Using a Mac to configure a Alix Netgate firewall router running pfSense

A few years back I was running pfSense on an old PC and posted instructions on building your own machine. We’ve moved to a new house where a small, silent firewall/router was desired. I purchased a Netgate Alix.2D13 board, enclosure and power supply.

If you are running a Mac, see the full post for details.

First, you will need a compactflash card. I am using a 2GB Kingston 50X CompactFlash Elite Pro. When I recently upgraded to pfSense 2.0 I experimented with a Lexar 4GB 133x card. In this application the 50X, smaller Kingston was faster to load. Also note you must download the correct version to match the size of your card. Look for the 1G, 2G or 4G version to match your 1G, 2G or 4G compactflash card.

Download the correct version of pfSense to match the size of your card. Place the file on your desktop.

The Netgate Alix board and other embedded solutions will need to run over console mode. You will need a female to female null modem cable and something like the GUC232A USB to Serial RS-232 Adapter. Also grab this pl2303 open source driver for the adapter.

Plug your CF card into your mac via a card reader. Open Disk Utility and select the partition of the CF card what will allow you to unmount the card. Then unmount the card. It will now be grayed out. Select the main partition of the CF card and select the info button. Look for Disk Identifier. In my case it was disk7.

Open the terminal and cd to the desktop and run this command, substituting your file name and disk identifier:

gzcat pfSense-2.0-RC1-2g-i386-20110226-1633-nanobsd.img.gz | dd of=/dev/disk7 bs=16k

Depending on your card this could take up to 15 minutes. When the file has been exploded onto your card the terminal will report something like this:

244615+1 records in
244615+1 records out
4007775744 bytes transferred in 820.102123 secs (4886923 bytes/sec)

If the mac wants to initialize the card click ignore.

Insert the CF card into your Netgear Alix board, and plug in your WAN and LAN ethernet cables. Hook up your null modem and USB to serial cables, then power up the board.

Run ls -l /dev/tty* in the terminal and look for an entry that contains PL2303. Mine shows up as tty.PL2303-00002006

Run this command to connect to the firewall/router:

screen /dev/tty.PL2303-00002006 9600

You may need to enter in a few line returns to get things started. Now you should be able to configure your firewall/router.

To quit the screen app, type control-a, then control-.

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