About Tom Heiber

Software Developer Consultant Car Nut Tech Geek

pfSense on Watchguard Firebox – More Tweaks

There’s a known problem with pfSense 2.0.1 and Watchguard Firebox x750e and x1250e. Namely the additional 4 NIC interfaces have a tendency to drop out with a Watchdog error and the only remedy is to reboot the box. I came across a fix that seems to resolve the issue permanently. Been running for 2 weeks on the PCI-e interfaces without dropout. Previously I’d be luck to get 3 days on those.

The fix is to add these lines to /boot/loader.conf.local


Additionally I picked up a few Western Digital 4GB MicroDrives from eBay. The idea behind this was to replace the flash based CF card in the firewall. In theory the MicroDrive does not have the write limitation of a Flash card so it could potentially store a lot more information on the card like logs, graphs, a/v definitions etc.

I had some problems getting the card read on the computer. First I tried reading directly with my multi card reader but it just went bonkers, wouldn’t read the card at all. Another card reader I had simply shut itself down when I plugged the drive in. I then tried a CF-to-SATA converter and plugged it into a Drive Toaster but after a few seconds it’d drop out. Lastly I tried to connect the drive directly to the computer. I eventually got it working by switching the BIOS from AHCI to SATA. One I got the drive detected properly, the method for loading the pfSense image onto it is the same as with a regular Compact Flash card. The only issue I ran into was when running “clean” on diskpart, the drive seemed to take forever to clean the partition.

Getting the card working on the x750e was effortless. The machine booted up with no issues. The boot process did take slightly longer which is understandable as this is a mechanical device with the same random IOP limit as a regular disk drive.

Thoughts about Blackberry 10

The new BlackBerry 10 is less than 55 days away. Personally I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve clinged on to my BlackBerry Bold 9900 since it came out and have not “upgraded” to anything else as I’m patiently waiting for BB10. I must admit that I carry a Google Nexus phone for mobile browsing, I still do all my work (emails, scheduling, messaging) on the BlackBerry. I’ve had the Nexus for about 8 months, and I still hate typing on the screen with a passion. Auto-correct drives me nuts and typing on the screen is just too slow when composing a long email. There’s nothing better than the tactile feedback of a physical keyboard. Additionally, carrying two phones around isn’t exactly ideal, not to mention the added expense of having two plans.

I’ve seen a lot of people convinced that iPhone and Android phones are so much better for work than BlackBerry. This might be the case with the current generation, aside from the keyboard of course. But from all the previews I’ve seen of BB10, the new generation of phones from RIM looks to address all current shortcomings and is designed to take usability to the next level.

Some of the reasons why I’m exited about the upcoming BB10 BlackBerries.

BB10 Hub

One location for ALL messaging. I’m currently using BBM, Facebook, LinkedIn, Gmail, Personal Email, Work Email, BBM, GTalk, MSN Live, Skype and WhatsUp. Having to switch between all the different apps when having multiple conversations is insane. BB10 Hub puts all these communication threads all in single location. All incoming messages are listed in a single place. This alone is a huge selling point for me.

One of the biggest gripes about BB OS 7 is lack of apps, and rightfully so. iOS and Android have TONS of apps available in the respective markets. Apple and Google fans like to gloat about the sheer number of apps that are available…Except they forget to mention that most apps have never been downloaded and a lot of them are either not working or are so buggy that they’re unusable. On my Nexus I have about 40 apps installed. I use about 10 of them regularly. Most of those are messaging apps. I occasionally watch Netflix or play games but for the most part the 40 apps do everything I need to do while on the go. RIM has already shown that most major players in the mobile app market are already developing apps for BB10. RIM promises to have over 150,000 at launch, I’m interested in 20.

Out of the current generation of phones, only BlackBerry phones have not been compromised. Both iOS and Android operating systems have been jailbroken or rooted. Android is considered one of the most malware infested mobile operating systems and iOS is close second. Now of course, it’s too early to tell whether the new BB10 phones will have some sort of vulnerability that will blow the phone wide open, but I’m betting that RIM spent a lot of time locking down the phone. And since BB10 has already been FIPS certified, I’m betting that BB10 is going to be a tough nut to crack.

Now, I have no doubt that both Apple and Google will not stop innovating, who knows what next generation of iOS or Android will bring. Though I’m more inclined to see Android as the leader in Mobile for a while since historically speaking, iOS has not had an original idea for a few years now. It absolutely boggles my mind that people still get excited about new Apple products since the phone hasn’t changed much in the last 3 generations. Though I must admit I was never a fan of iPhone to begin with, overpriced, overhyped junk. But I digress.

Point is, that RIM can not hope to ride BB10 without constantly innovating as the next big thing is just around the corner and as we’ve all seen, getting caught napping can cost you big quickly.

Even though I’m not a fan of all-touch phones I’ll be one of the first to pick up the new BB10 L-series when it launches just so I can get familiar with the interface, but in the end the N-series is what I’m really looking forward to.

The countdown continues….

Netgear GS716T Fan Fix

I’ve had this Netgear GS716T for about 5 years, even then I already bought it used from eBay. Couple of days ago the fans finally gave up the ghost. Replacing them is pretty trivial though as I’ve already replaced fans in several switches recently.

It’s easy enough to remove the cover as none of the screws are hidden and there are no “warranty void” stickers to remove.

The two existing 40mm fans. Turns out one was completely dead, the other was just about to ready to quit via a rather noisy bearing.

Interestingly enough, the fans are held in place via these “nuts” that get punched into the fan housing.

