back to article Linksys's über-hackable WRT wireless router REBORN with 802.11ac

Networking gear maker Linksys has resurrected one of its most popular, customizable routers – the WRT54G – with a new version that takes advantage of the latest wireless technologies. The Belkin subsidiary revealed the new device, a spruced-up Wi-Fi router based on its venerable WRT54G design, at the Consumer Electronics Show ( …

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Is this good or what?

Most excellent indeed.

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Re: Is this good or what?

The price isn't. $300 is a ridiculous price for a domestic grade router. I bought a couple of new Cisco 1800s a few months ago that cost less.

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Re: Is this good or what?

$300 for a router ? Is there a premium for not having a NSA-bugged firmware ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is this good or what?

Maybe there's an applied premium for

(a) creating a new, plastic WRT chassis that does not feel like it was created out of repurposed soda pop bottles, and

(b) finally supplying a quality power supply that does not fail very shortly after the warranty expires.

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Re: Is this good or what?

Have to agree when I saw the price at the end I spat my tea everywhere, the price needs to be more competitive since the majority of people just use what tat that the ISP supplies.

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Re: Is this good or what?

Is this an issue with linksys power supplies ?

My trusty old Netgear WNDR3700 has been running 24/7 for the last 4 years. Even the lowcost tp-link routers have never had any issues with power supplies or anything else.

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Re: Is this good or what?

That would be the EoL Cisco 1800's?

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Re: Is this good or what?

Not at $300. My Vigor only cost £100 and gives me ADSL, VOIP, gigabit ethernet and g. Not sure I want to upgrade all the laptops to take advantage of faster wifi.

AND, it's not Belkin.

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Re: Is this good or what?

My WRT54G has an external PoE adapter on it, so it doesn't need the power supply and I don't have to site it near a power socket. Provided they've kept the consumption of this one under 15W there's no reason why the same trick can't be tried on it. However, $300 is a bit eye-watering.

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Re: Is this good or what?

That would be the EoL Cisco 1800's?

No. Only the modular models have been EOLed. Those were the fixed-configuration SDSL + switch model (1803?), still very much a current product. The 1900 series hasn't been fleshed out with direct replacements for the fixed models as yet.

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Re: Is this good or what?

My Vigor lasted 7 years before the ADSL bit of it finally croaked and wouldn't sync at a decent rate.

VOIP, VPN, etc. Fairly good ROI if you ask me.

I'd guess that Linksys believe this is the last router purchasers will buy for quite some time and are pricing accordingly.

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Re: Is this good or what?

And pray tell why the majority of people would need or want a hackable router?

This is hardly aimed at the majority of people. I'd think it's aimed more at the folk who've built an x86 router because there's nothing reasonably priced commercially available to meet their needs. For those folk this isn't unreasonable.

As for the psu, I'm an n of one, but my wrt54g has been running 2x7 for nine years 4 months. I have no problem with its longevity.

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<300W with a dual core ARM, 300MB of RAM and a few radios?

Of course it could be done if it were using a stable software stack and quality config. If the old (Linksys) WRT54 firmwares are anything to go off, the thing will use 700mA with the radios on, ramping up to 1200mA after 24 hours, causing Wi-Fi drop-outs, dropped WAN connections, etc. Of course it will crash a day or two later and the on-board capacitors and the (under-specced) power supply will fail before the 2nd year is out.

This really is Deja Vu....

OMFG: Imagine spending $300 and still have to install an unsupported firmware as the pre-loaded firmware can't maintain Wi-Fi or WAN uptime and Linksys simply do not fix the truckload of bugs they shipped it with. And if it doesn't drop out somehow or shut down, it'll run hot and sound like a swarm of mosquitoes.

Now OpenWRT, DD-WRT and Tomato et al are all good/great but hardly not every release has the polish we like to think they have. Not like the way they could be if Linksys just funded OpenWRT to deliver a really stable, well featured and properly supported firmware.

Instead, your $300 pays for a $4 PCB, an $8 power adapter, a box and a few $10 components. The other $250 goes on the Linksys/Belkin dev team for cobbling together a downloaded stack of hacked together development code and combining it with some proprietary shite from some Broadcom and Realtek, and calling it a production release when it is just a beta or more likely, an alpha.

