Re-Networking the home network

Now that I have FreeNAS installed and working very well, I decided to replace my old Instant Internet box.

The Instant Internet box works fine – but it is old. The software for it hasn’t been updated since Apr 30 2001, and it is only a 10 base-T box.

I replaced in with an old dual processor Pentium 500 MHz box running pfSense 1.2-RC4. It is a Linux distribution. The box has 3 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) cards in it (one for my WAN, one for the LAN, and one for future use).

Since all of the other switches in my house are GbE I have just improved my internal networking speeds dramatically.

While I was busy with the new Router/Firewall my son was in the attic running new Cat 5e cable from the router to his bedroom. Oh joy! Running Ethernet cable is always a ton of fun (not really!).

I really want to thank Jon from Midspot for recommending pfSense – it is extremely powerful, very configurable, and free!

I still have some tweaking to do, but it works, and it works well. It will work even better after I understand it more.

And yes, I realize that GbE to my cable modem doesn’t buy me anything (since the cable modem is running at 10Mbps) – but I wanted to keep all the cards in the box the same.


  1. @Chris – thanks for stopping by – and thanks for pfSense. I’ll admit that I don’t know (or really care) what the difference is between Linux and FreeBSD. What I *do* care about is a useful application that I can get going in an hour (and master over time).

    pfSense got me going quickly. I hope to eventually write a series of posts for it like the FreeNAS posts I have done here (FreeNAS is another amazingly well done application).

    I appreciate your efforts. I hope you find it fulfilling that real people are using your product and enjoying it.

    I’ll be making a donation soon enough. Nobody should work for free, even if they give away what they work on.

  2. Found this via Google Alerts. I was going to pop in and correct you on the Linux comment, but I see it’s already been done. 😉

    Standardizing on a single NIC chipset is a good idea, even if it means putting a gigE card on your WAN which you won’t need for many years. Also, gigabit NICs have better buffering and are better performing hardware in general, they’ll perform slightly better than their 10/100 counterparts at any network speed. Though in this type of case, the best it’ll do for you is slightly lower CPU utilization. With a 10 Mb WAN and relatively hefty (for the load) dual 500 MHz procs, it might not be a measurable difference.

    Glad you’re enjoying pfSense!

    (pfSense co-founder)

  3. @Mark – I stand corrected – FreeBSD 🙂

  4. PFSense firewall actually uses FreeBSD not Linux.

    PFSense is a great firewall with many advanced features including load ballancing, VPN support, and failover. It can handle a lot of traffic. The amount is dependent on the CPU and type of NICs.

  5. Glad to see you are up and running with pfSense Rob! After a month or so the reporting page gets really interesting, just to see how much stuff you actually push across the wire. Let me know if you have any problems.

  6. 8:20pm is now late for you, old man? 😉

  7. @Paul – ok, it was late. I’ll correct my typos and errors 🙂

  8. I’m a bit confused about your dimensions:

    “it is only a 10 MB box” … what is 10 MB in that box? Ram? Wow, even for 2001 that’s indeed a ‘little’ box. What are you running on it? uClinux?

    And you replaced it with a box with dual 500 Ghz processors? You must have some pretty interesting contacts at Intel!

    Gigabit Ethernet to your WAN sounds a bit like overkill to me (or wishful thinking) …you’d be doing good if you get 10 Mbps out of it (certainly not 100 Mbps, let alone 1000 Mbps).
    Anyway, while cat5 works for Gigabit, you’d be better off with having your son install cat5e in the attic, rather than cat5.


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