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

Jonathan Morton chromatix99 at gmail.com
Sat Mar 12 04:38:20 EST 2016

> On 11 Mar, 2016, at 22:40, David Lang <david at lang.hm> wrote:

> Actually, devices show up in Windows "network neighborhood”.

Ah, you see, I tend to keep Windows off my network until the network itself is set up.  Also, there’s a Linux machine sitting between the LAN and the modem, which effectively blocks UPnP.  That’s probably why I haven’t noticed such subtleties - that, and they aren’t listed in the router manuals I’ve read to date.  Maybe I just have old routers.

> But the biggest barrier is probably that the web interface is
> cluttered with features you don't need, so there's a setup wizard you
> go through once, and you don't touch that even if you're curious
> because you're at risk of resetting it.

That’s a good observation, and suggests a design principle to follow in future.

> Just because they screwed up the WNDR3800 with too many different
> coloured lights, it doesn't invalidate the principle.

It’s not just the WNDR, and not just Netgear.  Every router I’ve seen has too many lights which provide too little information - and even I have to squint and read the manual to figure out what it’s telling me.

Except Apple.  Then you have *one* light which provides too little information - but at least I don’t have to read the manual to figure it out.  :-)

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

You might assume that I’m thinking of a 16x2 character display.  I’m not - that’s too small to be user-friendly.

Rather, something like this, which gives 128x64 pixels (equivalent to 21x8 characters with a 6x8 font) and the freedom to draw icons and choose fonts:


There are also small OLED displays which give a sharper, higher-contrast readout, but these are more expensive, lack the capacity of colour-coding anything, and appear to be so small that some people might have difficulty reading them despite the sharpness and high contrast.

The original Macintosh put a whole desktop environment on a tiny (by modern standards) 512x384 mono display.  We don’t even need *that* level of sophistication.  I’m confident 128x64 mono will be enough if carefully designed for - it is substantially more than a classic Nokia phone provided.

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

Yes, it looks like a decent display+controller combination is more expensive than a mini-PCIe ath9k card (even discounting the markup associated with Adafruit providing a maker-friendly kit rather than raw devices).  It will therefore be a significant contributor to the BOM cost.  This is justifiable if it also contributes to the USP.  On the upside, with a status display we can reduce the number of LEDs and associated optical channels, perhaps all the way down to a single power light.

> 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)

An RGB LED backlight can inherently be dimmed - and this could occur automatically when out of setup mode (keyboard disconnected) and the overall status is OK.  Also, since it illuminates a relatively large area, the colour can be discerned without high brightness in the first place.

> 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.

Yes, I probably should.

> 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.

Since the entire point of my proposal is to get away from the “web interface” concept altogether, and I have an allergic reaction to “web technology” such as JavaScript (spit), that’s *not* what I’m going to do.  Instead, I’ll prototype something based around an emulation of the display linked above.

But I will take a careful look at Luci to help generate a requirements checklist.

 - Jonathan Morton

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