Untangle, Asterisk PBX and File Server; All-in-One.

Here’s the first instalment of what hopefully will be a short series. I am building a low-power PC for use as a home server, firewall, net-filter, and IP-PBX.

Our house is flood-wired with CAT5e cabling to almost every room, and with me, my wife and eldest son we can have up to 4 or 5 PCs active on our network at any one time.

My eldest son (James) is about to turn 7 and has already started to use Google. So it is time to put some content filtering on the network, and maybe some caching too. Plus I want a decent, low power device that could be left on pretty much 24/7 with sufficient hard disk capacity to act as a backup host for our desktop machines’ data. Also my business partner and I both work from our respective homes currently and it would be useful if the single analogue line coming into my office could be switched (via Asterisk) so calls can be routed to whoever happens to be available using VOIP.

After reading up on the Untangle product, I decided that would be a great foundation for my project as it is a bundle of all the main network security applications built into one software appliance. The interesting task will be to get it, happily living along side Asterisk, Samba/FTP and hopefully Apache for a public web server.

After ensuring that Untangle would be happy with a low-power VIA type PC for our use, the next step was to identify suitable hardware. Much research led me to choosing this board – a Jetway J7F4K which has dual GigE Lan ports, a couple of sata ports, IDE, USB and the usual other interfaces. This board is available in two models:

  • a 1.5Ghz VIA CN700 fan cooled (available as either a 25W or 12W mobo)
  • or a 1.2Ghz VIA CN700 fanless and rated at an amazingly meagre 7W.

The 1.2Ghz model was the one I chose as power drain is more important to me than 300Mhz of processing power. To fill it out, I ordered, a 1Gb stick of DDR2 533Mhz ram, a 320Gb Hitachi Sata Hard Disk and a DVD+/-RW/RAM anything drive.

For those interested, the motherboard I ordered from LinITX.com and the rest of bits I got from SCAN Computers. After reading a couple of forums, there were good comments about LinITX and they had the latest rev of the Jetway board in stock which has a new heatsink and latest BIOS to cure some reported reliability problems with earlier models. SCAN I have used before and always offer good prices and service.

I bought a really neat case on eBay for £15.oo which was a real bargain. Brand new, including PSU, quite small and nicely engineered, and designed for uATX boards, but Mini-ITX are fine too. It is made by a company I’d not heard of before; In-WIN.

Case with Motherboard installed

The motherboard arrived before all the rest of hardware so I have just loosely fitted the mobo, and am thinking about how to route the cables neatly. For that I’ll need some cable ties and some of the sticky pads for fixing cable ties to as there aren’t many useful holes in the case to tie onto.

Detail of Motherboard

The motherboard itself is really quite amazing. being the Mini-ITX format – it is really tiny, just 17cm (6.6in) square! Here’s a close up of it and you can clearly see the large heatsink that covers the processor, VRMs and northbridge I believe.

On Monday I should be getting the rest of the hardware so I’ll post some more as I complete the physical assembly.

Then we’ll get into the good stuff – installing lots of Open Source software…

Update: Whilst waiting for the hardware to arrive, I started thinking about a partitioning scheme. I am not a fan of LVM for performance reasons so I will be using physical partitions. Here’s my first draft.

Machine Part Type Drive Grub Mount Point File System OS Size (GB)
TBC   sda hd0    

Linux sda1 hd0,0 /boot ext2 Linux 0.243
  Linux Swap sda2 hd0,1 /swap swap   1.870
  Linux sda3 hd0,2 / ext3   4.000
  Extended sda4   ext part      
  Linux sda5 hd0,4 /usr ext3   10.000
  Linux sda6 hd0,5 /var ext3   10.000
  Linux sda7 hd0,6 /opt ext3   10.000
  Linux sda8 hd0,7 /srv ext3   10.000
  Linux sda9 hd0,8 /home ext3   100.000
  Linux sda10 hd0,9 /home/alord ext3   40.000
  Linux sda11 hd0,10 /home/hjlord ext3   40.000
  Linux sda12 hd0,11 /home/jlord ext3   40.000
  Linux sda13 hd0,12 /home/mlord ext3   40.000
  Linux sda14 hd0,13 /mnt/lfs ext3   10.000

Also, I’m thinking about a name for the new server… All the computers in our network are named after characters from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. So Far I have used: Twoflower, Rincewind, Moist, Binky, Gaspode and Mort. I am thinking about using: Eroll (the dragon), Ludmilla (a werewolf), Angua (another werewolf), Vimes (the commander of the watch), or Magrat (the young witch).

Anyone got any more good suggestions?

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  • KyttKat says:

    That is a gorgeous Mobo – make you want to frame it and hang it on the wall. As this is intended for 24/7 use, how about incorporating a media server in there too as MP3 media clients like the Sonos and Pinnacle/Roku Soundbridge would be able to access it without the need for a main PC to be turned on.

  • Alan Lord says:

    If I had any media clients like that then that’s a good idea. It wouldn’t take much more in the way of apps to provide the service so if/when we have them then I’ll bear it in mind.

  • KyttKat says:

    Given that this box will be policing your internet connection Vimes would seem to be the obvious choice of name. Or of course you could go for his full name, His Grace, The Duke of Ankh, Commander Sir Samuel Vimes or perhaps not.

  • Alan Lord says:

    Yes – I was thinking along the same lines myself…

  • […] some of the readers here will know, the little server I’ve built for home use is running LFS. It also runs, Apache, Tomcat, MySQL, PHP, Postgresql, […]

  • […] you have read any of the “Untangle, Asterisk and File Server; All-in-One” series of posts before, then you will know that I’ve got a neat little VIA CN700 server for […]

  • Aaron says:

    Could you please email me, I would like very much to set up a Trixbox and Untangle on the same server, but need a little help getting started. Thanx.

    • Alan Lord says:


      I wrote those posts quite a while ago now. I haven’t played with UT for well over a year and do not use Trixbox.

      Trixbox comes as a full “distro” based on CentOS IIRC so you will possibly struggle to get the two to play nicely as I believe that UT is based on a Debain type distro. I may be wrong, but I’m not really the right man to ask.

      Thanks for visiting my blog.

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