Friday 17 November 2006

Bricking a Router

I bricked my router yesterday.

That's the short version. The long version? Well it's a sordid story that starts many weeks ago when I decided to install OpenWRT on my Linksys WRT54G v3 router.

Initially, I was happy! The web interface for OpenWRT is a little useless and the documentation (and mbm on the forums) said that setting up port forwarding to work both outside *and* inside the LAN was "impossible" (it's not, iptables works great) so I quickly got used to using SSH for managing the router's setup and firewall rules.

Then came the day that comes up regularly for any good sys admin, that is, update day. I did my little "ipkg update ; ipkg upgrade" but it choked! The device ran out of disk space. Initially, I wasn't worried. I cleared up some space and tried to finished the update. It limped a couple steps and then died. I couldn't even update to download the latest package list much less install/update any software. But the router was running. Since it was still working, I left it as-is. I was worried it would die if it was power cycled, but I was prepared to leave it on indefinitely anyhow.

Then last night, after a few drinks, the missus and I decided to rearrange the living room. So we drunkenly pushed furniture around moved movies, games, TV, stereo, etc. After the dust settled, I sat back down at my computer only to find I couldn't connect to the Internet. I could connect within the LAN so the router was switching, but definitely not routing. I couldn't connect at all to the router and it seemed to be dropping packets when I did a simple ping to it. The router was bricked.

Well, like any heavy user of the Internet, I prayed to Google to show me the way. Google spoke to me and said:

"Go here, my child, to un-brick your router."

Bearing the Word of Google, I went there where I was assured that all I needed to unbrick my router was a working firmware for the router and "any other small pointy metal object". The firmware I downloaded from Linksys (enough fucking around with OpenWRT) and for a small pointy metal object, I nabbed a bobby pin and off I went.

I read through all the instructions twice, then I pulled my router apart, shorted pins 15 and 16 as instructed, TFTP'd the firmware onto the router, and voila! The router booted! I was amazed! Like Christ turning water into wine, I had turned brick into router!

Rather then walk on water, I put the router back together, quickly configured it to a working state and that was that.

The moral of the story is: Don't brick your router. Restoring your router may make you partial to religion temporarily.

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