Hardware question about installing *BSD on old Sun equipment as a SOHO firewall/router.
February 1, 2009 11:25 AM   Subscribe

Can someone give me any pointers, tips, or caveats about installing BSD on sun hardware for use as a firewall/router?

I've been pondering a while about installing OpenBSD on an old Sun Netra T1. I plan to use it as a firewall/router using pf and maybe squid and Proxy on it. I used to have an old Netra X1 with no CDROM drive, and while memory escapes me, I don't think I had much luck trying to get a different OS on there, as I couldn't even get to the OK prompt, ultimately resorting to "jumper tricks" suggested by some folks. I suppose I'm just doing it for the hell of it, and I know I'm going out of my way for an unorthodox use of a Sun machine, but its really something that's tickled my fancy for a while.

For those who have worked with Sun hardware, what are those config cards for? Any tips or caveats when doing this kind of project? I still plan to have a wireless router that'll merely serve as a wireless ap. I think I can just hang that off a switch.

I've thought about getting something from Soekris Engineering or PC Engines, but last time I looked, getting a used Sun machine on ebay is actually cheaper, so I don't wanna spend too much. :) The Sun Netra PSU is loud though.
posted by Myles to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Best answer: The config card contains the box's unique identifier. Software licences are tied to that. So when the one machine in your company that is licensed to run a particular critical piece of software dies, you can take out the card and stick it in another machine and not have to get put on hold by tech support waiting for a new licence key.

The X1s are pretty good if you add some memory to it. Obviously the hard disk isn't the fastest either. If you want to boot from CD-ROM, there's some dark magic involved, which may include getting a really old 4x speed one rather than a more recent model.

If you couldn't get to the Ok prompt, perhaps there was a problem with your serial cable...
posted by LanTao at 1:02 PM on February 1, 2009

Best answer: I used to use OpenBSD for similar purposes years ago, but gave up when I calculated that the cost of feeding the box power for a year was much higher than buying a mini router and running OpenWRT on it.
posted by benzenedream at 1:02 PM on February 1, 2009

Best answer:
I've run plenty BSD on Sun hardware, the CDRom I only vaguely remember something about sector size being 2048, and some drives having jumpers for it. But I always net-booted everything. Setting up rarp, tftp, bootp and nfs isn't so bad, and it is a good trick to know.

But yes, at the end of it, the mini routers these days are much less power hungry, and still run Unix, so those days are gone here.

If you are in my area, we have plenty old Sun hardware you can have :)
posted by lundman at 5:17 PM on February 1, 2009

This might not be exactly the question you asked, but I've been running an OpenBSD firewall/router/gateway/DNS/NTP server for a couple years.

I came to hate OpenBSD. It's insanely secure and insanely solid, and will work great for what you want. But I consider myself a very tech-savvy Linux dweeb, yet I had many "PC Load Letter, WTF does that mean?" moments while trying to install it on a commodity desktop box with dual NICs.

I'm running 4.2 and wanted to upgrade to 4.4, but have been thinking of switching to FreeBSD. It's really pretty similar, and has things that OpenBSD still didn't last time I checked, like stable SMP support. (I'm intrigued by pfSense, a web GUI for FreeBSD firewalls.) Even if FreeBSD doesn't have the paranoid security reputation that OpenBSD does, it's not like it's unpatched WindowsME sitting in front of your firewall. And if you're installing it on odd hardware, FreeBSD might be easier to deal with.
posted by fogster at 6:38 PM on February 1, 2009

I'm running 4.2 and wanted to upgrade to 4.4, but have been thinking of switching to FreeBSD.

Come to the dark side. We have cookies!

Try FreeBSD 7.0 or 7.1, using the sparc64 distro.
posted by eriko at 8:11 PM on February 1, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the information guys. Honestly I'm starting to consider what benzenedream said about power consumption. If I were to do this, I'd have to consider long-term costs. I might just end up nabbing something from PC Engines.
posted by Myles at 11:50 PM on February 1, 2009

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