Back in 2011 I wrote a post on installing the formerly open-source Vyatta router/firewall distribution on an Alix compact flash-based single board computer. I’d been using it for many years, since Vyatta Community was a completely F/OSS project. I stopped updating regularly sometime around when Vyatta (now Vyatta Core, differentiated from their paid offering) began widening the gap between its F/OSS Core and paid versions. It got much worse when Brocade acquired Vyatta in 2012. Soon thereafter open source builds stopped, the forums were shut down, the source code was made much more difficult to find, and eventually itself was shut down. I won’t go into further detail as there’s been a lot written about this debacle and forcible destruction of a community, such as Chris Wadge’s post and this one, but I will say that the above made it increasingly difficult to plan an upgrade of my home router.

On the positive side, however, the VyOS F/OSS fork has emerged, and seems to have quite a vibrant community at this point. A few weeks ago, I decided to finally take the time to upgrade to the latest VyOS 1.1.7 on my aged Alix 2c1 single board router (purchased in 2008; 3 LAN, 433 MHz AMG Geode LX700, 128MB RAM). VyOS is targeted at the cloud (virtualization) or “real” hardware, and doesn’t seem to have anywhere near as many people installing on dedicated SBCs as the former Vyatta community (probably because of the astonishing drop in the price of small, fanless systems in recent years). I wasn’t able to find much information about installing VyOS on such hardware, aside from a few forum threads and a post on Elder Guerra’s blog that actually makes reference to and is based on my original post from 2011.

So, for anyone who’s interested, here’s how I got VyOS 1.1.7 installed on my Alix SBC:


  • A Linux machine with VirtualBox. For posterity, I did this on a recently updated Arch Linux machine, using VirtualBox 5.1.12 from Arch’s repos (running via DKMS and with the Oracle extensions installed).
  • A Compact Flash card to perform the install on (I used this Wintec “Industrial Grade” SLC NAND 4GB card from amazon).
  • A reader/writer for the card (my previous one was throwing errors, so I got this USB one from Amazon).
  • Ensure your user can read and write the raw disk devices. On Linux, this means your user must be in the disk group. If it isn’t, you’ll need to log out and back in after making that change.
  • Assuming you’re installing onto a headless board like the Alix, you’ll need a null modem cable to connect to the serial console port, and whatever you need (USB to serial adapter) to plug that in to your computer.
  • A terminal emulator installed on your computer (I use minicom).

Configuration Migration

I just wanted to upgrade from my existing VC 6.3 installation, and use a new CF card. If you are doing a fresh install and do not need to migrate the configuration, you can skip this section.

To migrate the configuration, I first set up a VyOS 1.1.7 VirtualBox VM, using the vagrant-vyos plugin for Vagrant and the author’s vyos Vagrant box. I setup three network interfaces on the VM to match the three on my Alix board, and put the Vagrantfile in the same directory as my config backups from the current router.

Once I had the VM up and running with SSH access, I ran load /vagrant/config.boot to load the configuration backup, and let the config migration tool do its work. This took a few iterations of modifying the old (VC 6.3) config until I got something that would load cleanly into VyOS 1.1.7; note that per the Migrating from Vyatta documentation, coming from VC 6.4 or earlier, there were some manual changes I had to make before the old configuration would load in VyOS. Once that was done, I committed and saved the config, then rebooted the VM and confirmed that it came up correctly configured. I run SSH on a non-default port, so before reloading the VM I needed to edit the Vagrantfile to add config.ssh.guest_port = SSH_PORT_NUMBER and "forwarded_port", guest: SSH_PORT_NUMBER, host: SSH_PORT_NUMBER, id: "ssh".

Once finished, I copied /config/config.boot from the VM to my host OS. I removed the MAC addresses for the interfaces and the vagrant user, and then used that as the starting configuration for my new install on the Alix board.


  1. Put your new CF card in the USB adapter and plug it in. Watch dmesg to see what device name it’s assigned. In this example, we’ll call it /dev/sdX. Make SURE you correct that path in the below instructions to be the correct one for your CF card.
  2. Create a raw VMDK so VirtualBox can use the raw disk: VBoxManage internalcommands createrawvmdk -filename /home/$USER/vyos_cf.vmdk -rawdisk /dev/sdX (note that the filename must be an absolute path).
  3. Download the VyOS i586 ISO from Optionally verify the GPG signature.
  4. Manually create a new VirtualBox VM.
  5. Select “Linux” and then “Other Linux (32-bit)” for the OS type.
  6. Select the appropriate amount of RAM for your board (older Alix are 128 MB or 256 MB).
  7. Select “Use an existing virtual hard disk file” and select the raw VMDK you created in Step 2. Uncheck “use host I/O cache”.
  8. Create the VM.
  9. Edit the VM settings to remove the floppy disk device, mount the ISO in the optical drive, disable audio, and disable all network adapters.
  10. Boot the VM. Wait for the VyOS ISO to boot and log in using the information provided in the banner.
  11. Run install image and answer yes to the prompt.
  12. Select Auto partitioning and select the CF card (it should be sda, the only option).
  13. Fill the whole device with the root partition.
  14. Use the default name for the image and copy /config/config.boot.
  15. Set a password for the vyos Administrator account.
  16. Setup grub on the one disk (sda).
  17. You should now be returned to the prompt.
  18. reboot and shut down the VM once it gets back to the BIOS or bootloader; installation is complete.
  19. Delete the VM (don’t delete files) and then remove the raw VMDK you created in Step 2.
  20. Mount the CF card partition on your host OS (it’s an ext4 partition). For the purposes of this example, we’ll assume we’re mounting it at /mnt/tmp: mount /dev/sdX1 /mnt/tmp
  21. cd to the root of the partition: cd /mnt/tmp
  22. Find and cd to the live-rw directory for your image; for VyOS 1.1.7 installed with the default image name of “1.1.7”, this is boot/1.1.7/live-rw on the partition.
  23. If you are migrating a configuration file (above section), copy your configuration file to opt/vyatta/etc/config/ and chmod it 0755.
  24. Unmount the CF card and remove it from your system.
  25. Find a DB9 null modem cable and a USB to serial adapter. Plug the cable into the Alix board’s serial port, and into your adapter, and plug it into the system.
  26. Fire up your favorite terminal emulator (I use minicom) and connect at 9600 8N1.
  27. If you have the board running already (already being used for something), connect and make sure you get a prompt. It helps to know that the serial works.
  28. If the board is running, power it down and unplug all connections before proceeding to the next step.
  29. Open up the Alix enclosure, and swap in your new CF card.
  30. Close the board, plug in serial and network cables.
  31. Plug in the power cable, and watch your terminal emulator. If all went well, you’ll get the board’s BIOS and then the bootloader and kernel output. Eventually you should be dropped to a login prompt.
  32. Log in as the vyos user.
  33. configure to enter configuration mode. Then:
    • If you are migrating a configuration as discussed above, load /opt/vyatta/etc/config/ It will take a while to load. Make any necessary changes, then run commit.
    • If you are starting from scratch, follow the User Guide to setup the system.
  34. Once the commit is done (it will take a while), save. The router should now be up and running with the desired configuration.
  35. Reboot the router to ensure it comes up correctly.
  36. Backup the running configuration somewhere safe.

If you’re running the PC Engines Alix.2, update the serial settings on the board as described on my blog or this post.

I hope this can be of use to others.


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