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Linux Hacked Onto Fry's Cheap Wireless G Router 153

Posted by timothy
from the cheap-and-cheerful dept.
nerdyH points to this smile-inducing story at LinuxDevices which begins "An inexpensive house-brand 802.11b/g wireless router from Fry's ( has been adopted by a group of Linux hackers that aims to make Fry's 'AirLink' devices 'as capable as name-brand gadgets.' The AirLink101 AR315W is based on a Marvell board that can run Linux or eCos, and has a six-port 10/100 Ethernet switch built in. It's listed for $45 online, but is reportedly on sale for $20 in some Fry's stores."
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Linux Hacked Onto Fry's Cheap Wireless G Router

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  • "AirLink" products (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kevin_conaway (585204) on Thursday August 11, 2005 @09:52PM (#13300122) Homepage
    ..That project aims to devise improved Linux firmware for the inexpensive gadgets to make them "as good as name brands wireless products."

    Whats wrong with them as they are? Granted, its cool that they were finagle a new OS into the firmware, but what exactly was lacking from these devices that "name brand" (one can only assume Linksys, D-Link, Netgear and Apple) appliances have?
    • by LDoggg_ (659725)
      It will likely be used to extend functionality
      The popular linksys G router has a linux firmware that people have done some really cool things with.
    • They probably mean to incorporate SPI, WPA, TKP, AES, VPN, Mac filtering, and or content filtering. You know features that you typically don't see until you are over the $150 range.
    • I can not speak for every device but I've personally used 4 different home routers that were boderline junk. A Siemens, an AT&T, Netgear and a SMC. Each has various locking and dropping issues and lack of various features I wanted.
      A perfect example is the AT&T router playing SOCOM2 for the PS2. Even with the correct ports forwarded (which you should not have to do anyway), 50% of the time, the headset does not communicate. Another immediate show stopper is I get knocked out of games about every
      • Your experiences with SOCOM2 are par for the course. It doesn't matter what networking hardware you have. The game and the servers are bugged.

      • The phrase, "You get what you pay for" comes to mind. SOHO devices ARE just barely above "junk" level in most cases. They're just-barely useful/usable enough that people don't ship them back to the manufacturer in droves. And that's exactly where something priced as low as SOHO equipment would also *naturally* be, just going by the economics of such things...
    • The corollary to this is, if Linux or BSD based router software is so much better, why are these companies investing significant time and effort in writing their own OSes for routers. Particularly with BSD, where there are no particular problems involved with giving away your companies' code...why not just take NetBSD or something and tweak it a little?
    • I agree. I had thought Linksys already had a Linux shell to begin with.
    • What's wrong with them the way they are?

      The firmware's crap. It drops the wireless connection every fifteen minutes or so, and it seems to fall off the net at least twice that often, even through the wired side.

      Finding this article literally saved mine from the bin...I replaced it with a WRT54G after a week.
    • What's wrong with them? no NAT for a start - took me forever to set one up as an AP at home (not a router) I had MAC filtering on the main router and didnt realise you have to add both' the MAC of the AP and the box behind it.

      The box comes with instructions on how to tftp in new firmware - and in for a linux port if ever I heard of one ....

  • two weeks ago from fry's.
    still in package. most definetly brings a smile.

    However, its just a project that "aims" to devise improved Linux firmware .
    • two weeks ago from fry's.

      This weekend, they're $17 at the Fry's in Las Vegas (and maybe elsewhere). I just got back from there a few minutes ago...picked up two to play with, since they're that cheap.

  • A lot of these devices already run Linux or sometimes BSD as it allows for straightforward debugging and troubleshooting, not to mention easy programming.

    I was wondering what OS it currently runs. What if it already runs Linux?
    • by team99parody (880782) on Friday August 12, 2005 @03:56AM (#13301824) Homepage
      Seems LinkSys would have an even huger following if they actively encouraged people to ssh to the box and allow people to customize it.

