Using Realtek NICs in pfSense

In the year 2021 there are a lot of things that you just take for granted. Remember when you used to have to use jumpers to set things on your computer? Or worrying about IRQ conflicts? Or whether you could get the the drivers you needed to work? These are all parts of the “bad old days” of computers that I don’t miss very much. These days if I plug things into my computer - any of them - I expect them to “just work.” And very often, surprisingly, this is the case. Especially common, well supported things like network cards. So it is notable when I encounter something where that isn’t the case. But first, let’s back up a little bit.

Creating a Safe Kids Network with pfSense, Unifi and NextDNS

Well, here we are five months later and COVID-19 is still a thing. And like many parents we are facing the need to continue our daughter’s education at home. Our local school district has stated that all learning will be conducted online for at least the first nine weeks. And even if they allow for students to return, we will probably opt to keep her at home for awhile longer until things are more stable. Now, our daughter is seven and will be turning eight in a couple months. So she’s at that age where she’s old enough to do some things independently. But, as most of us know, the Internet is not a safe place for a seven year old and we as parents need to exercise some level of control over the things they can access. And while the best solution is a set of eyes, we obviously can’t be everywhere at all times. So this is the solution I came up with.

Options Have Meanings, or, How I Made an rsync Seven Times Faster

Warning: Doing this is making a clear tradeoff between security and speed. Do not do this on the public Internet or across a network you do not trust. rsync is one of those tools that is in every computer user’s toolkit. It’s fantastic for moving large amounts of data around and for migrating data from one system to another. rsync also has a ton of options and, after awhile, you get to where muscle memory means you just type the same few options over and over again. With me, that was -avz, archive, verbose, compression. Recently, I was migrating several terabytes of data from a NAS to a computer. As is often the case, I fired up an rsync job and watched it. It maxed out at about 35 megabit. Across a gigabit switched internal network.

More collectd and pfSense Fun!

Extending my post from last year, here’s some additional data I’m grabbing from pfSense and stuffing into collectd via a script. I’m now grabbing: DHCP Leases CPU Temperature Thermal Zone Temperature SSD Drive Temperature UPS information (via NUT) Here’s the exec script:

Collecting Data From pfSense Using collectd

So I’ve recently been on a graphing thing, wanting to collect all kind of data from my home network. And collectd seems to be a good candidate for doing that. With a huge number of plugins, it can collect and send just about anything you can think of to a time series database (I’m using InfluxDB for this). But, there’s a significant hole in my data collection: my pfSense firewall. Well, not anymore!

Pretty URLs - Serving Plex from behind a proxy using mod_proxy and Apache

I’m obsessed with pretty URLs. I admit it. I love looking at a properly formatted URL that just looks nice. I’m slowly converting our internal media library over to Plex now that it is available on the new AppleTV. In doing that, I noticed that the Plex web interface serves, by default, serves from port 32400. So the URL ends up looking somthing like this: Twitch.

Scheduled Throttling with pfSense

Apple has launched a new Photos App for OS X, along with the ability to upload your entire library to iCloud. And with prices that are so cheap, there’s almost no reason not to. $3.99 a month is cheap insurance to know that every photo I’ve ever taken of my family won’t be wiped out in a tornado. But with this comes a problem - namely, how do you upload a 150 gigabytes of photos over a 5 megabit network connection? Well, you wait a really long time for it to upload. Which is fine, really, because I’m not in any particular hurry to finish. But, once I started the upload, I noticed that surfing the web became pretty much impossible because the upload to iCloud was saturating my upstream bandwidth.

Installing the Ubiquiti UniFi Controller Software on pfSense 2.2

Note: I am leaving this here for the reference and posterity, but for a variety of reasons, I no longer recommend doing this. It is a neat hack, but tends to be a bit of a pain to live with as you end up having to troubleshoot or reinstall it every time you update pfSense or Unifi. When you can install it on a Raspberry Pi for less than $50, there’s really no need to do this. I personally have switched to running this on a stock Ubuntu system that runs a few other network services in my house. This is a short tutorial on how to install the Ubiquiti Networks’ UniFi Enterprise Wifi controller software on pfSense 2.2. These directions are derived from these directions for 2.1-RC, but have been updated to work on 2.2. Note that this is a somewhat advanced tutorial. If you are not comfortable working in a Unix command line or editing system files, this is probably not the best thing you could do. But I’m putting it out here in case it will help others.

Switching to pfSense

So after several years of successfully using DD-WRT, I finally decided to move to pfSense. There are a multitude of reasons for this move, but I’ll try to enumerate some of them.