Next step up from an ALIX board? Want to run non-embedded pfSense.

  • I am running an ALIX board right now with the latest pfSense 1.21 and everything is chugging along fine.  I get pfSense envy though when I read about the packages available on the full version.

    What is the next step up in hardware that will let me install the full version of pfSense with a little bit more horsepower to cover some extra packages?  My needs are limited as this is for home use.

    The only major constraint is I want it to be as low powered as possible.  I'm not expecting it as low as my ALIX board, but I don't want a full blown PC if possible.

    Recommendations?  Would one of the new Intel Atom boards work?

  • Don't ALIX boards offer an optional harddisk drive instead of a CF card?
    That would enable packages and a full version. I doubt you actually need more horsepower for this in a regular home use.

    An option might be a Fujitsu-Siemens Futro S220 or S300.
    Those are ThinClients with low power consumption (something like 25 Watts or so) and an optional PATA port (and an additional CF slot).
    Search on your prefered auction site…

    The Atom boards seem to be really problematic in setup.

  • You might want to look at the Net5501 with a 2.5" HDD kit.
    Some of the ALIX boards have an IDE header, but there is no place to put a drive in the standard cases.

  • Or you could buy a microdrive (harddisk in CF format)
    But if you go this way search the forum first.
    There are a few threads which drives work and which dont.

  • I thought there was a way to do a full-install on a flash disk, no?  After all, it will appear just like a microdrive.

    Then just keep a spare flash disk around in case it starts going bad, but in practice, I don't think anyone has had any fail with the limited amount of writing pfSense does.

  • @drees:

    I thought there was a way to do a full-install on a flash disk, no?  After all, it will appear just like a microdrive.

    Yes, there is an option but it's not supported (AKA you're on your own doing so)
    The wear out of CF cards might get pretty high - depending on the packages one wants to install. For example I wounldn't want to run squid off a CF card.

    Sorry, there was a typo in my first post:

    An option might be a Fujitsu-Siemens Futro S200

    Here's an auction with pictures of an open case. Looks promising…

  • Is there a solid state "CF" card available anywhere?  It's not like it needs to be bigger than 4-8GB anyway.

  • There are industrial CF cards, I know sandisk sells them.  Ritek and supposed the newer Lexar and Sandisk Extreme IV's are SLC based flash.  None report or give wear statistics but Ritek markets their flash as SLC based.  Note, these cards can cost as much as hard drives so they are not exactly cheap.

  • New CF cards are fine to run full installs on. In fact several of us developers have been doing this for years on older cards and none of us have killed a card yet. With wear leveling amongst other factors, I'm not convinced this should be a concern.

    You probably wouldn't want to run Squid off of one, but they're fine for running a normal full install on, with most packages.

    microdrives are another option, though significantly less reliable than running full installs on CF cards in my experience.

  • So, what are the magic tricks to run "full" on embedded hardware like soekris?  It doesn't have video or keyboard, so how do you get serial console working?  I've often considered switching to full, either from CF or a laptop drive, but not sure how to make it happen.

  • No different from a full install, just select embedded kernel.

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