LAB: WAN Issues w/ Realtek + PFSense

It’s a pret­ty com­mon issue. Real­tek devices are inex­pen­sive an pro­lif­ic but they’re flaky and not rec­om­mend­ed by most. Cou­pled with pfsense, one can have a pret­ty sol­id lab if you can get them work­ing reli­ably. I went down the path of build­ing out a new lab with a giga­byte box as a pfsense one-arm-router. I paired it with a man­aged PoE switch run­ning a few Ubiq­ui­ti APs so I could pow­er and pull net­works from some IoT devices I was research­ing.

Every time my nic was under load, my WAN inter­face would go down. Reload­ing the inter­face was a quick fix but it was one need­ing a more per­ma­nent fix.

This was the solu­tion: https://forum.netgate.com/topic/135850/official-realtek-driver-binary-1-95-for-2-4-4-release/19

Steps

Unzip & Place “if_re.ko” file in the “/boot/kernel” fold­er

Ensure own­er­ship and per­mis­sions on the if_re.ko file are:

  • chown root:wheel if_re.ko
  • chmod 0555 if_re.ko

Add this line to “/boot/loader.conf”:

  • if_re_load=“YES

Reboot

Once you reboot, you can run kld­stat to ver­i­fy the dri­ver is loaded. Most folks were hav­ing issues with “smart quotes” on their copy-pastes.

This solved all the sta­bil­i­ty issues I was expe­ri­enc­ing in my lab.

Hardware

PFSense 2.4.4 on an ACEPC T11

I bought a sil­ver ACEPC T11 for doing some lab work for $127 (link). It sports an Intel Cher­ry Trail Atom Z8350, quad-core CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB emmc, and a dual-band 2.4ghz and 5ghz wire­less card. I tried boot­ing off the pfsense media and it kept hang­ing at ppc0: cannot reserve I/O port range. After pok­ing around, I ran across this arti­cle: https://forum.netgate.com/topic/109447/zotac-ci323-installation-controller-failures/16

I reboot­ed and select­ed 3. [Esc]ape to loader prompt on the boot menu. At the OK prompt, I entered:

set hint.uart.0.disabled="1"
set hint.uart.1.disabled="1"
boot

It boot­ed right up and pfsense installed with­out any issues.

Next, I’ll be rip­ping it open and installing exter­nal wire­less adapters and an SSD for stor­ing pcaps.