OpenVPN? Dell Dimension 8300 or Dimension 9100?

  • Hi everybody.  I'm a complete NOOB with opensource software, and computer setup/networking in general, although I have loaded Linux on a few old machines and like to dabble with it.  So if you will indulge me, I have a few questions I'd like to throw out there for those of you who can offer an opinion.

    I currently live overseas and use an open vpn service (StrongVPN) which runs on a Sabai Technology VPN-ready wireless router.  I stream A LOT of movies from Netflix, Amazon, etc. on a Roku and PS3, but for quite a while now I've been disappointed with my speeds.  In my desperation to boost download speeds, I considered purchasing a Sabai Technology VPN accelerator to use with their router.  But after seeing that it costs another $300, I thought I'd dust off one of my old computers, turn it into a router, and attach the existing wireless router, set as an access point, to broadcast the VPN to all the wireless devices in my home.

    So I thought I'd try pfSense.  But wait, there's more.  I'd also like to use another one of my old computers to make a media server/NAS type device where I can upload photos from my iphone and ipad, as well as backup computers, and warehouse movies to stream through the Roku.  I am looking at one called Amahi.  It looks appealing.

    Now for the questions:

    1.  I have two old machines: a Dell Dimension 8300 with an Intel Pentium 4, 2.8 GHz processor, with either 512 MB or 1GiB of RAM (I don't remember and its buried in a closet); and a Dimension 9100 with a Pentium D, 2.8 GHz x 2 processor, with 1 GiB of RAM.

    On which of these machines would you install pfSense? And on which would you install Amahi?  Does processing packets for a VPN connection utilize more processing power than a media server like Amahi?  And which is the bigger bottleneck for each of those functions?  Would it be the processor speed or amount of RAM?

    2.  Before I get too far, can pfSense do what I want to do?  I.e., can I use it to connect to my Strong VPN account in the U.S.?  And could it broadcast that VPN wirelessly using my current wifi router set as an access point?  If so, how hard is it to set that up?

    3. Could both of these functions (router and media server) be done on just one computer?  Or would that be too taxing on the processor, eliminating any potential download speed improvement over my current VPN-ready wifi router?

    4. Any thoughts on alternative setups that would be better than what I'm thinking to do?

    Thanks for reading and thanks in advance for any wisdom you can share!

  • I can't really say too much about what you're trying to accomplish with pfsense because i'm a newb too. But I believe that you accomplish your goals for your vpn connection with openvpn, which can be insalled inside of pfsense.

    As for the NAS/home server part, I'll try to make this brief, I've used amahi and thought it was cool but absolutely hated the process of adding a new hdd (maybe thats changed since I tried it) but look into that. If a windows environment is more comfortable to you then check out drive pooling software like drive bender. Pooling your drives essentially runs them in JBOD configuration and drive bender gives you the option to enable file duplication for a bit of redundancy. Now depending on what you plan to have your NAS/home server do maybe a problem… If you just want it to host storage then you'd probably be ok with either of your computers (maybe get some more ram) but if you need your media to be transcoded to a supported format for your roku or playstation then you may have a problem doing that (depending on the source media and resolution of your playback devices).

  • Thanks much for your reply flank.  I appreciate your advice.  To be honest, I've been trying to move away from Windows since they stopped supporting XP.  That prompted me install linux on two other machines, which got me interested in projects for my other old computers.  But I gotta tell you though, I just wasted a day and a half trying to get both Amahi and pfSense to work on either of these Dimension machines.  Much more difficult than the online videos and tutorials make it seem.  I couldn't get either of them to work after many hours of trying.  I'm a bit discouraged, but haven't given up.  I'll make another post to see if anyone can tell me what I was doing wrong.


  • are you running into problems with install/config/crashes?

  • Hi flank,

    Thanks for the note, and the encouragement.

    After lots of futzing and cussing, I finally got pfsense to work on my old machine and successfully attached a wireless router set as an access point. I plan to let it run for a week or so to make sure it's stable, and then attempt to get a VPN client to work on it. That's a weekend exercise – and one I have to get right so I don't take my VPN-ready wireless router out of service too long.  Hopefully it's not too complicated to set up pfSense to do the VPN tunnel.

    This has been a HUGE learning experience.  I knew practically nothing about networking (and still don't to be honest) but it's pretty fascinating to tinker with this. And also a bit frustrating at times :)

    The media server project is on hold for later.  That's way too complicated, if even possible, to set it up on the same machine along with pfsense.

    Thanks again!

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