Recent Thoughts About The Edge of My Network

monowall-pfsense-alix-kitIn recent weeks I’ve been accumulating some thoughts about the edge of networks, and the edge of my home office network in particular.

This all started last month where there was an Ars Technica article describing how someone found a backdoor that allowed an evil-doer to gain admin access to a common consumer combination DSL Modem/router/Wifi AP. The author initially proved the exploit by hacking his Linksys WAG200G wireless gateway.

The article describes how he published the script used to run the exploit. That allowed others to try the exploit against various makes/models of consumer hardware. It thus came to light that the same trick works against various products from Linksys and Netgear, amongst others.

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D.I.Y. Asterisk Appliances: A Question Of Scale

Selecting hardware appropriate for a particular Asterisk installation has been a topic of discussion ever since the emergence of Asterisk. This typically centers around choosing hardware to handle n users or x concurrent calls. Often the focus is on how to scale up to the greatest number of users for a given server. However, there can be different but related considerations as we consider ever smaller applications.

In various circles I’ve lately witnessed a minor spike in interest in small form factor Asterisk systems. I have found it curious to survey the various hardware platforms that people are considering when creating their own DIY Asterisk Appliances. To establish some perspective on this I recently posted my own history of using Asterisk my own little Asterisk retrospective.

There are quite a range of small computing platforms available to the enthusiast seeking to tinker with Asterisk. It seemed to me that an overview of such hardware and related resources would be helpful.


For my purposes I’ll only consider generic platforms suitable for a DIY project , not the commercially offered embedded Asterisk devices, of which there are many. These small host platforms tend to be in the $50-$300 range which makes them approachable for hobbyists, home users and some small businesses.

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A History Of Asterisk In My Home Office

I’ve recently been reflecting upon my history as an Asterisk user and the evolution of my preference for embedded systems (aka appliance) approach to Asterisk servers.

The path that I’ve followed is probably typical of a lot of people in many ways. Perhaps by sharing my experience I can help some people avoid some of the problems that I have faced, and understand how I arrived at my personal definition of an “Asterisk Appliance.”

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Choosing A Router/Firewall For A Small Office

net4801_2_lOne project that I’m am about to start is moving from my m0n0wall router to a new one build around pfsense. The motivation for the project is the integration of our Comcast Business Class internet service into the rest of the household. At present there are two separate networks, with only a few devices enjoying the high speed cable service. The pfsense system will be configured for dual WAN, accessing both the cable service and Covad DSL circuit.

My existing m0n0wall runs on an old Soekris Net4801. In service for many years, it has been extremely reliable. If m0n0wall does what you need I have no hesitation in recommending the software. Support from the user community is tremendous as well.

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Netgear’s New Open Source Router

So Netgear has released an open source router. Thus it has something to compete with the open source version of the venerable Linksys WRT-54GL. Garrett Smith has an interesting viewpoint on this. One that I’m inclined to agree with.

I’m not a typical user. I’m an early adopter. I don’t mind putting in some effort to making something work up to its promised potential. I also like open source, but I just don’t see the value in running 3rd party software on a hobbled router platform. It’s just not good use of my time.

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Astlinux Lives!

After a relatively long quiet period the Astlinux mailing list has been fairly active lately. This is thanks in part to some new users who have been extending the distro to meet their needs. Like any open source project, the more the merrier, even if we sometimes bring differing visions to the party.

A new user I know only as FRED on the Astlinux mailing list has compiled a nice reference to building an embedded Astlinux server, including adding some nice things like Python and SQLite. Very handy. Worth a read.

Astlinux remains my favorite embedded distro, even though I’m still eagerly awaiting a release that includes Asterisk v1.4.