I’ve had few more 40mm fans laying around from my last Dell PowerConnect experiment. Same size but different specs. The new fans again are slightly slower / quieter than the original fans.

Once again had to pay attention to the pinout. Fortunately the GS716T does not use an RPM pin so it won’t even know if the fan is running slower or not.

The fan mounts tapped back into the new fans. Took quite a bit of force to get these in.

New fans mounted in place and switch ready to be closed up. The whole process took maybe 30 minutes. Hopefully will get more life out of the switch yet. Not the greatest switch in the world but perfect for my lab environment.

Piece of Cake.

Fun with Fans

I’ve been running a Dell PowerConnect 5324 as my secondary switch at home that connects all the rooms together. The switch is rather loud in the location it’s sitting so I’ve decided to replace the fans in it to something quieter.

The switch uses 2 40mm high speed fans that exhaust air out of the enclosure. I had several 40mm fans that I could try to get the best noise/cooling ratio. I’ve used a digital multimeter with a thermal probe to measure the efficiency of the fans, my simple SPL meter to measure noise level and a simple Android app to measure the sound spectrum. The switch was ran for 30 minutes in each configuration to let the temperature of the switch settle.

Testing Methodology:
Ambient Noise: 23.3 dbA
Ambient Temperature: 23C

Configuration Temperature Sound Level
Stock Fan 26.2C 59.2 dBA

In the stock configuration the switch blasts out almost 64 dbA.

What would happen if I invert the fans so that they blow air into the switch?

Configuration Temperature Sound Level
Inverted Stock Fan 26.5C 63.7 dbA

Wow. Definitely not an improvement. Not only this configuration is slightly louder. The fans emit a noise 1.5Khz range that’s very, very annoying.

The new fans are significantly thinner and operate at lower RPMs. They do not move quite as much air as the original fans.
A quick note about the fan pinout on the Dell PowerConnect 5324. The fan pins are actually non-standard and have to be swapped around. The Dell PowerConnect fans use Positive-Sense-Negative pinout as opposed to the standard Negative-Positive-Sense pinout. Connecting the fans incorrectly doesn’t seem to have any detrimental effect on the fans themselves (as I found out) but the fans will simply not operate.

Once the fans were installed. I ran the test.

Configuration Temperature Sound Level
New Fan 27.4C 50.9 dbA

A 9.1 dbA drop is quite significant, that’s almost half as noisy as the original fans and the switch is now quieter than the ambient noise in the room the networking equipment is in. The temperature with the new fans running only went up a few notches.

Unfortunately the switch did not like the reduced RPM on the fans. The Fan LED now blinks alternating red/green. However there doesn’t seem to be any performance degradation of the switch.

Even though this was the configuration I was most likely stick with, just for kicks, I’ve went ahead and tried the inverted fan configuration.

Configuration Temperature Sound Level
Inverted New Fan 27.9C 46.5 dbA

Even though in the inverted configuration the fans were quieter, the temperature went up a few more degrees and once again, the fans exhibited a noticeable whine 700hz range.

In the end I ended up going with the smaller fans in the same configuration as the stock fans, blowing air out of the switch. While slightly louder than the inverted configuration, it was lacking the whine which was quite noticable.

Watchguard x500 Hacking – Part 3 – ZeroShell

Another day, another opportunity to see what other firewall distros can be deployed on this old Watchguard Firebox x500. In this case I’ll try ZeroShell. I’ve used ZeroShell many times in the past, typically as a small VM. ZeroShell is one of the fastest and easiest Firewall Distros I’ve tried. Back in the day when I was trying to see if I can bond multiple cable modems together for site-to-site connections I’ve used ZeroShell due to it’s very easy bonding of OpenVPN connections.

Another reason why I’m eager to try ZeroShell on this Firebox is the fact that unlike pfSense and m0n0wall, it’s not BSD based OS. It’s actually linux based which means that there’s a very good possibility that the Watchdog Timeout issue might not happen as this seems to be a driver issue in BSD related to the Realtek NICs on the x500.

On to the install process.

Just like earlier first step is to simply load the firmware image onto the compact flash card. To do that once again need to clean the compact flash card from any existing partitions

Microsoft Windows [Version 6.2.9200]
(c) 2012 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.


Microsoft DiskPart version 6.2.9200

Copyright (C) 1999-2012 Microsoft Corporation.
On computer: ARES

DISKPART> list disk

  Disk ###  Status         Size     Free     Dyn  Gpt
  --------  -------------  -------  -------  ---  ---
  Disk 0    Online          238 GB      0 B
  Disk 1    Online           74 GB      0 B   *
  Disk 2    Online           74 GB      0 B   *
  Disk 3    Online           74 GB      0 B   *
  Disk 4    Online         2048 MB      0 B
  Disk 5    Offline        1024 GB      0 B        *
  Disk 6    Online          500 GB  1024 KB   *
  Disk 7    Online         1024 GB      0 B        *

DISKPART> select disk 4

Disk 4 is now the selected disk.


DiskPart succeeded in cleaning the disk.


Leaving DiskPart...


Then use physdiskwrite to write the image onto the card. In this case the image being loaded is the ALIX image that can be downloaded here. The latest image (RC1) requires a minimum 2GB Compact Flash card to write the image to. Luckily I still have a few of those laying around.

Microsoft Windows [Version 6.2.9200]
(c) 2012 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

c:\2>physdiskwrite.exe ZeroShell-2.0.RC1-Alix-2GB.img

physdiskwrite v0.5.2 by Manuel Kasper 
Which disk do you want to write? (0..7) 4
About to overwrite the contents of disk 4 with new data. Proceed? (y/n) y


Once the compact flash card is installed into the firewall, connect the serial cable and use a terminal program at 38400-8-n-1 to watch the bootup process. During my bootup there seemed to be some errors at runtime that actually took a few seconds longer to get going.

ΓΏ[    1.004441] platform pc8736x_gpio.0: no device found
[   31.842568] ata1.00: exception Emask 0x0 SAct 0x0 SErr 0x0 action 0x6 frozen
[   31.863676] ata1.00: failed command: READ DMA
[   31.876728] ata1.00: cmd c8/00:08:00:00:00/00:00:00:00:00/e0 tag 0 dma 4096 in
[   31.876732]          res 40/00:00:00:00:00/00:00:00:00:00/00 Emask 0x4 (timeout)
[   31.920494] ata1.00: status: { DRDY }
[   62.960333] ata1.00: exception Emask 0x0 SAct 0x0 SErr 0x0 action 0x6 frozen
[   62.961451] ata1.00: failed command: READ DMA
[   62.966530] ata1.00: cmd c8/00:08:00:00:00/00:00:00:00:00/e0 tag 0 dma 4096 in
[   62.966534]          res 40/00:00:00:00:00/00:00:00:00:00/00 Emask 0x4 (timeout)
[   62.970295] ata1.00: status: { DRDY }
[   94.002083] ata1.00: exception Emask 0x0 SAct 0x0 SErr 0x0 action 0x6 frozen
[   94.003202] ata1.00: failed command: READ DMA
[   94.008282] ata1.00: cmd c8/00:08:00:00:00/00:00:00:00:00/e0 tag 0 dma 4096 in
[   94.008285]          res 40/00:00:00:00:00/00:00:00:00:00/00 Emask 0x4 (timeout)
[   94.012049] ata1.00: status: { DRDY }
Loading Zeroshell ZS-2.0.RC1 ...
Mounting ISO image  ...
mount: warning: /cdrom seems to be mounted read-only.
Loading root filesystem into RAM device... Success
mount: warning: /.root/cdrom seems to be mounted read-only.
Successfully mounted device ISO
INIT: version 2.85 booting
INIT: Entering runlevel: 3nterface...
[  OK  ] udevd daemon...
[  OK  ]ing for attached devices...
Checking for other PCI hardware ...
Loading  ...................................   [pata_acpi]
Loading  ...................................   [intel-rng]
Scanning for SCSI,SATA,IDE,USB storage devices...
PROFILE   : Default Profile
Disk      : ATA       SanDiskSDCFH-20
Partition : sda3
Alias     : _DB.001
[  OK  ]Time Zone  [Europe/Rome]
[  OK  ] Clock (LOCALTIME) --> System Time
[  OK  ]hostname to zeroshell.example.com
[  OK  ] configuration files...
[  OK  ]ng swap file...
Starting X.509 Certification Authority...
Generating zeroshell.example.com host certificate ...
Generating a 2048 bit RSA private key
writing new private key to '/tmp/x509default.key'
Using configuration from /etc/ssl/openssl.cnf
Check that the request matches the signature
Signature ok
Certificate Details:
        Serial Number: 3 (0x3)
            Not Before: Nov  9 22:43:38 2012 GMT
            Not After : Nov  9 22:43:38 2014 GMT
            organizationalUnitName    = Hosts
            commonName                = zeroshell.example.com
        X509v3 extensions:
            X509v3 Extended Key Usage:
                TLS Web Server Authentication, TLS Web Client Authentication
            X509v3 Subject Alternative Name:
                DNS:zeroshell.example.com, IP Address:, IP Address:
Certificate is to be certified until Nov  9 22:43:38 2014 GMT (730 days)

Write out database with 1 new entries
Data Base Updated
Generating admin user certificate ...
Generating a 2048 bit RSA private key
writing new private key to '/tmp/x509default.key'
Using configuration from /etc/ssl/openssl.cnf
Check that the request matches the signature
Signature ok
Certificate Details:
        Serial Number: 4 (0x4)
            Not Before: Nov  9 22:43:40 2012 GMT
            Not After : Nov  9 22:43:40 2014 GMT
            organizationalUnitName    = users
            commonName                = admin
        X509v3 extensions:
            X509v3 Key Usage:
                Digital Signature, Key Encipherment, Data Encipherment
            X509v3 Extended Key Usage:
                TLS Web Client Authentication, E-mail Protection
Certificate is to be certified until Nov  9 22:43:40 2014 GMT (730 days)