Of course that flies with most people as the firmware hacking community can retrofit, fix and upgrade the stack without any technical hand-over or resources from the factory team, who by that time have done a preverbial 'dump and run' (as far from the project as they can).

To be successful, they need an open a github repo, add some public change management and set a date to begin working collaboratively with people like OpenWRT prior to the release. They'd need to maintain the initial release and fund and resource the open firmware teams- and perhaps setup a release/lifecycle with them before abandoning it at version 1.0 like they did last time.

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Fantastic ....

... then you see the price tag, nice but I'll stick to sub $50 routers that can run OpenWRT.

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Re: Fantastic ....

Exactly. In this day and age, there's no reason whatsoever for a home router - no matter how fancily equipped - to cost more than $50. If Belkin/Cisco/Linksys insists on taxing enthusiasts to the bone like that, they'll just use whatever cheap generic hackable hardware they can get their hands on, emphasis on cheap. Before something is widely supported it has to be popular first, and this will never be that with such a price tag.

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Anonymous Coward

What about Backdoors?

Is OpenWrt secure? OpenWrt has had multiple root exploits, as has DD-WRT. Do we know exactly who has committed changes to each OpenWrt release?

I personally would tend to prefer a lower performance router running a known solid set of software, such as one of the venerable Tomato builds... At least you know who to blame for any backdoors in Tomato :)

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Stop

Re: What about Backdoors?

"Is OpenWrt secure? OpenWrt has had multiple root exploits, as has DD-WRT. Do we know exactly who has committed changes to each OpenWrt release?"

First of all, Belkin doesn't exabctly have a Midas touch when it comes to drivers, firmware, software. Quite the opposite really.

At least with WRT we can eliminate that part. Besides, you can verify the WRT source code yourself according to FOSS evangelists. Add to that the proprietary binary driver for the actual wireless radio chip from Broadcom/Atheros/Ralink without documentation...

"Tomato"

Tomato was a splendid upgrade for my Buffalo WHR-HP-G54 AP's, but does Tomato support anything beyond 802.11g and has it been updated for ages? I have a faster internet connection than what 802.11g can deliver and my current Buffalo N's have DD-WRT fw installed.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What about Backdoors?

I am running 802.11bgn (20 or 40MHz channels) on an ASUS RT-N16 with Tomato firmware from Jonathan Zarate. It has USB drive support, VPN integration. Take another look at the various Tomato versions, even this one has been around for quite some years now...

(Specifically Tomato Firmware v1.28.9054 MIPSR2-beta K26 USB vpn3.6 )

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "you can verify the WRT source code yourself"

Something of an exaggeration for many of us

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Re: "you can verify the WRT source code yourself"

>>Re: "you can verify the WRT source code yourself"

>Something of an exaggeration for many of us

Which is why you say the public together can audit the source code which is better probably than any one person anyway. The problem as implied above is with binary blobs. Not sure if OpenWRT is using them (edit: verified it isn't on my router as the drivers are all open source but YMMV) but if they are all bets are off as that is where the NSA would go for anyway.

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Re: "you can verify the WRT source code yourself"

"Something of an exaggeration for many of us"

True, but if the bug/hack is simply to reset to default user/password, why not change your copy of the source so the defaults are different, and thus not a walk-over for anyone able to force a remote reset?

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free software + high price = high profits

This is the inexplicably high price of freedom...and the value of something that cosys nothing. Realising people value freedom, the manufacturers inflate the price, without spending any extra on software development, and make greater profits. Are people who buy this freedom fools, rebels or just victims of commercial exploitation?

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Anonymous Coward

Cashcow?

So Linksys, sorry Belkin (the same people selling gold plated modem cable - to improve performance), are offering a cheapish router, running software designed by others for free and obviously without any support cost (except basic hardware) as most will not run stock software.

Sounds like a good business plan at $/£300 a piece, but I won't join the queue to get one...

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Re: Cashcow?

If that's such an obvious route to success, why is Belkin the only one doing it?

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Few will buy it at this price. The original was around $60-$80 when it came out.

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Bollox, I hate Belkin

And I have vowed never to buy any of their tat. But this I like, and I might have to make an exception (once the price comes down).

$299 really is steep, maybe too steep. I used to own a pair of WRT54GS and they were cheap as chips even when brand new (ended up running Tomato on them in the end). Now that Belkin/Linksys officially approve of third party firmware, is the high price some sort of open source premium (aka gouging)?

