Monday, June 30, 2008

Creating community friendly embedded systems

Netgear has jumped the bandwagon and released Open Source Wireless-G Router (WGR614L). Like the earlier Linksys WRT54GL, it's an existing model with a Linux "L" added to end. It does not really add any hardware to make it community friendly, the "open source" part feels like just a marketing gimmick.

With just a couple of small features, these devices could really become community friendly:


  • Serial port. A kingdom for a router or NAS with a proper serial port! Or at least a pre-solder the serial headers and provide a cable with a TTL shifter.
  • Unbrickable bootloader. Alternatively, a relatively hard to brick bootloader like Linksys NSLU-2 has.
  • Mainlined kernel. No "Linux 2.4.22 + binary drivers" crap, like this netgear device.
  • Widespread availability. The community is around the world.
  • Documentation.


Not as necessary, but nice to have features for a community-oriented product:


  • JTAG. So one gets to unbrick it in case bootloader went bonkers. Also allows the community to develop the bootloader.
  • Extensibility. Just adding a USB port gives any device huge amount of extra possible uses. A SD slot would give loads of storage space. etc..
  • Contacts with engineers and developers from the manufacturer. Don't just market to the community, be part of the community :)
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