PfSense w/out keyboard



  • Hey folks,

    First time poster.  Just installed pfsense 1.2.2 on a Jetway J7F4 Mobo/Proc, 512 Ram, 80gb SATA hd (I know it's large, it's all I had on me), and temporarily using a LG DVD Combo Burner to read cd.

    I installed on the normal kernel (supporting video/keyboard).  The first time I attempted an install it wouldn't even let me type any of the options from the live cd (IE. press 99 for hard drive installation).  I tried reburning the ISO, same error.  Then I tried burning with a different ISO burning software (first attempt with PowerISO).  This time I was able to start the install but it populated an error part way through.  It was when it was doing something with /mnt/dev, anyways I hit skip so that it could try and finish the installation.  Luckily it did finish.

    When it finished, I was able to configure IP, NAT etc.  Upon completion of the configuration, I decided it was time to hook it up in the office.  This is when I realized that it does not work when I boot without a keyboard connected to it.  I watched it boot without a keyboard and just a monitor, it gets through the initial boot sequence like it is suppose to.  Unfortunately I am unable to access the web menu, I am also unable to use the internet or any services that should run through the firewall.

    Another thing I noticed.  Sometimes after a reboot I won't be able to access the web configurator, with keyboard plugged in or not.  I also noticed it can take a while for it to pull a DHCP address on the WAN from my cable modem.

    I am wondering if all of these problems have to do with the failed portion of the installation when pointing to the /mnt/dev folder.  I am also wondering if I HAVE to run in non-vga/keyboard kernel mode in order to leave the keyboard disconnected?

    BTW I am a novice when it comes to FreeBSD and Linux.  I am of medium experience with Firewalls.  My expertise is Microsoft Windows.

    Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.  I love the fact that pfSense has a lot more enterprise features than smoothwall, and am trying to get my coworkers to make the switch.



  • Sounds like a hardware limitation.  I've got a pfSense box that's happily running without a keyboard or mouse connected to it with a full install.  Check the BIOS settings to see if there's anything in the BIOS to help.



  • Yeah the first thing I had to do was disable halt on error, so I know it's not a hardware limitation.  It is able to boot up and get all the way into the pfSense menu (I keep the monitor connected to watch it).  Unfortunately when I try to connect via the web interface it can not connect.  I also can not use the internet at this point.

    Any idea on the whether the failure during the installation might effect this?



  • I would assume that if you had errors during the install, that would lead to problems later.



  • That's what I assumed as well, everything else appears to work properly.  Unfortunately the error was in reference to the /mnt/dev folder which worries me.  I'm just not sure how that correlates.  I was thinking that maybe the error had to do with hardware that it detected but couldn't install properly.  Unfortunately I do not know how to check this.  In windows you just pop open device manager and look for question marks.



  • The command dmesg from a command prompt will tell you about the detected hardware and boot.  Unfortunately you need a working keyboard for that ;)

    I'd suggest you start with a freshly downloaded and burned ISO of 1.2.2.  Verify the checksum after you download and then perform a fresh install.  Are you using a USB or PS/2 keyboard?  If USB have you enabled the support for legacy USB keyboards in the BIOS?



  • It does sound like a hardware problem.  A bad ISO burn would give you trouble reading the disc, long retries, etc, but usually won't end up with a flaky install (whether it's windows, linux, FreeBSD or whatever).  Especially if the keyboard doesn't work on a live install …

    Is there a bios update available?
    Could you try a USB keyboard?
    Can you try running memtest?

    Google indicates JetWay J7F4 boards had lots of problems overheating, so they revised bios' and enlarged heatsinks to help the issue.  Maybe your flakiness started when you put it back in the case?



  • OK sorry guys I guess I should've been more specific.  Everytime I start with the keyboard plugged in it the keyboard performs flawlessly.  It's only when I unplug the keyboard during a restart, then the web interface ceases to function, and the internet will not work anymore.  Actually I did notice the cpu runs sort of hot, but I actually did the install while the motherboard was installed in the case (I purchased it barebones, already installed).  Also, I've been running it for 3-4 days straight, while installed, with my KVM plugged into the motherboard (Keyboard, Video, Mouse).

    I think I will try the clean install, but before I do that is there a log I can look at that would list any errors during the initial install?



  • Still sounds like a hardware problem.  Be aware that PS/2 keyboards and mice are not hot swappable - you should never remove or connect one when a system is powered up as there is a risk you could damage the keyboard or motherboard.  That said, I've done it often enough myself without problems - and do it on my current pfSense host.  Are you using a PS/2 or USB keyboard?

    Does it work if you boot it without the keyboard?



  • @Cry:

    Be aware that PS/2 keyboards and mice are not hot swappable
    Does it work if you boot it without the keyboard?

    I reread my post and it is sort of confusing…

    1. It is a ps/2 keyboard
    2. If I boot the computer (my pfsense firewall) with the ps/2 keyboard plugged in, I am unable to connect to the web interface or even surf the internet
    3. If I boot the computer (my pfsense firewall) without the ps/2 keyboard plugged in, I can connect to the web interface, I can also surf the internet
    4. Does anyone know if there is a log I can review of the install I performed?  I would like to review it for the error that popped up to see if that could cause these symptoms


  • @sngreco:

    @Cry:

    Be aware that PS/2 keyboards and mice are not hot swappable
    Does it work if you boot it without the keyboard?

