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


Untangle Router Thoughts Redux

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

Sometimes, when you say something and you eventually turn out to be proven wrong (even if it takes 3 years), you have to eat some humble pie.

For the record, the team at Untangle have created an awesome product. I originally didn't use it/like it because there were no affordable home-based versions, and the free version was lacking in features.

However, I'm pleased to say that with Home version pricing for their full product, Untangle is now a serious contender for DIY budget-minded home techies. Here's the rundown on mine, which I built for a grand total of about $150, including the computer, NIC, and a 1-year subscription to Untangle NG (Home license).

The basis for this machine is a tired, refurbished Dell Optiplex I picked up on Amazon for $75. It's not anything spectacular, but for just running a software firewall, it's perfect. It had 2 PCI slots and 1 PCI-express slot, which means you shouldn't have any trouble finding network cards to put in it. I opted for a Rosewill dual-port network card, and since I had a couple extra PCI Intel Pro/1000's sitting around, I threw them in there, too. Plus the onboard LAN port gave me five total network ports I could play with.


Untangle Firewall: Round 2

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

Some of you may remember me writing about Untangle Firewall a few years ago. At the time, it was (and still is) an amazing piece of software, but had no affordable option for home networks. So I put it to the wayside, and moved on to other solutions.

When I say Untangle is a solid piece of work, I'm not exaggerating. It has tools that let you control, filter, log, and lock down everything passing through your router. It was just out of my price range for what I needed it to do. I'll even admit, I might have been a bit harsh on them- it really is good- but their business pricing is pretty steep for a home user.

And then recently, I discovered that Untangle released a Home pricing option for the full package. We're talking a $540 value for $50!

Naturally, I was intrigued. So I'm going to pull out my unused firewall mini-PC again, slap a dual-port NIC in it, and give Untangle another (well-deserved) shot.

I'm honestly looking forward to trying it out again, and if it works well for my needs, I will definitely make some how-to's and give them some well-deserved positive publicity. I'm pretty excited.

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Untangle Web Filter: Thoughts

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

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

A while back I wrote up an article on how to set up the Untangle Web Filter distribution, and explained how it worked.

However, after a few months' worth of using it, I've discovered a rather unpleasant shortcoming. Untangle doesn't support keyword filtering. So, as easy as Untangle is to set up and configure, it doesn't do the one thing I really needed it to do well: filter web content.

Don't get me wrong, Untangle is still an excellent firewall/filter/etc. distro under certain circumstances, but for home use, the regular "blacklist" content filter just isn't cutting it. Untangle works great for sectioning off your network, doing wireless sharing, access control, etc. and I'd still recommend it for a lot of uses. Just isn't a strong enough filter to work on my home network. Without even trying, I was easily able to find and get to stuff I shouldn't have. This is unacceptable when its primary function is to stop people from accessing unwanted web pages!

So, what do I do now?

Well, good news, there are plenty of web filter packages out there. The best one is probably DansGuardian, which is also free and open-source. The problem is, I can't install it on Untangle, so I'll have to completely redo the filter box with a different Linux installation.

Smoothwall is an excellent firewall/proxy/filter distribution, and I almost used it initially, but it's not quite as easy to set up (I went with Untangle because of its easy setup). However, I recently discovered that Smoothwall has the ability to install third-party modules to add functionality, one of which is DansGuardian (and a Samba file server! Yay! Which is something else Untangle won't do) so it looks like in the next week or two, I will be learning how to install, configure, and run the Smoothwall setup. It should work fine with the existing hardware I have, and it might even work with USB wi-fi adapters, which would be pretty slick. (This would be a great way to repurpose old laptops, etc.)

I will begin the process and document as it goes along. Wish me luck!


How To Add Free Filtered WiFi To Your Network

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

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

Well, like the title says. If you have a business or church that wants to have freely accessible (and filtered) wi-fi for guests, it's not as daunting a task as you think. In fact, I can show you how to do it yourself... with stuff you probably already have laying around! You'll need some computer skills, but nothing fancy. If you can use a screwdriver and know how to hook a computer up, you can probably do this yourself. Interested? Read on! Much thanks to the file people at who made this software package freely available for people like us!

First, we put together a list of things we'll need.

  1. An old or used (preferably functional!) computer. You want something with at least 512MB of memory, a hard drive (10GB or more is fine) and a CD-Rom for installing the OS. 
  2. Wi-Fi access point (you may be able to use an old router if it supports AP mode)
  3. Small network switch (only needs to be 4 ports, but use what you can find)
  4. Some Cat5 ethernet cables
  5. Two PCI ethernet cards (preferrably Intel or 3Com, but use what you can find)
  6. A blank CD-R (or a 1GB thumb drive)
  7. Another computer with a CD burner
  8. Someplace to set the computer up and work on it (keyboard, monitor, mouse, etc.)

Once you've assembled your stuff, you're going to want to give the old computer a check-up to make sure it's in good working condition. If possible, blow it out with compressed air. Make sure all the cables are connected. Make sure it has two open PCI slots for the network cards!



Untangle Firewall/Filter Server

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

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.