OpenWrt, now 20 years old, makes its own reference and future hardware

OpenWrt, now 20 years old, makes its own reference and future hardware

Linksys WRT54G
Zoom in / After the failure of the reference hardware image proposed by the OpenWrt group, let’s take a look at where it all started: inside a machine that quietly attempted to use open source software without registering or releasing it.

Jim Salter

OpenWrt, the open source firmware that grew out of Linksys’ use of open source code in its popular WRT54G router and subsequent version of its work, turns 20 years old this year. To keep the project going, the lead developers proposed creating a “fully upstream-supported hardware design”, one that would eliminate the need to deal with “binary blobs” in modern routers and allow DIY router enthusiasts to forge their own path.

Members of the OpenWRT project, 13 of whom have signed on to this device, keep “OpenWrt One” simple, while including “some of the cool features that we think all supported platforms for OpenWrt should have,” including low-level firmware that’s “unlockable.” “Almost Breakable” – Real-time clock with battery backup and USB-PD power. The price must be less than $100 and the schematics and codes must be publicly available.

But OpenWrt will not produce or sell these boards “for several reasons.” The group is looking to the makers of Banana Pi to distribute a suitable device, with each device generating a donation to the Software Freedom Conservancy dedicated to OpenWrt. This money can then be used to cover hosting expenses, or “possibly the OpenWrt Summit”.

OpenWrt attempts to answer some questions about its designs. There are two flash chips on the board to allow for both main loader and write-protected recovery. There is no USB 3.0 because all USB and PCIe buses are shared on the board. There’s such an emphasis on battery-powered RTC because “we believe there are many things a Wi-Fi device should be on board by default.”

But site members have more questions, some of which are outside the scope of what OpenWrt promises. Some want to see a device that looks like the old blue boxes, with four or five built-in Ethernet ports. Others question the lack of PoE, or USB 3.0, support for networked drives. Some are actually wondering why the proposed device has NVMe storage. Quite a few people are wondering why the device has both 1Gbps and 2.5Gbps ports, since this means that anyone with internet faster than 1Gbps will be throttled, since the 2.5 port will likely be used for output. wireless.

There’s no expected release date, though it’s indicated as the “first” community-driven reference device.

OpenWrt, which existed in parallel with the DD-WRT project that arose from the same firmware moment, powers a number of custom routers. This and other open source router firmware faced an uncertain future in mid-2010, when FCC rules, or at least the manufacturers’ interpretation of them, made them appear illegal. Because open firmware often allowed wireless radios to be pushed beyond licensed RF parameters, companies like TP-Link banned it, while Linksys (which was owned by Belkin at the time) continued to allow it. In 2020, OpenWrt patched a code execution vulnerability due to unencrypted update channels.

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