New and Improved Router on a Floppy Disk: Freesco in 2003

Freesco has evolved and improved since Carla Schroder's initial look last year at the 'single floppy disk router.' In her latest article, Carla takes a second look at the updated, free alternative to Cisco routers for your lighter routing chores and for running lean, specialized servers.

 By Carla Schroder
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We took an initial two-part look at Freesco way back in May, 2002. Here's a quick recap from our initial article. Freesco, which stands for FREE ciSCO, is a "single floppy distribution" of Linux that is intended to be a replacement for minor Cisco routers. It can be run from a single floppy disk, from a hard disk, or on RAM disks. It is easy to configure, has minimal system requirements, and is adaptable to all kinds of uses. Versions 0.3.0 and later require a little more hardware muscle than earlier versions -- v0.2.7, for example, could run on a 386 with 6 megabytes of RAM, whereas v0.3.x needs at least a 486 with 8MB of RAM. (Don't landfill those old PCs -- they are still good for some things.)

The authors of Freesco have done a wonderful job with the interface, as it is logical and easy to learn. Don't be fooled by the apparent simplicity of the interface, though; Freesco's ease of use and relatively limited learning curve does not mean it is a simple, limited program. Freesco, in fact, is quite sophisticated and powerful.

Freesco has continued to improve and evolve since our initial look; most recently, version 0.3.1 was released in February with substantial improvements. In addition to the expected bridging, routing, and firewall capabilities, Freesco has these additional features:

  • Version 2.0.39 Linux kernel
  • Ability to run entirely from RAM (A minimum of 17 MB physical RAM is required, and RAM Disks need to be enabled)
  • Extensible, with support for adding third-party packages
  • An Ident server
  • Limited support for SCSI hard drives (requires custom kernel compilation to add your drivers)
  • PPPoE (Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet) support
  • A Netmeeting module
  • New, updated set of NIC drivers
  • Support for up to ten modems (up to four regular modems, or Unix 4/8 port modems)
  • Support for up to ten networks
  • Support for up to five printers (although at least two would have to be serial printers). IP restrictions can be enabled for each printer
  • PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) support
And much more...that's a lot of functionality for such a tiny program.

Features Lacking in Freesco
Features worth noting that are not currently present in Freesco include:

  • No USB support
  • No ISDN PCI card support (the 2.0.39 Linux kernel cannot support them)
A "Scary" Feature
Freesco uses BIND 4. Use this for internal DNS only! It is completely unsafe to use as a public service or for connecting to any untrusted networks.

Page 2: Packages

This article was originally published on Apr 10, 2003
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