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Best Router Os Software?

Life like Opossum

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I've been looking into making myself a custom made router (similar to the one Darren made). I have been looking at the various distributions that are available and I seem to be liking Smooth-wall (ironically enough it is what Darren himself suggested in the episode where he makes his router). Is Smooth-wall still one of the best router OS distributions to use? Or is there a better distribution that I should be looking into? Also, I have been looking into parts I am thinking about going with an Asus board (micro ATX) with LGA 1155 so I cna use second gen core i series processors (probably an i3). I want to add a few hard drives (most likely SSD) for caching and I figured the processor speed could be useful for divvying out tasks while maintaining network speeds. The hardest thing for me to find now seems to be a four port gigabit lan adapter that runs 802.3az or newer. Does anyone know where I can find a decent network adapter like this for under $400 (as this is what all of the 4 port cards I've seen run)?

Also, if anyone has experience in making a router, do you have any suggestions for hardware/software.

All advice is appreciated :)

Thanks guys!

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Unless you go with the "Advanced Firewall & UTM Appliances", the Express 3 has limited features. But it still a very good OS firewall.


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To give a little bit more information this is going to be a router that is connected to the outside world, so the more security I can script into it the better (this is why I want a Linux distro).


I noticed that Smooth-wall recently went closed-source. Is this going to be a major concern for me or will I still be able to add scripts/plugins if needed?

On a side note, reliable routers are hard to come by. All of the ones I have purchased seem to have issues streaming videos (a cache problem I am assuming?) I am hoping a custom router can help me solve this issue. Also, they just look cool!

I plan on setting up some kind of network mass storage as well, this is where the need for a gigabit adapter comes in. I don't think I am willing to go with a fiber connection (I don't think I can justify the cost as those seem to run for over $1000).

Maybe I'm in over my head here, but I want a router that will be able to handle the demands I throw at it, while still being able to efficiently access the internet.


New price is less than refurbished and used? This seems like it might be a "hot" buy to me, but who am I to say it isn't legit. Thank you for the post :) I will have to check out amazon/eBay a bit more I think. Most retailers are crazy expensive! store bought routers have 4 port gigabit switches and the basic models sell for $40. I never thought this to be such an issue! lol

Thank you for the information guys. Keep up your great work :)

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My set up is an Alix board ( http://pcengines.ch/alix.htm ) running pfsense ( http://www.pfsense.org/ ) with a gig switch connected to it for my internal network.

The Alix board I've got is only 100M but as my internet connection is 20M that doesn't matter. It streams without any problem and I regularly pen-test through it and I've had no problems with that either.

For internal media storage I've got a second Alix with an external disk attached, I'm probably going to upgrade this at some point to move to something with a 1G connection but for now it isn't an issue so no immediate rush.

The advantage of this setup is that it is silent and low power. Pfsense is a great firewall and very configurable. If you put an Atheros based wifi card in it you can also use it as your wireless network, a problem here is that pfsense is based on BSD which doesn't support 802.11n so you are limited to 11g. To get around this my media Alix is running Debian so as well as serving media it is acting as an 11n AP.

Another advantage of this is that it is probably cheaper to do the whole setup than you are looking to pay for just the network card.

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Yes I have noticed that the network cards are expensive as hell. Perhaps a regular gigabit switch will be fine in this situation. I would then use the router box as more of a WiFi adapter, cache point and anything else really. I have a lot of thinking to do.

Do you know of any high quality gigabit ethernet switches? All I ever seem to find are the D-link and Cysco ones (in retail stores anyway)... probably not my best bet here as I want something that can actually handle large stress loads.

Thank you for the insight digininja.

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I've got one of these


business quality, does all sorts of good stuff.

And for the caching on pfsense, I was thinking of putting an old SSD on it as the device as is only has a 4G CF card in it. Probably doesn't need an SSD, especially as it will be running over USB, but it will be lower power and silent which is something I want. I'll probably run squid, snort and a few other bits when I have the disk capacity.

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Might have to look into that. I will probably include a WiFi card in my server/router/firewall box to reduce size. It seems like running an external gigabit switch is going to be my best option here, from what you have been telling me (and the prices of the NIC's). If you don't mind me asking, what are the direct benefits of using a business oriented switch? I'm sure they are more reliable and faster than consumer level products, but are there any other direct benefits?

Now I just need to decide on LED colors. Do I want Green, Red, Blue, White? or something else? lol

On the side of caching, I have a spare 60GB OCZ Vertex 2 kicking around from my main PC build. I upgraded from it to a 240GB OCZ Agility 3. Sadly I didn't notice windows was auto defragging it... so it only lasted a year and a half :/ Got it replaced with a Muchkin 240GB, so I'm happy :)

When it comes to web caching, is 60GB enough? I am not the most familiar with it. My network load on average would probably consist of around 500-1000 web pages per day, 50-100 streaming videos. I also host 2 game servers, 1 VPN (actually private), 3-4 game clients and a fair amount of torrents. While most of the latter don't rely on caching, my network bandwidth is usually near full. So what I want to be sure of is that sufficient information can be cached so I can still access the internet readily as needed.

Currently I am using my main PC as a bit of a server box and I feel it is time to move some load off of it and onto a real box. So my first step is to set up a quality network! Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I see this as the best way to move forward.

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I'd have thought that 60g would be more than enough for a cache. Think about the size of a normal web page with images. Thing I found with caching is that unless there are multiple people using the connection your browser already does enough caching to make external stuff mostly redundant. I'm thinking of it as a nice side affect to running squid so I can throw AV/malware detection on it. I'll probably put snort on as an IDS but just so I can play with it.

For the switch, I looked at consumer grade stuff but I wanted 24 ports, gig and something that would do VLANs and the only way to get that was the higher end stuff. The build quality seems pretty good and I've not had any problems with it at all.

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In my old set up I had pfsense act as a openvpn client to a server I had in a data center which ran 4 VMs. That way my network appeared to be flat despite the disconnect. Not got around to setting that up again since I moved DCs but will do at some point.

I also run an open vpn server so I can connect in to it as well. Planning to add IPsec as well so my android phone can connect home. Don't know how good it is but I've been told these instructions work well http://blog.benca.net/2012/03/05/serving-ipsec-vpn-with-pfsense/

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I'll have to look into that digininja. I'm especially interested in the VPN side of it, for a few reasons. One is to reroute traffic to through ssh (for when I;m on public WiFi) and the other would be to remotely access my home PC from anywhere. I'm just glad there are people out there who develop the tools to accomplish these things. It is just up to learn how to use them and implement them properly.=P

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