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What would be the best [and cheapest] way to set up a private Tor network for testing and experimentation?

A rough size estimate is that it should consist of 12 or more onion-routers and should be usable for experimenting with both standard Tor and Tor hidden services.

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The easiest way is to emulate the network, such as with ExperimenTor (which uses virtual machines) or Shadow (which uses a discrete event simulator).

With Shadow (which I have more experience with), a 20 node network should fit in 4 GB of RAM such as on a Amazon EC2 m1.large server.

Another option is Chutney, which is simpler than either ExperimenTor or Shadow, but is still in need of some development work.

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If you did for some reason need discrete machines, some single-board computers would be good inexpensive candidates; Raspberry Pi is a bit slow, and 1024MB of RAM is better than 512MB if you're going to build a lot of circuits.

Candidates:

  • Raspberry Pi (1 ARMv6 core, safely overclockable to at least 950MHz, 512MB RAM)
  • BeagleBone Black (1 ARMv7 core [IIRC], runs real Debian armhf, 512MB RAM)
  • Cubieboard 2 (dual ARMv7 cores, 1GHz, 1024MB RAM, runs Cubian, which is Debian armhf plus hardware specific stuff)
  • @Steven can you please explain how to set up hidden service in Shadow? – saurav Aug 18 '14 at 2:06

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