Write out database with 1 new entries
[  OK  ]e Updated
[  OK  ] LDAP daemon...
[  OK  ] DNS service...
[  OK  ] system log daemon...
[  OK  ] kernel log daemon...
[  OK  ]connection tracking modules (h323,ftp,sip,irc,pptp,tftp)
[  OK  ]NAT tracking modules (ftp,pptp)
[  OK  ]g Layer 7 protocol definitions (l7-protocols-2009-05-28)
Starting Firewall...
Starting Captive Portal ...
--> Gateway disabled
--> Web Login Authentication Server disabled
Starting Network...
Starting WiFi subsystem ...
--> No supported Wi-Fi hardware has been found.
Detecting ethernet interfaces...
ETH00 (hardware changed) :  Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL-8139/8139C/8139C+ (rev 20)
ETH01 (hardware changed) :  Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL-8139/8139C/8139C+ (rev 20)
ETH02 (new) :  Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL-8139/8139C/8139C+ (rev 20)
ETH03 (new) :  Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL-8139/8139C/8139C+ (rev 20)
ETH04 (new) :  Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL-8139/8139C/8139C+ (rev 20)
ETH05 (new) :  Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL-8139/8139C/8139C+ (rev 20)
Configuring interfaces...
Starting Routing...
Starting Quality of Service on:
   NONE. No interfaces configured for QoS
[  OK  ] NTP daemon...
[  OK  ] Dynamic DNS client daemon...
[  OK  ] Log Watcher...
Starting Kerberos 5 KDC
[  OK  ]istribution Center process
[  OK  ]n administration process
[  OK  ] httpd daemon...
Checking HTTP Transparent Proxy and AntiVirus configuration...
[  OK  ] cron daemon ...
Starting MRTG ...
[  OK  ]ing MRTG ...
[  OK  ] Daemon Watcher ...
[  OK  ] AutoUpdate daemon...
[  OK  ] caching background process ...
 Z e r o S h e l l - Net Services  2.0.RC1          November 09, 2012 - 23:43
  Hostname : zeroshell.example.com
  CPU (1)  : Intel(R) Celeron(TM) CPU                1200MHz  1202MHz
  Kernel   : 3.4.6-ZS
  Memory   : 512388 kB                
  Uptime   : 0 days, 0:2                        User     : admin
  Load     : 2.12 0.89 0.33                     Password : zeroshell
  Profile  : Default Profile
   Activate Profile              

Change admin password Deactivate Profile Show Routing Table Shell Prompt Show Firewall Rules Reboot Show Network Interface Shutdown Fail-Safe Mode Create a Bridge IP Manager WiFi Manager Select:

Now that the firewall is up. I configured the WAN and LAN interfaces via the shell. By default the DHCP server on LAN side is not enabled so in order to access the firewall via the browser I had to set a static IP address on my machine. Once the IP has been configured, just launch a the browser and point to the address as displayed in the console (default

I also disovered that by default the WAN interface allows access to the ZeroShell interface also, and since the firewall WAN is actually on my LAN, I was able to access and configure the UI from my workstation. This also means that it’s very important to change the default password if the firewall is internet facing as anyone coming across it can reconfigure it.

Running some unencrypted performance tests. I was able to achieve 11.9MB/s (95.2 Mbit/s) throughput across the firewall. This is actually not bad considering the same test on this box running pfSense the throughput was 11.1MB/s.

I came across an interesting article on the ZeroShell forums about the HTTP Anti-Virus Proxy and Compact Flash cards. Specifically about the HAVP’s work directory being used during its operation. To create a RAM drive to store these temporary files instead shut down HAVP and execute these commands from console or through SSH:

root@zeroshell root> cd /Database
root@zeroshell Database> dd if=/dev/zero of=HAVP.ext2 count=100000
100000+0 records in
100000+0 records out

root@zeroshell Database> mkfs.ext2 HAVP.ext2
mke2fs 1.42 (29-Nov-2011)
HAVP.ext2 is not a block special device.
Proceed anyway? (y,n) y
Discarding device blocks: done
Filesystem label=
OS type: Linux
Block size=1024 (log=0)
Fragment size=1024 (log=0)
Stride=0 blocks, Stripe width=0 blocks
12544 inodes, 50000 blocks
2500 blocks (5.00%) reserved for the super user
First data block=1
Maximum filesystem blocks=51380224
7 block groups
8192 blocks per group, 8192 fragments per group
1792 inodes per group
Superblock backups stored on blocks:
        8193, 24577, 40961

Allocating group tables: done
Writing inode tables: done
Writing superblocks and filesystem accounting information: done

root@zeroshell Database> mount -o loop HAVP.ext2 /mnt
root@zeroshell Database> chown havp.havp /mnt
root@zeroshell Database> umount /mnt
root@zeroshell Database> cat /Database/HAVP.ext2 > /dev/ram3
root@zeroshell Database> mount -omand,noatime /dev/ram3 /Database/var/register/system/havp/tmp
root@zeroshell Database>

The last two lines have to be added to the pre-boot script so that they execute on device restart.

Now just restart the HAVP service and it’s done.

After more than 24 hours of various traffic passing through the firewall, I have not had any issues yet with the Watchguard Timeout. So far so good. The firewall performs pretty well. There’s probably no chance getting the LCD working easily at this point. Though there’s a small possibility that ZeroShell will at one point support LCDProc in which case the LCD can live again.

I have also since added few more remounts to ensure longer CF card life. Apparently just because the ZeroShell distro image is aimed at embedded devices, it still performs regular writes to the local storage. Since CF cards have limited write cycles, remounting the writeable locations in RAM drive should significantly extend the life of the Compact Flash card.

mount -t tmpfs -o size=64m,mode=1777,nosuid,nodev,exec tmpfs /tmp
mount -t tmpfs -o size=16m,mode=755,nosuid,nodev tmpfs /var/run
mount -t tmpfs -o size=16m,mode=755,nosuid,nodev tmpfs /var/lock
mount -t tmpfs -o size=64m,mode=755,nosuid,nodev tmpfs /Database/LOG
mount -t tmpfs -o size=16m,mode=755,nosuid,nodev tmpfs /Database/var/register/system/mrtg/counters
mount -t tmpfs -o size=32m,mode=755,nosuid,nodev tmpfs /Database/var/register/system/mrtg/html

Watchguard x500 Hacking – Part 2 – m0n0wall

When I originally picked up the Watchguard Firebox x500, I only had the intention of trying pfSense on it. But now that I have pfSense running succesfully on the next generation Watchguard Fireboxes (x550e, x750e and 1250e). I figured might as well try m0n0wall on it (and some other OSs later). One particular reason why I’m interested in trying other firewall software on the Watchguard is that there’s a known problem with the Realtek NIC’s on the x500 and the current pfSense version (2.0). The firewall will randomly issue “watchdog timeout” error and then simply stop responding to traffic. Rebooting the firewall seems to be the only way to get it moving again.

