Turning computer into router, want to start off right, help?

By Slayer_ ·
So I am sick of my consumer router unable to handle the pressure.

I want to double up the use of my current web server machine, to also be the routing computer (is this possible?)

I have access to 2 network cards, both should be new enough. Neither are ISA and thus should work in Linux. The machine itself is only a 350mhz P2 with 256mb of RAM and a 40gb HD (gonna leave the second 10 gig drive as Windows 98, in case I need it).

My website is fairly low activity, nothing required to be secure. I mostly use it to hold files and photos, that funpics directory that I use in forums, my signatures, etc. No active content so a LAMP server is not really required, quick a dirty apache. I know my way around the apache config, but only in Windows. My Linux command line is super rusty. I think i remember an ls command... that's about it. And that the config was in an etc folder... and I need to be logged in as root to change it. Perhaps I should install a GUI for my configurations, then delete it when I am done?

On that note, I think I hear something called iptables??? is what I need to turn this machine into the same abilities as a router. Is that the right thing? how do I install and configure it? (Super detailed tutorial if possible, I have no decent or recent command line experience).
Also, will this thing allow me to forward ports like a consumer router? I currently use Virtual Server to do a lot of things in my house.

Can this server be set up to allow my other windows machines in the house to easily drop files in place and those files will assume the permissions and ownership of the directory they are in?

Can I also configure this server to function as my ventrillo server? (it is currently as my win9.

I will also need FTP access. Must work under passive access.

Also, if it would be easier, I read that Linux has good remote control abilities, maybe it would be easier to set up a machine just enough so someone could remote into it and set it up for me? Just a thought.

Assistance appreciated.
All good answers, advice, and insight will get thumbs.

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All Answers

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Re: effectively

by christianshiflet In reply to 2 more questions

100 concurrent torrents (down or up?), online games, and web browsing seems like a fair amount of network usage. Untangle provides more than just basic routing in that it scans and filters network traffic. Doing so takes computing resources to not slow down the network.

Out of curiosity, what is your up/down on your connection and when you experience problems, does everybody on your LAN experience problems or just you? Windows XP and later has a limit on half-open connections that can cause network slowdowns when large numbers of concurrent connections are in use.

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Everyone has the problem

by Slayer_ In reply to 2 more questions

I have 100kbps up and about 2000kbps down. I rarely use that much with my torrents, picture 100 torrents and a total download usage of less than 5kbps. Most of it getting stomped on by the router. I can download a full speed at any time I want from a website, and yet cannot make or hold a connection to MSN or Xfire or any online game (except Steam for some reason).

Really, my router is doing its more intense work right now, transferring the contents of that 40Gig drive to another computer, onto a portable drive. And if you look at it in XP, total network utilization is less than .5% of 100mbit connection. The two fastest computers in my house rarely talk to each other. They are the only machines that can push 80% utilization of the network when transferring files between them.

I don't really require the abilities of filtering incomming and such, closer to basic NAT and some port forwarding for games and other servers such as ventrilo server, is all I need.

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Possible solution

by Brenton Keegan In reply to Turning computer into rou ...

If it were me. I'd install ESXi (which is free) on a server. This of course depends on having hardware that's supported by ESXi. ESXi is basically the non-clustered version of Vmware's ESX product.

On here you can have a linux based router. I personally use vyatta. Create a vyatta VM and here you can create a number of servers that you want behind this router.

Since the all the hardware is abstracted by the virtualization hypervisor you can give your Vms as many nics as you need. You'll probably need at least 2 nics on this ESX box. One would be the outside connection and the other would be connected to the switch and you can have other physical devices on the inside network.

If it were me, I'd throw an out of the box router on the very edge. That will cut out a lot of crap and save your main router from the extra work load.

As for management, I'd have your workstation attached on the inside. If you have it on the outside then you'll have to open a bunch of ports for management. Unnecessary security risk.

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Interesting advice, but I think a bit too extreme

by Slayer_ In reply to Possible solution

Not to mention, how painful a P2 would handle virtualization, which could only offer likely less than 128mb of RAM to the virtual machine. Ouch Ouch Ouch! Would take weeks to even install an OS on a VM.

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by Brenton Keegan In reply to Interesting advice, but I ...

Serves me right for skimming, I didn't pay attention to your actual system specs =p.

If you had the hardware though, it would be way better and it's really not that extreme.

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Anything I can do with my system specs?

by Slayer_ In reply to haha

I was told that Linux could do what I want, but no one really said how.

If it is truely impossible, I do have a... rather noisey, 1.6ghz machine with 40gb HDD and 512 MB of RAM kicking around. But its power supply is not reliable. Still, if that is all I can do for this problem.

But I would much rather use the older, more reliable box.

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Re: linux

by christianshiflet In reply to Anything I can do with my ...

Check out for information on setting up a router/firewall on a linux machine. I would suggest using CentOS as your host OS. You should then be able to run Apache for your web services, DHCP and such for your LAN configuration needs and whatever else you are desiring. I don't think, however, that it will perform better than a standard consumer level router that you are already having issues with (unless they are really old or generally dysfunctional). Are there any logs from your routers that may give you a clue as to why traffic is being denied? Regardless, if nothing else it may be a fun experiment.

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Nah no logs

by Slayer_ In reply to Re: linux

It just doesn't like it, any peer 2 peer traffic seems to bring em to their knees. And yet the odd time, I have run torrents, downloading and gamed for a month or 2 and it works perfectly. So I figure the stability alone of a proper OS should solve the problem. I don't see how it could make it any worse.

So this shoreline is something I install onto the OS?

Can you explain how to install this program? (I assume CentOS is Commandline...)

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by christianshiflet In reply to Nah no logs

CentOS is a linux distribution based on RHEL (redhat). It has a GUI like almost all current linux distributions. You can download an iso to create the install DVD. Once CentOS is running you can setup/install Apache for your web services and download/install Shorewall for routing. The Shorewall site has some instructions on both install and configuration. There are numerous walk-throughs online regarding installing and setting up CentOS, which is a graphical installation and quite straight forward.

I will caution you that if you aren't familiar w/ linux this may become more an exercise in frustration than in setting up a router. Sometimes learning something isn't really fun when what you really want is just something that works.

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There is certainly truth to that

by Slayer_ In reply to Nah no logs

I do have some experience with Linux (experienced GUI Sloth for example). So it shouldn't be too painful. I no longer require the old printer it is hooked up to, and a router obviously doesn't require video or sound. The only incompatibility I can see is network cards, but they are normal cards, no winmodem or anything like that. And the last issue is if the CPU is to slow, will it bog down computer to computer network flow. I already know transferring a file from or to that computer is painfully slow. But if it is just forwarding on the packets, would it be as slow?

I also intend to keep that router attached as a wireless hub.

I do forget how to use Vi... But if it has a GUI, I should be able to just uninstall or turn off the GUI when I no longer need it right?

During the install, can I specify which GUI to use, and if so, what would be the best for such an old system. I had Ubuntu 8 on it once, in the time it took to open a menu and draw its contents, I managed the make supper, eat it, have a shower, shave, walk the dog, watch star trek, before it was done. Opening an admin GUI session took (seriously) 2 hours to do.

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