Should OpenWrt/LEDE support devices with only 4MB Flash?

Consider a new user with a desire to set up their home network using OpenWrt with a regular LAN, a guest Network and a separate network for their 3 gaming devices. Should we tell them to spend more money for an 8/64 device or go with less money and more features on a 16/128 device?

The reason to not get an 8/64 device is that you can get more suitable devices for either less money or just marginally more money depending on your local markets. These users are typically spending as much as the cost of a router per month on the service, and they want some nontrivial performance. We routinely get questions here about running SQM on 200Mbps + connections. It is bad to have people buy hardware that can't meet common performance needs and then need to throw it away and get the more performant device anyway. We are trying to communicate a set of recommendations that avoid this kind of waste. Buying say a 75 dollar 8/64 device that won't meet your needs and then having to upgrade to a $83 device that will... Not good compared to just getting the right device in the first place... I'm sure you agree here in this kind of circumstance. People should get appropriate expectations from the wiki and table of hardware etc

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Respectfully, this is not what is seen in practice in my opinion, and actually requires a cultural/attitude shift in the community to become the reality.
Almost everyone’s default setting is “You have a 4/32 router you won’t get any help <link to wiki/thread>” OR “you should upgrade to you won’t get any help”.

You’re right that there will always be more people able to assist with the latest version/routers, but to be honest a lot of things don’t change significantly to the point where it’s impossible to guide someone on an old version.
A change in the default response to “Your router has low flash/memory which will make what you want to achieve more difficult . With that limitation in mind, can we help you with your original query?” would go a long way.


That thread is a perfect example of what I’m trying to highlight.

I don't think that's true. What usually happens is that they are explained that they need to build their own firmware to make it fit, and to read this page about what can be removed: https://openwrt.org/docs/guide-user/additional-software/saving_space

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The reality is that spending time on one person's 4/32 device is a waste of support resources in almost all cases. In less than a half hour you already burned the cost of an upgrade. The limited response reflects this reality. I don't think we should remove wiki pages etc but actually answering mostly untenable 4/32 requests isn't and shouldn't start happening.

For example the low end of hourly costs for a plumber is about $50, going upwards to $200. So if you can solve a 4/32 problem for $40 of hardware then you shouldn't spend more than around 15 minutes customizing a build for a one off... This is already more than it will take most people to just get a build system working.

If you're building for 100 devices or whatever it's a different story

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There is always the option to just not reply to those postings.
I have seen this in the old OpenWrt forum (more than in this new forum): If a user doesn't get any replies, he will start searching on his own, and if this leads to nothing, eventually give up.

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Yes, but a reply like "4/32 devices are super limited these days, and require you to have expert build-your-own skills, here's the link to the wiki" is more friendly than ignoring imho.

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Only if one person does it and not the whole pitchfork mob...

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There's a proposal in another conversation that we should label devices as Recommended, Limited, and Difficult, with respect to the ease of installing OpenWrt on them. (See https://openwrt.org/playground/richb/support-suitability for a summary.)

The desire would be to let a newcomer know that the device they have in mind might be difficult (or recommended!) and let them decide accordingly. It also allows a single individual on the forum (instead of a mob) to say, "You have chosen a difficult path..."

I would like to hear your thoughts on the proposal above. Thanks.

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Yes a more official thing to point to helps because then there is less assumption about maybe just one person's opinion. Pointing to the official "this stuff is hard" is likely to work better.

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It's a good classification, whether it will make a difference i don't know. Like i said, it needs the community behind it.

I believe this qualification "Pitchfork mob" is uncalled for and does not consider the fact that all forum activity is voluntary.

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Well, the most important community action would, IMHO, be if users that successfully operate 4/32 routers would inject themselves politely and on-topic into threads where they have the feeling that more support is not being given due to the 4/32 challenge.
In a volunteer community one can easily adjust one's own behavior and action, expecting (all) other's to change their behaviour will be glacial at best....

I just don’t see the point in having 2 or 3 people say that same thing (in abrupt ways). i think it is not very polite or welcoming to a new user looking for information.

As one of the volunteers, I’m happy to call it how I see it. If you don’t agree, that’s alright.

And I agree that expecting others to change is an exercise in futility. But if we can’t get people to stop instantly dismissing the 4/32 people’s questions and cries for help (fair and appropriate warnings aside), then what is the point of this whole thread? We just said people can get support in the forum, if we can’t provide that then the “limited” category is a bit pointless.

Good idea, I had similar thoughts.
And make those labels easily noticeable and interpretable.
For example (text label - background color - description):

  • Recommended - Blue/Green - No issues, or some insignificant issues.
  • Limited - Yellow/Orange - Known issues, limited resources, works in general.
  • Difficult - Red/Gray - Major issues, or unsupported.
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What's the problem of MISP? assume 16/128.

The 4/32 devices fall into Difficult territory, not Limited. Limited means something like you can still use opkg but maybe can't install all the packages you might want at the same time, or things like that. Basically 8/64 devices and things with Broadcom chips etc

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Well, then participate in those threads and tae over the support part yourself, that will neutralize the effect of 2 or 3 voices of warning (in my book 2-3 do not make a mob, BTW).

Fair enough, but as long as you hope that others will change you will keep "calling it" for a long time, so if you want to improve the perceived situation for those you believe to be not supported properly you better spend the time helping with the issues, IMHO.

This is a non-sequitur, no? Or maybe I do not understand your argument :wink:

Well, everybody is free to volunteer support in the forum, but managing expectations about challenges ahead seems orthogonal to the question of how to approach users requesting help...

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@richb-hanover-priv Thank you by your clear answers. But now it does look as we are no speaking about the same thing.

You define support as = getting help. Of course that is support. But we mean "there will be an up-to-date version of OpenWrt which can be loaded in our devices?".

We are willing to give help about 4/32 devices, of course. In fact I'm already giving it and it is easy to see I'm far from being the only one giving that help. So no problem with this matter, and I think that those proposed tiers are OK.

Now that it is clear that, in this thread context, "support" means "getting help at the forum" and, also, that getting help is not the thing that worries us, it's probably time to open a new thread about "what has to be done so we remain able to build an image for 4/32 devices next years"

Thank you all

I don’t have direct experience with 4/32 devices (as I purchase hardware that is FFP) and so don’t find myself qualified to assist in that area.

And all it would achieve is a 4th voice in the ring, circular arguments, and then a long thread like this :wink:

I’ve said my piece, I can’t constructively participate further, and my opinion (differing to others it seems) is also dragging further useful conversation astray.

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I am glad you agree that the tiers (Recommended/Limited/Difficult) help bring clarity to the discussion.

I think it's clear that the 4/32 devices are difficult to get the current (18.06) firmware working. We want to update the OpenWrt documentation so all readers are aware of the tradeoffs if they want to use a 4/32 device.

I wonder if we should create a new subcategory in Hardware Questions and Recommendations section for "Limited and Difficult Devices".

This would provide a focused venue for you and others who're providing support to those devices.

Since you have many of those devices installed, one of your challenges is to define the exact reasons you need "builds in the next years". Do you expect to change the installed set of packages? Security concerns? Other? Those answers will help us all know what you are looking for in OpenWrt.

Thank you again for thinking hard about these topics.

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