Watchguard Firewall X750e running pfsense

After many trusted years of service, my original pfsense firewall died (Watchguard X700).   So it was off to ebay to buy a newer model the X750e – faster processor, more RAM.  £40 later on ebay I have myself a large red box!

For those who don’t know pfsense is a damn good open source firewall.   It’s based upon FreeBSD and the firewall software runs particularly well, with a little tweaking, on old Watchguard boxes.  These boxes have a 1.3Ghz celeron processor, 6 x 1Gb NICS, 512Mb RAM.  More than ample for running a firewall.  Get two and you can set one up for automatic-failover!

So if you want a firewall that is industrial grade and want to protect your home a little better than a typical ADSL type firewall, or just want to learn more about one of these babies, then head over to ebay and grab one for a bargain.

To get one working here are the high level steps that I’ve found to work

  1. Flash the BIOS with the original CF card so that you can use large CF cards on the box.
  2. Flash a 4Gb CF card with the latest version of pfsense
  3. Sort out the DMA issue caused by the latest version of pfsense
  4. Install WGXepc so you can control the speed of the howling banshees (aka cooling fans)
  5. Install LCDProc
  6. Configure your firewall for your personal tastes

Good starting point:

Hard work

So this weekend just gone, I popped up to see my parents up in Cumbria and took the opportunity to do a little cycling.

The first eight miles to Little Salkeld were reminiscent of Cornwall.  Very steep but short brutal hills.  After a most pleasant tea and cake at Little Salkeld Watermill, I headed up to Hartside Cafe.  This is on the C2C Route 7 route at is 1903 ft.  There is a lovely cafe at the top which is well worth a visit.

The journey on the way down however – awesome! 

Solar Storm Front Light

So whilst I’ve been waiting for the LBS to rebuild my front wheel with dynamo, I’ve had to come up with alternative light arrangements.   A friend recommend the SolarStorm lights.  So I went out and bought this….

  • It’s a simple arrangement – light fixes to bars via a thick stretchy band.
  • Battery has a velcro strap that allows you to fix the battery to the frame
  • Lead on light plugs into lead on battery and then you screw it together to avoid it coming undone whilst riding.

There is a button which has four settings depending on the number of times you press it:

  1. Press once – you get daylight
  2. Press twice – you get a bright summers day
  3. Press three times – the ISS can see you from orbit!
  4. Press four times – the darkness envelopes you.

Battery life is around 4 hours on ‘daylight’ setting and about an hour on ‘View from orbit’ setting.

All in all, well worth spending £18 (off ebay).

Final note – cars dip their headlights when you approach!

The only thing left is the frame

Back in 2013 when I decided I was going to do LeJog I bought myself a bike.  That bike was the Kona Dewdrop – a rather splendid bike that suited my style of riding.  Essentially I will cycle on everything from road to canal path to dirt track.   The Dewdrop is a hybrid bike with drop handlebars, Avid BB7 brakes and was bought 12 months old off ebay for £300.  The guy I bought it off had fitted carbon forks to get rid of the harsh ride that others have complained about.  In the 18 months of owning it,  it’s stood up pretty well to everything I’ve thrown at it, even a metal post!

Since owning it, I’ve slowly replaced bits to make it my own.   After hitting a metal post in December 2014 and sliding off whilst cycling on ice the other week, I was concerned that I may have bent the frame.  After taking it to my LBS (Red Kite Cycles) they reassured me that all was good and that the frame was straight.   What wasn’t straight was the pedal, the left crank, the handelbars, the left brake/shifter and bottom bracket.  The forks may need replacing as they don’t make a uniform noise when you tap them on the left hand side.

So now I’m busy replacing parts.  The new bits going on the bike are:

  • Shimano 105 5703 triple 10 speed chainset.  I’ll get around to fitting the 105 10sp cassette and shifters later in the year.
  • Shimano PD-A600 touring pedals.   The last set of Shimano SPD pedals were bought in 1998, so about time I bought a new set!
  • Hope bottom bracket.  I was looking at the ceramic version, but my LBS said I would be wasting my money.

So I can see that possibly before 2015, I may end up replacing pretty much everything on the Kona Dewdrop.  In fact with the forks in need of replacement, I’m considering this….


The Genesis Crois de Fer frameset.    The hybrid has been good, but I’m eeking more towards a CX now.  This frame looks the business too.   Watch this space for further developments!

The Light Spur – one way to be seen

Light SpurSo I’ve started training for LeJog 2015 by cycling to work.  This is largely in response to Stovesy continually sending me little updates via mapmyride that every day he has cycled x miles.  My ride to work involves an 8 mile cycle ride through deepest darkest (it is very dark at this time of the year at 7.00am) suburbia into the centre of Birmingham.   Then it’s an equally dark ride bike home at 6.00pm at night.   Whilst I’ve got a particularly bright front and rear light set up, what I was noticing that I wasn’t being seen from the side.  Given that most car drivers are blind to cyclists, something had to be done.

I came across the Nathan LightSpur whilst browsing Amazon and thought I’d give it a go.   It can be used by cyclists and runners alike and it’s bright!  It gives off a particularly bright light and I noticed an immediate difference in traffic not trying to run me over.   The light is activated from the side and has two modes – flashing or static.

So if you fancy being seen at night – this will certainly help!

Mavic A719

A719The Mavic A719 – I had to write about this rim; it’s bullet proof in my humble  opinion.   Last year I used this rim on the front of my bike to travel down tow paths, rough tracks with an extra 10kg of weight in the panniers.   Now I’m not a sprite of a lad like Stovesy, so this wheel has to put up with a lot!    Last year I had a metal post head on at 17mph and bent the metal post, cracked a rib got a lot of bruising, wrecked my rear mech hanger, rear dérailleur and front cog.   It did wreck the Mavic rim, but it didn’t bend the wheel so that I couldn’t ride home!