OpenWrt One - celebrating 20 years of OpenWrt

@blogic posted following on the OpenWrt mailing list for developers:


tl;dr

In 2024 the OpenWrt project turns 20 years! Let's celebrate this anniversary by launching our own first and fully upstream supported hardware design.

If the community likes the idea outlined below in greater details, we would like to start formal vote.


The idea

It is not new. We first spoke about this during the OpenWrt Summits in 2017 and also 2018. It became clear start of December 2023 while tinkering with Banana Pi style devices that they are already pretty close to what we wanted to achieve in ’17/‘18. Banana PIs have grown in popularity within the community.

They boot using a self compiled Trusted Firmware-A (TF-A)and upstream U-Boot (thx MTK/Daniel) and some of the boards are already fully supported by the upstream Linux kernel. The only non open source components are the 2.5 GbE PHY and Wi-Fi firmware blobs running on separate cores that are independent of the main SoC running Linux and the DRAM calibration routines which are executed early during boot.

I contacted three project members (pepe2k, dangole, nbd) on December 6th to outline the overall idea. We went over several design proposals, at the beginning we focused on the most powerful (and expensive) configurations possible but finally ended up with something rather simple and above
all,feasible. We would like to propose the following as our "first" community driven HW platform called "OpenWrt One/AP-24.XY".

Together with pepe2k (thx a lot) I discussed this for many hours and we worked out the following project proposal. Instead of going insane with specifications, we decided to include some nice features we believe all OpenWrt supported platforms should have (e.g. being almost unbrickable with multiple recovery options, hassle-free system console access, on-board RTC with battery backup etc.).

This is our first design, so let's KiSS!

Hardware specifications:

  • SOC: MediaTek MT7981B
  • Wi-Fi: MediaTek MT7976C (2x2 2.4 GHz + 3x3/2x2 + zero-wait DFS 5Ghz)
  • DRAM: 1 GiB DDR4
  • Flash: 128 MiB SPI NAND+ 4 MiB SPI NOR
  • Ethernet: 2x RJ45 (2.5 GbE + 1 GbE)
  • USB (host): USB 2.0 (Type-A port)
  • USB (device, console): Holtek HT42B534-2 UART to USB (USB-C port)
  • Storage: M.2 2042 for NVMe SSD (PCIe gen 2 x1)
  • Buttons: 2x (reset + user)
  • Mechanical switch: 1x for boot selection (recovery, regular)
  • LEDs: 2x (PWM driven), 2x ETH Led (GPIO driven)
  • External hardware watchdog: EM Microelectronic EM6324 (GPIO driven)
  • RTC: NXP PCF8563TS (I2C) with battery backup holder(CR1220)
  • Power: USB-PD 12-25V on USB-C port (optional 802.3at/af PoE via RT5400 module)
  • Expansion slots: mikroBUS
  • Certification: FCC/EC/RoHS compliance
  • Case: PCB size is compatible to BPi-R4 and the case design can be re-used
  • JTAG for main SOC: 10-pin 1.27 mm pitch (ARM JTAG/SWD)
  • Antenna connectors: 3x MMCX for easy usage, assembly and durability
  • Schematics: these will be publicly available (license TBD)
  • GPL compliance: 3b. "Accompany it with a written offer ... to give any third
    party ... a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code"
  • Price: aiming for below 100$

How will the device be distributed?

OpenWrt itself cannot handle this for a ton of reasons. This is why we spoke with the SFC early. The idea is that BPi will distribute the device using the already established channels and for every device sold a donation will be made to our SFC earmarked fund for OpenWrt. This money can then be used to cover hosting expenses or maybe an OpenWrt summit.

SFC is committed to working with us in various ways on this project —including making sure OpenWrt's trademark is properly respected, that this router is a beautiful example of excellent GPL/LGPL compliance, and that this becomes a great promotional opportunity for our project and FOSS generally!

FAQ

Why are there are 2 different flash chips?

The idea is to make the device (almost!) unbrickable and very easy to recover.

