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But since I wanted to roll my own, I grabbed an older HP/Compaq Business Desktop small form-factor model with a 2.4 GHz Pentium 4, 1 GB of RAM and onboard Intel 10/100 NIC. I dug through my chest full of parts to dig up a second PCI NIC.

I booted from the CDROM and was quickly impressed by the setup routine. No boring monochrome screen like other *nix distros! The splash screens for this setup made me think more of building a server from an HP SmartStart CD; even fancier than that.

You are presented with a page that looks like a registration page, asking you how many PCs will it protect, contact info, etc. I hesitated at first, worried about getting sold to some spam mailing list. But it was unwarranted. The email part is tied in with your "Library" if you wish to purchase additional components.

After finishing the setup, which also includes a quick connection wizard, I rebooted and was presented with the standard screen. Unlike many other Linux distros, Untangle allows you to manage it right from the computer you installed it on, via a Java-based utility.

Note: You can use this Live GUI preview to explore more of the Untangle's features. It's a 7 MB download that requires Java installed on your local machine.

Untangle uses the interface model of an equipment rack, into which you install applications (nodes) that implement different networking functions. The Library column on the left side of the screen contains the Commercial Add-ons that can be purchased and downloaded for use in your Untangle installation. The next tab is called My Apps, which contains the open source applications that can be downloaded (no charge) to your Untangle box. The space on the right is the "Rack".

Once nodes are installed, they appear in the Rack (Figure 1).

Untangle Rack with installed Nodes
Click to enlarge image

Figure 1: Untangle Rack with installed Nodes

The third Config tab allows you to manage configuration of some of the rack components through a browser interface called Alpaca (Figure 2).

Untangle Config Tab

Figure 2: Untangle Config Tab

For example, the Networking configuration brings you to some of the features you’d see on common home grade routers such as Port Forwarding, WAN and LAN Interface configuration, DHCP, DNS, Packet Filter, Routes, etc.

Networking Port Forwards

Figure 3: Networking Port Forwards

Each node within your rack can be expanded to fine tune settings within the node. For example, the Spyware Blocker controls in Figure 4 allow you to get fairly granular with setting exceptions, blocking ActiveX, etc.

Spyware Blocker Settings
Click to enlarge image

Figure 4: Spyware Blocker Settings

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