Silly projects: Gentoo on a WRT54GL

I have one silly project I should probably look forward to work on this weekend to vent off some steam: getting my WRT54GL router to run with Gentoo/MIPS. I know it’s probably going to fail because I know near to nothing about MIPS, I know nothing about Gentoo/MIPS, and I remember being told that the mipsel target that WRT54GL are is not well supported by Gentoo. Either way, I’m going to try.

You could probably be wondering why I would be trying something as silly as this, and the reasons are actually a bit of a series. The first problem is that I lack an IPMI agent for accessing Yamato remotely (for remote light out and other things) and I’m sure that’s going to be useful to me soonish. The second one is that I need to set up again the routing of my office with a single wireless client, instead of the current setup which I prepared last year with Yamato having a wireless card.

The problem with IPMI is that I plan on not being at home all day every day in the future; I actually hope to be able to get a driving license this year and make good use of it by finding a job out of home (especially important for my mental health lately!) and in that case I’d be likely to need a way to access Yamato remotely if it gets messed up. Having a low-power system like the WRT to work as a jump box is acceptable I’d say.

With routing, the issue is at the same time simpler and more complex. Simpler because I just need a router to route between the general wireless network (which is accessible by almost anybody) and the wired network that I use for the office and my bedroom. More complex because the original setup used the WRT54GL, then I decided to move to just a single network card, but now I’m in a setup that is quite messed up: Yamato routes all the traffic of PlayStation 3, AppleTV, and iMac, as well as the eventual computers I need to fix and other stuff like that which actually translates the whole thing into a real mess, especially because I ended up splitting the network to such extents that applying NFS ACLs simply by IP masks is impossible.

Of course I could just be using OpenWRT like I did before, but since every upgrade of OpenWRT has been a real mess to deal with (with all their changes into setup, interfaces, nvram and so on), I’m actually thinking that Gentoo would be easier to maintain for me, given I’d just have to update the image once in a blue moon hopefully. I could also just start the router through a TFTP-provide image and then leave it to be with that. At any rate, it would also be a nice experiment and a way to learn a bit more about embedded systems, so…

Right now I only found how to take it apart and I noticed that I have to solder in myself the pins for serial console access, unfortunately it’s almost 1am so soldering them in right now is out of question (I also have to find the pins, which I’m not sure I have at home, worse case scenario I’m going to desolder them from somewhere). I should probably go taking a look to whether the Linus kernel tree can boot on this thing. When I last used it, OpenWRT only supported 2.4 on it; while 2.6 was being worked on it didn’t work on this model, and the wireless network was supposed never to work on it, since it’s using the infamous Broadcom wireless chip (which nowadays might actually work out of the Linus tree via the b43 driver).

If anybody (especially the colleagues actually working on Gentoo/MIPS) have a clue about what I’m to expect out of this, I’d be quite happy to hear it, even if it’s “You’re crazy, it’s never going to work” or “Leave it alone, it’s too much hassle to bother with”.

Oh and yah, I know this thing is not powerful enough to build and it’ll have to go through cross-compiling, and cross-compiling with Portage is not nice, and all the stuff like that. I guess the point is that I intend to work a bit more on that matter, even if currently I’m not paid to do so (I was for a while some time ago). There are more than a few things that I’m interested in looking at to find a solution, actually. It’s very low priority (unless someone bribes me to pick it up) but maybe I can be of help to the broader picture somehow.