      Regarding the fear of customer support issues, all they'd really need is a ROM of a stable release and a reset-switch that would re-load the flash from the fixed ROM.

      I'd definately buy a wireless router that gives me more flexibility of routing & firewalling than the default GUIs offer.

      Any reason why LinkSys (and airlink, and Tivo, etc) don't just openly publish their APIs and how to connect?

  • Can I ask why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FrankieBoy (452356) on Thursday August 11, 2005 @09:57PM (#13300154)
    Considering that I can get the LinkSys WRT54G at for $47 and flash it with the great DD-WRT firmware, I really don't see this device as being all that attractive.
  • Good for them! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Saint Aardvark (159009) * on Thursday August 11, 2005 @09:59PM (#13300162) Homepage Journal
    Congratulations to these guys -- this is very cool. As TFA sez, a $20 embedded Linux box is Just A Good Thing; the flexibility that'll come with getting Linux (or NetBSD or whatever) working on these things will be amazing. I'm also glad to see that these guys are active -- the HRI [] people, who have a very similar project, seem to have fallen off the face of the earth. (Where are you guys?)

    I've been working on something similar: last Christmas, I picked up 3 Network Everywhere NWR04B wireless routers [] on sale -- $18 each! -- and have been trying ever since to duplicate []this guy's success [] in getting uClinux [] (a version of Linux for CPUs with no MMU) running on the thing.

    The guy who got it running originally hasn't responded to my emails, so it's a good thing he made his kernel tree available. Alsoplus, I think he used a JTAG adapter to load the image; since I wanted to make a firmware image that anyone could upload with the web interface, I had to reverse engineer the firmware checksum too. (Luckily it was a pretty simple checksum [], or else I don't think I would've been able to do it...I'm really learning all this as I go along.)

    In July I finally managed to get a kernel panic [], am now trying to get BusyBox [] working on the thing. I keep getting these errors:

    Unhandled fault: external abort on linefetch (D4) at 0x00000001
    fault-common.c(97): start_code=0x740040, start_stack=0x71ffbc)

    which, from [] what [] I [] have [] been able to Google, may be because of differing opinions (libc/uClibc vs. the kernel vs. the chip) about whether or not this thing has an FPU. If anyone's got any suggestions, please leave a note -- I need all the help I can get.

    It's been an incredible learning experience -- I know more now about how the kernel interacts with CPUs, the filesystems, compilers and the bootloader than I ever had. (Still got tons to learn, mind you.) I'm looking forward to the day I can get a Beowulf cluster of these things going. :-)

  • Why bother? (Score:2, Redundant)

    by radish (98371)
    Why? You can usually pick up one of the "name brand" devices for under $40, sometimes $0 (after rebate). Seems like a lot of bother for nothing to me.
    • Re:Why bother? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by leobh (904344)
      You really don't understand the hacker mentality, do you? It's not about saving money, it's about taking on challenges and getting Linux to run on things that were never intended to run it. For what reason do you think Linux itself exists anyway?
      • ... it's about taking on challenges and getting Linux to run on things that were never intended to run it.

