Soekris net4501 (just thinking out loud here…)

  • I have no delusions about being a dev (perl scripting, yes, dev, no), so making major changes on any project makes me think twice.

    pfsense is not made for the net4501.  It will work, sure, but I've read time and again that pfsense is targetted at modern hardware, and a 133mhz 486 cpu certainly doesn't fit that description. :)

    I have considered making a customized pfsense load for a net4501 I have sitting here, but hte optimizations I'm thinking of may just not be worth the benefits.  I thought I'd throw them out there and see if there's any feedback.

    1.  Recompile the kernel to include only the ethernet chipset used on the net4501.  Remove everything not included on that board, trim the kernel down as far as possible.  Also turn on any optimizations available for that cpu (are there any?).

    2.  Haven't looked at what web server is being used for pfsense, but consider looking into a more lightweight web server. comes to mind, however I don't know how well the php interpreter mixes with that.

    3.  Optimize php interpreter.  I don't know how much overhead the php interpreter itself is creating, but certainly slimming it down couldn't hurt.

    The wondering out loud of this is that I don't know that any of the above would make any significant difference, and it there would be any benefit to the project.  I obviously can't go trimming the kernel for the project core, but I could always allow a setup option to choose booting from an alternate kernel.  A slimmed down php interpreter would be good for the project overall, as would a lightweight web server.

    Any thoughts?

  • #1.  It would only improve kernel probe time on bootup

    #2.  That would require perl which would add over 3+ megs to the distro.  Not a good idea.

    #3.  Doubtful

    We recently started using fastcgi and APC.  Most pages load at about 3 seconds on a 4501.

    Have you tried the newer builds in my ~sullrich dir?

  • No, the install that's on there is defnitely an older version.  Bootup time took about 5 minutes, and loading pages took in excess of a full minute.

    I realized after I wrote that post that was a bad idea.  lighthttpd might be a better choice.  The boot probe time might be useful depending on what the boot time is like currently, a matter of seconds isn't all that useful.

    fastcgi certainly would help.  don't know if there's anything further that can be done to make php more zippy.

    btw…the home directory you're mentioning here....

  • We use lighty and yes that is the correct directory.  pfSense.img.gz is the embedded build.  Please try it out.

    And no, there is no upgrade if you're wondering, you need to reflash.

  • Cool, thanks for humoring me.  I'm sure it has to bug you when people whithout a clue keep writing things like this.

    At least if someone else is thinking the same thing they'll trip across this and perhaps not ask again. ;)

  • The kernel in the latest builds has been "trimmed" quite a lot lately. I think you will find that the newest builds are much faster due to several improvements (like APC, smaller kernel for faster boot, a few tweaks here and there).