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pfSense and alike on appliance hardware with serial

Posted by Felix Kronlage on Friday, September 10, 2010

We’ve been doing consultancy in embedded devices for quite a while now and there are tons of good software solutions out there. When we started to introduce our bytemine openbsd appliance, we were sure some people would like to have that hardware without our software in order to use what they’ve been using for years. That’s why we had the bytemine appliance available from the beginning.

With the introduction of the newest bytemine appliance model, the 6a16, we also looked into making sure it works fine with embedded solutions like pfSense. It works just fine, however there are couple of tweaks that need to be done, in order to boot these types of images successfully with serial console.

The bytemine appliance machines are not alone out there – it seems that with the newest pfSense image others had to do the same tweaks and ran into the same problems. The root cause is that most of these devices have VGA on board, with the serial console being the main interface. In the case of the 6a16 the VGA is not even connected to a header, so the serial console has to be used. After all, it is serious hardware, no need for VGA. Appliances like these usually have a BIOS setting that dictates how the machine and serial console redirection behaves once the BIOS post is over. Typically there are two or three different options, named something like:

  • Always on
  • Bootloader only
  • Disabled

For the newest pfSense Image based on nanobsd it has to be set to ‘Disabled’. Other operating systems (like OpenBSD) like it to be set to “Bootloader” and/or “Always on”. This basically depends on how the underlying system is configured to give its output.

While on this subject: we offer commercial support for a variety of embedded solutions and also happily adapt solutions to your needs, including adapting bytemine appliance software to your preferred hardware.