I again appreciate the continued feedback. After spending some time last night browsing the net and better grasping the idea, I'll add the following comments.
For future surfers who visit this thread, the floppy version of Coyote is no longer supported. However, some folks in Brazil picked up the pieces and the product is now known as BrazilFW. From what I see the support remains active and growing, and the software still fits on one floppy disk.
Some tricks are used to make all of this perform from a single floppy. One of the tricks is to use BusyBox rather than the standard core command line utilities. Another is to compile programs with uclibc
rather than glibc
. This seems to be the approach used in embedded devices too. Thus, I'm guessing that even an extreme minimal Slack install won't fit on a single floppy.
I write guessing
because I do not know without experimenting. Some of you more experienced Slackers might have a better idea, however.
From what I learned last night, I think my best approach is to download BrazilFW, install, and hum happily. The past reviews of Coyote (and now BrazilFW) is that the product simply works. Period. So that seems the best and fastest solution.
Of course, I prefer the Slack directory tree and BSD-style approach with scripts. Thus, after getting the 486 box to function as my router/gateway/firewall, I later could tinker with creating a Slack-based directory tree and scripts, substitute BusyBox for all command line functions, and see how things look.
I failed to mention that one of my goals is to spend as little money as possible.
That kind of goal always introduces some fascinating challenges in any project. I already have a fully operational 486 sitting on the shelf and I want to use that box if possible. I already have extra NICs. All I need is software, some extra cables, and a network switch. I probably can find an older used switch for less than $10, possibly even free. In the end I want the same functionality as though I had purchased a WRT54GL. That appliance costs ~$65, but my 486 and NICs are already paid for.
Of course, there is always the personal satisfaction that I assembled the project and saved a few bucks along the way. The additional knowledge and experience is always helpful too.
Lastly, I see a small market for BIOS experts. A lot of these old 486 boxes are collecting dust, but the BIOS ROMS are not flashable. With a few mods to the BIOS and a new ROM chip, those boxes could be quite useful, incorporating many of the suggestions offered in this thread. Merely adding the ability to read larger (and quieter) hard drives and booting from a CD would go far toward resurrecting these old boxes.
The i486 with 16MB RAM may very well bottleneck your connection especially if you use queues/QoS and complex firewall rules. Consider using sth newer (like a PII). It shouldn't be hard to find.
Good point. However, I have no need for QoS because I don't do file sharing and other bandwidth intensive tasks. Likely I never will need such services, but if I did, I'd figure out how to cross that bridge then. Besides, while I download the latest Slack updates or ISO, I'm content to read a book.
If the old computer has an IDE interface you can buy an IDE to CF(Compact Flash) adapter for less than $10.
I did not know a CF adapter was so inexpensive. Yes, the box has an IDE interface card. Theoretically I can add a second IDE device. Of course, if I pull the hard drive, then I would only be running the CF device. That might be an option down the road. For a basic router/gateway/firewall, however, 16 MB is plenty and booting with a floppy might seem primitive, but is none the less a functional approach.
There are also desktop PCMCIA adaptors... And PCMCIA HDDs (Very quiet...), with none of the write problems of CF cards.
Another potential future option. But one of my goals is to install a low power consumption appliance. Adding gadgets consume more power. This is all theory, of course, because without a wattmeter I don't know the exact consumption rates of this box with various peripherals. My guess is that without a hard drive and with only the NICs and floppy controller, power consumption will be nominal. The WRT54GL is rated at an average of 6W consumption. My stripped 486 will consume more than that, so I'm aware of not trying to do the impossible. But even if the stripped 486 box pulls 50W, the payback or ROI of buying a WRT54GL would take years to break even as opposed to using the idle 486.