Living Outside The Box Born-Again Techo-Geek Renaissance Man

1Apr/130

Untangle Firewall/Filter Server

Update: Untangle recently released a very affordable "home" complete package. I'm going to reevaluate it, and update as necessary.

Sometimes, you take a good long look at the internet, and think "I could really do without it." There's a lot of nasty stuff out there, and if you have kids, there are some things they just don't need to see. However, we know kids are curious, and more and more websites are pushing inappropriate ads to younger and younger demographics. I could go on and on about the depravity in commercialism today, but that's for another post.

Specifically, I decided to build a Firewall computer to filter what comes into my home's internet. For my sake, and the kids'! Most of our computers don't run Windows (and therefore don't need antivirus) but there are worse things to let in than viruses. So I went to Newegg, picked up a cheap barebones computer (only needed a hard drive and memory) and in a matter of an hour, I had a complete, functional mini computer for well under $200.

But what to put on it? There were several options, but I wanted to stick with something Linux-based (because it's free, and it's free). I also know more about setting up Linux servers than anything else. After some research, I decided to try out a pre-configured distribution called Untangle. I was prepared to do installing and configuring, and maybe some compiling... but with Untangle, there was none of that. You literally answer a few questions about your network setup, set a password, and when it reboots, you have a functioning firewall! It still takes a little work to configure it to your specific needs, but even that is a one-click proposition. You do need to create a free account with the Untangle website, but everything else is seamless. It just works! It has more configurability than I would ever need, and can be ramped up to use corporate-strength management (with an appropriate add-on subscription, of course).

Untangle

Honestly, I was just amazed that it worked perfectly, out of the box. There are some things I didn't like about it, such as the fact that there are NO extra desktop tools on it... it is designed to be a single-purpose machine. Once you get past that, it's brilliant. I first tested it out in a VirtualBox VM, and after success, decided to just install it directly on hardware. So far, it has been 100% maintenance-free, and has performed perfectly against every test I could throw at it. Eventually, I'd like to post up some how-tos, but you can check out almost everything you'd need to know at the Untangle  website.

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

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