PfSense and me

I have had a PfSense installation running in some form or other for approximately three years now. First it was some Frankenstein Pentium I computer I managed to put together with scrounged parts from eight different computers that hardly worked. I had to sellotape an 80mm fan to the fanless heatsink to avoid it overheating. Yes, it kept on falling off.

Then came a crappy beige box that made too much noise and would turn itself off. This pissed my family off a lot -both the noise in the living room and the intermittent internet connection- so I had to abandon PfSense for a few months.

During those months I trawled eBay for IBM thin clients. I found a few in Germany and Britain, but the sellers didn't want to ship to Spain. One of them was willing to, but when I asked the price of shipping he replied with '[...] the post office is closed until monday, until then the best estimate I can give you is shipping to Brasil which costs X GBP'. I cut all communication with that person.

In the end, I came across some Nortel Contivity 100s. I'd seen a few pictures on m0n0wall's gallery that featured these Contivities, and after a quick search found out they worked with PfSense too. They were in Canada and the seller didn't want to ship internationally so I got an internet friend (<3 katton) to pick them up and ship them to me.

Once they arrived I flashed PfSense onto a Compact Flash card and booted one up, but it kept rebooting after 60 seconds. The internet had told me that the Contivity had a 'watchdog' that rebooted the machine after 60 seconds if it wasn't running Nortel's firmware. I had located 'J14' on the PCB and hacked away at it with a Stanley knife, thinking I had cut the trace. Obviously not.

I then spent a long while searching the internet for any tips, but kept on finding the same information over and over 'cut J14 and it will work'. Goddamn it I had already cut J14.

The Contivities then spent a few months in their box, a horrible reminder of my failure at hacking hardware. Every so often I'd take one out and try to definitively cut J14. During one of these sessions I managed to fry the processor and possibly the whole unit. I bought 4 so I haven't checked -out of embarassment. Then one day, out of nowhere, I found a picture of J14. Over to the left of where I'd been hacking away at the PCB was a wire labeled J14 that I hadn't managed to find. So I cut it in about 2 seconds with my trusty Stanley. Hooray it now booted!

I then fixed up the other remaining units, took one into the office and set it up with VPN and traffic shaping and all that cool stuff, set up another one at home with the same and kept the third for when one of the other two break.

The one in the office has been running PfSense 1.0.1 since then, and would probably have 900 days of uptime if it hadn't been for the crappy electric installation at our old office. I recently upgraded the one at home to 1.2.2.


bedtime, Kevin

bedtime, Kevin

About johnny

Computers have interested me since I can remember and conveniently I studied computer science. I also enjoy performing in a local amateur theatre group and cycling. This is where I post solutions to problems I've had in the office or any other project, hopefully clearly enough to refer back to in the future.
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