The Perfect OpenWRT router

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The perfect OpenWRT router for beginners

What's this all about?

Recently, the KWLUG mailing list has had an animated discussion regarding selecting a commercially available wireless router that would be the ideal choice for someone who wanted to get started with running a Linux-based wireless router at home. The proposal was to zero in on a router that satisfied a number of fundamental requirements, at which point a few locals would each go buy one, collaborate on documenting how to install and configure OpenWRT from scratch, at which point anyone else who wanted to play along would have the full documentation to do the same thing.

(The rationale for doing something like this is that, while there's a massive amount of documentation out there on OpenWRT running on various routers, sometimes it takes quite a bit of research to learn that a particular router has a fatal flaw of some kind. And it's unfair to ask beginners to go out and start doing all that research, when all they want is a HOWTO to help them get things done.)

The perfect router?

So what classifies as an "ideal" router for a project like this? Consider the following (debatable) list:

  • easily available (ideally locally, say at Canada Computers)
  • less than $100 Cdn (or not much more, as long as it's worth it)
  • 4 wired ports (fairly standard these days)
  • minimally 11g (some people insist on 11n, we'll come back to this)
  • at least one USB 2.0 port (ideally two, but one will do)
  • fully-functioning wireless
  • Runs latest OpenWRT 8.09.2, or at least you can build from the trunk
  • Mini-PCI slot(s) would be nice, but not essential as long as onboard wireless works
  • VLAN configurable
  • Usable graphical admin interface
  • Eminently hackable

Some other niceties:

  • Available or easily creatable serial port
  • JTAG interface

To summarize the above, the router should be perfectly functional as a wired/wireless router, while giving the owner lots of freedom to hack further for educational purposes. (Hence, even if the owner can't think of an immediate use for the USB port(s), you really want them for future consideration or just hacking. Same with serial port and JTAG interface.)

Wireless 11n?

Some of the local folks insisted that 11n was a requirement for them. Personally, sure, that would be nice, but remember that this is meant to be a project to introduce people to open source software running their router, so while 11n would be terrific, I don't consider it a fatal flaw if it's missing. Others will have to make that decision themselves.

Does the router need to have everything right this minute?

Not necessarily, as long as we know it's a work in progress. For example, VLAN configuration is pretty important, but it might be acceptable to settle on a router that doesn't have it right this minute as long as we know that it's coming.

Routers under consideration

Coming soon ...

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