  • NAND will hold the main loader (U-Boot) and the Linux image and will be the
    default boot device
  • NOR will be write-protected by default (with WP jumper available on the board) and will hold a recovery bootloader (and other essential data, like Wi-Fi calibration)
  • a dedicated boot select switch will allow changing between NOR and NAND

What will the M.2 slot be used for?

We will use M.2 with M-key for NVMe storage. There is a work-in-progress patch to make PCIe work inside the U-Boot bootloader. This will allow booting other Linux distributions such as Debian and Alpine directly from NVMe.

Why is there no USB 3.x host port on the device?

The USB 3.x and PCIe buses are shared in the selected SoC silicon, hence
only a single High-Speed USB port is available

What is the purpose of the console USB-C port?

Holtek UART to USB bridge with CDC-ACM support on USB-C makes the device ultra easy to communicate with. No extra hardware or drivers will be required. Android for example has CDC-ACM support enabled by default.

What MAC OUI will the device have?

We plan to register an OUI block for OpenWrt which can also be used for
other vendor extensions such as Wi-Fi beacon IEs.

What is the purpose of the mikroBUS connector?

mikroBUS was chosen as we wanted to make the hardware extendable. There are dedicated pins for UART, SPI, I2C buses and RST/INT signals. The standard uses regular 2.54 mm pitch connectors (you can use available mikroBUS modules or just connect to it something else, with 2.54 mm jumper cables).

Why have the RTC on board instead of a mikroBUS module?

We believe there are many things a Wi-Fi (or networking in general) device should have on-board by default. Always having a correct time on the device is crucial in many applications, like VPN, DNSSEC, …

Timeline of events leading up to this e-mail

Forgive us for the lack of public communication during the initial phase(which as you can see was short and quick). We wanted to ensure that this project is feasible before disclosing it to the community. It would be a real shame if we announced something that we later found out to not be feasible thus failing expectations raised within the community.

03.12 - initial idea
06.12 - ping pepe2k, dangole, nbd
07.12 - ping MediaTek and ask if this sounds doable
08.12 - ping jow, Hauke
08.12 - request for call with SFC, we want them involved as soon as possible
09.12 - MediaTek replies and says they can help
09.12 - ping apacar, ynezz, dwmm2, lynxis, rsalvaterra
12.12 - MediaTek spoke with Banana Pi, they also like the idea
18.12 - call with SFC (Hauke joined, we found no prior slot to talk)
20.12 - started writing the U-Boot PCIe driver, made recovery from USB and
android fastboot recovery work.
... and then the end of year celebrations started and not much happened for 2
weeks.
03.01-08.01 - write this text

Thanks,

Signed-off-by: Alexander Couzens <lynxis@fe80.eu>
Signed-off-by: Bradley M. Kuhn <bkuhn@sfconservancy.org>
Signed-off-by: Daniel Golle <daniel@makrotopia.org>
Signed-off-by: David Bauer <mail@david-bauer.net>
Signed-off-by: Denver Gingerich <denver@sfconservancy.org>
Signed-off-by: Felix Fietkau <nbd@nbd.name>
Signed-off-by: Hauke Mehrtens <hauke@hauke-m.de>
Signed-off-by: John Crispin <john@phrozen.org>
Signed-off-by: Jo-Philipp Wich <jo@mein.io>
Signed-off-by: Paul Spooren <mail@aparcar.org>
Signed-off-by: Petr Štetiar <ynezz@true.cz>
Signed-off-by: Piotr Dymacz <pepe2k@gmail.com>
Signed-off-by: Steven Liu <steven.liu@mediatek.com>
115 Likes

I have already donated to OpenWrt several times. I would also like to buy hardware.

However, I have made the experience with SBCs that they are difficult with average knowledge. Almost everything except Raspberry PI is too complicated for me / I ordered some from China and had bad experiences. They are in my cellar.

