notice how I had to tweak the PATH so that arp-scan could be found):

# m h  dom mon dow   command
0 * * * * PATH=/usr/bin:$PATH /path/to/notify-new-hosts

That’s it!

I’ve been running this script for a couple weeks now. It’s caught me by surprise a couple times, usually when some device that hasn’t been used in a long time is powered up and joins the network. No bad surprises yet though, thankfully! Enjoy!