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This category covers free or proprietary software.

Creating a low-cost, full feature dual WAN (load balance or fail-over) firewall.

I'm in love...

I guess I should qualify that statement. I've been working on finding a firewall to deploy to our customers. 

Gradually more and more of our customers want or need 2 ADSL lines for fail-over and/or VoIP traffic quality purposes. So the task was to find a robust router that importantly wasn't going to be deprecated or discontinued for a fair while so we could standardise on it. Our problem recently with low end ADSL routers is that we'd find a nice one, then after a few months we wouldn't be able to buy it anymore.

So low cost and sophisticated enough to do :-

  • Dual WAN failover - in both directions.
  • Ability to chose what traffic leaves which WAN interface. i.e. LAN to WAN/WAN2 control.
  • Standard firewall filtering
  • NAT and 1-1 NAT
  • Port forwarding and port mapping
  • Static routes

We bought a Netgear Dual WAN router to investigate the commercial dual WAN routers, as we have had good experiences with their equipment. However on testing it didn't quite do everything I wanted. Particularly be able to choose the exit route of different traffic on our network. It also left me worried that choosing a commercial solution would leave us open to having the product changed or upgraded.

We've been a fan of IPCop's for a long time as we've always found that standard firewall routers have either lacked features or been out of the range of the SME budget. For those customers that have needed a featured firewall we've always used IPCop's. Using an old PC or a new mini-ATX PC and putting IPCop on it has made our lives much nicer in the last 5 years. However IPCop doesn't support dual WAN and there was nothing on the roadmap to suggest it was going to be implemented. The other thing was that being hard drive based, IPCop's are always going to be more prone to failure than an embedded firewall due to the mechanical nature of hard drives. We'd considered putting IPCop on CF-cards, but figured that since they weren't optimised for flash based drives, that the OS would rapidly wear the drive out.

However there is the dual-WAN capable pfsense, and after checking out a virtual appliance and being suitable happy with it, I decided to buy an ALIX embedded PC. This company sells them with m0n0wall or pfsense pre-loaded so I bought 2 for testing and waited for it to arrive.


How to Recover Deleted Files with Free Software

Useful series of steps and software for deleted files and other data loss scenarios.

The Free IT Support Engineers Toolkit

(If you are looking for first-class IT support in London, please feel free to contact us)

We carry around a lot of software on our USB keys these days in order to assist in doing our job. Here is the main selection of the software we keep on it.

Installations for New PC's

Standard to all

Microsoft Office (2000/XP/2003) Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats

Enables the use of docx and other 2007 formats in older Microsoft Office versions.
Users of the Microsoft Office XP and 2003 programs Word, Excel, or PowerPoint—please install all High-Priority updates from Microsoft Update before downloading the Compatibility Pack.

Deployment software and driver packs for Windows

Two very interesting things brought to my attention of late.

First we have nLite and vLite , which looks to be very nice Windows deployment/unattended setup tools, compared to the standard Microsoft Unattended setup tool for XP - I've not looked at the Microsoft's own Vista deployment tool yet so I can't comment on how good/bad it is.
As an aside, I have to say that at RunPCRun it is rare to install/reinstall Windows. Installing isn't necessary as we don't produce hardware and it's well known that OEM's pre-install Windows for you. Secondly reinstalling Windows is fairly rare as there is almost always a fix that will bring a dead system back to life. Only in cases such as a total hard drive failure, in which case if it's in the warranty period the manufacturer will replace the drive and then the data is restored from backup. If it's not under warranty then it's usually a good reason to upgrade that old PC rather than spend good money on labour on an old machine.

I have seen reinstalling Windows to be used as a fix for almost any situation by people and comapanies. In my eyes it's a crazy thing to do for no other reason than "I don't know how to fix it"

Secondly we have DriverPacks.net where some very nice person has spent a lot of time amalgamating all the drivers for a particular peripheral together all in one folder. This will be very useful to have on the network or on a USB key (especially the SATA and Network drivers) in order to change those yellow plings/bangs in the Device Manager to nicely installed devices.

Also you could combine nLite and DriverPacks together and you have a very nice Windows installation CD.

Some of the Free and Open source software I've discovered recently.

open source

  • Scribus - Scribus is an open-source program that brings award-winning professional page layout to desktops with a combination of "press-ready" output and new approaches to page layout.
  • Banshee - Import, organize, play, and share your music using Banshee's simple, powerful interface. Rip CDs, play and sync your iPod, create playlists, and burn audio and MP3 CDs. Most portable music devices are supported. Banshee also has support for podcasting, smart playlists, music recommendations, and much more.
  • BRL-CAD -  The BRL-CAD package is a powerful Constructive Solid Geometry (CSG) solid modeling system with over 20 years development and production use by the U.S. military. BRL-CAD includes an interactive geometry editor, parallel ray-tracing support for rendering and geometric analysis, path-tracing for realistic image synthesis, network distributed framebuffer support, image-processing and signal-processing tools.
  • Seamonkey - Web-browser, advanced e-mail and newsgroup client, IRC chat client, and HTML editing made simple -- all your Internet needs in one application.
  • Sci-craft -  SciCraft is a powerful open source data analysis software with an easy-to-use graphical user interface.
  • KompoZer -   KompoZer is a wysiwyg HTML editor (an Nvu/Composer fork) aimed towards advanced users.
  • GIMPshop - The GIMP (a photoshop-like image manipulation package) reworked to look and feel like Photoshop.
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