From a little bit of research, getting m0n0wall running on x500 is just as trivial as getting pfSense running. As an added bonus, the m0n0wall image is much smaller than the pfSense image and the original Compact Flash card can be used. The embedded image for version 1.33 comes in at only 7.6 MB.

Loading the m0n0wall image onto the compact flash is identical to pfSense.

Step 1. Clean the CF Card


Microsoft DiskPart version 6.2.9200

Copyright (C) 1999-2012 Microsoft Corporation.
On computer: ARES

DISKPART> list disk

  Disk ###  Status         Size     Free     Dyn  Gpt
  --------  -------------  -------  -------  ---  ---
  Disk 0    Online          238 GB      0 B
  Disk 1    Online           74 GB      0 B   *
  Disk 2    Online           74 GB      0 B   *
  Disk 3    Online           74 GB      0 B   *
  Disk 4    Online          122 MB      0 B
  Disk 5    No Media           0 B      0 B
  Disk 6    No Media           0 B      0 B
  Disk 7    No Media           0 B      0 B
  Disk 8    Offline        1024 GB      0 B        *
  Disk 9    Online          500 GB  1024 KB   *
  Disk 10   Online         1024 GB      0 B        *

DISKPART> select disk 4

Disk 4 is now the selected disk.


DiskPart succeeded in cleaning the disk.


Leaving DiskPart...


Step 2. Load m0n0wall image onto the card
Once again I used physdiskwrite + PhysGUI to load the image onto the card.

Select the proper disk

The disk image is being written to the CF card

And we’re done.

Now just a matter of taking the Firebox cover off and plugging in the new CF card. Once that’s done. Connect a serial cable to the console at 115200-8-n-1 and watch the boot process.

Step 3. Configure m0n0wall.

Copyright (c) 1992-2008 The FreeBSD Project.
Copyright (c) 1979, 1980, 1983, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994
        The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
FreeBSD is a registered trademark of The FreeBSD Foundation.
FreeBSD 6.4-RELEASE-p5 #0: Sun Jan  9 22:24:57 CET 2011
Timecounter "i8254" frequency 1193182 Hz quality 0
CPU: Intel(R) Celeron(TM) CPU                1200MHz (1202.73-MHz 686-class CPU)
  Origin = "GenuineIntel"  Id = 0x6b4  Stepping = 4
real memory  = 536870912 (512 MB)
avail memory = 499331072 (476 MB)
wlan: mac acl policy registered
ath_hal: (AR5210, AR5211, AR5212, RF5111, RF5112, RF2413, RF5413)
cpu0 on motherboard
pcib0:  pcibus 0 on motherboard
pir0:  on motherboard
$PIR: Using invalid BIOS IRQ 9 from 2.13.INTA for link 0x63
pci0:  on pcib0
pcib1:  at device 30.0 on pci0
pci2:  on pcib1
re0:  port 0xd500-0xd5ff mem 0xefefa000-0xefefa1ff irq 10 at device 9.0 on pci2
miibus0:  on re0
rlphy0:  on miibus0
rlphy0:  10baseT, 10baseT-FDX, 100baseTX, 100baseTX-FDX, auto
re0: Ethernet address: 00:90:7f:31:cc:60
re0: [FAST]
re1:  port 0xd600-0xd6ff mem 0xefefb000-0xefefb1ff irq 5 at device 10.0 on pci2
miibus1:  on re1
rlphy1:  on miibus1
rlphy1:  10baseT, 10baseT-FDX, 100baseTX, 100baseTX-FDX, auto
re1: Ethernet address: 00:90:7f:31:cc:61
re1: [FAST]
re2:  port 0xd900-0xd9ff mem 0xefefc000-0xefefc1ff irq 11 at device 11.0 on pci2
miibus2:  on re2
rlphy2:  on miibus2
rlphy2:  10baseT, 10baseT-FDX, 100baseTX, 100baseTX-FDX, auto
re2: Ethernet address: 00:90:7f:31:cc:62
re2: [FAST]
re3:  port 0xda00-0xdaff mem 0xefefd000-0xefefd1ff irq 12 at device 12.0 on pci2
miibus3:  on re3
rlphy3:  on miibus3
rlphy3:  10baseT, 10baseT-FDX, 100baseTX, 100baseTX-FDX, auto
re3: Ethernet address: 00:90:7f:31:cc:63
re3: [FAST]
re4:  port 0xdd00-0xddff mem 0xefefe000-0xefefe1ff irq 9 at device 13.0 on pci2
miibus4:  on re4
rlphy4:  on miibus4
rlphy4:  10baseT, 10baseT-FDX, 100baseTX, 100baseTX-FDX, auto
re4: Ethernet address: 00:90:7f:31:cc:64
re4: [FAST]
re5:  port 0xde00-0xdeff mem 0xefeff000-0xefeff1ff irq 6 at device 14.0 on pci2
miibus5:  on re5
rlphy5:  on miibus5
rlphy5:  10baseT, 10baseT-FDX, 100baseTX, 100baseTX-FDX, auto
re5: Ethernet address: 00:90:7f:31:cc:65
re5: [FAST]
isab0:  at device 31.0 on pci0
isa0:  on isab0
atapci0:  port 0x1f0-0x1f7,0x3f6,0x170-0x177,0x376,0xff00-0xff0f at device 31.1 on pci0
ata0:  on atapci0
ata1:  on atapci0
pmtimer0 on isa0
orm0:  at iomem 0xe0000-0xe0fff on isa0
sio0 at port 0x3f8-0x3ff irq 4 flags 0x10 on isa0
sio0: type 16550A, console
sio1: configured irq 3 not in bitmap of probed irqs 0
sio1: port may not be enabled
unknown:  can't assign resources (memory)
unknown:  can't assign resources (port)
RTC BIOS diagnostic error 20
Timecounter "TSC" frequency 1202733613 Hz quality 800
Timecounters tick every 1.000 msec
Fast IPsec: Initialized Security Association Processing.
IP Filter: v4.1.33 initialized.  Default = block all, Logging = enabled
md0: Preloaded image  16777216 bytes at 0xc086b0e8
ad0: 122MB  at ata0-master PIO4
Trying to mount root from ufs:/dev/md0
kern.coredump: 1 -> 0
Found configuration on ad0.
re0: link state changed to DOWN
re1: link state changed to DOWN
re2: link state changed to DOWN
re3: link state changed to DOWN
re4: link state changed to DOWN
re5: link state changed to DOWN
Initializing timezone... done
Configuring firewall... done
Configuring LAN interface... done
Configuring WAN interface... done
Starting syslog service... done
Starting webGUI... done
Starting DNS forwarder... done
Starting DHCP service... done
Starting NTP client... done

