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Mass-market WiFi router invites Linux hackers

Jun 30, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 7 views

NetGear has announced an 802.11g WiFi router and access point made to be hacked. Seemingly created in homage to LinkSys's hacker-friendly “WRT54GL,” the WGR614L offers fairly generous complements of CPU power, RAM, and Flash, and supports several commercial and community-supported alternative Linux-based router… distributions.

(Click for larger view of the NetGear WGR614L Wireless-G Router)

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The WGR614L is equipped with a MIPS32-based Broadcom 5354 system-on-chip (SoC) clocked at 240MHz, with 16KB each of instruction and data cache, and 1KB of pre-fetch cache. This chip appears to be comparable in processing power to the SoCs that, according to Wikipedia, power recent WRT54G routers.

Broadcom 5354 block diagram
(Click to enlarge)

However, many recent Linksys routers — especially those reaching mass-market distributors — have only 2MB of Flash, and 8MB of RAM, leaving little headroom for users wishing to run community-enhanced firmware stacks, other than the minimalist DD-WRT micro. The WGR614L, in contrast, offers 4MB flash, and 16MB RAM, says NetGear — enough to load and run alternative stacks.

In releasing its WGR614L, Netgear touts an open source router community called MyOpenRouter, which it says distributes Linux-based “MOR” firmware images that work on the device. The community also offers forums, blogs, articles, source code, user guides, and tech support. According to NetGear, new applications currently being developed by the MyOpenRouter community include traffic shaping applications, redirections to captive portals for hotspots, guest access via a separate SSID, upstream and downstream QoS (Quality of Service), and intelligent bandwidth monitoring.

Some of the alternative Linux-based router distributions said to work on the WGR614L include:

  • Tomato, a replacement firmware for the Linksys WRT54G/GL/GS, the Buffalo WHR-G54S/WHR-HP-G54, and other Broadcom-based routers
  • DD-WRT, an enhanced version of Linksys firmware that adds “enterprise” features like Radius authentication
  • OpenWRT Linux distro for embedded devices (support coming soon)

The WGR614L measures 6.9 x 1.1 x 4.7 inches (175.3 x 27.94 x 119.4mm), and weighs just over half a pound (0.26 kg). The WGR614L provides an external 2-dBi antenna, as well as a second internal diversity antenna that enhances performance and range, says the company.

With its standard Linux-based firmware, the router is said to support static and dynamic routing with TCP/IP, VPN pass-through (IPSec, L2TP), NAT, PPTP, PPPoE, DHCP (client and server), and Bigpond. It includes a Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) firewall. Other security features include support for 40-, 128- and 152-bit WEP encryption, WiFi Protected Access (WPA), WPA2-PSK, and WiFi Protected Setup (WPS). NetGear also touts its support for security features including Exposed Host (DMZ), MAC address authentication, URL content filtering, logs, and email alerts of Internet activity.

Linksys WRT54GL WiFi router
(Click for details)

Rival Linksys also makes a WiFi router specifically positioned to serve users of alternative Linux router distributions. The WRT54GL (pictured at right) was launched shortly after Linksys switched the WRT54G to VxWorks, in order to skimp on RAM and Flash.

Stated Som Pal Choudhury, senior product line manager for advanced wireless at NetGear, “There has been a growing demand for more powerful platforms to support a rapidly growing segment of open source enthusiasts that are seeking to create more robust, commercial-grade applications for their wireless routers.”

NetGear is known in the Linux device community primarily for its ReadyNAS line of network attached storage (NAS) devices that it acquired when it bought Infrant for $60 million last year. ReadyNAS devices run an Infrant-developed Linux distribution called RAIDiator.


The NetGear Open Source Wireless-G Router (WGR614L) is available now for $70, says NetGear. The router offers a one-year warranty. More information can be found on the MyOpenRouter developers site.

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