[Cerowrt-devel] [Make-wifi-fast] arstechnica confirms tp-link router lockdown

David Lang david at lang.hm
Fri Mar 11 15:40:07 EST 2016

On Fri, 11 Mar 2016, Alan Jenkins wrote:

> On 11/03/2016, Jonathan Morton <chromatix99 at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> On 11 Mar, 2016, at 20:22, Luis E. Garcia <luis at bitamins.net> wrote:
>>> Time to start building our own.
>> A big project in itself - but perhaps a worthwhile one.  We wouldn’t be able
>> to compete on price against the Taiwanese horde, but price is not the only
>> market force on the table.  Firmware quality is a bit abstract and nebulous
>> to sell to ordinary consumers, but there is one thing that might just get
>> their attention.
>> Making the damned thing easier to configure.
>> Almost every router now on the market is a blank box with some ports on the
>> back, some antennas on top and some lights on the front.  If you’re lucky,
>> there’ll be a button for WPS (which most consumers would still need to read
>> the manual to figure out how to use, and most tinkerers would turn right
>> off) and maybe one or two “feature switches”; my Buffalo device has one
>> which does “something” to the QoS setup in the stock firmware, and nothing
>> at all in OpenWRT.
>> The lights only tell you that “something is happening” and occasionally
>> “something is wrong”, and are invariably cryptic.  For example, a green
>> flashing light can mean “it’s setting up but not working yet” or “it’s
>> working and passing traffic right now”, often on the same light!  A critical
>> error, such as a cable not plugged in, is often signified only by the
>> *absence* of one of the several normal lights, which is invisible to the
>> untrained eye.
>> To actually configure it, you must first connect a computer to it and point
>> a Web browser at the right (usually numeric) URL.  This URL varies between
>> vendors and models, and sometimes even between firmware revisions; the only
>> infallible way to determine it is to delve into the configuration that DHCP
>> handed out.

Also, many routers setup a 'standard' name you can go to, so you don't have to 
do it by IP.

But this can be dealt with by adding a QR code or NFC method to get at a basic 

>> You and I can cope with that, but we want something better, and
>> less-technical people *need* something better if they are to trust their
>> equipment enough to start actually learning about it.

I don't know if you really can simplify the configuration the way you are 
wanting to, but I'd say give it a try. Take OpenWRT and make a configuration 
program that you think is better. You even have a nice browser based tool to 
start with (luci). If you can make a browser based tool work well, then if your 
tool is better/easier, it can be widely used, or you can then try hardware 
versions of it.

>> As a starting point, suppose we build a small display into the case, and
>> invite the user to temporarily plug a keyboard, console controller or even a
>> mouse directly into the USB port (which most routers now have) to do the
>> setup?  No Web browser required, and no potentially-vulnerable web server on
>> the device either.

There are very good reasons why browser setups have replaced built-in displays.

There's a limit to how much you can show on a built-in display, and you have to 
be able to see the display. Not everyone positions their wifi where they can 
easily see it, let alone plug it into a TV. The best place for a router to sit 
is usually not the easiest place to see or get at it.

You have a much larger display, which gives you room for help text and images, 
not just a handful of characters.

A display is nicer than just LEDs, but it's also a lot more expensive.

I also don't like large glowing displays on devices. I frequently put tape over 
the LEDs to tone things down as well (especially in bedrooms)

David Lang

>> When not in config mode, the input device can be disconnected and returned
>> to its primary role, and the display can offer status information in a
>> human-readable format; an RGB-controlled backlight would be sufficient for
>> at-a-glance is-everything-okay checks (which is all Apple gives you without
>> firing up their proprietary config software on a connected computer).  Some
>> high-end router models provide just this, without leveraging the possibility
>> of easier setup.
>>  - Jonathan Morton
> IMO they already glow quite enough.  Better to invest in the software :P.
> Alan
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