I was in the process of spiffing up our Sonicwall firewall and came across an open source alternative, called Untangle. According to the company's website, Untangle is
The Open Source Network Gateway The best open source projects, integrated and made easier for spam blocking, web filtering, remote access and more. * Commercial-grade open source alternative to SonicWALL and WatchGuard * 14 integrated apps - use one or all of them * Runs on off-the-shelf hardware
Given that our Sonicwall costs a pretty penny in subscription costs every year (and at every site in our district) and has, frankly, never filtered content all that well, a free competitor certainly piqued my interest. Our middle school administrator currently uses WatchGuard and swears by it, but I have no such loyalties. Better yet, because we're too cheap to subscribe to the services that block spam, viruses, and other malware at the door, the Sonicwall is not nearly as effective as it could be and I spend too much time managing malware on the client site.
So almost 500MB later, I had downloaded an ISO for a customized Knoppix Live CD that was more than happy to wipe out my test server and turn it into a gateway, content filter, spam blocker, virus scanner, etc. I fired up the live CD and installed the system without a hitch. The only niggle was the screen resolution that, for some reason, refused to be reasonable and forced me to move a giant window around the screen to read the installation instructions. The install also autodetected both of my network cards, informed me which I should connect to the external network and which to the internal network, and informed me that, while my system was adequate, it might be a bit slow because I only had half a gig of RAM (it deemed the P4 up to the task, though).
After a lengthy restart, I did launch the control console (or the client, as Untangle calls it), albeit slowly, and ran through a very intuitive configuration of the router functions. DHCP, DNS, and NAT were all running by default and I'm writing this post via my new gateway. It's almost too easy.
It remains to be seen how Untangle handles all of the security features it claims to support, but if they can match the ease of initial setup, they can count me in as a new user. I'm downloading one of their preconfigured free packages as we speak. I'll let you know how it goes.