In 2012 I was the first residential customer in Burlington, VT to receive gigabit service, and discovered that a Cisco Linksys E4200 router was not capable of achieving more than about 350Mbps of throughput on my connection, although plugging directly into the fiber line would allow 950+Mbps. My roommate spent about $350 on the E4200 at the time, and with a price tag that high for terrible performance, I wanted to find a better way.

How it works

The GigaBox is an OEM Systems 2550L2D-MxPC small form factor PC powered by a dual-core 1.8GHz Intel Atom D2550 processor with 8GB of DDR3 1066MHz SODIMM that runs IPFire on an 18GB Solid State Drive. It has dual gigabit Ethernet ports and can achieve 940Mbps+ throughput on a gigabit network connection. An Alfa AR9271 wireless adapter with directional antenna is added for long-range wireless connections. Services such as ownCloud, Samba, CUPS, SquidGuard, Snort, Asterisk, Icecast, and TeamSpeak are all easy enabled packages in IPFire utilizing a web interface. Through the use of Zebra, load-balanced and dynamic routing paths can be enabled to bridge multiple gateways over long distances through point-to-point wireless connections.

Challenges I ran into

The driver configuration of Ethernet network cards is not uniform across all operating systems for the same hardware, and it is much easier to configure Linux to achieve maximum throughput as a client of a GigaBox LAN connection than it is for Mac or Windows on the same hardware.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

It achieves near-maximum throughput and provides a cost-effective, open-source solution for households with gigabit connections to fully leverage their Internet capabilities. The server features of the GigaBox also work well in households with primarily mobile computing devices such as phones, tablets, and notebooks, freeing up the need to use a desktop to serve files or services, all for around $200.

What I learned

Open-source solutions on commodity hardware can easily replace standard consumer grade networking equipment at a fraction of the cost.

What's next for The GigaBox

Upgrading the wireless card to full 802.11ac with beam forming, and switching to IPFire 3.x which requires building the whole distribution from source.

Built With

  • alfa
  • intel-atom
  • ipfire
  • ssd
  • zebra
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