OpenWrt is an open source, Linux-based operating system designed for embedded devices like routers. The project has been around for two decades at this point, and can now be installed on thousands of routers and other devices.

Now some of the developers behind the project have put together a proposal for the first hardware designed specifically for OpenWrt, with full upstream Linux support. It would be called OpenWrt One/AP-24.XY, and the goal is to produce a router board that would sell for less than $100.

While OpenWrt is often used as a replacement for the firmware that comes with a WiFi router, giving advanced user more control over their hardware, you can also install the operating system on single-board computers or DIY router boards like the sold under the Banana Pi brand.

So OpenWrt developers reached out to the company that makes Banana Pi boards, as well as chip maker MediaTek to gauge interest from those companies and the feasibility of producing a board that would include features like:

  • Processor: MediaTek MT981B
  • RAM: 1GiB DDR4
  • Flash storage: 128 MiB SPI NAND + 4 MiB SPI NOR (for recovery image)
  • Other storage: M.2 2042 for PCIe Gen 2 x1 NVMe SSD
  • WiFi: MediaTek MT7976C (WiFi 6)
  • Ethernet: 2 x RJ45 (1 x 2.5 GbE + 1 x Gigabit)
  • USB: USB 2.0 Type-A host, USB-C port for device, console
  • Buttons: Reset + User
  • Mechanical switch: Boot selection (regular boot or recovery)

There’s more hardware described in the project announcement, including information about a LED lights, a mikroBUS expansion slot, and a real-time clock. And, of course, the goal is for the schematics to made publicly available.

The printed circuit board is expected to be the same size as the Banana Pi BPI-R4, which means it should be about 148 x 101mm (5.8″ x 4″) and will be available as either a single-board computer or a fully assembled system (with the board inside a case).

While there are certainly other router boards that you can already buy if your goal is to build your own OpenWrt system, the OpenWrt One would have a few things that help it stand out. First and foremost, it would be designed with the aid of OpenWrt software developers, so the hardware is purpose-chosen for upstream Linux support and support with the operating system.

Second, while the board would be sold and distributed by Banana Pi, a portion of sales would go to the Software Freedom Conservancy, and earmarked for OpenWrt. So you’d be helping support the development of the operating system with the purchase of an OpenWrt One.

And the hardware also has a few nice-to-have features that, among other things, make it nearly impossible to brick. Even if you end up messing up the software and getting the system to a state where it won’t boot normally, you can use the mechanical switch to reboot to the read-only recovery image packed into the 4 MiB of NOR flash memory, allowing you to restore your system.

That said, the goal is also to make this thing relatively affordable, so it’s not going to have every feature you could ever dream of. And there’s no support for 6 GHz wireless bands, for example. There’s no USB 3.0 port (there is a USB 3.x bus, but it’s shared by the PCIe bus, so the board could either have USB 3.0 or an NVMe SSD connector, and the developers chose the latter).

The team also hasn’t officially committed to making the OpenWrt One yet. At this point, it’s still in the proposal stage, as developer seek community feedback. If there is enough support for the project, then it may move forward and become a real thing you can buy… at some point.

You can find out more and keep up on the discussion at the openwrt-devel mailing list or the OpenWrt forum.

via Hacker News

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  1. I need mesh wifi s for emergency communications.
    I need outdoor version with solar panel and 365 day working time

    nothing more ;D

  2. Pity they didn’t choose to collaborate with the open hardware group who are developing RISC-V processors

  3. I’ve been a major fan of gl-inet the past few years. Not a lot of plug and play options for openwrt on the market, which is sad because it can do so many things.

    When my friends and family want new routers they always ask me what to buy. I hate suggesting consumer level products that are hardware and software neutered, with proprietary buy in at $$$ prices. If openwrt rolls more hardware out of the box I call it a major win for consumers. I can now get my friends and family adblocking, vpn, and decent parental controls for the kids wrapped up in a bow. Then when I inevitably need to help them down the road I can actually debug a Linux system. It’s a beautiful thing.

    Back to point of the article, I feel a major barrier to entry for openwrt is flashing on 3rd party hardware, which also get silent revisions under the same model. I personally want plug and play first party hardware. Whether that’s officially supported by the project itself, a partnership, or companies

  4. Hmmmmm

    I loved the 3rd party open source software for local area network/Internet routers back in the day, pre-OpenWRT and then eventually OpenWRT when it appeared, but fast forward to now and my immediate thought/skepticism is that OpenWRT is maybe gutted and repurposed and all sorts of possible shenanigans or whatnot. I could be wrong, but I dunno, lol

    …a few minutes later…

    lol, searching for I see:

    “Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) is Facilitating a Hostile Takeover by Corporations (Privatising Free Software)”
    so, already, as I fucking suspected, lol

    1. You use Brave, your argument is invalidated. Fake “privacy as a product” crypto botnet browser.

  5. Is MediaTek known for contributing upstream and engaging in the open source spirit?

    1. No, they are not, but very few companies are and those that are don’t necessarily have chips that are well-designed for modern WiFi use. At some point, a chip that is good enough gets chosen.

    2. Apparently the MT8173 chipset is “still stuck on a proprietary version of a 3.18 kernel”

    1. Yeah…I don’t think I could say that in confidence.
      This hasn’t happened yet, but given the increase in dumb, pointless, moralizing drama in open source communities that punishes users for what developers say, I could see something real stupid possibly coming from it, like an OpenWRT contributor deciding to null route websites based on their content after the routers ship.
      Like I said, very stupid, but may be impossible to undo at the source if the contributor was sufficiently protected by the code of conduct and the contributor’s own lack of original sin.
      I’m not saying I know anything about OpenWRT.
      I’m saying people like that can get a position anywhere now.

      1. This reads a bit like baseless fearmongering to be honest.

        I don’t know anything about some guy, but from what I hear about humans recently, they could be doing really bad things.

        1. To summarize what I really want to get at here is “you can’t take anything good for granted”.
          But try not to hate humans as a whole. Since that means hating yourself.