    I reread my post and it is sort of confusing…

    1. It is a ps/2 keyboard
    2. If I boot the computer (my pfsense firewall) with the ps/2 keyboard plugged in, I am unable to connect to the web interface or even surf the internet
    3. If I boot the computer (my pfsense firewall) without the ps/2 keyboard plugged in, I can connect to the web interface, I can also surf the internet
    4. Does anyone know if there is a log I can review of the install I performed?  I would like to review it for the error that popped up to see if that could cause these symptoms

    OK, this is different than what you wrote above.  Sounds like you have a bad PS/2 jack on your MB, or a bad PS/2 keyboard.  A short or partial short could pull +5V down enough to keep the nic(s) from working.  Shorts can also be very intermittent (as it was when you were trying different ISOs).  Again, try a USB kb.

    That said, what's the issue?  You want to use no kb, right?  And when you use no kb, things work.  Just use the web and ssh for admin.

    Sorry, I don't know about the pfSense install log.  In linux, I'd look in /var/log/messages and use dmesg.



  • @charliem:

    OK, this is different than what you wrote above.  Sounds like you have a bad PS/2 jack on your MB, or a bad PS/2 keyboard.  A short or partial short could pull +5V down enough to keep the nic(s) from working.  Shorts can also be very intermittent (as it was when you were trying different ISOs).  Again, try a USB kb.

    That said, what's the issue?  You want to use no kb, right?  And when you use no kb, things work.  Just use the web and ssh for admin.

    Sorry, I don't know about the pfSense install log.  In linux, I'd look in /var/log/messages and use dmesg.

    Actually it's the other way around, I want to use no KB, but when I use no kb, things don't work.

    The short theory would apply if it was breaking while I was trying to use a keyboard.

    My thought was that maybe I should've selected to use the custom kernel that doesn't utilize keyboard or video.



  • As I said, my own host runs without keyboard or mouse connected most of the time.  I would strongly suspect faulty hardware in your case.



  • Cry Havok, which iso program did you use to burn the image?



  • Probably Nero (which complains when the ISO is corrupt).  If however you took the time to verify the burned disk against the ISO then the program you use is irrelevant.



  • OK so I tried a fresh install, again.  This time I burned the iso from a 3rd computer, using PowerIso, after redownloading the image.  It did not puke during the install this time, so the 3rd computer burnt a valid disc.  Unfortunately this did not fix my problem.  I was however, able to realize this has nothing to do with the keyboard, because the problem persisted regardless of the keyboard being plugged in or not.  I decided to reboot the computer 15 times to gather data.  Here are the results (If the lan is good, I can access it from the web interface, if the wan is good it receives an ip from the isp dhcp server):

    Reboot 1: Lan=Good Wan=Good
    Reboot 2: Lan=Good Wan=Good
    Reboot 3: Lan=Good Wan=Good
    Reboot 4: Lan=Bad Wan=Bad
    Reboot 5: Lan=Bad Wan=Good
    Reboot 6: Lan=Bad Wan=Bad
    Reboot 7: Lan=Bad Wan=Good
    Reboot 8: Lan=Bad Wan=Good
    Reboot 9: Lan=Good Wan=Good
    Reboot 10: Lan=Good Wan=Good
    (At this point I disabled USB and onboard sound)
    Reboot 11: Lan=Bad Wan=Bad
    Reboot 12: Lan=Bad Wan=Bad
    Reboot 13: Lan=Bad Wan=Good
    Reboot 14: Lan=Bad Wan=Good
    Reboot 15: Lan=Good Wan=Good
    (At this point I disable ACPI)
    Reboot 16: Lan=Bad Wan=Bad

    As you can see nothing I tried seemed to make a difference, and there was no obvious pattern.  It either worked, or it didn't work.  When it wasn't working, I would be able to fix it (which I didn't do during these 16 reboots, I wanted to see if it would fix itself or not).  I could fix the LAN side by reassigning the LAN ip.  This would somehow reset it and then I would be able to connect to the web interface.  I could fix the WAN side by releasing the DHCP, rebooting the Cable Modem, and then renewing the DHCP.

    I also checked my ping capability when the LAN side wasn't working.  I was able to ping 127.0.0.1 and the ip address I had assigned it, but i was unable to ping anything else.  I ran an ifconfig and sure enough it showed an IP address on both the LAN and the WAN.

    Also, when the LAN or WAN side didn't work, it would usually take an abnormal amount of time to complete the "Configuring LAN (or WAN) Interface…Done" upon boot.

    At this point I was thinking that perhaps the drivers weren't working very well, being as it was intermittent.  I've seen symptoms like this on the Windows side where updating the drivers can resolve intermittent problems.  But, I didn't know how to update drivers, so I decided to upgrade to 1.2.3 RC1...and it worked!  I tried rebooting 6 times, with and without the keyboard attached.  Worked like a charm.

    Anyone have any idea what is different between the two versions that would fix this issue?  I noticed that FreeBSD is a newer version in this release of FreeBSD, so perhaps newer drivers are included?

    Also, thanks for all the help/input from Cry Havok and charliem, I know it can be annoying to deal with new users that lack knowledge.



  • @sngreco:

    As you can see nothing I tried seemed to make a difference, and there was no obvious pattern.  It either worked, or it didn't work.  When it wasn't working, I would be able to fix it

    Sounds like a race condition; in any case I'm glad it's fixed with 1.2.3-RC1

    Although linux and FreeBSD do have drivers, they are tied much closer to the kernel than in windows.  You generally don't 'update drivers' in unix, you update the kernel instead, which brings with it all the driver updates.  Proprietary and/or out-of-kernel drivers are possible (vmware & nvidia for example, for linux), but many people try to avoid them.



  • Race condition?


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