We need Wifi APs for a small business.

However, there are various expectations what I can't foresee. The last what I want, that trivial things, what the hardware could easily do, are simply impossible because we have no root access to our own devices.

In Germany, AVM!Fritz is a very popular AP solution (it is even common that home ISPs simply make their devices obligatory), however they are regularly racing to make their systems so un-configurable as possible; and this added them to my blacklist. I did the same by Cisco, on similar reason (they are also wanting regularly a lot of money for firmware updates, and their relative recent devices from 2013 had a weak signal strength).

My ideal image is that I could simply ssh into the AP to reconfigure it.

It should be also acceptable to layman bosses. Thus, it should be an AP with a Google-able manufacturer name (not bad if it is not common, but it needs to have a name). I should be able to point that "I found this (link) device from ..., I suggest to buy it for ...", and it should look as a reasonable suggestion.

Actually, any AP is okay, if

  1. The manufacturer is googleable.
  2. I can modify its firmware without hardware hacks. No problem, if it causes warranty loss.
  • 1
    @K7AAY Router is a non-issue. The APs are only bridges to the ethernet network. A possible source of the problem is that wonderful Fritz-es want to create a mesh only by a purely 802.11, there is no way to create mesh by forwarding traffic to the ethernet cables. I want to avoid this, and many similar nastynesses of wonderful Big Companies.
    – peterh
    Apr 1 '20 at 15:36
  • 1
    @K7AAY No, that is a no-issue, they don't bind these together. Btw, there are two routers and two uplinks and... well... I would gladly have a "nice talk" to their product managers, how the ******** do they think this all. And they would explain, that nearly all of their users are stupid, so they won't care on "my problems". But this talk won't ever happen, so I blacklisted both companies and I am looking for an own-solution.
    – peterh
    Apr 1 '20 at 15:56
  • 1
    @K7AAY No fritz and no cisco can be rooted without major hardware hack. They are unacceptable because neither of them has a rootable firmware, they are actively avoiding rooting. This made them to my blacklist. But the cause of their unacceptability is the lack of rootable firmware. Look for the positive requirement, i.e. it needs to have a rootable firmware; if it has not, consider it blacklisted. (P.s. also the German manufacturer named "bintec elmeg" is on the blacklist on the same reason.)
    – peterh
    Apr 1 '20 at 16:01
  • Your requirements are not entirely clear to me, but check out MikroTik - you can play around with their OS in a VM. Apr 8 '20 at 21:28
  • @JanDorniak That is funny. There are various plans that we might need mesh (or not), we might need radius/ldap auth (or not), we might need "corporate network", ie login with username/password and not by a single password. Or anything what you can imagine, like integration with the alarm/monitoring system. Mikrotik is closed source, what if we buy the things and then the boss says he wants X, what this firmware does not support? I could easily solve that by a Linux, but if I can not have a root shell on it, after we bought them, no I don't give such a chance to any manufacturers any more.
    – peterh
    Apr 8 '20 at 21:40

I'm going to start with the open source firmware projects and drill down from there, picking on three which have been popular in the open source shop I've worked in. (Note: everyone's got opinions and institutional bias may exist among my fellow neckbeards there, so I've also included above a link showing more open source router firmware projects).

Devices in these lists are mostly WiFi routers, but it's very easy to disable the routing functions and turn a router into a Wireless Access Point. Economies of scale dictate since mostly folks buy WiFi routers, not Wireless Access Points, there will be more WiFi routers and in general, they will be priced competitively.

Well-known manufacturers with devices supported by OpenWRT (and therefore rootable) include ASUS, Buffalo, D-Link, (may I exclude Huawei?), Netgear, TP-Link, Ubiquiti (spendy!), Xiaomi, and ZyXEL.

There's also a list of devices currently supported by DD-WRT which include Asus, Buffalo, Dell, D-Link, Linksys, Meraki, Mitsubishi, Motorola, Netgear, Nokia, Siemens, Toshiba, TP-Link, and Ubiquiti.

Other names may be more viable in Germany than stateside, so if I neglected a brand which has gotten good press where you are, please accept my apologies.

  • I have not delved into the devices themselves, as that's beyond scope, but I have a bias towards Asus.
    – K7AAY
    Apr 1 '20 at 16:32
  • My experience with such "supported by openwrt" firmwares is mainly bad, most of them is "supported" by a vague doc of a hardware hack what I can't do with a new company device. I do not want to fight with hardware, a JTAG-ged wifi AP is absolutely not what I could sell inside. I check the ASUS, it is a good name.
    – peterh
    Apr 2 '20 at 1:24
  • I checked the 10 cheapest asus wireless routers on the Amazon. I found a clear, positive feedback that they would work with openwrt, in zero cases. It is quite unfortunate, I will check it further.
    – peterh
    Apr 2 '20 at 1:44

An access point is an access point because it only officially supports access point firmware. If you must have the label "Access Point" on the device, then it will be a device that is sub-par to what you would be able to get by just purchasing a small all-in-one linux computer such as a thin client.

An access point that runs open linux is no longer an access point, it's just a computer, even though it may look exactly like an access point. New thin clients can be somewhat expensive, but older models that can be purchased as "new old stock" can be found in the $100-$200USD range and would provide more than enough performance to act as an access point and/or router.

HP Thin Clients

Dell Wyse Thin Clients

  • Nice alternative, thanks!
    – peterh
    May 4 '20 at 18:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.