Cheap OpenWrt hardware to move first steps with OpenWrt


#1

Hi everyone,

OpenWRT is a very important part of OpenWISP and the OpenWISP community is participating for the second time in the Google Code-In program with the aim of teaching young pre-university students how to contribute to Open Source projects and hopefully teach them how to use OpenWRT and OpenWISP.

The first time we participated we achieved better results than what we expected, so this year I would like to try to convince some students to get some cheap devices instead of using only OpenWRT on virtualbox.
If we manage to make some students excited about hacking OpenWRT we may turn some of them into stable contributors for the long term, which I believe would be good because I haven't seen many young people hacking OpenWRT recently, they almost all end up working on javascript stuff (so inflated and so boring!).

So my question is simple: what cheap hardware can we recommend them to buy?
Keep in mind their age is between 13 and 17 and they come from all over the world, the most being from Asia (particularly India) so their budget will be very low (and they'll have to convince their parents to give them money to buy these devices, which may not be easy). The devices don't need to be performant. They just need to be easy to reflash with OpenWRT and should work decently to bring up an access point, an 802.11s mesh and similar things.

Best regards
Federico


#2

#3

...and take https://openwrt.org/supported_devices/432_warning very seriously, 4/32 devices are slowly going to hit the wall.


#4

gl-ar150 is small and inexpensive.


#5

What about donated devices? I have 2 routers I could send if it would not cost to mutch. They are a wdr1043nd and a wd n750 I all so mite have a wdr3600 v1.5


#6

GL-AR150 AR9331 802.11n 150Mbps OPENWRT works great!


#7

Thanks for all the replies.

@tapper thank you for your generosity, I think it may disappoint some students if some of them get donated routers and some other don't. Moreover, if they buy it themselves they are showing they really care about knowing more and maybe once they spent some effort to get it they'll feel more ownership, just maybe (I have a lot of bought hardware I never had time to touch yet lol) :slight_smile:


#8

Looks here. ~20 USD and we have 32/128MB with microsd, ethernet, wifi, audio codec, usb and full pack of gpio
https://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/Hi-Link-New-Product-Wireless-Portable-Reader-Storage-Hard-Disk-Video-Player/211069_32933094874.html?spm=2114.12010615.8148356.40.266e3f1cA5AVfI


#9

...and this HiLink device is supported by OpenWrt?


#10

Yes. I have this module (not devboard), and its perfectly working with OpenWrt (except wifi). Its have the same component as linkit smart 7688


#11

There is a dude giving away 18 routers.


#12

How about a Raspberry Pi Zero W?

It runs OpenWRT and can be repurposed for other uses.

A Pi Zero W, case, and SD card should cost around 20 and provide a bunch of educational opportunities beyond that of a normal router.

If you need a router though I propose a Nexx WT3020. It’s about $20, has 16MB of SPI and 64GB of RAM, and if you flash a custom bootloader it is essentially unbrickable.


#13

Due to the I/O situation with ethernet sitting on the single USB port of all RPis and the SDIO connected wlan card, any RPi is a pretty horrible choice as a routing platform - you can get much better devices for the same price.


#14

Depends on your use case. For educational purposes I think it would be okay. Plus when I travel the 900Mhz ARM beats the pants off a 360MHz MIPS when it comes to handling OpenVPN for building a bridge back to my home.


#15

(if you can still find them) How about the xiaomi mi mini? Should be lots cheaper to get in Asia.
They're quite old but you can still find them in clearance sales.

I have 2 minis myself, initial root/flash is a tricky, but once you're past that openwrt is fully supported - comes with a USB port so you can always extroot if needed. (note there's also a nano 'youth' model with a USB port - but that one is only for charging, i have no experience with that model).


#16

One of the challenges of programs like this is training the trainers. Reasonably long-term availability helps make sure things go smoothly for the end-user and their support. I'd tend toward a manufacturer with some history, a reliable supply channel, and ideally one that does more than just slap OpenWrt onto their product. I haven't tried their product myself, but the inexpensive (under US$20) GL-iNet devices have tempted me several times.


#17

hey undef, what do you mean for tricky? Keep in mind this are teenagers, some of them may be skilled but we can't expect them to open the routers and connect the serial port, if they're not able to do that they would be disappointed, so easy to flash in this case is important.


#18

Hi Federico,

"tricky" doesn't involve any hardware steps at all.
Essentially there are two ways:

  • the official one, requiring you to register with xiaomi and download a development firmware and root password for each device.
  • there's a bug in the original firmware that involves copy/pasting some parameters in the address bar of the browser.
    (you could probably script that)

here's a link:


#19

Hi Federico,

"tricky" doesn't involve any hardware steps at all.
Essentially there are two ways:

  • the official one, requiring you to register with xiaomi and download a development firmware and root password for each device.
  • there's a bug in the original firmware that involves copy/pasting some parameters in the address bar of the browser.
    (you could probably script that)

here's a link:


#20

Check some of the stuff from ZBT on Alibaba. Various levels of support OpenWrt support, a lot of it is already fully supported. They may even be willing to negotiate for bulk purchases if that's something possible to organize. Talk to Anna, tell her Nick from Australia sent you, she'll look after you.