[nycbug-talk] BSD Embedded Solutions for Commodity Home Routers
ike at lesmuug.org
Fri Aug 10 09:53:02 EDT 2007
Hi H.G., All,
Much of my answer is opinion, please take it with a grain of salt;
On Aug 9, 2007, at 9:20 PM, H. G. wrote:
> Greets folks.
> By now, most of us have heard about projects like OpenWRT, Sveasoft
> and other Linux
> solutions for running embedded on commodity home routers, like the
> infamous Linksys
Here's one thing about your question that I believe other posters
missed- (for good reason).
Basically, all the "Linksys-hack" projects are aimed at hardware
which has to be reverse-engineered. The WRT54G is *not* an open
hardware platform, and running anything other than the Linksys-
supplied hardware is not supported.
So, for sanity's sake, it's fairly insane to run this kind of thing
in any environment where it *needs to work*. (e.g. a small office,
home office even...). These projects, although created by brilliant
people, are hobbyist toys- and nothing I'd ever dream of
intentionally leaving on a client's office T1.
So while all the hardware may be 'cheap' and plentiful, it's not
really meant to last. (I mean last in this way: people came up with
all kinds of bar-code reader software for the old WiredMag 'Cue-Cat',
and those things are long-gone too, right...)
These are paths I, (and it seems most *BSD people), don't care to
take- reverse-engineering proprietary and/or crappy hardware usually
leads to a dead end- unless it brings HUGE short-term gains or benefits.
Tearing into wonkie hardware (like a WRT54G) leads to trouble down
the road, for example, all wireless cards are not alike... (e.g. so
when a 2.4ghz phone conflict bites, will your card/software combo
cope? Or what about little tweaks that can mean a lot, like signal
strength settings? Or what about altq on your nics, when bittorrent
gets out of hand?) The risks in minutia becomes nauseating with the
cheapo gear- you never know what you *really* have to work with.
Regarding the uses- "but this is just for my home network, and I like
If you really like hacking network stuff, just load up a good UNIX
(OpenBSD or something) on a soekris or a PC even, and get to
hacking. If you want a Web-Gui and you just want the network to
*run*, so you can *do and hack other things*, drop MonoWall or
PFSense into your network.
The Linksys hack stuff is simply a bad middle-space between the two
frames of mind. You can't do *really* powerful stuff with it, (like
you could using a raw UNIX with good networking tools)- and you
aren't going to be running a "tinker-free" network, (the kind you'd
trust to deploy for a client).
> I haven't heard of any equivelent BSD offerings, and the most I've
> through Web searches has been "WifiBSD", which doesn't appear to
> have seen activity
> since 2005. Do there really exist no solutions in this space? If
> there are, anyone have
> practical experience w/ them?
> Purely curious.
However, to constructively respond to my own whining above, there's
plenty of VERY inexpensive hardware which runs PfSense and MonoWALL-
both of which I've successfully deployed at multiple client offices,
and in my home office network- (both are extremely reliable, I might
add). MonoWall has a faster user interface by far on small
hardwares, but PFSense is far more advanced and flexible (it provides
shell access, for example)- I use them both.
On Aug 10, 2007, at 12:43 AM, Peter Wright wrote:
Great hardware is here:
(my favorite stuff, 4801's are like Yellow Cabs to me- standard,
The wireless drivers are different for older MonoWall and PFSense-
the best rule of thumb:
Stick to Atheros for the PFSense boxes and you'll be VERY happy with
Newer MonoWALL runs the Atheros cards too, but I've not used that
combo- Lucent and Prism cards rock the older MonoWall releases.
And one more thing, in case you don't want to drop a dime to get nice
Both MonoWall and PFSense can RUN FROM THE INSTALL CD, and
optionally, the config can be written to a disk (floppy drive, old
USB key in your desk drawer, etc...)
This is how I first started using them- I slapped some ethernet NICS
into old 350mhz machines I found on the street, and started screwing
around with it. That was nearly 3 or 4 years ago, (yikes time
flies), and now that I use it in client offices- this has REALLY come
in handy since. A lightning storm took out a bunch of equipment in
an office, (even though it was all well protected), and their 2
Soekris boards got fried. I came in that night, and had them up and
running for 8am, by piecing together old PC crap- (one of the routers
was just a motherboard and a CDRom drive, with the NICS sticking up
in the air off the board).
It held up great until we could replace the soekris boards, and the
office ran without work-day downtime. And aside from being called in
late that night, I didn't loose my mind setting this up- it was all
simple and intuitive- (I even used my backed-up config files, I mean
this was almost brainless).
End point, I can't imagine there are any similar 'success stories'
for people using the hacked Linksys gear. If there are, I'd bet the
sysadmins spent *way* more time tinkering with esoteric hardware
workaround crud than they did configuring the network...
/end ike .02¢, sry. perhaps way too long for this topic...
More information about the talk