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Wireless Networking Communications The Internet Hardware

Hacking the Linksys WRT54G 213

knightrdr writes "Robert X. Cringely has posted an interesting article on the PBS web site about modifying the Linksys WRT54G wireless G broadband router to build a wireless layer on top of the Internet. He argues that with as little as a $70 investment per node, the Sveasoft WRT54G Firmware could be the first in a line of many wireless devices to enable a giant leap forward for the Internet."
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Hacking the Linksys WRT54G

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  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @08:04AM (#9302125)
    From the article, it seems that Cringely perceives this as being an idea which could put your local phone company out of business.

    Would this be the same local phone company which provides the ADSL link this would require?
  • by lvdrproject ( 626577 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @08:06AM (#9302133) Homepage
    WISPs are a neat idea, but here's what i found interesting. If these routers provide the basic framework for you to build a Linux router upon, this means that any old Joe has the potential to build an advanced routing OS for this system. With enough toying around (and maybe this depends on Linksys adding in a hundred or two megs more of flash or something), it's possible eventually that somebody could write a Linux system for these cheap $50-to-$120 routers that will have similar functionality to Cisco's IOS, isn't it? I mean, they wouldn't be perfect replacements by any stretch of the imagination, but given a few simple and cheap hardware upgrades to the current routers (i imagine RAM and flash would be the biggest priorities), that type of stuff could really take off.

    I'm not alone here in being more interested in stuff like that than in WISPs, am i? A Cisco-like router (at least as far as the interface goes) for $70 or so would be awesome. :,)

  • by Sancho ( 17056 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @08:24AM (#9302199) Homepage
    They can't put any restrictions on redistribution, but they can revoke your subscription at any time for any reason. Technically, they still have to provide the source to anything they provided you, but revoking your subscription means they don't have to provide you with any more updates.
  • by internet-redstar ( 552612 ) * on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @08:26AM (#9302212) Homepage
    LinSpot [] for WRT54G will be launched soon.

    This means a WISP in a box for everyone - and LinSpot handles the roaming between all linspots and fills your PayPal account while you sleep (and while others roam).

    I guess it will take the LinSpot crew a couple of weeks to iron the bugs out and release this for your enjoyement.

  • by GrassMunk ( 677765 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @08:43AM (#9302296)
    I find Cringely to be in a bubble sometimes. So i think what he was eventually trying to get at was that you could blanket an entire town ( say New York or Toronto ) with enough wifi spots to have a psuedo-mesh network. The math is WAY over my head but i think the idea that you need one connection for every 3 wireless routers but the more wireless you have the less DSL connections you need.

    wifi<-wifi<-wifi<-ADSL->wifi->wifi->wifi<->wifi->w ifi->wifi->ADSL<-wifi<-wifi<-wifi.

    Thats a simple straight diagram and im not doing this much justice but i think you get my point ( i hope? ). So if each DSL connection has two wifi routers, one on each side assuming you paid the extra 5$ for another IP you can have 4 more wifi connections per ADSL. Thats $40/4 = 10 bucks a month for an always on wireless connections + phone.
  • by Etyenne ( 4915 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @08:44AM (#9302300)
    I, for one, would never trade the reliability of a landline for the boinkiness of a few consumer-grade WiFi router, tied to a (relatively) unreliable xDSL or cable net link, operating a best-effort protocol and managed by Joe Random.

    How much does a landline cost anyway when you strip out all the useless gadget (CID, call waiting, etc) ? 20$ ? 30$ ? How low can this rigged VoIP-over-WiFi thingy can go ?
  • Numbers ?? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mcdade ( 89483 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @08:57AM (#9302366)
    I would like to know where he gets the dollar values from at the bottom of the article? He starts to toss out how much money an access point will start to make but no real values to back it up.. come one.. you need some sort of proper accounting..

