Wi-Fi Range Extender with touch screen


#1

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#2

Ummm… cannot that be done with a raspi or similar board, a pair of wifi dongles (that way you can even have the second network on the different band), and a SPI screen? Price similar or even fairly lower, and way WAY more capabilities than some closed-source crap.

$35 for raspi, $19 for this (for example) 3.5" touchscreen, a microsd card (say $10), and a pair of wifi dongles (say $10 each, some are for $5). Factor in some budget for a power supply and the case, and we’re on roughly the same price. With significantly more leeway on usage modes and chance to attach anything from sensors to TV and use it for home automation. And better chance to repurpose to something else later instead of throwing it out.

Also, beware of wifi extenders in general. They tend to interfere with themselves and cut the achievable speed significantly. Hence my suggestion to use two radios on two different channels.


#3

Only if you’re technically proficient.

But it looks to be a embedded windows (or .net) build… Wasn’t there a thing a while ago about how the embedded licensing was significantly cheaper if you added a display?


#4

Now, how wise is it to knowingly buy something built on embedded Windows…?


#5

It does appear to be going for a vaguely ‘metro’ look; but I ran strings against the vendor’s firmware update package and it turned up some linux kernel related messages. Digging shows no signs of GPL compliance on the part of either Amped Wireless or the (presumed) ODM, Loopcomm Technology (goes by the name ‘S-1’ or ‘LP-9668T’.

The FCC turned up a few tidbits, looks Realtek based, but the low quality of the board shots makes it hard to discern how much RAM and flash it has, and one chip on the reverse of the PCB is intriguingly defaced, with only hints of the original markings left.

Realtek doesn’t appear to like talking about the RTL8197DN; but it’s apparently a MIPS-based device(RLX5281 core, RIP Lexra), used in a number of comparatively recent routerish things, most of which are also running (horribly obsolete) linux firmware.


#6

Let’s see, $85 for a bucket of parts, or $80 for something I can buy with 1 click, is sent to me for free, that I can just plug in and use, and that comes with a guarantee. Yeah, that’s a real toss-up.

If you enjoy creating your electronic devices, then there’s added value there. But that’s a very small percent of the population.


#7

It appears this is some linux build, but in general, it depends if it works OK. I’m more of a Functional type of guy as opposed to Philosophical. I mean, sure if there’s a nice open-source version that’s functionally equivalent on the shelf next to it, great! But at this kind of price point, it’s a disposable black box and I don’t spend too much time looking for alternatives.


#8

Oh, they lowered the price. Well, let’s change my calculations to a bit more optimized way, bargain-hunt, and even the price advantage can be maintained.

Then there is the other side of the coin, the information asymmetry between you and the vendor. Of course you have no idea that the off-the-shelf thing bites the dust two days after the warranty because the manufacturer used the infamous CrapXon capacitors, and placed them next to a heatsink. Which you of course have no chance to know without first buying and opening the box. Of course you will be stuck with nonupgradable box of undocumented chips, and will have to suck up the vulnerabilities as they appear in the wild, because the vendor couldn’t get arsed to make updates - it’s rarely in their interest. And of course you have no chance to add e.g. a printserver capability when you’ll need it, because guess what, no firmware access. Nor you can ask your neighbor kid to configure or code it for you, because guess what, no firmware access.

Except that everybody can benefit from devices with full documentation and accessible software. These days the best chances of getting that is to assemble it from a bucket of parts. Hopefully the times will change in geologically short timeframe.


#9

Isn’t it amazing in this day how useful Strings still is against unknown binaries?


#10

I’m sticking with a pre-built unit for my dad. If he opens the box and finds a circuit board, dongles, and a screen with wires coming out he’s gonna call the bomb squad.


#11

You could cut your bucket of parts price in half, and most people will still take the ready-made device. The “maybe the parts might be bad” argument could be made about almost any mass manufactured device. That’s why there are product reviews and manufacturer guarantees. But the fact is, they’re probably getting better parts than you would for the same money, because they have the advantage of buying wholesale in bulk, while you’re having to pay retail.

A very large part of our economy is based on the fact that most people don’t want to do what you’re suggesting. You may have fun building such things, and that’s great for you, but the vast majority of people just want technology to work. Apple’s made a fortune on that business model.


#12

You said a mouthful.


