Recipe: Buffalo with Tomato Sauce

Posted by Phantom Mongoose Tue, 24 Apr 2007 09:30:00 GMT

Over the past 6+ years I’ve been running my home firewall on an old P233 running either a custom linux firewall or the IPCop distro1. This old faithful friend has stood as a beacon of courage and truth in a sea of spam and deceitful packets. Tirelessly and without fail it protected my home network and logged its efforts meticulously.

On Earth Day this year I treated this old friend to a hero’s fate: I turned him in to be recycled.

What cruel reward I bestow—not really heroic at all. No error was made, no hardware had failed, indeed he was as healthy as when first he came online as my firewall. Outrage! Why then had I dropped him like a bad habit? Simile not withstanding, it was indeed due to a bad habit. It wasn’t my bad habit. It was his.

You see I came to realize — as I was welcomed to my basement by the warm whirring cacophony of a myriad fans—that my servers had a filthy addiction. They were addicted to the juice. Oh they loved the juice. The pulsing flow of electron after electron as they consumed watt after watt became a burden unto me; then and there I vowed it must end.

But to tackle the firewall first? Why was my fantastic old faithful firewall friend the first to find itself fiendishly phased out2?

The answer here, dear reader, lies in the failures of another.

This other—who I shall refer to by the alias tw433p — seemed at first glance to be the veritable savior of my network. A low power consumption firewall / router / wireless access point / ethernet switch was just what the proverbial doctor had ordered; this tw433p seemed to be ideal for my needs. But all was not as it seemed.

Tw433p had a secret. A dirty little secret. The twr33p was crap. DHCP would stop responding, DNS would stop responding, it’d stop routing anything at all. All-in-all I had to reboot it two or three times a day.

So the only solution was to start fresh. And so it struck me, an equation of extra-ordinary magnitude. Wireless router appliance + third-party opensource firmware = all the power, flexibility, and security at a fraction of the electrical consumption.

After much googling, I came to the conclusion that while dd-wrt sounded awesome, Tomato sounded boss.

What I mean to say is that since I didn’t want my firewall taking on too many responsibilities, dd-wrt and all its packages was overkill.

Tomato made a lean, mean, flexible, powerful, and fast firewall. All the other conceivable services I may run on my home network will run elsewhere.

So which appliance shall be the gleaming receptacle for Tomato firmware, to be my new shining beacon of truth and sensibility in a sea of deceitful packets and spoofed martians?

It was then that I was visited by a wondrous vision: The sky was lit with shiny packets of data, good packets glowing a pale ethereal blue flew true and proud; evil packets filled with chaos and strife glowed a menacing purple and flew haphazardly as if drunk on the heady vapors of spam. These packets flitted and floated in the same general direction, slowly getting tighter and coalescing into a steady stream directed at a singular point — a cone filled like a quantum cloud of probability which tightened and solidified as it neared the tip.

There! In front of that point, standing as proud sentinel was a gleaming silver Buffalo, it’s proud horns aglow with bright red power. With a crackle and a hiss all packets purple with evil would shatter and twist, falling about the feet of the beast; there they lay broken and discarded. And lo, behind the beast there hung an orderly network of interconnected blue beams gleaming pure blue as the packets they contained transited space and time.

Okay, in reality I just read reviews.

Would the WHR-HP-G54 and the Tomato firmware in merging form a device greater than the sum of its parts bringing about a new order to my home network and thus usher in an era of peace, stability, wireless coverage (both strong and wide) and blazing speeds?

The answer, dear reader, is my network now rocks; my internet access from various computers is now both subjectively and objectively3 faster. I haven’t even turned on the QoS and already my VOIP is steady and all previous choppiness has disappeared. Did I mention the fraction of the electrical consumption thing?

This appliance is out performing the both my expectations and the legacy left behind by my good ol’ p233. Farewell ol’ faithful — I won’t miss you a bit.

1 IPCop is highly recommended, although-up-and comer pfSense is looking very neat.

2 To be read in the voice of the narrator from Batman.

3 Though I neglected to measure.