The hack allows users to to install linux by first erasing all traces of the Vxworks proprietary real-time operating system, and this without having to open the unit. "There is now a way to flash a WRT54G/GSv5 without any big modification or opening the unit", stated a message posted on the site, pointing to a forum user as the inventor of the hack.
"Db90h from our forum found a way to generate a flash image which overwrites the original bootloader of the unit", this turns Linksys units running Vxworks into linux compatible units, running dd-wrt.
It should be noted however that you can apparently run only the "light" edition of dd-wrt open sauce due to the low space available on the new "v5" Linksys devices. Linksys bean counters decided to maximise profits by cutting the device storage space thus lowering the bill of materials.
The web page hosting alternative eWRT firmware for the Linksys routers suggested people do not buy the "v5" router running Vxworks, helping visitors identify the 'not cool' version. "The WRT54G/GS version 5 routers contain half the RAM and Flash, and are shipped running vxWorks OS. These devices can be identified with serial numbers starting with CDFB or CGN7".
It seems very few people outside Linksys' accounting division was happy with this new version: it has been described as "a lousy router" in a recent review. Cisco/Linksys re-released the linux-compatible WRT54G as the "WRT54GL" the "L" supposedly standing for "Linux compatible", which has a higher price.
The procedure to kill Vxworks and install dd-wrt linux based firmware on the v5 units is explained in the dd-wrt project site: "After applying this image you can flash this unit with the dd-wrt 'micro edition' without any big troubles" the site reads. The software which allows this has been dubbed "VxWorks killer" and we're sure this won't amuse the folks at Wind River Systems of Alameda, California -creators of Vxworks- a single bit.
This proves hardware manufacturers that they are better not annoying the linux crowd because programmers will often get things their way - or move on to other hardware that is more open.
Despite this interesting hack, it should be noted that users who want to install a full -not lite- version of dd-wrt or any of the half a dozen linux based alternatives to Linksys' original linux firmware -- like OpenWRT, HyperWRT and ewrt among others - including the one from commercial vendor Sveasoft, are better purchasing the WRT54G"L" which Linksys released to please the crying linux crowd. As for pricing, one WRT54G can currently be had for around $50, while the linux-friendly "GL" sells for around $65.
The code hackers among you might want to know that the dd-wrt project sparked from the official GPL source code of Sveasoft Alchemy, later mixed with work from OpenWRT. It has tweaked radius support and according to the site allows "the use of an external filesystem device" via Samba networking. At only 1.7MB, the 'micro edition' of dd-wrt has a reduced footprint, allowing it to fit on devices with less RAM and Flash memory.
The programmer -and apparently linux die-hard- "db90h" who authored this cool hack is actually named Jeremy Collake in real life, according to OSDir.com, and detailed instructions on how to install the "Vxworks killer" are available at the dd-wrt wiki.µ
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