Linux lets your Linksys run applications

Linux lets your Linksys run applications

Summary: If you reset the router, or if there's a power surge that knocks out the power, you have to re-install. But it does give you a chance to start playing with medical, inventory, and home control programs that live independently of your PC set-up.

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TOPICS: Networking
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wrt54g.jpg

Jim Buzbee has released Batbox, a mini-Linux that runs on the WRT54g wireless router. This is a Linksys router, the most popular on the market, and Linksys is owned by Cisco, which may be why this offering appeared here first.

Personally I think this is terribly exciting. Here's why.

For the last two years I have been writing a lot about what I call The World of Always-On. The idea is to use 802.11 networks as a platform for applications, controlling your home, checking your medical condition, managing your home inventory in the air, without reference to your PC.

BatBox delivers a no-cost platform hobbyists can use to explore what this means.

As Buzbee notes:

Upon completion of the installation, you'll be able to telnet into the box and have a system with basic tools such as syslog, httpd (with cgi-bin support), vi, snort, mount, insmod, rmmod, top, grep, ls, ifconfig, iptables, ssh, iptraf etc.

Right now this is for hobbyist use only. If you reset the router, or if there's a power surge that knocks out the power, you have to re-install. But it does give you a chance to start playing with medical, inventory, and home control programs that live independently of your PC set-up.

I think once enough people do this, demand will grow for giving such routers more memory, more processing, more security -- more of the properties of a real PC.

And then we will be on to something.

Topic: Networking

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20 comments
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  • Try a real embedded platform

    The WRT is a nice little Linux engine, but it's somewhat limited.

    If you want a real embedded platform that can do anything, try the PC Engines WRAP. It's $160 for the box and $20 for a compact flash card. M0N0Wall or IPCop are two superb firewall distros for this box, or you can run a scaled down Linux on this.

    http://www.pcengines.ch/wrap.htm
    george_ou
    • George is right, but...

      The Linksys WRT54g is the most popular wireless router out there. This software is free, open source. It's nothing more than a starter kit, but it is a starter kit.

      And once you get to learn with it, once you develop something useful, I'm sure you'll want to graduate to something lke WRAP.

      But now you don't have to go to that expense. If you have the router, you're good to go.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • The WRAP distros are free too

        You can run anything on the WRAP. But you're right that the WRT at $60 is just about the cheapest Linux box you can get. There are people out there that also like the Linksys "Slug" which has UPnP storage capabilities. That's also relatively cheap and it can attach 2 USB 2.0 storage devices.
        george_ou
    • IPCop Firewall

      I started the IPCop Addons-Server project and can speak from experience that IPCop is a very platform to start with and in most cases is cheaper than the Linksys.

      If you have an older PC that can run Windows 95, this is all you need to run IPCop.
      amigatec
  • For this kind of functionality build your own wireless router

    Instead of voiding the warrantee of your linksys router, by trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, why not build a router that is actually designed to run apps?

    Ingredients:
    1 Mini-ITX motherboard with dual onboard NIC's
    1 Mini ITX Case
    1 3 1/2 card reader
    1 Flash Memory Card (128MB)
    1 PCI Wireless NIC
    1 Decent open source OS (*BSD or GNU/Linux)

    The above would be *much* more porwerful than a linksys, and a power outage wouldn't force you to reinstall.
    toadlife
    • MiniITX isn't cheap

      It will run you about $400 for a miniITX setup. It also uses a lot more power.
      george_ou
      • True, but you get what you pay for

        A mini-ITX setup offers a lot more power, and therefore more possible uses than a linksys router.

        What do linksys routers have in them anyway? 266mhz CPU with 64MB ram?
        toadlife
        • Power considerations

          It all depends on what you're doing. An embedded appliance has a power utilization of around 10 watts total. A miniITX platform is probably around 60 watts and it costs a lot more than a much more powerful Sempron PC because of poor economy of scale. The Linksys "Slug" or the PC Engines WRAP are very good low power inexpensive alternatives.
          george_ou
    • Toadlife has a good point

      If you believe in the idea of wireless network applications, then please, do what Toadlife recommends.

      But if you don't believe and want to experiment, then if you have this router in your home you've got just about everything you need to get started. Just download the software and start fiddling.

      In the end, I think, you'll do what Toadlife or George suggest.

      But this is a good, cheap (heck, free) first step. And anything you don't like you can dump quickly, by just hitting the reset button.
      DanaBlankenhorn
  • Um.....

    "I think once enough people do this, demand will grow for giving such routers more memory, more processing, more security ? more of the properties of a real PC."