Would be nice if they included an ADSL2+ modem in this as well. And frankly, for the price they're charging, it should have it already.

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Re: Bollox, I hate Belkin

I'm still using a WRT54GS. If this thing listed for $100 (and sold for $70-80 on line) I might consider it. At $300 Belkin can use it as a suppository.

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Re: Bollox, I hate Belkin

>Would be nice if they included an ADSL2+ modem in this as well. And frankly, for the price they're charging, it should have it already.

NAS, to boot.

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Re: Bollox, I hate Belkin

> NAS, to boot

That's one hell of a beast that needs a NAS to boot the thing.

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Re: one hell of a beast that needs a NAS to boot the thing

A beast codenamed "Blue", probably.

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"Open source doesn't sell!"

And you know that's what those bastards will say once their extremely overpriced kit stays on the shelves.

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First of all, it is the WRT54GL (Linux based) not the 54G that is most useful. I still use those (all over town!) and can still get them. I use DD-WRT on them and they are rock solid. They cost about $79 CAD here in Bumfuck Ontario Canada.

Furthermore, this new router is going to be too expensive. Almost 3 times? They can make those fit, sideways.

Finally, I have always hated Belkin routers. No new ones for me, now that Linksys is Belkin. I'll use one of the many others capable of running Linux firmware when I can no longer get the old ones.

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Anonymous Coward

DD-WRT 0-day in the wild?

I found that my WRT54GL routers with DD-WRT are starting to factory-reset randomly every month or two. Since a reset router (user:admin pw:admin) directly exposes your network to the Internet I have assumed some new 0-day is in the wild, and have gotten rid of DD-WRT in favor of Tomato -- which has been running for years on some of my routers, and has never factory-reset on me...

I have no experience with Open-WRT, but the commit process seemed to chaotic when I last looked into it...

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Linksys is overpriced

It's sort of nice that the WRT54GL is such a stable target, as in never changing, but I don't see a good reason why I should spend so much money on such an obsolete device.

54Mbps 802.11g, stuck on a Linux 2.4 kernel

100Mbps Ethernet

200MHz MIPS CPU

16MB RAM

4MB flash

For $80 in 2014

This is just sad.

For that price, I'd rather get a Buffalo WZR-600DHP:

"600Mbps" dual-channel 802.11n

Gigabit Ethernet, with a separate Ethernet interface on the WAN port

680MHz MIPS CPU

128MB RAM

32MB flash

USB port

It even comes with DD-WRT, and is extremely compatible with OpenWRT. The platform is also very similar to the CeroWRT platform (Netgear WNDR3800), so it shouldn't be too difficult to adapt.

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Re: DD-WRT 0-day in the wild?

Mine was doing the same (with Tomato) a while ago also leaving it horribly exposed. It turned out to be crashing following cable outages. I learned to back up the config - but it's not happened for a while. I also found that leaving the thing switched off for a couple of hours helped when flashing it's memory.

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@Grogan "First of all, it is the WRT54GL"

The original version of the WRT54G was the basis for DD-WRT and OpenWRT. The model was pretty popular for it's day, so Linksys made new versions, with different (cheaper) hardware, but kept the same box and name. This caused enough of a backlash from people who were spending a little extra to buy a Linksys router so that they could use DD-WRT, only to find the the new versions were incompatible, that Linksys introduced the WRT54GL (at a small price premium) to address the concerns of those customers who were buying the hardware so that they could run their own software on it.

Over the years, Linksys used 5 or 6 different versions of Broadcom chipsets, and for version 7.0 of the WRT54G, they switched to an Artheros chipset. All without changing the name of the thing they were selling.

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Anonymous Coward

"It will also support dual-band 802.11ac wireless networking at speeds of up to 1.3Gbps, in addition to all previous 802.11 protocols, we're told."

That will be partly useless since 802.11ac standard only supports the 5GHz band.

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Super overpriced

It's hacker friendly... with special "I'm a hacker" pricetag.

