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Little Linux Router Box

Published on Sun, 22 January 2012

After ongoing issues maintaining a reliable Internet connection at home I decided to add a custom built router to the network that would be in charge of assigning IP addresses and sharing our Internet connection with the rest of the network. I wanted something with at least two Ethernet ports so that all Internet traffic would flow through the device and allow bandwidth hogs to be identified at times when the connection appeared flooded.

After a bunch of research into appropriate hardware and software I decided on a PC Engines ALIX single board computer (alix2d13). The ALIX is a small board about the size of a CD case with the following features:

I also ordered one of PC Engines cases (case1s2u) to go with it.

For the software I settled on OpenWRT. I chose it for a number of reasons:

After learning to use the excellent OpenWRT build system I was able to build a custom CompactFlash image for the board to run. I also created a package for my weather logging software so that the ALIX can do all my weather station logging.

I moved many of services that my ADSL modem and AirPort base station were performing to the box and it’s proven extremely reliable. This includes maintaining the PPPoE connection to my ISP. I’d certainly recommend a set up like this to anyone who is looking for a small, dedicated home router.

If you don’t like the prospect of building your own custom OS image I’d also highly recommend m0n0wall, which is a FreeBSD derived router system. I ran this on the ALIX initially and it was very easy to get up an running (write image to CF card, boot from card - default settings worked fine but can be changed via a web UI) and very reliable.

Front view
Front with three LEDs. The behaviour of the LEDs can be customised in OpenWRT. I have the left one indicating power and the middle one indicating activity on the WAN port. The other one is currently unused.

Top view with CD for size comparison
Top of case, showing size in comparison to a CD case.

alix2d13 board
The ALIX board itself with the following connected: WAN and LAN Ethernet, 8Gb MosKeyto USB flash drive, weather station USB cable and 32Mb CF card that the system boots from.

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