Monday, January 28, 2008

Linux Kernel 2.6 support for Linksys WRT54GL and OpenWRT

As I've previously mentioned in my Wireless Router post, the Linksys WRT54GL is still my favorite for most uses. Unfortunately, the BCM43xx wireless chip built-in to the Broadcom 5352 chipset of the WRT54GL uses a proprietary driver that only works with version 2.4 of the Linux kernel. This was never really a problem, as until 2007-02-05, the latest release of OpenWRT was 0.9/"Whiterussian", which was built on 2.4. However, development on "Whiterussian" has ceased, with all development now focused on the "Kamikaze" versions. Kamikaze also currently supports the BCM43xx chip, but only by reverting to the 2.4 kernel - until a suitable open-source driver is released, while everything else in Kamikaze is based on 2.6.

As such, I've refrained from using any OpenWrt releases past 0.9/"Whiterussian" until the WRT54GL is properly supported with the 2.6 kernel. (Without the benefits of the 2.6 kernel upgrade, I really don't see many reasons left to upgrade to Kamikaze.)

Fortunately, there seems to be some recent advances towards the problem! This thread on OpenWRT's forums has a lot of good information, started on 2007-11-06, it currently has 79 related posts, with 5 of those from yesterday alone. The driving success is the recent progress on the b43 drivers along with the new features in the 2.6.22 and 2.6.24 kernels.

No real competition for the Linksys WRT54GL?

Many of the OpenWrt developers and other members seem to prefer Asus and some other brands for other features such as the availability of built-in USB ports and/or more flash memory. However, few, if any of these alternatives seem to match some of the features on the Linksys WRT54GL that I still find important, such as the dual diversity antennas and standard, external R-TNC connectors. The only other model I've seen and would consider is the Asus WL-500W - but it is still listed as a "work-in-progress" on OpenWRT's Table of Hardware.

Interestingly, several of the OpenWrt developers I've chatted with tend to recommend the Atheros chipsets over Broadcom. However, looking at the same Table of Hardware doesn't make Atheros look too appealing, looking at both the relatively small number of products available with an Atheros chipset, and the overall apparent lack of support ("status") by OpenWrt.

1 comment:

Frej said...

I was looking for broadcom 2.6 status, so thanks for the update :).

I can tell you that at least dd-wrt works with ASUS WL500W, works well with optware on external usb HD + printer.

I haven't switched to openwrt for the exactly same reasons, no reasons to rush it when it works.d