[nycbug-talk] BSD Embedded Solutions for Commodity Home Routers

Miles Nordin carton at Ivy.NET
Fri Aug 10 23:50:58 EDT 2007

>>>>> "rl" == Ray Lai <nycbug at cyth.net> writes:

    rl> Source code is no replacement for documentation.  How would
    rl> you extend the software once it's no longer maintained by the
    rl> vender?

You would get documentation from the chip manufacturers for each chip
on the board, and resolve your questions about how chips are connected
together and how to boot by groveling through the Linux source code
and writing documentation as you go.

    rl> I think the criticism is on the hardware, not OpenWRT, but
    rl> correct me if I'm wrong Ike. =)

Ike stated that OpenWRT runs only on Linksys which is emphatically
untrue.  If you talk to Felix he will tell you there are many OpenWRT
platforms, _most_ of them _more_ interesting than Linksys, including
platforms like magicbox that are designed _just_ to run OpenWRT.

    rl> Define "buggier than Linux on not-i386".

I own zero i386 machines.  I've been running NetBSD/alpha since 1999
as my main shell box.  I've run NetBSD on alpha, macppc, mac68k, sun3,
sparc, sparc64, dreamcast, hpcmips, and pmax, and FreeBSD/sparc64.  I
started using BSD in the first place because NetBSD/alpha sucked so
much less than Linux for alpha.  so, absolutely YMMV, but I'm really
not talking out of my ass when I say this.

Honestly, these days there is a lot of bit-rot.  OpenWRT really does
work a lot less quirkily in my experience than, say, NetBSD/hpcmips or

now, NetBSD is still much better-factored than Linux, still has much
cleaner code, still has the excellent cross-build architecture.  but
Linux works and works well on a wider variety of cheaper boards that
are actually still manufactured and obtainable by me, rather than the
obsolete boards, >$1000 ``evaluation kits,'' or what you guys actually
use, which are double-price larger higher-wattage boards that are
designed to emulate a PeeCee because BSD can't handle running on
anything else---I'd almost rather use Linux than stoop to these
boards, which to me seem like the height of vanity.  It is just a
PeeCee, but if your customer found out that it's just a PeeCee they
would be unimpressed so you disguise it by changing the size and
shape---you spend more money for a slower quirkier machine with a
crappy ethernet chip.

    rl> If there is any hardware documentation on magicbox.pl I cannot
    rl> find it.

can't find any on dell.com, either.  This is half a serious criticism,
and half kind of a silly argument.  Yes, it would be good to have some
documentation from Magicbox that's not in Polish, but if you were
seriously doing a port I think you need to at least ask them, not just
look at the web site---since Linux is the only software they support,
I expect them to be friendly.  They have shipped samples of the 1.0
board to Felix in September last year for porting OpenWRT (that's how
I heard about them in the first place), and it is one of his favorite

Anyway, you would only need a tiny amount of documentation form
Magicbox themselves, if any.  It is a single-chip computer, with
literally a single chip plus RAM and ROM, nothing else, soldered to
the board, so most of your porting documentation comes from here:


However none of this changes the fact that Linux, not BSD, owns the
<$100 space because BSD doesn't have any good filesystem for NOR
FLASH, or (harder still) for NAND FLASH without the block-replacement
logic built into the CF card which many of the cheap Linux boards

it's interesting that Magicbox added a CF slot between the 1.0 and 2.0
designs.  Maybe they are already planning on a BSD port.
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