Monday, December 26, 2005

The great Linksys WRT54G debate


Xeni Jardin: Glenn Fleishman has been following the geektroversy brewing around the Linksys WRT54G model number issue, and says:
Linksys was using embedded Linux for the WRT54G gateway, a Wi-Fi access point, router, and Ethernet switch, that sells for as low as $50 these days. A couple of years ago, Linksys and Broadcom (the company that makes the device's Wi-Fi chips and created the reference platform that Linksys uses) were pushed to meet GNU and other license terms and release the modified OS and accompanying packages. They're routinely released each update since.

Now folks who hack the WRT54G with their own firmware noticed that newer models stopped allowing these hacks and were, in fact, now running the proprietary VxWorks OS. Linksys started talking publicly about this switchover--which happened in fall--just a few weeks ago, and noted that they needed to get the cost of goods down. They were able to halve the volatile and non-volatile memory with the VxWorks OS. (I and others think it is much less reliable in its early firmware releases, however; that's another story that's ongoing.)

The WRT54G v1 through v4 has the Linux kernel. The v5 (and ostensibly beyond) is VxWorks. Linksys opted to introduce a new model they're calling WRT54GL which is basically the same as the v4 release, but it'll have a street price of more like $70 than $50.

Interestingly, Linksys slipped sales numbers. The WRT54G sells "several hundred thousand" units per month, which could mean four or five million per year. They expect to sell about 120,000 WRT54GLs a year, which is quite sizeable, too, and shows the scope of the firmware hacking market for those commodity devices.


[Boing Boing]

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