Something Small To Run Smoothwall 3.0 Express On

February 8th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Recently, a friend who had read my blog asked me what I ran my Smoothwall 3.0 Express firewall on. I tried to explain the tiny, fan-less, little case which I use. I bought it with the CPU (VIA C3) and three built-in-NIC motherboard all as a single unit. I only had to add in a DRAM stick and a notebook sized 2.5″ hard drive — both of which I had lying around. But unfortunately, since I had set this up years ago (with RedHat Linux 7 originally!) I can no longer remember who made it or where I bought it from. So my explanation wasn’t really very helpful to my somewhat non-technical friend.

So, I thought I’d come home and look at the box to see who manufactured it and write it up in a post. Unfortunately, I can’t find any markings on the thing that lead to anything useful when I look them up on the net. “Light Embedded Systems” just doesn’t get me links to ITX cases and cpu/mobo combos when I search. I guess it was some generic combo box put together by a company that has since gone out of business? So, instead, I’ll post some links to NewEgg.com for currently purchasable items that come reasonably close to replicating what I’ve got and being as cheap as possible:

APEX MI-100 Black Computer Case APEX MI-100 Black Computer CaseAPEX MI-100 Black Steel Mini-ITX Tower Computer Case 250W Power Supply


(Approx $56)

JetWay J627F800-OC VIA C3 processor Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU Combo JetWay J627F800-OC VIA C3 processor Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU ComboJetWay J627F800-OC VIA C3 processor VIA CLE266 Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU Combo


(Approx: $80)

CORSAIR ValueSelect 512MB 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR 266 (PC 2100) Desktop Memory CORSAIR ValueSelect 512MB 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR 266 (PC 2100) Desktop MemoryCORSAIR ValueSelect 512MB 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR 266 (PC 2100) Desktop Memory


(Approx $27)

Western Digital Caviar 40GB 3.5 Western Digital Caviar 40GB 3.5″ IDE Ultra ATA100 Hard DriveWestern Digital Caviar WD400BB 40GB 7200 RPM 2MB Cache IDE Ultra ATA100 Hard Drive


(Approx $39)

Intel PWLA8492MT PCI PRO/1000 MT Dual Port Server Adapter Intel PWLA8492MT PCI PRO/1000 MT Dual Port Server AdapterIntel PWLA8492MT 10/ 100/ 1000Mbps PCI PRO/1000 MT Dual Port Server Adapter 2 x RJ45


(Approx $162)

All of this totals up to approximately $364 (not including tax) and gets you a machine that is more than capable of running as a Smoothwall 2 or 3 firewall. You’ll notice that almost a third of that cost is a dual-port network card (NIC). I’m recommending this because it allows you to have 3 physical LANs connecting to your firewall. Your internet connection, or WAN, will be one of them, your protected home network will be another, and the third would be for your wireless network — which is much more risky, security-wise, than a wired connection since anyone happening by within radio range can likely hack in and get at your protected home network if it isn’t firewalled off. Or the third could be a de-militarized zone (DMZ) where you can loosen external access blocks to allow yourself to run servers from home without too much risk of exposing your critical data and home machines to the world. In a Smoothwall-world these interfaces are known as red, green, purple, and orange respectively.

If you leave out the dual-port NIC card from Intel (I have a hard time believing there aren’t cheaper cards but I can’t find one on NewEgg to link to) and instead go with a single ported card, that probably drops the total cost down to about $225 (again not including tax) and means you’ll do just fine assuming all you want is red and green LANs. Note that there isn’t really too much need to buy gigabit networking for this since, generally, only one of the LANs you’re inter-connecting is gigabit to begin with. Certainly my internet connection isn’t; nor is my wireless. If you go the DMZ route and you frequently access those servers from your home network, then perhaps it might pay off to have gigabit networking between those LANs.

BTW: Yes, you can buy a quad-ported NIC instead of the dual-port one and thus have up to five LAN’s on your firewall, but those cards are even more expensive and the people interested in that sort of need are probably capable of figuring it out on their own. 🙂

EDIT 2008.02.17: Forgot to point out that this post provided the links I said were upcoming when I wrote the Living With A Smoothwall post.

Tags: IT/Network

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Zorro // Mar 27, 2008 at 10:57 am

    If you use this Jetway board instead:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813153052

    You can get a 3 port gigabit NIC from here:

    http://www.logicsupply.com/products/ad3rtlang

    and still have that PCI slot open. The substituted board is $20 more and the 3 NIC add-on board is $52, so for less than half as much as the cost of the Intel dual port NIC you get an extra port and retain the PCI slot(though I can’t think of what you would use it for with smoothwall).

  • 2 Dan // Sep 6, 2008 at 7:01 am

    I love these home made firewalls. VIA processors are just the ticket for this. I’ve recently made one myself – check my blog for a laugh 😉

    Great blog post Dave – interesting reading.

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