[Cerowrt-devel] failing to find the "declared victory" in a current wifi router

Rich Brown richb.hanover at gmail.com
Tue Jul 7 10:07:59 EDT 2015

Hi Joe,

These are great observations. CeroWrt was boosted enormously by the presence of the powerful and reliable OpenWrt software platform. We were able to make so much progress with bufferbloat because OpenWrt provided a stable platform for our experiments. Nonetheless, the motivations of the two teams - CeroWrt and OpenWrt - are vastly different, and I offer the following to help you adjust your expectations.

- CeroWrt was, and remains, a research project for "making networking better". In 2012, this team of open-source developers solved the problem of bufferbloat. (Hardly any other commercial or academic development group even understood or acknowledged there was a problem.) Now the team is moving on to other projects, including "making wifi fast" (again, this does not seem to be addressed by any commercial/academic groups). We continue our work with CeroWrt, using a current version of OpenWrt as the base. The Bufferbloat/CeroWrt site has attracted a significant following of people who're willing to test the bleeding edge of network research. The current builds make no promises of reliability (or even functionality), but it's fun to hang out with people who're driving science forward.

- I'm a newcomer to OpenWrt, but it seems that their mission is to make the OpenWrt software run on as many different devices/routers as possible. This has a side benefit of making the excellent OpenWrt software available on a number of excellent routers, which, as a second-order side benefit might be useful to make the network better at your home. As far as I can tell, making it easier to learn about, install, and run OpenWrt is not a primary goal. Furthermore, the OpenWrt leaders are reluctant to recommend any particular piece of equipment, to avoid accusations of "favoritism". That said, I'm working with a number of people to improve the resources at OpenWrt to pull all the info together so that people can get the benefits of OpenWrt without having to read 10,000 forum posts and wiki pages.

With that framework in mind, let me respond to your questions.

TL;DR - if you just want to fix your home network today and get on with your life, I recommend:
	- OpenWrt Barrier Breaker (BB) release. As of July 2015, it's the stable version. Stay away from CC or trunk, as they're still evolving.
	- Install OpenWrt using the instructions at: http://wiki.openwrt.org/doc/howto/installopenwrt
	- Install SQM/fq_codel  to solve bufferbloat using the instructions at: http://wiki.openwrt.org/doc/howto/sqm
	- What router to choose? I bought the TP-Link Archer C7 v2 for ~$90 (US). http://wiki.openwrt.org/toh/tp-link/tl-wdr7500 In a one-out-of-one test, it seems to work well with BB, SQM works fine, and I'm happy.

On Jul 7, 2015, at 12:22 AM, Joe Touch <touch at isi.edu> wrote:

> Hi, Rich,
> On 7/6/2015 7:23 PM, Rich Brown wrote:
>> Hi Joe,
>> The OpenWrt firmware project is a "some assembly required" affair. 
> That might be less daunting if there were assembly instructions. I.e.,
> I'm suggesting that the instructions need revision. Work there could
> have a significant payoff in a larger test community (I'm not exactly a
> hardware noob, but I found it annoyingly obfuscated).

Yup. I agree. 

>> Although it's not always easy to find, the site has a number of resources:
>> 	- Buyer's Guide at http://wiki.openwrt.org/toh/buyerguide
> That is useful for picking from among the currently supported versions,
> but perhaps it'd be useful to take a colleague with you to a store and
> see how helpful that all is. It's nearly impossible to find any of the
> devices in the list or to verify whether a particular device in a box
> has the required version of motherboard and firmware needed.


>> 	- The specific guidance to search Amazon for "OpenWrt" - see: http://amzn.to/1mONYr0
> That turns up quite a bit of devices that aren't supported, FWIW.

Yup. That's why I'm on the team to improve documentation... We will have a delicate balance between the project founders' reluctance to recommend any devices and the desire help people "just to get something going".

>> 	- The forum at: https://forum.openwrt.org/viewforum.php?id=10 mentions lots of routers
> Indeed; more isn't better.


>> As for specific routers:
>> - The WNDR3800 remains our gold standard for CeroWrt builds. It'll
>> do SQM up to ~30 mbps, then the CPU runs out of gas.
> May I also suggest moving to another standard that hasn't been
> explicitly "end-of-life'd" by the manufacturer.

The CeroWrt team (Thanks, Dave!) is working hard to find a replacement for the WNDR3800 that will handle higher speeds. Read the cerowrt-devel list frequently (daily?) to follow that news. We'll update the CeroWrt site once there's a good recommendation. 

>> - Check the OpenWrt Table of Hardware (ToH) to see what other routers
>> support the current stable 14.07/Barrier Breaker (BB) builds.
> Sure - I spent several days in Target, Best Buy, and Fry's trying to
> decipher whether particular products were supported - again often
> difficult without UPC numbers (boxes don't always indicate version)

I don't ever expect OpenWrt to include UPC info. It's hard enough to get the user-maintained wiki to have accurate info at all. (And vendors change UPC's all the time... See the next point.)

Better to read (and ask) for information on the forums.