I'm sure there's a market for it, but openwrt runs on an lot of cheaper boxes;

Since you didn't ask I'm tending to use Buffalo routers nowadays, have several Buffalo WZR-HP-AG300H's in action and they're splendid; separate 2.4 + 5.8G radios (lovely performance on 5.8), tons of flash+ram, usb for gadget-making, gig-e for speed, fast cpu, run openwrt or dd-wrt depending on yr needs, under a hundred bucks, reliable, end of story. Old news but a fine piece of cheap hardware. Hell I may order another one for hacking on - the Atheros chipset has a spectrum analyzer mode I need to tinker with

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Dual core 1.5 ARM is nice and probably explains the price hike - you will be able to do quite a bit more than traditional wifi router stuff with the kit.

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any $100 router compatible with openwrt/dd-wrt can do quite a bit more than a traditional (dumb) router

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RE: Dual core 1.5 ARM is nice and probably explains the price hike

I hardly think so. Look at all the other products that use ARM SoC. Off the top of my head, there are systems like Raspberry Pi, MK808, ODROID, Beaglebone Black and huge numbers of cheap Chinese Android phones and tablets. Many of them have dual core or better. Granted, the engineering work needed to add high-speed networking to the system (and fab the chips) is going to make it more expensive than most of these options, but the basic ARM CPU/SoC certainly doesn't explain the high price. To me it looks like they're charging an enormous premium based solely on the reputation the original 54g line had as being hacker-friendly. This isn't the first time that this has happened: at one point in the evolution of the product, they brought out a new revision that actually had less memory than the existing models. Then they reissued it as WRT54GL, and justified charging the same (or more) for it just because it had an 'L' (for Linux) at the end of the model name.

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Anonymous Coward

Will it ship with good firmware or totally rubbish firmware since they know it will get replaced anyway?

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Happy

I would recommend a look at the TP-Link TD-W8980 N600.

Loads of features, gives as good a performance as my old Draytek before it and costs less than a third of this Linksys.

5GHz wi-fi is very handy living in a city centre too.

http://uk.tp-link.com/products/details/?categoryid=219&model=TD-W8980#down

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Re: I would recommend a look at the TP-Link TD-W8980 N600.

This new Linksys one is ethernet only - the one you suggested includes a DSL modem. A closer TP-Link comparison would be the Archer C7 (http://www.tp-link.com/lk/products/details/?model=Archer+C7). I'd personally go for the TL-WDR4900 though - fantastic CPU and OpenWrt support, just lacking 802.11ac.

It would be great if this Linksys one did include a modem too, as that would mean they'd most likely be publishing the source for the modem drivers too (which is very rare), but sadly that's not the case.

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Everyone seems very hung up on the price

Are there any cheaper WLAN routers out there that support 802.11AC? The cheapest 802.11AC access point I can find is a D-Link DAP-2695 at around £230.

I wouldn't get one myself, but it doesn't seem too extreme if you are looking for a gigabit WLAN network for your home.

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Re: Everyone seems very hung up on the price

Seriously did you miss the Asus, Netgear, TP-link ones under £230?

What did you search with a dowsing rod?

Not tried this but seems to have gig ports, dual band and bit less than that "lowest" price.

TRENDnet TEW-811DRU

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Re: Everyone seems very hung up on the price

My bad - yes, I did miss them when I searched...

The TRENDnet unit seems to be fairly basic in comparison for around £80/US$120 - the similarly specced Netgear unit is still around £190 (or US$200) is still a bit cheaper but lacks eSATA.

Pricing still isn't that terrible as you may still get more features.

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Re: Everyone seems very hung up on the price

I can't disagree, that TRENDnet will have things missing and they may be show stoppers so I would not jump at it. I dislike much of the base level unknown brand stuff from the far east because it seems to built to get the sale rather than still work in six months time.

If I'm honest I thought about £120 would be the absolute bottom end for AC access points before I searched so maybe Linksys are hoping we are all thinking Shiny New = £300.

I like the Asus routers (with Merlin or DD-WRT) and still run an old Buffalo G45HP (tomato or DD-WRT) if I'm going to leave it on for a few days during electrical storms. One thing I never liked about the original WRT was the shonky blue case, not quite sure why they have iterated that, makes me think of the 90's Skoda.

I suppose once the price stabilises and the extra features are invented it will be a very useful tool but with £300 in my pocket (today) I'd probably look at Vigor simply because I've run (with a few exceptions) those for thousands of hours between reboots, forgo a few features for it being a reliable workhorse.

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"to ensure that an open-source firmware for the new router will be available for download"

Given the amount of time it took Linksys to bring out newer firmware for my X3500, I wouldn't hold my breath.

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