The Zsun WiFi Card Reader is a tiny, cheap microSD card reader that sells for between $11 and $15 (or a few dollars more if you want to order from AMazon instead of from a Chinese retailer).

You can plug the card reader into the USB port of your computer, but as the name suggests, it also supports WiFi — which allows you to access microSD cards even if you’re using a phone or tablet that doesn’t have a card reader.

But a group of Polish hackers found a way to do something else with the Zsun card reader: turn it into a tiny WiFi router.

zsun card reader

Basically the hack involves replacing the firmware of the Zsun card reader with a custom version of OpenWRT, an open source Linux distribution designed for routers and other embedded devices.

Once you’ve turned the device into a router you could use it to connect devices on the go by creating a portable local network, connect a few devices to create a mesh network, or anything else you could think of doing with a cheap, tiny wireless router. Connect the USB port to a portable power bank and you can even use it when it’s not plugged into a laptop or a wall jack.

The card reader has an Atheros AR9331 processor, 64MB of RAM, 16MB of SPI flash storage, and a card reader, so it’s not exactly going to be the most powerful router available. But it could be one of the smallest and cheapest.

On the other hand, installing OpenWRT on the Zsun card reader is kind of tricky, but you can find detailed instructions at the project’s Wiki page. The most foolproof methods involve some hardware hacking, but there are some software-only solutions… it’s just that they’re very risky and if something goes wrong you could kill the device.

Update: As Sai Guatam points out in the comments below, if all you want is a pocket-sized USB WiFi router or hotspot, you can find plenty for around $5 – $15. But those models don’t necessarily support OpenWRT, which gives you more control over the settings and performance of a router than the stock firmware usually does.

Update 2: Actually… Woot is selling a Buffalo WMR-300 AirStation travel router for just $15 as of January 26th, and there is a version of OpenWRT for that device.

via CNX-Software

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8 replies on “Turn an $11 microSD card reader into a WiFi router”

  1. Wonder if it will also work as a “WiFi Throwie” for festivals, and work as a mesh network with other devices when the (inevitable) outage happens so people can still send messages despite no phone network?

  2. If I understand its purpose exactly, same products exist for cheaper. For example, search USB router on the same banggood website. Xiaomi has one and another product exists too.

    1. Good point. Although I suspect running OpenWRT or other third-party router software on those devices would be nearly as difficult as it is on this model… what makes this special is that someone’s posted instructions and confirmed that it works, giving you more control over the experience.

      Plus there’s a microSD card reader.

    2. Oh sure, there’s no shortage of cheap routers you can run OpenWrt on, no worries there. What makes this one exceptional is the ridiculously small form factor, the specs (64 MB RAM and 16 MB flash are quite a comfortable environment when it comes to OpenWrt), and the availability of solder points to wire in the “missing” ports. Think about this: OpenWrt is not just a router OS, there are a lot of clients and servers … and this thing can be hidden just about anywhere …

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