    Almost sounds like a get rich scam, look at how much money you can make by buying this device. Just like the gold rush, very few made money on gold, everyone got rich selling shovel's and supplies to the masses.. :)

    Another cringley article that is partially based on facts, partially on fiction..
  • Re:Dupe (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @09:03AM (#9302388)
    Apart, possibly, from some small print from your upstream ISP, what is to stop you? The ISP isn't going to know. Let's face it they have trouble enough stopping people using their services to spam, they're never going to notice small scale bandwidth reselling going on.
  • by phearlez ( 769961 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @09:18AM (#9302459)
    ... if a single damned one of the web pages gave me a good couple of concrete examples of what the payoff is of installing one of these alternatives. That is, beyond whatever disease makes so many linux users desperate to install linux on their toaster, pda and remote control. OpenWRT touts being small with a focus on installable packages, EWRT says what they have up on the others is the captive portal but none of them have an entry in their FAQ that answers "Why would I replace this currently functioning, rarely crashing pre-installed firmware and features with something else? Does it DO anything other than bragging rights at the geek pub?" And yes you troll, I know some have bandwidth shaping and other features but any software that purports to be a solution to a problem might want to identify that problem right off the bat or it should just call itself devTitsOnaBull.
  • Hold the phone. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FreeLinux ( 555387 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @09:27AM (#9302518)
    Pun intended. There is a major catch to all of this disruptive technology that Cringley and everyone else seems to be forgetting. The catch, regulatory restrictions.

    You see, in the phone business, there are countless regulations and restrictions at the federal, state and local government levels. These restrictions cover everything, 911 location requirements, reliability, coverage, who is authorized to offer service, taxes and a whole lot more.

    At the moment, VoIP is excluded from much of this. But, with VoIP threatening the industry, the phone giants will be using their lobbying power to make the restrictions apply to VoIP as well.

    An infrastructure such as Cringley describes is technically possible, theoretically. But, if it comes to pass, it will be controlled by today's phone giants.

    Of course, for all this to happen and for us to have the reliability of landlines or even cellular service our cities would have to be so heavily blanketed by 802.11 devices that hot dogs would cook themselves once removed from their microwave shielded packaging. Eat it quickly Honey, before it gets too hot.

  • by SkunkPussy ( 85271 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @11:17AM (#9303562) Journal
    "Is if somone ported airsnort to one of these.. Imagine throwing one under a desk for a week, while it cracked the wep key, then having it switch on its radio and broadcast the key as its SSID.."

    or make it attack all computers it can reach.. noone would ever find it
  • by aderusha ( 32235 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:13PM (#9304955) Homepage
    The core firmware of these routers runs linux, and as such Linksys was compelled to offer the source code back to the community. Sveasoft was kind enough to modify the firmware using the provided source and to then provide compiled binaries and source back to the community.

    Now they've changed their model somewhat. Currently you can only download the binaries and source for the older versions of the firmware. To access any of their newer works, you have to pay them a $20/year subscription fee. Once you've ponied up the $20, you can download the new sources and binaries.

    While the GPL allows for this sort of action, it's their policing of it that makes me uncomfortable. You can download the code and binaries and post them on a website, but if they figure out which user did this they will cancel your subscription. If you post links in their forums to download sites for their new version your subscription is cancelled, your forum account suspended, and the post is deleted.

    What they've done is to take a GPL-covered firmware, improve it, charge $20 for access to it, and then do anything they can to censor any action of sharing that code. While their actions still obey the letter of the GPL, I can't really see that it is in keeping with the spirit of the free software movement.

    Sveasoft's FAQ about charging $20 for GPL software and canceling accounts that are caught distributing the software: hp?t=1259 []

  • Re:Dupe (Score:3, Interesting)

    by elmegil ( 12001 ) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @01:57PM (#9305605) Homepage Journal
    Hence my comments about 90%. Speakeasy is the only "major" ISP I know of with such a policy, and I know that my ISP (Primus) and the other competition in the area (SBC is the gorilla) do not. Bully for you going with Speakeasy, but most people are not going to have them as their ISP.

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban