Suggestions please



  • Hi all,

    I am about to buy a new platform for my pfsense box, but I am quite tempted between two options:

    common hardware : sata II hard disk ( 5400rpm, 8mb cache, 120gb ) and minipci-express wireless adapter GNWS50G-S0 gigabyte based on AR5700 atheros chipset.

    1. 200£ = shuttle xg41 + 2gb DDDR3 1333 SODIMM + celeron e3500 ( good things : quite compact, nice to see, cheaper, more powerful cpu  bad: motherboard not great a the jetway, has two fans, realtek nics  )
    2. 300£ = picoPSU-80 12V DC-DC ATX + 60W AC Universal Adapter 12V 5A & UK Plug + Jetway JNF99-525 Dual LAN 1.8GHz Fanless Long Life Expandable Mini-ITX Board + 2GB DDR3 1333 SODIMM + M350 Universal Mini-ITX Enclosure ( good: motherboard can be reused somewhere else, intel nics, possibly totally fanless  bad things : more expensive, need to drill an hole for the second antenna because the m350 case has only one )

    Of course this depends on what I need this router for.
    Basically it's just for home. I have been using openwrt for a couple of years now, currently on a buffalo but I got bored of the unstable wireless signal + I wanted to learn some more by using pfsense + I would have liked to upgrade my buffalo router.
    I will be using some tunnels (openvpn) and 2/3 of the day p2p sofware. for the rest a good qos is needed for my sip account and skype. That's all I need but this might grow a little bit bit if I more in a bigger place.

    I know the hardware listed is quite different, but would like to hear from you experts what you think especially if the realtek nics are reliable or not and what you know abou the xg41.

    Thanks



  • Might be just me, but it seems to me that the realtec nics are a bit slower than the intel nics. This is generally not a problem for a home network though.
    Far as stablility, they seem to work for me. Although, I did buy some cheap $10 realtec that dies alot, but you get what you pay for. The onboard and the server class nics seem stable enough.



  • -If you're bothered about power consumption, you should also consider the Alix boards. You can probably get the full kit inc wireless for around 200-250 quid. Add an IDE DOM if you want a full install, but $$. CPU/memory is limited though.
    -You can bring down the price of your second option by choosing a board with a single nic and slower processor, and add a low cost web/managed switch with vlans (eg: Mikrotik 250GS, GBP 32)
    -The wireless 'experience' with Pfsense/Freebsd isn't what it could be..needs better drivers…so it will probably be a good idea to keep that Buffalo or other device to act as a wireless AP.
    -That Jetway board has an antenna hole on the motherboard backplate.



  • Thanks,

    • I have had an alix board but I found it too low specs for pfsense ( I tried already )
    • nice one
    • what do you mean with that ? it's just not stable enough or does not support lots of authentication ( wpa enterprise in example ) ? I can definitely keep the buffalo as an access point, but I really wanted to lower down the number of devices here :-)
    • you mean that I won' t need to drill any hole in the case because there is one already in the backplate  ?

    thanks



  • @gettons:

    Thanks,

    • what do you mean with that ? it's just not stable enough or does not support lots of authentication ( wpa enterprise in example ) ? I can definitely keep the buffalo as an access point, but I really wanted to lower down the number of devices here :-)
    • you mean that I won' t need to drill any hole in the case because there is one already in the backplate  ?
    • Your choice of wireless nic's will be limited by driver availability on FreeBSD. Atheros are a safe bet, but there is only G support, no N so far. Then there is the 'stuck beacon' error message… do a search for it on the forum. Overall wireless works fine on pfsense, as long as you know the limitations, so you need to choose the chipset carefully.
    • Yes, no case drilling needed.

  • Netgate Administrator

    Yes wifi in pfSense (in FreeBSD 8.1) could be better!  ;)
    I am using an Atheros card and suffered the stuck beacon error. It never caused a problem just spammed the logs. However setting the sysctl 'hw.ath.bstuck' to 8 has completely eliminated this problem for me.

    Steve



  • Thanks chaps.
    I bought an atheros chipset a/b/g only minipci-express based on AR5007 chipset. This should be fine hopefully. I prefer to have a slow speed ( compared to "n" standard ) but stable.


  • Netgate Administrator

    I'm using an older b/g model:

    
    $ sysctl -a | grep Atheros
    dev.ath.0.%desc: Atheros 2413
    
    

    If you only use one antenna it's very important to make sure you set the card to use the correct one and disable diversity:

    
    dev.ath.0.txantenna: 1
    dev.ath.0.rxantenna: 1
    dev.ath.0.diversity: 0
    
    

    Steve



  • Ok right,

    does it make a huge difference to use 2 antennas instead of one ?


  • Netgate Administrator

    It can do I believe. Certainly when WiFi access points first appeared with dual antennas and diversity manufacturers went to great lengths to tell us how much better they were. That could have all been a marketing ploy though!
    I use one antenna and get 54Mbps (connection speed) throughout the house. I'll run a test for throughput.

    Steve

    Edit: An interesting test. I'm getting around 24Mbps real download speed in good signal but that drops off rapidly as soon as the WiFi connection speed starts stepping down. At the furthest point from my box I was getting a rather erratic 10Mb/s and showing 36Mbps connection. All of which is fine for internet usage but could prove a real restriction for local activity.


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