I bet you’ve got at least one router sitting at home collecting dust and abandoned because it was replaced by a newer and faster one. Well, good news for this device! You can put it to good use if you turn it into a WiFi router with 3G capability (with 3G Modem), into a private cloud storage, a small web server, or any number of other useful things that you can do with a Linux machine connected to a network.
How is this possible? OpenWRT is a GNU/Linux distribution for embedded devices. It has been under development since 2004 by OpenWRT Team and the wider community. It provides a fully writable file system with package management and supports IPv4, routing, mesh networking, dynamic DNS, webcams, sound cards, printers, and more. This distro is used in Arduino Yun, Omega2 and also appeared on S02E06 of the famous TV show, Mr. Robot.
The minimum hardware requirements are 4MB of flash and 16MB of RAM. How do you know what your router specifications are? The team has released a Table of Hardware with all the devices supported by OpenWRT. There you will find the steps for uploading the image to the router (each router has its own image–you can download it from the Downloads, and the latest release is Chaos Calmer 15.05.1 as I write this entry). There are several ways to flash the new firmware, but the most common are via TFTP and sysupgrade (for already installed OpenWRT routers).
Once the firmware is installed, you can Telnet or SSH your new Linux box and start playing!
If you are not a fan of consoles or prefer interfaces, then LuCi is for you. It’s the web-based GUI for managing OpenWRT. Once your router has been flashed with OpenWRT, don’t be afraid of losing your former GUI, because you can easily install LuCi, which will enable you to manage your Linux box in a user-friendly way.
Extra: Here’s a photo of my old D-Link DIR-320 being flashed with OpenWRT showing the router’s console with a USB to TTL conversor.
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