There you have it, m0n0wall running on the x500. Now it’s just a matter of configuring the interfaces for WAN and LAN. In this case the “External” interface was used as WAN (re0) and the first interface as LAN (re1)

*** This is m0n0wall, version 1.33
    built on Wed Mar 16 12:01:42 CET 2011 for embedded
    Copyright (C) 2002-2011 by Manuel Kasper. All rights reserved.
    Visit http://m0n0.ch/wall for updates.

    LAN IP address:

    Port configuration:

    LAN   -> sis0
    WAN   -> sis1

m0n0wall console setup
1) Interfaces: assign network ports
2) Set up LAN IP address
3) Reset webGUI password
4) Reset to factory defaults
5) Reboot system
6) Ping host

Enter a number: 1

Valid interfaces are:

re0     00:90:7f:31:cc:60   (up)   RealTek 8139C+ 10/100BaseTX
re1     00:90:7f:31:cc:61   (up)   RealTek 8139C+ 10/100BaseTX
re2     00:90:7f:31:cc:62          RealTek 8139C+ 10/100BaseTX
re3     00:90:7f:31:cc:63          RealTek 8139C+ 10/100BaseTX
re4     00:90:7f:31:cc:64          RealTek 8139C+ 10/100BaseTX
re5     00:90:7f:31:cc:65          RealTek 8139C+ 10/100BaseTX

Do you want to set up VLANs first?
If you're not going to use VLANs, or only for optional interfaces, you
should say no here and use the webGUI to configure VLANs later, if required.

Do you want to set up VLANs now? (y/n) n

If you don't know the names of your interfaces, you may choose to use
auto-detection. In that case, disconnect all interfaces before you begin,
and reconnect each one when prompted to do so.

Enter the LAN interface name or 'a' for auto-detection: re1

Enter the WAN interface name or 'a' for auto-detection: re0

Enter the Optional 1 interface name or 'a' for auto-detection
(or nothing if finished):

The interfaces will be assigned as follows:

LAN  -> re1
WAN  -> re0

The firewall will reboot after saving the changes.

Do you want to proceed? (y/n) y

The firewall is rebooting now.
Waiting (max 60 seconds) for system process `vnlru' to stop...done
Waiting (max 60 seconds) for system process `bufdaemon' to stop...done
Waiting (max 60 seconds) for system process `syncer' to stop...
Syncing disks, vnodes remaining...0 done
All buffers synced.
Uptime: 36s

A few moments later the web UI was fully accessible and ready to be configured.

Unfortunately just a few moments later, while digging around the Web GUI the console showed the dreaded watchdog timeout error. And all network communication with the firewall and beyond has stopped.

*** This is m0n0wall, version 1.33
    built on Wed Mar 16 12:01:42 CET 2011 for embedded
    Copyright (C) 2002-2011 by Manuel Kasper. All rights reserved.
    Visit http://m0n0.ch/wall for updates.

    LAN IP address:

    Port configuration:

    LAN   -> re1
    WAN   -> re0

m0n0wall console setup
1) Interfaces: assign network ports
2) Set up LAN IP address
3) Reset webGUI password
4) Reset to factory defaults
5) Reboot system
6) Ping host

Enter a number: re1: watchdog timeout
re1: watchdog timeout
re1: watchdog timeout

Well, so much for that idea..on to the next firewall….ZeroShell?

Enjoy The Silence

As part of my “quiet computing” innitiative I’ve recently upgraded my computer from a Coolermaster Centurion 590 case to the Corsair Obsidian 550D. The new Obsidian 550D case is purpose build silent case, with proper sound insulation, vibration reduction for HDD’s and Fans. Additional quiet upgrades were a fanless CPU heatsink and a couple of 140mm fans.

Just swapping the case caused a huge drop in ambient noise level. Using my “cheapie” eBay SPL meter the measured computer noise in my room went from 27.8 dBA to 25.1 dBA. This is based on ambient room noise of 23.5 dBA. The last bit of noise was coming from the EVGA GTX 470 video card.

