Drilling a new router

Hack, Hardware, Network

Up to today, my router was a HP Microserver N40L running FreeBSD 9.0 and the wonderful pf. But other than being damn cheap, the Microserver was never what I really wanted, it was too big, ate too much power and had a big fan (not too noisy, but audible in a quiet room). I've been looking at embedded ones, but the Alix boards are a bit slow for what I had in mind and can't handle a MTU over 1500. Soekris has some nice stuff, but they were a bit pricey, especially with international shipping, as for some reason there is no UK reseller. So when someone offered me an old Atom based embedded PC with four Intel Gigabit NICs, I was quite excited. This thing is awesome! It also has two SATA channels, a full height PCI slot and a mini-PCI below. This had to be my new router.


Of course the first thing to do after a quick test to see if it's working was to take it apart and clean a few years worth of dust out of it. The fan was extremely loud and sounded like an angry bee and only calmed down somewhat after drenching it in oil, so a silent 40mm fan was ordered, along with a 32GB SSD and an Atheros mini-PCI wireless card with two pigtails and matching antennas. Kudos to Chaos from LinITX for shipping so fast, despite the ongoing annual shopping event.

Next up, some metalworking. There wasn't really a good place for the antennas, and I didn't want to use the PCI slot shield in case I want to stick a card in there later on, so considering cable length and space on the inside for the pigtails, the only sensible place was below the PCI slot at the rear end. A bit of drilling and vacuuming up the metal shavings and the pigtails were in.

Pilot hole drilled Pigtails installed

A quick test showed the wireless working, so I plugged in the new fan (very quiet and CPU temperature only went up from 50 to 53°C compared to the angry bee fan), added the SSD and installed the almost released FreeBSD 9.1. Done!