        I would like to expand that to the challenge of getting any software to do things that weren't its intended purpose.
      • Actually I do understand it. But this particular project wasn't "advertised" as a way to get something to run Linux for the fun of it, we were told this was a way to save money. It isn't. That's my point.
  • hacking the DI-524 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sshore (50665) on Thursday August 11, 2005 @10:08PM (#13300202)
    Oooh.. these use the same chipset as the Dlink DI-524. I've been looking for an in on that one.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 11, 2005 @10:08PM (#13300209)
    the title says its been hacked onto it, but the article seems to be soliciting people to try to create a linux firmware instead. Plus the article that it links to (, just lists specs; nothing about linux.
    • I also couldn't find the "Hey I got Linux running on my $20 frys router" page. I certainly found the "wouldn't it be cool if linux ran on one of these cheap routers" page linked by the story. Free +5 insightful if someone can post a link to the page showing how to install linux on one of these things or perhaps some screenshots of it running on it.
  • jeez --- why NOT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by anagama (611277) <> on Thursday August 11, 2005 @10:16PM (#13300241) Homepage
    13 posts in and half the posts are of the "why bother" variety. For cryin' out loud -- why not? First off, it's cool someone can do this. More importantly, it frees people from using devices in a manner only approved by the manufacturer. Sure, right now most devices will behave in a manner the user generally wants. But what about in the future when everything is so DRM/spyware infested you can't open your fridge without Coca-Cola's approval or knowledge. The people who are learning how to hack these things are our insurance against what might be a bleak future. Instead of making idiotic "seems pointless to me" comments, how about looking at the big picture. And even if that dark future never arises -- so what -- these guys have skills. They deserve a bit more respect than I'm seeing here. One thing is certain, I sure wish I had their abilities.
    • The point is that there are already boxes of this type, and they already run Linux (direct from the manufacturer), and they can be had for less ($0-$5 after rebates). So the purpose served by this hack is what? It doesn't save money, it doesn't provide unavailable functionality, and it's not all that cool. It's like saying "Look! I bought a car, and I put new tires on it! N-E-W T-I-R-E-S!!!". If there were no 802.11g routers running Linux, then it would be cool. If it were a cheaper box that was made
      • Re:jeez --- why NOT (Score:5, Interesting)

        by anagama (611277) <> on Thursday August 11, 2005 @11:39PM (#13300696) Homepage
        It's these hardware hackers who make it possible to not only run linux on various hardware, but to run various bits of hardware with linux systems. For example, without hardware hackers, I could never have uploaded songs to my Creative Nomad II or used my Handspring from my linux system. We should be happy that there are people who have the ability to make linux run on random stuff, or who can get random stuff to work with linux. It makes my life better and I have a lot of respect and appreciation for those who can do this. These guys deserve our praise, not sneers.

        Or maybe the sneers come from the windows slashdotters. Could be wrong, but I'd think most linux users would see the value and appreciate the skills and experience that these hackers are building.
      • Go through life pointing out reasons why NOT, and your whole life will be a great big reason why NOT.

        Look at the why for a minute:
        * You _CAN_
        * Some people WANT TO
        * It's cheap entertainment for people who think a hack like that is entertaining (and it obviously is - even to people who think NOT)
        * The thing in question doesn't come with linux
        * They are absurdly inexpensive
        * It's cooler because it's DIY
        * Adding anything beyond the basic firmware-enabled functionality is an improvement.

        Just say "I'm not impress
    • I think the biggest thing that most of us are going 'huh?' about is... well, what does doing this actually give you? What is the point? The site doesn't help anything, it doesn't explain things well either...

      The question is: What will doing this give me that the $20 pice of kit won't out of the box?
  • by davidwr (791652) on Thursday August 11, 2005 @10:42PM (#13300346) Homepage Journal
    Instant dirt-cheap thin client - USB can handle the networking, keyboard, and mouse, VGA gives you a screen.

    Can you say ThinStation []? I knew you could.
    • It's called a SunRay, and they're even available with built-in 1280x1024 displays.

      So far as I know, there's no Linux port, but you can boot its regular firmware from a Linux server using these directions [] if you aren't lucky enough to have a Solaris machine.
  • one at the office (sitting behind a pix and used only as a wap) one at the house (sitting behind a smoothie and used as a wap) one sitting right here in my laptop bag for those hotels that put the ethernet port at the damned opposite end of the room (far from the bed)... 17.99 each and i managed to get a beta firmware from one of their engineers a while ago.. (latest release is like .23 and i have .26 P) anyway... nice little cheap router/wap...
  • What about... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Toba82 (871257)
    a beowulf cluster of these?
  • by Espectr0 (577637) on Thursday August 11, 2005 @11:04PM (#13300461) Journal
    Can anyone list and compare the most popular firmware bundles available for the linksys routers? There are so many of them, some Free, some closed source, which provide a different set of features. My wireless linksys router is working perfectly in my home, but i would like to have ssh and such.
  • Judging from the the responses other commenters have posted, I'll assume this is NOT a refurb device they contracted in bulk.