Last time I was shopping at Canada Computers, I came across an after market VGA cooler called the Accelero Xtreme III. I figured this would be a good chance to silence the video card. Unfortunately I could not figure out based on Google search if this particular cooler will be compatible with my video card. The cooler officially supports the GTX 680 reference board, but I took a gamble and decided to pick it up anyways.

Before taking the computer apart, I ran a test measurement of the PC sound level. The measured sound level was 24.7 dBA right at the back of the case.

Also took a temperature reading of the video card with the stock cooler at idle. EVGA Precision software reports 36C with the ambient room temperature at 22C.

Time to start hacking at the video card. The Accelero package contains A LOT of small heatsinks. It’s possible to cool pretty much every component on the card if someone so desired. I assume all the heatsinks were provided due to the fact that this kit supports quite a variety of video cards. The odds of getting my GTX 470 working with this kit were getting better.

First step was to remove the stock cooler from the card. I never noticed that the card is quite a bit smaller than the cooling shroud.

Removed the secondary heatsink exposing the voltage regulators. The stock VRM heatsink is rather large, having doubts if the much smaller individual heatsinks will be sufficient to cool the card. The VRM chips are quite small and densely packed, not a lot of room for heatsinks in the layout of the PCB.

Did a bit of test fitting to see if the small heatsinks and the main one will not interfere with each other. Took a few tries and few combinations of heatsinks to get a good, even coverage of all parts. Even though the stock board didn’t cool the RAM chips, I decided to use up some of the heatsinks and put them on there too.

The fan/heatsink assembly mounted to the PCB. Definitely not quite perfect alignment, though it looks like it just might work. Looks like the EVGA layout moved the GPU a bit to the right which causes the heatsink to extend much farther past the card. Hopefully this contraption will still fit in the case.

Last step was to tighten the screws on the backing plate and install more heatsinks on the RAM chips.

The frankenstein card just barely fits into the case. Pretty sure this would not fit in the original Centurion case I started with.

First thing first, fire up EVGA Precision X to see if the heatsink is properly cooling the components. Was pleasantly surprised to see a pretty significant temperature drop on the GPU. Even after few hours the temperature never went above 25C.

And of course the all important noise level test. The nose dropped somewhat from 24.7 dBA to 24.0 dBA. Not a significant drop as I was hoping to get closer to perfect silence.

While the computer is very quiet and definitely much quieter than I originally started, it’s still not quite there. Will continue searching for ways to silence it.

WatchGuard – pfSense – Tweaks

Continued work on improving pfSense running on my Watchguard x550e/x750e/x1250e firewalls. I got the x750e firewall nicely mounted at the utility board where my internet connections arrive at home.

Though I ran into an issue mounting the firewall due to its depth. The standard bracket was not long enough to fit the firewall with the power cable protruding out the back. I ended up picking up a 90 degree cable that just made it fit.

Had the firewall running for a while now and during this time I’ve worked on it a bit more. There’s a known issue with the MSK interfaces timing out under pfSense 2.0. I’ve experienced MSK failure twice since installing 2.0. I’ve since upgraded to 2.1 Beta and so far it’s been stable. Was pretty happy about the fact that all I had to do to upgrade to 2.1 was to backup the config from 2.0 and simply restore it on 2.1 once I wrote out the new 2.1 image to the compact flash card.

In the meantime I also implemented a few more tweaks to all the firewalls.

Throttle down CPU
Enabled PowerD in System->Advanced->Miscellaneous. This however caused a flood of errors in the log and console when the system was attempting to throttle down the CPU.

kernel: timecounter TSC must not be in use when changing frequencies; change denied
kernel: timecounter TSC must not be in use when changing frequencies; change denied
kernel: timecounter TSC must not be in use when changing frequencies; change denied
kernel: timecounter TSC must not be in use when changing frequencies; change denied

This was easily fixed via a new tunable under System->Advanced->System Tunables.
Added a new tunable.
Tunnable Name: kern.timecounter.hardware
Value: i8254
Then rebooted the firewall.

Throttle Fans / Change Armed LED
Another great tweak was the Fan Throttle mod. The firewall is fairly loud with the fans running at 100%. This can be resolved thanks to the people on the pfSense forums. The program to control the Watchguard fans (and LED) is called WGXepc

Simply upload the file to the firewall. I used the File Manager package to upload the file to /tmp. One word of warning, by default the file system on the nanobsd build is set to read only. It has to be made writable by executing:

[2.1-BETA0][admin@aura.olympia.local]/tmp(4): /etc/rc.conf_mount_rw

One the file has been uploaded to /tmp

[2.1-BETA0][admin@aura.olympia.local]/(7): cd /tmp
[2.1-BETA0][admin@aura.olympia.local]/tmp(8): gunzip WGXepc.gz
[2.1-BETA0][admin@aura.olympia.local]/tmp(9): copy WGXepc /home
[2.1-BETA0][admin@aura.olympia.local]/tmp(10): cd /home
[2.1-BETA0][admin@aura.olympia.local]/home(11): chmod +x WGXepc

To add the automatic fan throttle to bootup process execute the following script. The value can be anywhere between 00 and FF (hex 0-255).

[2.1-BETA0][admin@aura.olympia.local]/home(12): echo "/home/WGXepc -f 30" >> /etc/rc.local

Lastly it would be nice to change the Armed LED to green when bootup is complete.

[2.1-BETA0][admin@aura.olympia.local]/home(13): echo "/home/WGXepc -l green" >> /etc/rc.local

Functional LCD
Also got the LCD working on the unit. This was actually quite simple simply install LCDProc and LCDproc-devel packages and configure as follows.

