Over My Head

Well, at least partly. For the past year, I’ve been fighting with my home internet set-up to try and establish a VPN connection to my wife’s job so she can use a VOIP extension.  In Liberia, we blamed it on just really bad latency.  However, we got here and have been unable to get it to work, which caused me to think that maybe, just maybe, the wireless router was at least partly to blame for the difficulty.  While the router isn’t known for being especially VPN-friendly, I wasn’t seeing anything that would say it was VPN-adverse, either.  Still, I figured I could try to flash a different firmware, like OpenWRT, that would definitely remove the router as a variable in the question.  Since the router in question has been discontinued and isn’t really being supported any more, it seemed like an OK risk to take.

The router’s original GUI made it easy to upload the new firmware.  I, being the bright bulb I am, neglected to save the page for how to login the first time, and I probably interrupted the update as well.  So, long story short, basically a bricked router.  I found our small TP-Link wireless router, which enabled me to connect to the internet to do some additional research.  I found how to go in through TFTP to try and re-flash the original firmware.  During this process, I learned how important it is to make sure you’ve changed directory to where you saved the file before you execute TFTP, otherwise the “put” command doesn’t know where to look.  Yep, lots and lots of frustration on that one until I figured it out.  Once I figured it out, though, I got a message that the file had transferred, and the lights on the router started racing to indicate it was installing the firmware.

Success!–but no.  There is apparently a bug in the bootloader that throws the router into an endless reboot cycle after trying to flash firmware.  I think it has to do with an older version of the bootloader not being fully compatible with the most current firmware unless you step through the versions.  So, still a bricked router, with flashing lights.

From here I’ve got two options.  I have asked the company if they can send a copy of legacy firmware, since their website has newer firmware that doesn’t work for my purposes (yes, I’ve checked each of them).  If they can send it, I might be OK.  If not, I could consider opening the router to attach a jtag cable directly to the board so I can troubleshoot directly.  That would be really beyond my capabilities right now, and the little cables seem to be rather expensive.

In the meantime, though, I bought a different router which seems to be working fine.  I haven’t been able to get the VPN working yet, but I haven’t tried out all the options.  I figured bricking one router a weekend was way more than enough.