IPCop Linux Firewall

Installing the System

As mentioned before, we chose IPCop as the operating system for our router. This OS is based on Linux, and both it and its source code are freely available under the GPL license. An ISO CD image is available on the IPCop Website. The image weighs in at only 41 MB and can be burned to a disc with virtually any CD burning software. Alternatively, disk images are also available; In this case, the computer boots from a floppy and the installation proceeds over the network.

We're going to focus on the easiest and fastest kind of installation, namely installing from a CD or DVD drive attached directly to the designated router. The first step, after powering on the system, is changing the boot sequence in the BIOS-the optical drive has to be the first in the list for setup purposes. This option can be found in a variety of places in the BIOS menus, depending on the specific BIOS used by the motherboard. It is usually in the "Advanced Setup Options" or "Advanced BIOS Setup" areas.

Figure 4: CDROM set as first boot device

After changing this setting, you can leave the BIOS, either by pressing the F10 key, or via the menu option "Exit Saving Changes" in the main BIOS screen.

The system will now boot from the CD, and you will be greeted by the Isolinux boot loader. The warning that all data on your drive will be wiped should be taken very seriously! This is the last dialog the installer will display before erasing and partitioning the drive. If you still have any important files left on the system, cancel the installation now and back them up to a safe location!

Figure 5: Final warning before disk is wiped

Pressing Return will load the Linux kernel. If you run into any problems at this point, try using the options nousb and nopcmcia to deactivate these interfaces. As the average router configuration does not require them anyway, this is not a problem.

The setup program automatically launches once the OS has finished loading. The first step is selecting the interface language. There are several languages available, although some translations are still incomplete, and we chose English.

Another popup informs you that selecting Cancel on any of the following screens will cancel the entire setup and reboot the machine. This can minimize the damage if you realize half way through the configuration that you still have important files on the drive. Next, the system will ask you from which medium you wish to install: CDROM or HTTP/FTP. If you've booted from the floppy, you can now select the correct packages through the HTTP/FTP option. But since we're installing from CD, we selected CDROM.

Considering that we've come this far with our installation CD, the prompt to insert the install disk seems a little odd. The explanation is simple: Some users don't have a bootable optical drive, or are using a motherboard that does not allow booting from CD. This is especially common with older PCs, which again, are often used for DIY router setups. In this case, the solution is to boot from the floppy disk and then switch to CD at this point.

The real installation process begins as the installer partitions and formats the hard drive. The remarkable thing about this process is that no user interaction is required at all; the system inspects the hard drive, partitions it, and then formats the new partitions with the correct file system. The user is not bothered by questions about the size of the swap partition, and does not need to know whether the data partition should use the ReiserFS or ext3.

Figure 6: Just click OK

If the router requires reinstallation after a hardware failure, the venerable floppy drive lends a helping hand. If you have saved a previous system configuration to a floppy, you can now use it and skip the remaining configuration screens. Just select Restore, and let the installer do the rest. Since this is our first installation, however, we select Skip.

Figure 7: System configuration restore prompt