Cheap, small, and quiet hardware?



  • I'm putting together my first pfSense box to replace my consumer router, but I'm a college student on a budget who lives in a one bedroom apartment. My internet is currently 50/10 mbps, but I'd like to be able to handle 100/20 without too much strain. I'm looking for a cheap and small box which is reasonably quiet. I've got a Linux server now that will run any complex appliances. I basically just want a firewall, router, IPv6 gateway (to HE.net tunnel), dhcp/internal dns, and maybe a little light OpenVPN. Everything heavy (asterisk, torrents, tor, nfs/nas, etc) will be run off my Linux box.

    I've seen people running pfsense on neoware and maxspeed thin clients, but the supplies of those seem to have dried up, and the hardware seems pretty stone age anyway.

    I'd love to build a full system for under $100.

    Any suggestions?



  • @lachesis:

    I'd love to build a full system for under $100.

    I think it is unlikely you will find something "modern", unused, small and quiet for that sort of price.

    The Alix, e.g. Alix 2d13, by the time you add case, storage and power supply is a bit over your budget, but it is small, quiet (fanless) and should just about do the 100Mbps but it is not "modern".



  • @lachesis:

    I'd love to build a full system for under $100.

    Any suggestions?

    You can pick up used Mini-ITX Atom boxes on eBay pretty cheap. I just sold one for a little over $50 with two Gig NICs in it. The other option (and this is what I switched to) is a used HP DC7800. You can find one with a core 2 duo processor on eBay for around $70 and get a second Gig NIC for it. Performs a lot better than the Mini-ITX - but draws more power (around 40 watts at idle).



  • @wallabybob:

    @lachesis:

    I'd love to build a full system for under $100.

    I think it is unlikely you will find something "modern", unused, small and quiet for that sort of price.

    The Alix, e.g. Alix 2d13, by the time you add case, storage and power supply is a bit over your budget, but it is small, quiet (fanless) and should just about do the 100Mbps but it is not "modern".

    One can get lucky once in a while. I got a used ALIX 2C3 with case, power supply, and Atheros wireless card with antennae for the cost of the shipping thanks to member GoldServe.

    http://forum.pfsense.org/index.php/topic,62000.msg334555.html#msg334555



  • @rjcrowder:

    @lachesis:

    I'd love to build a full system for under $100.

    Any suggestions?

    You can pick up used Mini-ITX Atom boxes on eBay pretty cheap. I just sold one for a little over $50 with two Gig NICs in it. The other option (and this is what I switched to) is a used HP DC7800. You can find one with a core 2 duo processor on eBay for around $70 and get a second Gig NIC for it. Performs a lot better than the Mini-ITX - but draws more power (around 40 watts at idle).

    Where can I get a good, small, and cheap Mini-ITX case? I could buy something like this Celeron 847, but the cheapest small cases I've found cost another $50. Also, Gigabyte and Realtek… :(

    Also, I have a EPIA-EK1000G lying around, with a gig of DDR installed. I've never tried to power it on. Might be a potential choice.



  • Get a Neoware thin client from eBay. It runs pfSense perfectly, and can process your bandwidth without any problems.

    Clone description here.


  • Netgate Administrator

    @lachesis:

    Also, I have a EPIA-EK1000G lying around, with a gig of DDR installed. I've never tried to power it on. Might be a potential choice.

    It doesn't get cheaper than something you already have. Looks like a good candidate, dual NIC and has VIA padlock which will boost OpenVPN considerably. It should handle a 100/20 WAN connection without a problem if you aren't running packages.

    You would need aditionally:
    A case. You could do without a case but that's probably unwise!
    Storage. Any old HD will do or use a CF card in an IDE adapter.
    A PSU. You can use any power supply since this board draws only 19W but you will get much better efficiency using a DC-DC PSU such as the picoPSU.

