This weekend project was a firewall using pfsense 2 and a kit from netgate. I've included the steps to build it and a bill of materials below for those who would like to do something similar. I found shipping was fast to my north east US location. Thank Netgate!
|91DCMA13.G11||DCMA-82 Atheros 6G: 802.11a/b/g High Power mPCI Card||1||$55.00|
|-RPSMAFB-MMCXRAP-8E||MMCX to RP-SMA Jack Bulkhead Pigtail 8", 6 GHz||2||$28.00|
|KIT-2D13-BLUE-U||ALIX.2D3 / 2D13 Kit Blue Unassembled||1||$194.00|
WiFi Note: I saved a few bucks by using antennas I already had, but you can get the whole wireless stuff as a kit with pigtails and antenna at Netgate with the DCMA82-DUAL-P192C34 kit. A single antenna option also exists.
Color Note: Last I saw, Netgate was out of the blue color. Red, Silver and Black are also available. I've used the black in most of my other situations. It just seem more appropriately businessy ™. You may get a performance boost if you use the Red case and put a NOS sticker on it, but I haven't tried this yet. Please report back if you attempt that modification.
BIOS Note: A lot of instructions tell you to upgrade the ALIX BIOS, but I found I already had the updated BIOS and I expect you will too so you can ignore those. In fact, you should be able to do this without touching the serial port at all.
First, if you can get to the WebUI, then you can turn on SSH which will give you access to almost all the power of the Serial port. Still, serial access can be helpful.
If you wish to use the serial port for debugging boot problems you will need the tools mentioned in the optional list above. For USB to Serial, I have a USA-19HS from Keyspan that has worked fine on Mac and Linux computers.
If you want to see the BIOS when starting the device, you'll need to set minicom or your terminal emulator to 38400 8n1. I changed this to 9600 so that it was the same as pfsense to save me from having to change my terminal config. To make change to the ALIX BIOS press 's' while the ram test is running and then press the key next to the options you want to change. Don't forget to change your config to the new values.
Look at you! You just built a firewall. Ain't you smart? Yes, this costs a good bit more than putting together a DD-WRT box from a Linksys WRT54G. There are a couple reasons this is better. First, it runs pfsense. Second, I built it myself. Third, I can choose my own color. Fourth, I get to write about something here that not everyone knows about. Fifth, geek points.
Also, have you compared the specs to the WRT54G? Here's the wikipedia page for the WRT54G series. (Hint: 1/2 the processor, 1/4 the RAM, no expansion, no Serial port, no USB, larger, etc.)
I've spent a bit of time poking around the linux command line and the internet trying to come up with various ways to get my task list in from of me automatically. I'm using the cli task management program taskwarrior as the foundation of my task list.
I have found several different ways to do that now through email, print and desktop popup notifications. I collected them together in a git repo that can be found on github.
Check it out, fork it and improve on it:
I compromised on my original high aspirations for a case. Perhaps I'll make a better case another time, but for now I have a nice wood case with a plastic face with -12V, 3.3V, 5V and 12V binding posts alongside 4 ground posts .75" apart to find the dual-banana plugs should I ever run into that. I also hot glued two LEDs at the bottom under the plastic. The yellow is standby and the green is on. I also put a power switch in instead of letting it be always on even though I have a switch on the back of the original box.
All the voltages measure up nicely. I have noticed though that since I last measure up all the voltages that the standby light only blinks on occasionally. I'm wondering if one of the connections is loose so I may need to take the case apart and look at that. I'm also thinking a good sanding and staining of the case might be nice along with some rubber feet to help hold it in place.
It was neat to see the variety of different project going on already. I had heard a little bit about all the other projects except Andy's furniture work. He'd found a couple old wooden chairs that he took apart and has plans for a restoration/remake. I hope to see the results.
Tyler has shown off his Ethernet to XBee router at an earlier meeting. The lamp he's working on will connect to that router for info on weather data or things like that and change the color of the light in the lamp he's building. His 3D printer will be required to print out an LED holder to get the lamp working properly.
Matthew had some brake work to do on his bike and we discussed potential reasons for why his brake cable is regularly fraying.
As individual projects were finishing, we gathered around the open source projector that was donated. Tom and Tyler were the ones really getting stuff done here. I can't claim much more than watching but, they were able to get an image to display in a blurry spot on the wall. We learned that the lamp ballast requires at least 7 minutes between uses and plans were made to fix some connectors that were causing problems getting good video signal.
