Can't get console access to pfSense - no problem with other devices



  • I've got pfSense embedded 1.2.2 on a CF card which seems all good. PC-BSD can read it just fine and everything seems fine and dandy. However, I can't access it via console.

    I have successfully gotten console access to an old D-link DI-704 gateway just to try.

    pfSense box is a Compaq Deskpro EN PIII 500Mhz. Both serial ports are enabled in BIOS. Have tried connecting both to port A and B. Running 9600 8N1 settings in minicom terminal. (Tried other speeds as well but different speeds should just make the text gibberish, not non-existent as far as I understand) Regardsless of what I try, I don't get any response what so ever.

    What to do? I really want to run pfSense from a sexy little CF rather than a noisy powerhungry HDD which I do now.



  • I've had some experience that minicom fsked up and lead to the exact behaviour you desribe.
    I solved it by deleting all minicom config files and setting them new.
    Or just try a different serial client.



  • Thanks for your reply. I have tried the Windows Hyperterminal as well - with the same results (none).

    The D-link manual pointed out I needed to press Enter a few times to get console access as it was booting up. From what I've gathered there is no such thing that should be needed to get pfSense console access, correct me if I'm wrong?


  • Rebel Alliance Developer Netgate

    Are you using a Null Modem serial cable to connect to the serial port of the pfSense box?



  • Yep, it even says on it "Compaq null modem cable".



  • Try shorten pins 2 and 3 of the cable and press several times different keys you should get an echo on your screen. At least you will test your terminal program, if you see echo then terminal program + cable are ok (you do not have some flow control or …), though it will work with any speed settings...



  • @schimmel:

    Yep, it even says on it "Compaq null modem cable".

    This might be the problem.
    Have you tried a normal serial cable?



  • Thank you very much for your efforts here guys.

    I don't have a normal serial cable, I'll get a hold of one. I had a distinct memory of having read that it was important that it should be a null modem cable, but I didn't find anything on searching now so maybe I'm manufacturing memories here..

    Eugene: how would I best shorten pin 2 and 3 on the cable?


  • Rebel Alliance Developer Netgate

    @schimmel:

    Thank you very much for your efforts here guys.

    I don't have a normal serial cable, I'll get a hold of one. I had a distinct memory of having read that it was important that it should be a null modem cable, but I didn't find anything on searching now so maybe I'm manufacturing memories here..

    Normally a null modem cable is needed (Perhaps you saw this: http://doc.pfsense.org/index.php/Installing_pfSense#Special_Information ) but depending on how some devices are constructed, they may need a standard cable or a special wiring.

    If you have a keyboard/mouse hooked up to that system, get into the BIOS and check for any kind of console redirection in there and try tweaking that.



  • Another possibility i just thought of:
    In some bioses you can set the address of the serial port.
    I dont know how FreeBSD handles this if the serial port is not on the expected address.



  • @schimmel:

    Eugene: how would I best shorten pin 2 and 3 on the cable?

    You must have male 9-pin (in very rare case it's 25-pin) at the end connecting to pfSense, so take anything metal (screwdriver, key…) and shorten pins 2 and 3. If you look closely at the pins you will see labels - 1, 2, 3 etc...



  • Some updates:

    I have tried all the different IRQ settings for the serial ports with no results.
    Have also replaced the original config.xml on the pfSenseCfg/conf partition of the embedded image with the one currently working in the HDD install. I thought this should do it, but I can't hear a the "bootup complete" sound which I hear with the HDD install - is this for some reason disabled in the embedded version? Also I can't access the 10.0.0.1 IP where the pfSense Box is at (currently running a 192.168 LAN with an old Netgear router) so I'm suspecting it doesn't boot properly. Oh the misery!

    It'd be great with some more audio response from the embedded version, as it's easy to be left in the dark on what's wrong. For example a few beeps when it's at the console prompt asking the user what to do, and also the "bootup complete" sound.

    Eugene, thanks for the info but I don't really understand how I can shorten the pins when the cable is in the serial port?



  • From http://doc.pfsense.org/index.php/Installing_pfSense#Special_Information:

    "After your media is successfully written, place it in your system as bootmedia. Check your BIOS to select the correct boot priority and configure the device.
    If everything is configured correctly you should see the kernel beginning to load. At systems with VGA the output will stop displaying a "/" at the screen. From that point on all output is at COM1. Please check the bootup process there by using a null modemcable and a terminal program."

    I wrote about this in a previous thread about my problems -  I don't see the kernel beginning to load using the embedded version with a CF. All I see is the PC saying "Attempting to boot from Hard Drive" and then only a ¦character. That's all I ever see booting from a CF, which people told me is normal. However booting the CF from within a USB card reader, I see the kernel beginning to load, and then "getting stuck" at the / sign after echoing some things about loader.conf. I find it a bit odd that people tell me this is normal, that I only see the ¦character?

    What also makes me think pfSense actually isn't booting up is the fact that when I press the powerbutton it instantly shuts down when I run the CF version (with the CF-IDE adapter), compared to taking around 5 secs to shut down when running the HD version (which is normal from what I know; syncing timebuffers, shutting daemons down and whatnot)

    Any comments on this guys? What's your opinion?



  • @schimmel:

    Eugene, thanks for the info but I don't really understand how I can shorten the pins when the cable is in the serial port?

    That was just to test your cable and terminal program. You disconnect the cable from pfSense box, cable ends with female (I was wrong about male, sorry), so just shorten two pins 2 and 3 with staple for example and press several keys within your terminal program you have to see these characters appearing at your screen.
    Again it is just to test that your terminal program works with this serial port on your PC and this serial cable.



  • Aha, ok that's a good idea, thanks for that tip. Great to eliminate one source of error. Any thoughts on the kernel (seemingly) not loading with CF->IDE adapter?



  • Didn't produce any results with the pin-shortening, however as I can (did it today) connect to the D-link gateway via console with no problems, the cable and serial port is fine on the receiving computer.

    I'm starting to get very amazed over how difficult this is, I have tried surely 20 different ways to solve this without any luck.


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