    HOWEVER, Fry's is known for it's refurb love, similar to how Walmart loves 3rd rate produce.

    The message:
    BEWARE OF FRY's rceid=mozilla-search&start=0&start=0&ie=utf-8&oe=u tf-8&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:offici al [] mpeting-with-wal-mart/ [] (do a searc
  • How soon before someone uses the DMCA to try to stop it?
  • I didn't see any real selling point. There are many cheap Wireless AP's around. Nothing special per say about this.

    If it had things like SNMP support, then I may be interested, as that would be a decent bargain.
  • Fry's (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DavidD_CA (750156) on Friday August 12, 2005 @12:22AM (#13300909) Homepage
    Before everyone rushes out to Fry's with their $20.... I feel compelled to share my best friend's Fry's story.

    He went there to purchase a hard drive and was sold a brand new drive in original packaging with at a new price.

    When he got it home, he installed it ready to format, and lo-and-behold it booted up into Windows!

    After some mild snooping, he found Quickbooks files and other documents from the former owner. Being a good person, he found the guy's phone number (among other things) and learned that the guy bought the hard drive about three weeks prior and returned it because it had some bad sectors on it. They assured him that they would destroy it.
    • Re:Fry's (Score:2, Informative)

      by Schrade (902157)
      He surely missed the returned product sticker. He also probably missed the shoddy heatshrinking job the Fry's reps will do.

      Brand New = factory heatshrink packaging. Usually a very different type of heatshrinking than what Fry's uses to repackage returned items.

      • I had a similar experience at Best Buy. This was back in like 94 when single-spin CDRom drives were still fairly pricey. I bought one and didn't know the shrink-wrap job wasn't the same since it was the last one. When I got home, it had a floppy drive with newspaper packing. When I took it back they had to get the manager, they probably thought I was trying to pull something on them.
  • Firmware? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mogalpha (782997)
    I bought this router a few weeks ago, and it runs really well actually; no DNS discon. error that everyone else seems to be getting. One thing that bugs me though, I'm pretty sure some other routers have signal strength controls in the admin. panel, not just wifi radio: on/off. Does anyone know for certain which other firmwares work with this router, and if any of them are better in any regard?
  • by Mostly a lurker (634878) on Friday August 12, 2005 @02:57AM (#13301605)
    It occurs to me that, with some hardware hacking, this could become an interesting thin client. The price and form factor are very attractive and a 200 MHz (or so) CPU would be adequate. Need to check on RAM -- 128MB would be ample.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Radio Shack has the D-Link DI-524 for $20 after rebate [] this week which suspeciously uses the same chipset as the Fry router.

    The DI-524 has WPA encryption, transmit power control, mac filter list, time-of-day limiting. etc Not bad at all for $20.
  • The headline implies they already managed to get linux booting on it. If you follow the links, you'll find they haven't even started hacking them yet.
  • Worth looking at is the project where they managed to get Linux running och the Microsoft Mn-700 router, normally running Windows CE. Apparently the original CE firmware was unstable, lacking some features and was considered problematic on its good days. 5/ []
  • by RFC959 (121594) on Friday August 12, 2005 @08:25AM (#13302670) Journal
    I just googled for Fry's (I figured it was probably, but I wanted to be sure), and what I saw in the search results made my jaw drop:

    We apologize to all of our Lynx users for our framed format.

    A major chain that's actually aware of Lynx?! And apologizes for using frames? This is one of the signs of the Apocalypse, isn't it? OK, so it was probably just the work of one dedicated geek in the IT department, but it's still impressive.

10 to the 6th power Bicycles = 2 megacycles