    Steve



  • @stephenw10:

    @lachesis:

    Also, I have a EPIA-EK1000G lying around, with a gig of DDR installed. I've never tried to power it on. Might be a potential choice.

    It doesn't get cheaper than something you already have. Looks like a good candidate, dual NIC and has VIA padlock which will boost OpenVPN considerably. It should handle a 100/20 WAN connection without a problem if yopu aren't running packages.

    Fully agree.



  • @stephenw10:

    @lachesis:

    Also, I have a EPIA-EK1000G lying around, with a gig of DDR installed. I've never tried to power it on. Might be a potential choice.

    It doesn't get cheaper than something you already have. Looks like a good candidate, dual NIC and has VIA padlock which will boost OpenVPN considerably. It should handle a 100/20 WAN connection without a problem if you aren't running packages.

    You would need aditionally:
    A case. You could do without a case but that's probably unwise!
    Storage. Any old HD will do or use a CF card in an IDE adapter.
    A PSU. You can use any power supply since this board draws only 19W but you will get much better efficiency using a DC-DC PSU such as the picoPSU.

    Steve

    Yeah, I got it powered up and running last night with a 125W ATX psu that I had lying around and the nanobsd build of pfsense on a 4gb flash drive. It already has a case and some sort of DC-DC PSU, although it's much beefier than a picoPSU - about 1/2 the size of the board. I picked up a 60W DC power adapter on eBay which should fit the barrel plug. Now I just need to come up with a permanent storage solution. Will nanoBSD eat my flash drive?

    Thanks for all your suggestions, guys. I was a bit nervous posting such a common question as "where do I get cheap hardware?" but nobody flamed me. :)


  • Netgate Administrator

    @lachesis:

    Will nanoBSD eat my flash drive?

    Nope, NanoBSD is especially designed to run from flash drives. It runs almost entirely from RAM and mounts the filesystem as readonly most of the time.
    http://www.freebsd.org/doc/en/articles/nanobsd/article.html#intro

    Steve



  • Quick question on nanoBSD before this thread dies. Can I install all the heavy packages with no logging.. like Snort, Squid (null cache config), Dans..etc and still be able to run everything ?



  • @asterix:

    Quick question on nanoBSD before this thread dies. Can I install all the heavy packages with no logging.. like Snort, Squid (null cache config), Dans..etc and still be able to run everything ?

    Yes, as long as the system has enough real memory.
    e.g. Alix 2D13 with only 256MB is not enough - when interfaces go up/down, events happen that cause check_reload_status to do a bunch of stuff and the system needs enough spare memory to run a few extra processes, so you can't keep installing packages to fill up 90% of the real memory.
    I suspect that 512MB might also prove to be insufficient for the above packages, which rules out the 512MB memory Soekris low-power boxes. Please comment if you have experience of that.
    I am hoping that the new Alix board for 2013 will be an option soon - http://forum.pfsense.org/index.php/topic,59555.0.html


  • Netgate Administrator

    The only packages that can't be installed are marked 'noembedded true' in package list:
    http://www.pfsense.org/packages/pkg_config.8.xml.

    Thus packages that can't be installed on Nano are:
    pure-ftpd
    ntop
    FreeSWITCH
    Lightsquid
    phpSysInfo

    Of course there is a difference between 'will install' and 'runs well'.  ;)

    Steve



  • Hmm.. so could I install a nano image using a USB drive on to a 8GB CF like the memstick version that can be loaded to a typical hdd? the CF  would be the real drive for it but would just need USB to boot and install it to CF. Can this be done?


  • Netgate Administrator

    Not quite sure what you mean.
    Usually you just write the nanobsd image directly to the CF card using some external device like a usb card reader.

    Steve



  • Ahh is it. So I just put the image on the CF card and it will boot?



  • Yep, an image with 2 bootable partitions (plus a partition for the config) is written. So you can even go back and forth if an upgrade is troublesome.
    Instructions here: http://doc.pfsense.org/index.php/HOWTO_Install_pfSense


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