3 Likes

Nice! I hope it happens and it will be a great success so we can see a follow-up with WiFi 6E :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Amazing idea and it's something I always hoped for. I understand you are looking for a low price point, but not having USB 3.0 is a strange omission even though they do create a bit of noise. I'm so used to sharing files with Samba I wouldn't want to not have it. Also only 128MB flash is odd. Would it even cost more than $1 extra to do 256MB and support advanced-reboot package for a dual-boot firmware? Or even a 4GB eMMC opening up options for Docker? M.2 slot is very cool but this is a performant SoC will be untilized with those specs, it'll handle gigabit no problem with HFO supported meditatek of course. Here is to hoping this is a sucess and you build a more mid range model at more of the $150 price point with those items and a faster SoC.

3 Likes

Happy 20th OpenWrt, and congrats to the devs for their first hardware design!

It looks really well thought out, a good router for the price and an awsome AP.

Some questions:

  • Will it be sold assembled or as a kit to assemble yourself?
  • Does the "established channels" mean that it will be available from European (and U.S) shops without any import duty worries?
  • Any OpenWrt branding planned?

My personal hope is that now that there seem to be a real hardware target, this one (or the next) can be sold with an option for including a drive that can withstand automatic updates and that this will spark software development in that direction. Then it would finally be possible to recommend OpenWrt to "normal people". Most things seem to be in place already with auc, so now "only" the problems of solving the shortcomings of opkg and/or the limitations that it would impose on changing configuration formats.

Hi,

Happy birthday to the openwrt Project. I was a proud owner of a WRT54G, and remembered the beginning. :slight_smile:

I think this hardware is a great idea. I would buy a couple of them to replace my old WLAN hardware. Looking forward to it.
CU
Jens

3 Likes

:+1:t3::+1:t3::+1:t3::+1:t3::+1:t3:

I don't know how much time I've spent in the past year dreaming up ways to convert all the "little" devices in my network stack to run off USB-PD.

1 Like

This is great :+1: and congrats!
I dunno if it was mentioned earlier, but maybe we could share the case design for 3D printing. I know from the bpi-r3 case design, that there's a lot of improvements for that case :smiley:

1 Like

Great news and happy birthday ! Can't wait for the hw to happen. Sign me up on the waiting list

I would like to see a 8/4 port ethernet router without WiFi or with Wifi, let the user decide. I use my own EAP615wall for wifi.

2 Likes

Finally some hardware that covers all our needs without any limitations!
I'll also get a few to support the cause.

3 Likes

I was playing with the idea of buying a Raspberry Pi and turning it into a router with OpenWrt. A single-board computer that's directly designed and supported by OpenWrt would be wonderful, I would definitely buy one.

1 Like

Great idea and happy birthday OpenWRT!

Right in time you announced that, I'm searching for a new device. Now I will temporary use old device and wait for yours!

Happy birthday!

Even though I'm still new here I appreciate the work you are doing. While the One is not the right device for me - currently looking at BPI-R4 or R3 - the work on that Uboot PCIe / NVME driver is going to benefit other boards as well. Like the Banana Pi.

1 Like

Hopefully with an option for rack mount case.

Great stuff. Would be happy to buy one.
Looking back I made my first commit (to an OpenWrt related project) 9 years ago. The first version I used was Attitude Adjustment.

3 Likes

Happy Birthday OpenWrt!!! I appreciate all the work that goes into the project.

This sounds like a fun idea! I would buy at least 2.

How about a second "ultra small" version? I would love to see an alternative to the MikroTik mAP lite:

1160_lo_res

Maybe even without case. People can 3D print a case on their own. I would see it as a low-price entry device for people who want to begin using OpenWrt.

i would be all for it, currently running it on a pi4, edgerouter x, and a pair of google ac1304 in dumb ap mode, i love the capabilities! i share the same opinion about some of the specs though, not that openwrt requires much, but making the devices have a bit of longevity with slightly higher specs would be nice.

This will require an additional switch for majority of users. Is there not another device/vendor (RISC-V comes to mind) which could accommodate similar features but with 4-5 ethernet ports?

11 Likes