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small, low powered hardware for smoothwall

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mbentley

Gloriously Lead, Overclockix Chief Architect
Joined
Sep 26, 2002
Location
Indianapolis, IN
basically as the title says, i am looking for a VERY small, low powered x86 based appliance that is going to run smoothwall. i've been looking around and it seems that a soekris net4801 fits the bill for what i am looking for. from what i hear, these can easily run with about 5 watts of power consumption. my current smoothwall is a pc chips m789cg with a via c3 2000+ cpu and 2 x 512mb pc 2100. this is most definitely overkill for my connection.

i was just wondering if anyone had any suggestions for other solutions that i might be able to find at a low cost. i believe that i have found one that i can buy for about ~$100 or so which is about as much as i want to spend. is this pretty much the best thing i can look for? and no, i am not going to run a different firewall as i love my smoothwall and it does everything i need.
 
OP
mbentley

mbentley

Gloriously Lead, Overclockix Chief Architect
Joined
Sep 26, 2002
Location
Indianapolis, IN
interesting concept, but it isn't x86 which smoothwall requires since it is a x86 and amd64 only os. definitely the right direction of what i am looking for!
 
OP
mbentley

mbentley

Gloriously Lead, Overclockix Chief Architect
Joined
Sep 26, 2002
Location
Indianapolis, IN
i found a soekris engineering net4801-60 on ebay and won it so i am going to go with that. i'm adding a 2.5" ide hdd to it as i think that is going to be more reliable than compactflash. hopefully in a week or so i will have successfully installed smoothwall 3.0 on it.
 

Bobnova

Senior Member
Joined
May 10, 2009
Nice. Post some pics when you get it, i'd love to see what you come up with.
 
OP
mbentley

mbentley

Gloriously Lead, Overclockix Chief Architect
Joined
Sep 26, 2002
Location
Indianapolis, IN
this is taken from my blog:
installing smoothwall 3.0 on a soekris engineering net4801 (part 1)
installing smoothwall 3.0 on a soekris engineering net4801 (part 2)

even though all of my parts have not arrived for my new smoothwall project, i can begin to do some initial setup. first of all, here are all of the items of which i needed to find for the project:
- soekris engineering net4801-60
- soekris engineering 2.5" hdd mounting kit
- soekris engineering power supply
- 2.5" ide hard drive
- 10 foot serial null modem cable

since i already have the hard drive, i can do some of the prep work by installing smoothwall. i am using an old laptop to install the os to the hard drive. luckily linux is much less picky than windows about changing hardware after installing. i downloaded and burnt a copy of the latest smoothwall 3.0 sp1. installing smoothwall is about as straight forward as things come. just follow the steps on the screen until you get to the "Network configuration menu". since we currently do not have the correct network cards in the computer, this part is going to be overwritten later.

just leave the current config as "GREEN (RED is modem/ISDN)". choose "Drivers and card assignments". allocate the nic to the green interface. then go to "Address settings" and give the green interface a valid IP address on your subnet. once that is completed, choose done. on the "Section menu" screen, just choose finished as we do not want to set up a modem that we actually won't be using. then just complete the setup by entering your passwords and reboot.

when your smoothwall boots, go ahead a login using "root" and the password that you provided. we need to make a few configuration changes since the net4801 only uses serial console for video output. first, we need to edit '/etc/inittab'. once finished, your inittab should look like this:
Code:
id:3:initdefault:

l0:0:wait:/etc/rc.d/rc.halt halt
l6:6:wait:/etc/rc.d/rc.halt reboot

si::sysinit:/etc/rc.d/rc.sysinit

# Trap CTRL-ALT-DELETE
ca::ctrlaltdel:/sbin/shutdown -h now

# Run gettys in standard runlevels
1:2345:respawn:/sbin/agetty 38400 tty1
2:2345:respawn:/sbin/agetty 38400 tty2
3:2345:respawn:/sbin/agetty 38400 tty3
4:2345:respawn:/sbin/agetty 38400 tty4
5:2345:respawn:/sbin/agetty 38400 tty5
6:2345:respawn:/sbin/agetty 38400 tty6
[i]s0:2345:respawn:/sbin/agetty -L -f /etc/issueserial 19200 ttyS0 vt100[/i]
~:S:wait:/bin/bash
the line in italics 's0:2345:respawn:/sbin/agetty -L -f /etc/issueserial 19200 ttyS0 vt100' is what we are adding. this enables the serial console at the baud rate of 19200 (the default for the net4801).

next we need to create an '/etc/issueserial' file:
Code:
smoothwall
Connected on \l at \b bps

next, we will want to create an '/etc/securetty' file to allow root to login from the serial console:
Code:
ttyS0
tty1
tty2
tty3

yesterday i received my soekris engineering net4801-60 in the mail. the unit seems to be in good condition and even came with a compactflash card and vpn1411 card which i won't end up using. i will most likely end up selling the vpn card as i don't use my smoothwall to create a vpn and the smoothwall os does not have support built into the kernel for a vpn card such as this anyway.
net4801-60_1.jpg

net4801-60_2.jpg

as you can see, it really is just a basic computer. today i received the last parts that i will be needing for this project. they are the hard drive mounting kit and the power supply. i purchased these directly from soekris engineering. in part 1, i prepared the smoothwall install on a 2.5" 60GB laptop hard drive.