>> - Many people on this list have good luck with the TP-Link Archer C7
>> v2. I believe it'll route at cable speeds. I'm using it very
>> successfully with OpenWrt BB release on a 7 mbps DSL line.
> Here's a good example of how useful the information on the OpenWRT
> website can be. Everyone seems to refer to this as "Archer C7", everyone
> except the TP-Link website. Their search finds no products matching that
> description, and the WIFI routers there are listed with other codes,
> e.g.:TL-WDR7500 - except you won't find that number on the hardware page
> -- you have to click through to the page for that device.
> For that device, like for many, the most recent version (i.e., the one
> more likely to arrive on a blind web order, or on most store shelves) is
> not yet supported.

Blame TP-Link for this confusion. The box may mention "WDR7500" (I've thrown mine away so I can't check), but neither the router nor the TP-Link website (today) mentions "WDR7500". The label on my router says "Model: Archer C7"

Does this situation stink out loud? Yes. But it's not ours to fix.

>> - If you have been following the Linksys WRT1900AC and WRT1200AC 
>> thread at
>> https://forum.openwrt.org/viewtopic.php?id=50173&action=newyou'll see
>> that the CC builds are sorta, kinda working. There are a lot of moving
>> pieces still, and despite the CC RC2 status, stable builds only come
>> out a few days apart. I would stay away from it if you're not willing
>> to participate in a science experiment.
> Well, the 23-Apr-2015 build by Kaloz works fine - except that the SQM
> package fails to install.

Yup. Welcome to software that's under development. You should definitely follow the OpenWrt forum thread on 1900AC. https://forum.openwrt.org/viewtopic.php?id=50173&p=246

> What I'm baffled by here is that the main trunk builds leave LUCI out;
> that's seems
> quite short-sighted, IMO.

That may be an explicit decision. I believe, without authoritative confirmation, that the GUI is not included in trunk builds as a means to "scare away the beginners". I would argue that it has the opposite effect - that of causing more confusion. But I'm not driving that bus. 

A page that describes the trunk builds as being suitable only for people who are willing to work with buggy, unreliable, and had-to-use builds would be valuable. (That's why I'm on the team to improve documentation...)

>> There is a team working to improve the OpenWrt site, but our work
>> has not yet been "blessed" by the the admin's who maintain the core pages of
>> the site.
> And I appreciate and understand that. The CeroWRT site could similarly
> use an update.

With CeroWrt, we need to split our time between fixing and enhancing the software and telling the world about it. It has been a while since we've reviewed the Bufferbloat.net site with an eye toward a newcomer, and I can do that. 

> I.e., there's ample opportunity here to build a larger community with a
> few simple steps:

As I stated above, it's not clear to me that building a community of people who *use* the software is foremost in the core developers' minds at OpenWrt. That said,

> 	- refer to routers by the manufacturer's designation
> 	- create builds with both LUCI and (if possible) SQM
> 	- make a short-list of a few currently available routers
> 	for which an integrated build exists *for the most recent
> 	motherboard version*

Within the limitations of a user-maintained wiki, that's why I'm on the team to improve documentation...
> All of this could be done on the CeroWRT site until it can be put on
> OpenWRT.

No. The two teams - and goals - are separate. Although I'm playing both sides of the street, I still don't want to post stuff on the CeroWrt site that needs to be updated when things get better on the OpenWrt site. 

> These are fairly direct ways to lower the bar, which seems unnecessarily
> high here.

Yup. That's why I'm on the team to improve documentation...


>> On Jul 6, 2015, at 9:02 PM, Joe Touch <touch at isi.edu> wrote:
>>> Hi, all,
>>> I'm posting because of my recent frustration with the claim that
>>> bufferbloat solutions have been "pushed up into the OpenWRT and
>>> commercial routers.
>>> I spent the bulk of last weekend trying to find a COTS WIFI router that
>>> supported OpenWRT with bufferbloat (SQM) extensions.
>>> I tried a Linksys WRT1200AC, and here's what I found:
>>> 	- Kaloz's 23-Apr-2015 build installs fine and comes up
>>> 	with a web server (LUCI), but does NOT include SQM
>>> 		- trying to install the SQM packages fails
>>> 		due to a kernel version incompatibility
>>> 		(for a 23-Apr-2015 build?!)
>>> 	- CC-rc2 doesn't have a WRT1200AC build
>>> 	presumably I should have used mvebu-armada-385-linksys-caiman,
>>> 	but it's not at all clear
>>> 		- and I'd have to install LUCI and/or reinstall
>>> 		factory firmware from the command line, and none
>>> 		of that is all that clear, esp. a recovery route
>>> 		that doesn't involve voiding warranty to wire in
>>> 		a serial port
>>> Given the "declared victory" (http://www.bufferbloat.net/news/53),
>>> perhaps someone one one of these lists can explain why there's no clear
>>> information on a current device that supports a current build that
>>> actually supports these fixes?
>>> I.e., if you were trying to make this obscure, you're doing a very good job.
>>> FWIW.
>>> Joe
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> Cerowrt-devel mailing list
>>> Cerowrt-devel at lists.bufferbloat.net
>>> https://lists.bufferbloat.net/listinfo/cerowrt-devel

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