#13

More relevant - how many people tinker with their range extender often enough for a screen to be worth while? Don’t think I’ve touched mine since I first set it up…


#14

But it’s not a bad thing; it’s actually the most economically efficient way to approach things. Sure it’s good to have the skills to tinker with and fix things, but when it comes right down to it, most people are much better off hiring someone else to build or fix something than doing it themselves.

Back to the wifi extender; I’ve tried a few and never actually found them to work. Have I just been been buying the wrong ones? My dad suffers from wifi range problems that make it difficult to use streaming video or music in the living room, and in the past I’ve recommeneded upgrading his router and tried a range extender, but it didn’t really help. I’m loathe to buy more hardware to solve the problem unless it’s really going to help, but if I were to buy hardware, certainly something like this (which looks dead-simple to set up - critical for my dad) would be ideal.


#15

Strings is a wonderful thing. There are a few more specialized tools that have grown up for dealing with routers(the firmware update blobs are usually compressed in some way, and then contain filesystem images in one or more of the not-proprietary-but-a-bit-unusual-by-desktop/server-standards, cramFS, jFFS2, that sort of thing; which is all driven by function, not an obfuscation attempt; but tends to reduce the amount of useful data wholly naive tools can pull); but there is perhaps no utility more useful for an informative first look against just about anything.

It probably helps that, while router firmware is almost universally dreadful, obsolete, and often encumbered by some binary drivers or just plain awful hacks; it typically does not employ any deliberate attempt at obfuscation/encryption/tivoization. There may be a custom header or a checksum or something that prevents you from actually flashing anything except suitably constructed packages through the web interface; but the firmware updates themselves are usually just apathetic rather than hostile.


#16

Just as the best chance of getting a flawless gourmet meal is to save the restaurant money and spend it instead in the finest ingredients to make it yourself. Provided, of course, you’re a passionate, experienced cook with a properly equipped kitchen and enough free time and motivation to bother. I’m guessing that’s you in regards to electronics.

Most of us… not so much.


#17

True, but screens are pretty cheap these days. And apparently it has a “desk clock” mode, so the display can perform a useful function when it’s not being used for its primary purpose.


#18

I’m not against ready made devices per se. They generally suck - but what irks me the most is that they don’t HAVE to suck. Just a few little changes in the general approach of the vendors, and we can have the best of both worlds. Alas, the vendors are asses (and the consumers too for not demanding better).

That’s the problem.

Product reviews often don’t tell you what you really want to know, and proper teardowns exist but are rare. As of manufacturer guarantees, things are often engineered with them in mind for the lifespan.

Now the one about the Snow White, please!

The vendors use their purchasing might not to get better deal on good parts, but to get better deal on the shittiest cheapest parts they can get away with. Hence the CrapXon capacitors you so often encounter.

I don’t hold that against them. I hold against them for not wanting service-level documentation even when they would never open the pdf. Somebody else will need it once their beloved gadget croaks - or to advise them to not buy it because according to the partslist and board layout it will be prone to croak.

Then there is the issue of chipsets. When you want to buy a device and run it on a different OS than the vendor expects it to be used with, you often need drivers. The drivers are often not for a specific device per se but for an interface chip used by that device. If the chip is not listed, good luck. Just go to a store and try to find something compatible; you can know the first and the last about supported chips but if the vendor does not tell you, you’re in the world of pain and trial and error and annoying web searches with uncertain results.

For limited values of “work”.

They get the lousiest tech they can tolerate because they don’t know how to ask for better. And I take the fallout.

Apple, the peddler of walled gardens, adhesive-coupled difficult-to-take-apart cases, and pentalobe screws?

They changed a lot towards the worst, since Woz…

That something makes money does not mean it is a good idea.


#19

Your argument is ludicrous, and flies in the face of the basic concept of Division of Labor, a founding bedrock of modern civilization, and a driving force behind the Industrial Revolution, the end result of which, is that bucket of parts you’re so fond of.


#20

My argument is built on decades of reverse engineering, repairing, repurposing and designing, often with assistance of illicitly obtained datasheets and service manuals of questionable origin.

With documentation, you have a choice to divide your labor or not, as you wish. And you have wider choice of those to outsource the labor to, as you aren’t limited to an elite cabal with official access to the for-authorized-use-only manuals.