the next step is to install the hard drive on the mounting kit inside the unit. the hard drive connects using four mounting screws on the bottom of the drive. the mounting kit is connected to by unscrewing the four screws which secure the net4801 to the case and placing the mounting bracket on top of the board's mounting holes and reinserting the screws into the mounts.

now that the hard drive is connected and the unit is closed back up, it is time to test the unit. in order to do that, i am going to fire up minicom on my server which is connected via null modem serial cable to the net4801 and listening on com1. if the unit does not show any activity in the minicom windows, you might want to check out the manual from the <a href="http://www.soekris.com/downloads.htm">soekris download page</a> to make sure that you have configured minicom to use the default settings (19200 baud, 8 databits, no parity, 1 stop bit, no flow control). here is an example of a net5501 unit booting up (the net4801 is very similar):
Code:
comBIOS ver. 1.32 20070606 Copyright (C) 2000-2007 Soekris Engineering.

net5501

0512 Mbyte Memory CPU Geode LX 500 Mhz

Pri Mas IBM-DARA-206000 LBA Xlt 730-255-63 5866 Mbyte

Slot Vend Dev ClassRev Cmd Stat CL LT HT Base1 Base2 Int
-------------------------------------------------------------------
0:01:2 1022 2082 10100000 0006 0220 08 00 00 A0000000 00000000 10
0:06:0 1106 3053 02000096 0117 0210 08 40 00 0000E101 A0004000 11
0:07:0 1106 3053 02000096 0117 0210 08 40 00 0000E201 A0004100 05
0:08:0 1106 3053 02000096 0117 0210 08 40 00 0000E301 A0004200 09
0:09:0 1106 3053 02000096 0117 0210 08 40 00 0000E401 A0004300 12
0:17:0 13A3 0020 0B400000 0116 0280 08 40 00 A0005000 A0006000 15
0:20:0 1022 2090 06010003 0009 02A0 08 40 80 00006001 00006101
0:20:2 1022 209A 01018001 0005 02A0 08 00 00 00000000 00000000
0:20:4 1022 2094 0C031002 0006 0230 08 00 00 A0010000 00000000 07
0:20:5 1022 2095 0C032002 0006 0230 08 00 00 A0011000 00000000 07

on minicom, the unit shows a ram count and then after a few seconds proceeds to boot. due to the configuration of the kernel smoothwall uses, you can't see the boot messages (and we didn't set lilo up to show them even if the kernel supported it). once the unit is ready, it will display a login prompt:
Code:
smoothwall
Connected on ttyS0 at 19200 bps
smoothwall login:

from there you need to login using 'root' and the password you set up in the initial configuration. once you login, you will need to reconfigure your smoothwall's network settings. you do this by running the 'setup' command. on the setup screen, you will want to choose 'networking', then 'network configuration type'. on the next screen, choose "green + orange + red". you will then want to choose 'drivers and card assignments'. then choose 'ok' to change settings then choose 'probe'. as it detects the network cards, set them as green, then orange, and red (the order is important). green (internal) is eth0, orange (dmz) is eth1, and red (external) is eth2. make sure the address settings are still correct for your network and your external network is set properly for your ISP.

once that is done, i connect network cables to the net4801 and then reboot the unit. once it reboots, you might want to check to make sure all of your interfaces have ip addresses and have been assigned correctly. if they have not, you will want to re-run setup and check for errors in your configuration. from there, i was able to connect to the web interface and configure my smoothwall. now i am up and running behind my net4801. from looking at my mrtg graphs, i can get an idea of how much less power the net4801 uses. my estimated runtime on battery went from ~30 to ~38 minutes.
 

Ben333

Folding for Team 32!
Joined
Feb 18, 2007
That's a pretty neat little box you have there. How much did you score it for on ebay? There's no reason you couldn't throw Windows XP on there or something, right? Or is it lacking any kind of graphics adapter? I think I see a PCI slot... perhaps that could be used for a video card. If I could grab one or two of these for cheap, they might be fun to try as servers.
 
OP
mbentley

mbentley

Gloriously Lead, Overclockix Chief Architect
Joined
Sep 26, 2002
Location
Indianapolis, IN
That's a pretty neat little box you have there. How much did you score it for on ebay? There's no reason you couldn't throw Windows XP on there or something, right? Or is it lacking any kind of graphics adapter? I think I see a PCI slot... perhaps that could be used for a video card. If I could grab one or two of these for cheap, they might be fun to try as servers.

got it for $96 but i had to buy a few extra parts since i was going with a hdd setup and i needed a power supply for it. well, you can't install windows on it simply because windows doesn't run headless. yes that is a pci slot but it doesn't support video cards and is extremely low powered so it can't handle much besides network expansion cards. you could most definitely install linux on them (since smoothwall is linux) and run it as a server.
 

Ben333

Folding for Team 32!
Joined
Feb 18, 2007
Ouch, I like the tiny and low powered concept, but for me the price kills it. You could have so much more hardware in the form of a mini itx system for the same price. I guess if you have a use you can justify it though. I wish there was a way to get systems like this really cheap, they ought to be.
 
OP
mbentley

mbentley

Gloriously Lead, Overclockix Chief Architect
Joined
Sep 26, 2002
Location
Indianapolis, IN
well i did have a flex atx system using a pc chips m789cg (VIA C3 Samual 2 2000+ 800MHz) but it wasn't even close to being as power efficient as this is. but yeah, the price is definitely high but this one was a steal compared with how much they cost directly from soekris. (a little over 50% off)