There is an issue currently with this as on reboot the processes do not correctly start in the proper order and cause the package to crash. The solution right now is to simply manually start the service once the firewall has completed booting.

vSphere + NexentaStor + iSCSI + MPIO + Jumbo Frames = ?

A while ago I build a new NexentaStor server to serve as the home lab SAN. Also picked up a low latency Force10 switch to handle the SAN traffic (among other things).
Now the time came to test vSphere iSCSI MPIO and attempt to achieve faster than 1Gb/s connection to the datastore which has been a huge bottleneck when using NFS.

The setup on each machine is as follows.


  • 4 Intel Pro/1000 VT Interfaces
  • Each NIC on separate VLAN
  • Naggle disabled
  • Compression on Target enabled


  • 4 On-Board Broadcom Gigabit interfaces
  • Each NIC on separate VLAN
  • Round Robin MPIO
  • Balancing: IOPS, 1 IO per NIC
  • Delayed Ack enabled
  • VM test disk Eager Thick Provisioned

Network on vSphere was configured via a single vSwitch though pNICs were assigned individually to each vNIC.

Round robin balancing was configured via vSphere and changed the IOPS per NIC via the console

~ # esxcli storage nmp psp roundrobin deviceconfig set --device naa.600144f083e14c0000005097ebdc0002 --iops 1 --type iops
~ # esxcli storage nmp psp roundrobin deviceconfig get -d naa.600144f083e14c0000005097ebdc0002
   Byte Limit: 10485760
   Device: naa.600144f083e14c0000005097ebdc0002
   IOOperation Limit: 5
   Limit Type: Iops
   Use Active Unoptimized Paths: false

Testing was done inside a CentOS VM because for some reason testing directly in vSphere Console only results in maximum transfer of 80MB/s even though the traffic was always split evenly across all 4 interfaces.

Testing was done via DD commands

[root@testvm test]# dd if=/dev/zero of=ddfile1 bs=16k count=1M
[root@testvm test]# dd if=ddfile1 of=/dev/null bs=16k

The initial test was done with what I thought was the ideal scenario.

NexentaStor MTU vSphere MTU VM Write VM Read
9000 9000 394 MB/s 7.4 MB/s

What the? 7.4 MB/s reads? Repeated the test several times to confirm. Even tried it on another vSphere server and new Test VM. Doing some Googling it might be MTU mismatch so let’s try with standard 1500 MTU.

NexentaStor MTU vSphere MTU VM Write VM Read
1500 1500 367 MB/s 141 MB/s

A bit of loss in write speed due to smaller MTU but for some reason reads are only maxed at 141MB/s. Much faster than MTU 9000 but nowhere near the write speeds. Definitely MTU issue at work when using Jumbos even though the fact that it’s limited to 141MB/s in reads still doesn’t make sense. The traffic was still evenly split across all interfaces. Trying to match up the MTU’s better. Could it be that either NexentaStor or vSphere doesn’t account for the TCP header?

NexentaStor MTU vSphere MTU VM Write VM Read
8982 8982 165 MB/s ? MB/s

Had to abort the read test as it seemed to have stalled completely. During writes the speeds flactuated wildly. Yet Another test.

NexentaStor MTU vSphere MTU VM Write VM Read
9000 8982 356 MB/s 4.7 MB/s
8982 9000 322 MB/s ? MB/s

Once again had to abort reads due to stalled test. Not sure what’s going on here. But for giggles, decided to try another uncommon MTU size of 7000.

NexentaStor MTU vSphere MTU VM Write VM Read
7000 7000 417 MB/s 143 MB/s

Hmm. Very unusual. Not exactly sure what the bottleneck here is. Still, definitely faster than single 1Gb NIC. Disk on the SAN is definitely not the issue as the IO never actually hits the physical Disk.

Another quick test was done by copying a test file to another via DD. The results were also quite surprising.

[root@testvm test]# dd if=ddfile1 of=ddfile2 bs=16k

This is another one I didn’t expect. The result was only 92MB/s which is less than the speed of a single NIC. At this point I spawned another test VM to test concurrent IO performance.
The same test repeated concurrently on two VM’s resulted in about 68MB/s each. Definitely not looking too good.
Performing a pure DD read on each VM did however achieve 95MB/s per VM so the interfaces are better utilized. Repeating the tests with MTU 1500 resulted in 77MB/s (copy) and 133MB/s (pure read).

Conclusion: Jumbo Frames at this point do not offer any visible advantage. For stability sake sticking with MTU 1500 sounds like the way to go. Further research required.

Watchguard Firebox x550e/x750e/x1250e – pfSense


Last week I picked up this Watchguard Firebox x500 for cheap to experiment with. It turned out to be a great success so it was time to try it for “real” on better, faster, production capable hardware. I’ve been following this thread with great interest for a while, a few guys in the thread spent a lot of time getting these things working with pfSense. If it wasn’t for these guys, this conversion would be extremely time consuming if not impossible.

I’ve bought 3 Fireboxes on eBay, x550e, x750e and an x1250e. Even though they are all different models and WatchGuard sells them as products with increasing price/performance for each higher model, the actual hardware inside these firewalls is almost identical.

The “e” series Fireboxes are significantly deeper than the x500/x700 series, which turns out is actually too long for the 4U bracket I bought for the uplink shelf. The x750e is 14″ deep and it still requires another 2″ to accommodate the power plug. The Firebox x500 comes in at 9″ plus the plug.

I’ve started with the mid-level Core x750 as the Guinea pig. A bit of irony with the sticker asking to install Firebox software. It’s never gonna happen.