I have a Netgear WPN824N that I pulled out of storage that has LEDE 17.01.4 successfully installed on it. I am experiencing a problem however where after rebooting the device it appears that it has been reset to a firstboot state where not even the root password is set up. What might be wrong with it? Although it appears to be OK did I mess up something during the flash? Let me know what more information I need to provide.
With a 4 MB flash device, it's quite likely that you simply don't have enough flash left for the overlay - in which case an emergency overlay is spawned over tmpfs. Look in dmesg and "df -h" for clues.
So I guess I'm better off reinstalling the OEM netgear firmware if I'm not looking for a specific application in LEDE? If I was OK working with this device only through SSH, how could I set this up so that it did save its configuration files?
You can still trim down the firmware down to your needs, but it's getting tight for 4 MB flash (especially with kernel 4.14 in the future). The easiest approach is indeed to remove luci, but this requires either using the buildroot approach and compiling a stripped down firmware from source (this gives you more freedom to (de-)select features) or the imagebuilder, which uses binary packages to repack the firmware; both approaches are described in the wiki.
The easiest test for now would be to sysupgrade to a master snapshot, as those don't include luci to begin with and therefore are a bit smaller than release builds.
I would like to try a sys upgrade to one of the master snapshots like you recommended but beyond the CPU being an AR71 I don't know where to go or what to download. Could you provide a link to a perticular download that should work for me?
Notice the overlay is directly on top of a partition of flash. Also, here is what is reported about jffs2 in dmesg: [ 9.098058] mount_root: switching to jffs2 overlay
Finally, with the tiny image, changes to the configuration files are saved between reboots. Yay! I'm just stuck doing command-line configuration now. At least this is experience to give me confidence to switch to openwrt with my better router later.