Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Linux: Netgear Open Source Wireless-G Router

Summary:

I just bought Netgear's Open Source Wireless-G Router, model KWGR614. The setup wizard doesn't work with Firefox. I spent a lot of time fighting with tech support. They told me to use Internet Explorer even though the box says, "Open source code enables router customization for Linux developers and hobbyists". I tried to fix the source myself, but the C code for the admin interface is specifically missing from the source download. I'm quite frustrated.
In the setup wizard, I tried to click the "Next" button, and it didn't do anything. I got the error, '"document.forms.MatchSubnet" has no properties'. I'm using the Firebug Firefox extension (which I love) to see such error messages.

I decided to call tech support. It was some woman in India, of course. Here were her suggestions over the course of a 45 minute conversation with her:
  • Use XP
  • Pay for premium support (Yeah right! Pay $35 for a problem in their code!?!)
  • Use XP
  • Pay for premium support
  • She finally acknowledged the problem
  • Switch laptops
  • Reset the box
  • Use Safari
  • Use IE
  • Firewall problem?
  • Contact Linux vendor
  • Contact Linux vendor
  • Contact Linux vendor
After 45 minutes, she finally let me talk to her supervisor. He was friendly, humble, and knowledgeable. He was smart enough to ask which distro I was using--Ubuntu. He said that he had tried it with Firefox. However, it turned out that he had tried the WGR614 with Firefox, not the KWGR614. I'm guessing that the K means "the open source version".

He was able to tell me that I can go to the "basicsetting.htm" page in the admin utility in order to bypass the setup wizard. Still, there were silly errors all over the place. For instance, on one screen, I clicked "Next" and it tried to actually download the results of the CGI. It turned out to be a 0 length file. I'm guessing the headers were just really messed up. On another page, there was a parsing error. It's clear that the admin utility wasn't written cleanly by anyone who knew anything about the Web.

I tried looking for help in the forums and on Google, but I can't find many other Linux users who have tried this. I'm guessing that it's brand new, and all the other Linux users already had an AP. That would have included me, except my AP recently broke. (It was a D-Link. It would freeze up every couple minutes, and hard resetting it didn't help.)

In trying to fix the Netgear, I checked to see if there were any firmware updates. I was already using the most recent firmware (0.0.9.25 or something like that).

Next, I tried to download the source and fix it myself. It's open source--the road is often a little bumpy, right? I found the HTML containing the error, but the CGI (written in C) was specifically missing. In it's place was a ".a" file:
$ cd ~/Desktop/KWGR614_V1.0.0_09.25NA_src
$ grep -ril MatchSubnet .
grep: ./linux-2.4.x/drivers/net/re865x/cle/cle: No such file or directory
./user/boa/src/dni/libhttp_dni.a
./user/boa/src/www/CA_Welcome.html
The earlier support guy said he was going to submit a bug and inform the developers, which was really my goal in the first place. However, I just got another email:
My name is Patty and I am a Netgear level 2 technician. Could you please state the problem that you are trying to report? I have read the notes and the notes are not clear to the problem you are having with the router. As soon as the information is received I can then have it looked into.
Ugh! It doesn't work in Firefox. Is that really that hard to understand?

My buddy said he has a Linksys WRT54GL. He said the source is available for that as well, and there are already open source hacks for it. My guess is that Netgear is throwing out the KWGR614 as a lame attempt to try to capture some of the open source market. Ok, they got me, but not for long! I think I'll just return it and buy the Linksys!

16 comments:

Shannon -jj Behrens said...

I started a forum thread on Netgear's Web site.

It doesn't matter, though. I just bought a Linksys WRT54GL. I was able to configure it with Firefox from my Linux box. There was no setup wizard, but it was still quite painless. The admin interface seemed obviously of higher quality.

Wikipedia has more information about the WRT54GL.

jadahl said...

I also have bought a Linksys WRT54GL, works perfectly together with OpenWRT. Nice to be able to ssh and edit stuff in /etc, install extra software and create shell scripts on the router.

Larry said...

Ditto on the WRT54GL; I run dd-wrt on it. Linksys also sells a router with a USB port (for a hard drive, webcam, etc.) that can also run open source firmware.

The Netgear hardware might turn out to be OK if one of the existing firmware projects gets ported to it.

Jeremy said...

