[conspire] Router 4 Linux !!

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Sun Mar 13 14:05:50 PDT 2011

Quoting Paul Zander (paulz at ieee.org):

> The first events in a very long day was that I getting up at dawn to
> go to the first Electronics Flea Mmarket of the season
> www.electronicsfleamarket.com

Wow, spring is truly on us.

> One of my new "treasures" is a Linksys WRT-54G.  I took a chance based
> on it being old enough that the antennas are removable and it had some
> accumulation of dust.  Serial number begins with CDFD1.  According to
> one web-site that makes it in the last of the original design that was
> Linux compatible before there was an "L" model.

Congratulations on acquiring a wireless router!  The S/N suggests this
is a Linksys WRT54G v6 device.  (You should find a tag stating the FCC ID
to be Q87-WT54GV60, if it is.)  That version of WRT54G had a Broadcom
BCM5352 CPU / System on Chip (SoC) running at 200 MHz, 8 MB of RAM, and
2 MB of flash storage.  The antenna connector type is a reverse-polarity
TNC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TNC_connector), just to jack around
customers and make it difficult for them to interface to booster
antennas, but this deliberate obstacle can be overcome with an adapter

The router does 802.11 b and g.  It lacks any miniPCI or USB connectors 
(alas).  It has one serial port and one JTAG adapter port 
that can in theory be used for de-bricking such devices at some
considerable extra expense and trouble.  As with the rest of the
Cisco/Linksys WRT54 series, it has four LAN ethernet ports and one WAN
(uplink) port.  It relies on a 12 volt, 1/2 amp power cube (provided).  

I'm sorry to report that the version 6 series (with S/N beginning CDFD)
are among those called 'neutered' models, in that they are badly
handicapped by having distressingly low amounts of RAM and flash storage.
The WRT54G v2 that we use during CABAL meetings has twice the amount of
each, and I still consider it more than a bit anaemic.

> So I am looking for advise on how to properly program it.  Numerous
> web-sites make it sound very easy, and even explain how recover from a
> "brick". ;-}

That's where the bad news is:  The v6's deficient hardware makes these
ones more than a bit problematic.  Here's where the DD-WRT people
explain matters:
Notice that they say, if you are reflashing the v6 with DD-WRT, you
should use the _micro_ DD-WRT image, and not the 'mini' one.

Here is the tutorial for installing the 'micro' image:

Additional comments:

Normally, I would have recommended OpenWRT (open source) over DD-WRT
(proprietary), but I think this qualifies as an exception, as the DD-WRT
instructions seem to give the best chance of a functional system
resulting (and OpenWRT's table of hardware doesn't even list the v6
variant at all).

I _would_ recommend that you give DD-WRT a try on the thing, but don't
expect it to ever be very robust or have much functionality.  Then, if
you get the bug for playing with such devices, occasionally drop in and
skim-read the OpenWRT and DD-WRT Web forums:  Occasionally, you will see
tips about some really _good_ open-source-friendly wireless router
hitting the market.  The ideal router would have an Atheros chip, 64MB
RAM, 16 MB flash, and USB.  (The USB port, missing from your router and 
mine, permits you to connect arbitrary amounts of extra disk as router
main storage, NFS/Samba shares, etc.) 

The Netgear WNDR3700 comes pretty close (64 MB RAM, 8 MB flash), and can
be bought for about $100 on eBay.


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