pfSense DNS Configuration

I have been running a home lab for quite some time now. Being a software engineer, I wanted to have self-hosted state of the art tools both for continuous learning and for my own personal side projects. One of the things I lacked, however was a sufficient security posture.

To solve this problem, I have chosen to utilize pfSense. pfSense is an open source security software which provides firewall, intrusion detection, intrusion prevention, and many other features. Its setup is relatively straightforward, but I did have some issues that I needed to work through regardin DNS.

I chose to run pfSense in a small form factor fanless appliance. Installation of the software required downloading the pfSense image to a USB drive and then following through the on-screen setup. I configured the Wide Area Network (WAN) and Local Area Network (LAN) interfaces as needed and then replaced my old router with the appliance.

I have other DNS servers running on my network. I have an ad-blocking DNS and a DNS which runs in my Windows Server instance. The idea was to have the pfSense DNS Resolver use the ad-blocker as its upstream server. Then use the Windows instance for upstream to the ad blocker. And finally, use Google’s public DNS as the upstream for the Windows instance.

This configuration just did not want to work. I continuously received timeouts when querying sites which I knew were available. At first, I thought it may have been the appliance because I could replace it with my original router and all would work fine.

Ad Blocker Dashboard

As you can see from the image above, I was able to get everything working the way I wanted, but I did have to make some minor changes. I reversed the order of my DNS servers. In the DHCP setting of my appliance, I set the ad blocking DNS as the root DNS for my network. The ad blocking DNS uses the Windows server as its upstream and the Windows server uses pfSense as its upstream. Finally, the appliance uses Google’s public DNS for its upstream. In this configuration, as client devices renew DHCP leases they pick up the ad blocker as their DNS and queries are routed properly. This gives me the DNS protection I want and also allows proper queries for network.

Recovery Week 12

It has been 12 weeks since Nataleigh’s surgery and we just completed a follow up with her Orthopedic surgeon. During her follow up, she completed the normal x-rays and then we saw her doctor. According to him, she is recovering very well. He spent time answering all of her questions and assured her everything was just fine.

One of the things she has noticed about herself is the difference in her shoulder blades. One protrudes out slightly more than the other. We were told her surgery would only correct the curvature of her spine and not any rotation. She does have a rotation in her spine, and since the shoulders are connected to the rib cage, this causes the issue. However, he said this was no concern.

Other news we obtained while there for this visit were her new curvature numbers. Pre-surgery Nataleigh had 63 degrees of curvature in the top of her spine and 64 degrees in the bottom. With the corrective hardware she had installed, she is now 19 degrees in the top and 32 degrees in the bottom. We think this is outstanding! Nataleigh’s recovery is going extremely well and we will see her doctor again in six months.

My Granny

I decided to write a about “my Granny” as a way of putting down thoughts about who she was and what she meant to me. I say she was my Granny, but she was in fact Granny to many. She was Granny to nine grandchildren and, if I have counted correctly, 19 great grandchildren.

Granny was born June 15, 1926, not too far away from where she lived for the majority of her life. The first home I remember her living in was a small house at the end of a long gravel driveway. This is also where my mother and her siblings grew up. It seemed like growing up that we were there all the time. Granny’s was just an hour from where we lived, so we visited often.

Visits to Granny’s usually entailed board games around her table. The grown ups would play scrabble while the kids would play battle ship, checkers, or cards. When we had enough of games, we would go and play outside. Climbing in a pecan tree or going down to the train tracks right behind her home.

Granny never got up too late in the day. When we would sleep at her house, the morning time was usually interesting. There always seemed to be an extra loud clanking of pots or pans. Sort of her way of saying it is time to get up. When that didn’t work, because you were successful in ignoring her sounds, she would come and give you a love tap. Which was really several successive pats or slaps on the leg or arm and her telling you good morning in a very enthusiastic way.

I also saw many great things happen in her kitchen. Granny was the best cook when it came to ham, dressing, turkey, and chocolate pies. In fact, I do not think there was ever anything she made that was not delicious. Thanksgiving at her house was always wonderful. Her pecan pies, I was always told, were excellent. I saw homemade apple sauce made in her kitchen as well. And you can’t forget my most favorite thing, her peach preserves. She could turn a Georgia peach into a delicious substance that was good on biscuits and even better right out of the jar!!

To keep us boys busy, she would sometimes let us ride her lawnmower. She had a Snapper riding mower and we thought it was awesome to ride it around. Of course we couldn’t just ride, so we would zip around and cut the yard as well. I always thought it was pretty awesome to do. In the end she would have a cut yard, we would have had some fun riding the mower, and a lot of times when we left to head home she would slip a folded up bill into your hand when she hugged you goodbye. 

As we got older and would go for visits we took on the role of chauffeur. When taking a trip to the park or maybe a ride to the store, she would hand you her car keys and say,  “Lets go!” Granny always gave directions on where to go and how to get there. Being told by her that she had her side seat driver’s license and that she was going to tell me how to drive is a great memory for me. She was fun to drive around.

As an adult, visiting her was always special. After I joined the Air Force, I would usually get to see her about once a year and sometimes twice. Her home was always a special place. She had it filled with the things which were special to her. There were photos on every wall of family and some walls even had crafts she had made hanging on them. She was a very talented woman.

Granny was good as surprising you at times as well. When I was a teenager, I lived at St. Joe Beach. A beach community not too far from the town of Port St. Joe. I worked in a little grocery store in town where I bagged groceries and stocked shelves. Once, I was working along and I had someone come up and ask me for assistance. It turned out not to be just somebody, but it was Granny. She was down visiting in the area and she stopped by and surprised me. I can still picture being in the store and seeing her standing there.

She occasionally talked about the beach at Port St Joe. My family had started building a house there about a year ago and she would tell me how she wanted to come down and go to Cape San Blas. I had shared with her how I wanted to take my family out to the cape in the boat for walking and picking up shells. The only way to get out to the end, that I know of, is by boat and it is so very beautiful. Granny passed away on November 27, 2018 at the age of  92. I will however, take a small piece of her to the cape next Summer and make her wish come true!

Granny will always be with us in our hearts. She was a special person who showed nothing but love to us. She would speak her mind and let you know how she felt about things, which too made her a special person. I will always cherish the memories of sitting around playing cards or just hearing the stories about her life and remembering how our families would always come together at her home. In the recent past we didn’t do that as often as we did growing up. In her passing however, we all got together at Granny’s and I am sure she was smiling down upon us seeing the family she loved all together again.

She will be missed.

Recovery Week 6

It has been six weeks today that Nataleigh had her surgery. It is such an amazing thing, but if you didn’t know she had surgery you would never know any different other than the 1.75 inches in height she gained during the six hour procedure.

Nataleigh was home bound for four weeks. Week one was the week of surgery. On week four, she went to school half days and on week five she went back to school full time! She has been absolutely amazing!!

From this point forward, she is restricted to less than 20 pounds of weight. This doesn’t limit her too much. However, her bassoon weighs in at 20 pounds in the case so she can’t carry it. Other than that, she just about does whatever she likes.

This experience has been good for her in many ways. She is now more comfortable around doctors and needles. Because she did have several pokes while in the hospital. Nataleigh has a new saying to go by as well which was borrowed from an image on the FaceBook page Bent but Beautiful Scoliosis Awareness.