Hey buddy, I actually got a Linksys WRTSL54GS and threw OpenWRT on it as soon as it was out of the box. Running like a champ. Saw the KWGR614 and debated on getting it but didn't know OpenWRT's support for it. Actually have a D-Link 624 and Netgear WGT624 that I might see about trying OpenWRT on later.

Anonymous said...

Just bought a kwgr614 today and guess what - it's going back to Fry's tomorrow and getting exchanged for a WRT54GL.

Shannon -jj Behrens said...

> Just bought a kwgr614 today and guess what - it's going back to Fry's tomorrow and getting exchanged for a WRT54GL.

That just makes me happy :)

mckemie said...

Thanks so much for the information. I struggled a day or so trying to configure a Netgear router from my all Linux Lan. I finally emailed "support" at Netgear and eventually got the response that they did not "support" Linux! Even though the problem seems to be with their lack of compatibility with Firefox. Even though the problem seems to be generally known within Netgear. Even though the problem seems to be on a number of Netgear routers. No suggestions. Only "we do not support Linux"!

This crucial piece of information should be widely disseminated:
http://192.168.1.1/CA_HiddenPage.htm

Netgear! Bah! Humbug!

mckemie said...

Here are some additional comments that I hope will be of value to those misguided Linux users who have purchased Netgear routers.

At hand, I have three Netgear routers; a MR814v2 has no problems and is straightforwardly configured through about any browser. A WGR614v6 behaves as JJ describes and can be "fixed" by disabling the "wizard" through http://192.168.1.1/CA_HiddenPage.htm
A WPN824 seems to have the same problem as the 614 EXCEPT that it repeatedly reloads the page when one attempts to disable the "wizard". However, the 824 CAN be configured by going through
http://192.168.1.1/basicsetting.htm
as JJ mentions.

[rant] Why in hell would Netgear take a simple, straightforward, OS neutral, browser neutral, configuration technique and completely screw it up? And then, fail to publish the needed "fix" information?[/rant] Anyway, I hope someone in need finds this and that it helps them.aspar

Shannon -jj Behrens said...

Thanks for your comments. I'm just still so grateful that I was able to return the Netgear and buy a Linksys. The Web interface is much nicer, and it *just works* :)

SIG_SEGV said...

I like that linksys router too, but last time I checked, it had no way to assign via dhcp the same ip address to computers. Still a good device though. After that one time, the wizard can be disabled, but still, wish it was like my old mr814v2 router, still have it, never needs to be power cycled ever, in years in fact. Also use the now looked down upon openSUSE linux and windows computers.

SIG_SEGV said...

http://kbserver.netgear.com/kb_web_files/n101472.asp

Just in case this helps :)

mckemie said...

http://kbserver.netgear.com/kb_web_files/n101472.asp

It occurs to me that the setup of these things is dependent on them being used as a gateway. That is, they stick in this "routerlogin" domain and expect it to get resolved in the router.

I have been buying routers to use as access points because routers have gotten to be so cheap; I use one router as a gateway and four or five as access points. When I go to configure a new router, all resolving goes through my existing gateway.

Anonymous said...

The setup wizard works when using Konqueror under KDE.

christopherbalz said...

It seems a fellow named Thibault has done some good research on this POS router -- see http://wiki.colar.net/netgear_kwgr614_piece_of_junk,_d-link_dir-665_much_better

Being a JavaScript developer, I was lucky to be able to open the trusty Venkman JavaScript debugger and work around NetGear's broken, IE-only "open-source enthusiast" code live to get through the install. I recall that what was required was to replace the 'document.all' call with a 'document.getElementById'. Yes, I agree, totally insulting. I reported the bug to them.

This router has seemingly resulted in a fair bit of lost work for me (I use Ubuntu, all up-to-date), since it seems to keep dropping the connection. I installed their latest firmware update but the router still seems to be a piece of junk. I had a different NetGear router in the recent past and it worked great for years. If a company with a good reputation can ship a POS such as this, it means the company is really going downhill. It reminds me of what happened to Apple in the nineties; they just kind of gave up on actually producing real products and it's a miracle that they came back from that.

I am planning to try a D-Link DIR-665 per Thibault's recommendation.

christopherbalz said...

Correction -- it's "Thibaut", not "Thibault".

Shannon -jj Behrens said...

Thanks for the comment. I'm so glad I returned it and bought a Linksys WRT54GL. It's worked for me quite well, and I know I can always install the open source firmware if I somehow find enough free time to want to bother with something that's already working ;)