Run from USB Stick (cont'd)

  • Continued from censored,12147.0.html

    It turns out pfsense 1.2.1 can be installed from the Live CD to an USB stick and runs from the USB stick. During boot it says "BTX version 1.02" while Monowall displays "BTX version 1.01". I guess there must have been a change somewhere in FreeBSD 7 that makes booting from USB sticks possible. The Live CD can also be converted into an image for the USB stick, but then the install script fails to copy the files from USB to USB and I didnt research this further.
    I am a bit concerned that the USB stick seems to be accessed frequently during operation of pfsense.
    I also asked for the network adapter Realtek 8111. It is obviously supported and recognized as interface "re0". Unfortunately it is missing from the selection offered in the install script ("Assign interfaces…"), but it can be assigned later in the webConfigurator.
    I noticed that the boot time is very long compared to monowall. It hangs for a long time on the message "Configuring WAN interface" and even longer on "Syncing system time before startup".

  • Did you install the embedded version?  That at least will remove the writes as being an issue.

  • About two months later I find my concerns about disk accesses were real, since the USB stick that I used has been destroyed. So the standard installation is not an option for any flash memory devices. I still wonder why it is necessary to have permanent disk write accesses.
    The embedded variant has some shortcomings, the biggest is of course that there is now keyboard/vga input/output, so if the pfsense box is not reachable by LAN because of a config problem there is no practical way to access it. Furthermore it requires a serial port to boot, which is not present on some modern mainboards. When the embedded variant is installed to a hard drive, it doesnt turn off the hard drive for unknown reasons, so you dont have any advantage in terms of energy usage and noise emission.
    Last option would be LiveCD+Config on USB stick. I couldnt get that one to work either. Obviously the USB stick must be plugged in at boot time to move the config to it using menu option "98" (why?). Then I only get an error in mounting the device, the error message immediately disappears. Maybe some specific file system is expected, but there is no information given on screen. Mine was FAT32, maybe that is wrong. All very annoying and disappointing.

  • Rather than "any flash memory devices", I think it would more accurate to say "many flash memory devices, particularly cheaper ones".  Many people have had success running on CF (in particular) for well over a year, with a full install.  Part of the reason is that CF is designed to be written to a lot, and part of it is because more expensive devices have better wear levelling algorithms.  If you went with a more expensive device, or CF, you might find you had more luck.

    If you search the forum you'll see that it's possible to effectively turn a full install into an embedded install.  Don't know if they're still valid with 1.2.1 onwards though.

  • Time has passed and I have another dead USB flash drive. Again I installed from the live cd (pfsenes 1.2.3). This time I selected the embedded kernel when the install script asked me. I believed I would get an embedded installation by doing so. Anyway, there were obviously enough write accesses to kill the flash drive in the end.

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