Anyone worked with the mini pc boxes?

Questions & Discussion about the right Hardware to run IPFire on
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tx.hermit
Posts: 25
Joined: May 26th, 2018, 6:12 pm

Anyone worked with the mini pc boxes?

Post by tx.hermit » June 20th, 2018, 7:52 pm

I am thinking of grabbing one of the mini-pc systems for sale on Amazon.

I am looking for something small (obviously), fanless (preferable) with dual gigabit nics and enough juice to handle a small business network. It will not have wifi duties, just a straight firewall.

There are so many options that I would hate to grab one that has compatibility issues with this software. I did notice that many say they are "designed to work with pfsense," if I see something like that, would it be a somewhat safe bet that it "may" work with ipfire? That would at least narrow down the research options.

If anyone has setup something with one of those systems, please offer up any suggestions.

Thanks.

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Deepcuts
Posts: 461
Joined: March 1st, 2016, 3:18 pm
Location: Romania

Re: Anyone worked with the mini pc boxes?

Post by Deepcuts » June 21st, 2018, 6:58 pm

pfsense is based on FreeBSD, so hardware support is not the same as with IPFire.
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Roberto Peña
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Re: Anyone worked with the mini pc boxes?

Post by Roberto Peña » June 22nd, 2018, 6:22 am

Good morning tx.hermit.

I would not play it and I would be safe. The options that I advise you are the following:
  • Old PC that you have,
  • PCengines, for example an apu2c4 (fanless).
  • or if it is something more powerful, an HP Proliant MicroServer G7, for example.
Greetings.
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zargano
Posts: 192
Joined: December 29th, 2017, 7:50 pm
Location: Nordlicht im Ländle

Re: Anyone worked with the mini pc boxes?

Post by zargano » June 23rd, 2018, 12:15 pm

I like the PCEngines. I am using an APU.1D in a rack mount for my IPFire on a DSL line 100 MBit/s download, 40 MBit/s upload. It's small, it works perfectly, no fan therefore no noise. It is also quite cheap and probably much more reliable than old used PC hardware.

tx.hermit
Posts: 25
Joined: May 26th, 2018, 6:12 pm

Re: Anyone worked with the mini pc boxes?

Post by tx.hermit » June 26th, 2018, 12:06 pm

They don't look like bad deals, how much of a pain was it to get those PC Engine systems setup?

Also, what size SSD did you all end up getting? Is it enough or do you wish you had gone bigger?

Thanks.

zargano
Posts: 192
Joined: December 29th, 2017, 7:50 pm
Location: Nordlicht im Ländle

Re: Anyone worked with the mini pc boxes?

Post by zargano » June 26th, 2018, 5:58 pm

tx.hermit wrote:
June 26th, 2018, 12:06 pm
They don't look like bad deals, how much of a pain was it to get those PC Engine systems setup?
Hmm, it is hard to make a judgement for someone else... Have a glance here: https://pcengines.ch/howto.htm#serialconsole If you feel comfortable with the provided information, you should definitely try one of the APUs. On the other hand, don't be too shy to try it!

Here is a rough sequence, what you need to do.

First try out the serial console of the APU to make sure that you can access the APU. Use e.g. PuTTY for that, which is available for both Linux as well as Windows. Use a serial console with 115200 Baud (APU). Play around with BIOS settings to understand them. Caveat: if you don't have a legacy RS232 interface on your computer, you also need a USB to RS232 converter.

Next download the IPFire image intended for the serial console: https://downloads.ipfire.org/release/ip ... 19-core120

Unzip the image, under Linux use e.g. gunzip, under Windows e.g. 7-zip. Following that copy/flash the image to an empty USB stick or mSATA disk. Under Linux I would use "dd", under Windows you may use „Win32 Disk Imager“ or other programs.

Connect the USB stick or mSATA disk to your APU and attach the serial console. Then boot the APU and go through the normal IPFire installation procedure.

If you don't have a USB2 to mSATA adapter, but you want to run IPFire from a mSATA disk, you need two additional USB sticks just for the installation. Both USB sticks should be flashed with the IPFire serial console image, see above. Then connect both to the APU. Boot IPFire from the first USB stick and go through the installation process and login to the root console. Then "dd" the (not running) IPFire image from the second USB stick to the (empty) mSATA disk. Next power down the APU, unplug both USB sticks and reboot from mSATA. Go once again through the IPFire installation process, now using the installed mSATA.

Keep in mind that the required disk space depends heavily on the usage of your IPFire. I am using a 16 GByte mSATA. The root partition is currently filled by 6%, mainly standard log files. So why should I have bought a bigger disk? 8)

Regards, zargano

perch
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Joined: November 6th, 2016, 4:31 pm
Location: Hillerød, Denmark

Re: Anyone worked with the mini pc boxes?

Post by perch » July 14th, 2018, 5:02 pm

In March 2015 I bought a small, fanless PC from China.
It was a dual 1Gb NIC, J1900 quad core with 4GB RAM, 16GB SSD and HDMI.
It was apx. USD 200 at that time.

I installed IPFire on it, which was very simple.
Since then it has run silently and flawlessly 24/7 giving me added security, insight, and peace of mind.
It handles all my internet traffic, including multiple HD streaming videos, uses many firewall rules, runs IDS and Guardian, and never uses more than a few percent CPU.

However, now it has failed (even refuses to start), so I need to replace it, but I intend to replace it with an equivalent, up-to-date model.

I recommend this solution for any home network.

/Ole

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