    Well, then it becomes a PC. What's the point :)
    BitTwiddler
    • RE:um.....

      Actually at that point you would have an appliance, not a pc, and there are appliances for lots of things already. Adding router functionality to an appliance to do other things would not be difficult, and this is where I think home networks are heading, where you have an all in one appliance sitting at your gateway that performs the functions of a Router, Firewall/Spam Filter, and incorporating into it a DVR, and some sort of QoS similar to the function of a Packeteer, that will ensure that VoIP calls get high priority over other traffic traversing the home LAN and out the Internet connection.
      jfp
  • Another gear

    in the WiMAX steamroller! When WiMAX routers come out - and Linksys WILL have one - this kind of technology will allow the user to connect to the WiMESH (mesh network), bypassing the ISP offering WiMAX service. In other words, FREE INTERNET! Can you say FREE? Thought you could . . .
    Roger Ramjet
    • Can I hold you to that?

      So Roger,

      You're going to go buy the wireless spectrum license, buy the WiMAX access tower, buy the T3 45 mbps backhaul, put this in every city and suburb, and give it away for free?

      Roger, I'm really starting to like you more and more.

      Oh wait a minute, isn't "InHell" the biggest backer of WiMAX?
      george_ou
      • WiMax

        Intel is a big backer of WiMax, which is why fixed WiMax ain't here yet. Intel wants to make it mobile first, and replace cellular with it, because they missed both the WiFi and the cellular chip parties.

        We could have fixed WiMax, but when you've got this better idea to work on, who is going to scale it up? It becomes obsolete when this new thing happens.
        DanaBlankenhorn
      • Already happened

        [You're going to go buy the wireless spectrum license, buy the WiMAX access tower, buy the T3 45 mbps backhaul, put this in every city and suburb, and give it away for free?]

        So you're going to go out and run millions of miles of copper wire and have thousands of mechanical switching devices - and then have VoIP make it all obsolete? Or building thousands of cell towers and then having WiFi or WiMAX make those obsolete. Just as the telcos have been stuck with old technology that cost trillions, the "new" ISPs will be stuck with these WiMAX setup costs. With a mesh network there IS no "central point" such as a tower - each node communicates with each other and creates their OWN network.

        The cronology:

        ISPs invest CRAZILLY in WiMAX towers. People start signing up for WiMAX internet service. Creap ass techies that are bored and broke, will experiement with reprogramming WiMAX routers to connect to each other over a meshing network. These techies make the software available for free, and all you have to do is reprogram your router to get onto the WiMESH. THis will have the same stampede effect that VoIP is having today - people will be dumping ISPs so fast, that they'll complain to Congress - who is the only force capable of stopping the WiMAX steamroller . . .
        Roger Ramjet
        • WiMAX is very inexpensive.

          You can get WiMAX service for the paltry sum of $800 a month. Since the supporters for WiMAX are the telcos themselves, everyone is happy!

          The current problem with WiMAX is that the access device is larger than what will fit in most laptops (as in a PCMCIA card, SD card or laptop expansion card (for those that have one internally) and only in Asia (Japan or South Korea) do they have something that will work with mobile devices that is even remotely like WiMAX.

          in order for a laptop or smartphone user (modern computer user) to benefit from this, they have to bridge between a WiMAX router and a Wi-Fi switch/router. No WiMAX in any modern laptops (though Intel is moving WiMAX into silicon).
          B.O.F.H.
  • Linux is useful with face-less systems

    Linux is useful with face-less systems like this and web-servers. Note that "face" means GUI interfaces.
    Wagadonga
    • Only because..

      You don't use KDE 3.4 and opensource has the best logo's! like the OpenBsd blowfish and Snort pig.. oh and yes TUX!

      :)

      Peace be with you brother
      xstep
  • Bat box

    Very cool! I'm going to work on getting snort to work tonight (fingers crossed). I really wish I could just replace the firmware with linux. The linksys is so cheap to buy and I'm not ready to replace any of mine yet. Heck! I just bought Super Cantenna's. These antennas give me a nice range. Let a few people in the hood access my linksys too.

    I have made some really cool OpenBsd firewall boxes. Nothing in WIFI yet but it's very much on my mind.

    One last thing.. we should bow our heads and say goodbye to OS/2. IBM has announced that it will end support 12/23/06

    Remember, OS/2 was not a total flop. Many ATM's were powered by this OS.. Solong*
    xstep
  • what's the big deal?

    The WRT54g ships with Linux.


    .
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