May 2017 – Project Firewall
Over the winter, I grabbed a lower end CPU off of a “Slickdeal” with the intention that I would build a firewall to filter content at home. The Intel G4560 CPU seemed like a good chip with more than enough power for a firewall appliance. When I started to look at software solutions for the firewall, I determined that Untangle
seemed like it had the features and simplicity that I wanted.
When I picked the remaining hardware for my Untangle firewall, I wanted as small a footprint as possible. Having previously built a micro-itx system for my Hackintosh, I decided I wanted this system to be as small as possible. After some research, here is the component list that I ultimately decided to use:
The very first time I fired up the system, nothing happened. Being my first time building such a low powered system (80 watts!), I immediately suspected that the problem was with the power supply. I ordered a different pico power supply at 160 watts from Amazon, and a few days later I was back where I started. Turns out that the BIOS revision of the motherboard did not support the G4560 CPU. $10 and a few days later, I had a new BIOS chip.
Loading Untangle was a breeze. Setup was easy, and everything worked great. Everyone was happy, except the kids – they could no longer get online after lights out.
By July, though, the box was having so many errors on the LAN NIC that I had to power cycle the firewall every few days. The ASRock motherboard was equipped with two NICs. One was a RealTEK chipset, and the other was an Intel chipset. I naturally assumed that there would be no problem with either of these due to the fact that they were two recognizable chipset manufacturers with good reputations. Unfortunately, The Intel i219-V NIC on the Asrock motherboard had the tendency to disconnect and stay disconnected. Further research seemed to indicate that this particular Intel NIC was a piece of shit. This didn’t bode well for a firewall. I had to add an external USB NIC. Of course, USB NICs are not supported by Untangle… Go figure! Luckily, another user had previously figured out how to get a USB NIC working on Untangle here: Untangle with ASIX-based (AX88179) USB 3.0 Gigabit dongle
Fast forward seven months, and an automatic update killed the USB NIC support, rendering my firewall useless.
I picked up a Linksys WRT1900ACS and loaded Untangle on that. It’s much less powerful than my previous setup, and doesn’t include all the same Untangle modules (no antivirus, no anti spam, etc), but I don’t use them anyway. I did notice that 5GHz wifi does not perform as well as it did on my Asus RT-AC86U.
I just had my first negative experience with Untangle on the WRT1900ACS. I was connected in remotely, and decided to rename the wireless network adapters to more suitable names. I made the adjustment and clicked, ‘save’ and now I am waiting for someone at home to hard boot the device. So far, I much prefer the original setup, especially where the Linksys unit lacks the RAM to run all of the modules. I might try and modify the case of the original firewall appliance to accommodate a low profile PCIe NIC, but I’m going to wait and see how reliable the Linksys unit is for a time. After all, I’m not convinced that the spam/virus modules are important given my mail server is in house, and I don’t run any Windows systems.