We need someone to rig up a super-size swamp cooler (I'm thinking waterfall) for the space to help keep it cool during the warm summer months. Better ideas for cooling the space are welcome. :-)
I'm working on a benchtop power supply hack which converts an old ATX power supply into a bench power supply that provides -12V, 3.3V, 5V, 7V, 10V 12V, 17V and 24V. The supply I'm using for this project doesn't have the white wire which would provide -5V and another host of flexibility, but this is a good start. Wikipedia has an article on computer power supplies including a wiring diagram that is very helpful.
This weekend my wife and I decided we should track how many bags of trash we take out with the idea that this would encourage us to find ways to reuse, compost and recycle more. I tossed in water and electric meter readings and built a google spreadsheet to record this info on a weekly basis. Then created graphs.
The problem with this is that we'd only see the info once a week and this just wouldn't be quite as engaging. I've been floating around the idea of a home digital billboard for awhile so thought this would be a good first start. I tossed together a shell script that pulled down three graphs from google spreadsheets, made an image out of them and set it as the background image on a computer.
With this script applied to our media center linux box, the whole family will frequently get a chance to see the graphs and see how we're doing with utility consumption.
There is plenty of room to expand this in the future, but this was a fun and quick solution to get things started.
Last night, hackers from across the Lehigh Valley gathered at a facility the Allentown Economic Development Corporation is offering as a Hacker Space in partnership with The Davinci Center. It was really exciting to hear what potential exists, the resources people are trying to bring together and the diversity of skills that exist among the community.
My favorite part of the night was seeing what stuff guys brought to share. Asking "What's In the Box?" around a group of creative people like this is bound to bring out some really neat and amazing projects. I'm looking forward to a lot more of this sort of thing in the future. I even heard about a group working to put together a mini MakerFaire right here in Allentown.
Well, maybe this video is a good intro. It is about the Hacker Space in New York City called NYC Resistor. Keep reading to find out how just such a space in Allentown is forming and how you can be involved.
The greatest problems for a hacker space usually is finding an appropriate space. This problem is solved by AEDC being very interested in sponsoring the space. They are interested in developing small manufacturing businesses in Allentown and have been doing this since 1979. The building they are offering for this purpose is half-full with exactly these types of businesses now. They see a hacker space as promoting ingenuity and inventiveness in the region and are hoping that promoting this will lead to more manufacturing and related businesses in the style of Adafruit and MakerBot which also grew out of hacker spaces.
The Davinci Center has a science center here in Allentown and are looking for ways to further promote science research. Before coming into contact with AEDC on the issue, they were working on a grant that would allow them to develop a plan for a hackerspace. Once that came together they partnered with the AEDC and are well into the process of receiving a grant from the National Science Foundation to provide a significant amount of funds that would allow them to buy lots of equipment and cover a full-time staff member.
The two largest problems that came up during the meeting were no real surprise to anyone. First, liability around machinery is a big issue. AEDC has taken on the task of figuring out what that would look like. The second problem is how to organize the hackers. This seems like it'll need to be hashed out more on the mailing list.
Liability insurance doesn't keep us from using the space, just the machines. The space is available now for use and we talked about what could be done now briefly. I'm hoping to see some "Show & Tell" meetings to highlight projects that potential members are working on that would also assist in organizing the hackers. There is also potential of putting together small classes around certain subjects such as Arduino, Eagle or Roomba hacking, perhaps even a series of small subjects like intro to LEDs, XBee Radios or scavenging materials.
So let's get the ball rolling by putting together some meetings, getting organized and give these benevolent non-profits a group who can receive their gifts. Let's also be sure to organize in a manner that keeps power in the hands of the hackers to govern themselves in whatever chaotic manner most benefits the crazy things that will come from access to some great tools and creative people.
Individuals are clearly going to need to step up to fill all sorts of roles. The governance of the hackers will require some potential roles, but more immediately:
If you have something to offer, go join the conversation on the mailing list.
This version adds roles to permit sharing of responsibility. The roles are Event Host, Table Host and Veteran Gamer. An Event Host has a great deal of permissions allowing them to organize an event on the site. The table host's permissions give them the ability to manage tables. The veteran simply is given a bit deeper look into things such as node revisions.
Roles build on each other. Therefore, you won't want to remove the Veteran Gamer role when assigning the Event Host role. Otherwise, the host will have some odd issues. They are still a Veteran Gamer after all!