Intel Atom: Mini-PC's & Netbooks - The ideal WRT router

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mvrx
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Joined: 17 Feb 2009
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 8:18    Post subject: Intel Atom: Mini-PC's & Netbooks - The ideal WRT router Reply with quote
I saw another post of someone trying to get DD-WRT working on Atom based barebones PC. I'd like to discuss this as well as what is needed to run it on Netbooks This has me really excited.. I realize many have been doing mini itx and other mini PC routers, but the Atom architecture has finally got me onboard. Other Atom mentions on this forum: Link 1 | Link 2

Regarding Netbooks, I love the possibility of a dedicated display for my router. The DLink DGL-4500 with OLED displays are kinda cool, but very expensive and Dlink's firmware is crap. Anytime you stress the DGL series with lots of QoS settings it crashes.. I'm not excited about the DGL-4500 display. I think I'd be pretty happy with a $200-$300 Netbook 9" display scrolling all sorts of network stats from DD-WRT. Of course this would work with any Atom MB/Kit via the VGA/DVI output too.

...But anyway, on to my point.. These Atom based systems seem like a pretty cool platform for DD-WRT for the price ($125-$275).

Here are links to a few models
* Dell Inspiron Mini 9 netbook review
* Acer Aspire One AOA110-1137 Black for $249
* And here is a List of Atom MB/CPU combo's.
* There is also the Nvidia ION platform.

I started this thread with tons of questions, but as I answered them for myself I edited it and kind of turned this into a FAQ/reference. If anyone gets more info to add please reply and contribute, maybe we can get more native support work done for DD-WRT to be easy to install/manage on Atom platforms.

In my next post I'll list the options for extra ethernet ports and various configurations I've been finding today...

Please share your thoughts and ideas...


Last edited by mvrx on Mon Mar 02, 2009 11:47; edited 8 times in total
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mvrx
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Joined: 17 Feb 2009
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 8:20    Post subject: List of available hardware - update 3.2.2009 Reply with quote
Atom: Netbooks, Mini PC - hardware options


Netbook ethernet options
I really like the idea of my router having a dedicated display and keyboard as I mentioned above. I'll discuss what feedback I'd like to see DD-WRT giving on a dedicated display in another thread. For now, there are Netbooks that are sub $200 and with one additional ethernet port would make a powerful router for DD-WRT.

So, taking the Netbook route instead of a mini PC / embedded PC gives us the first problem, current modles have only one onboard ethernet port. Here are the options I've found thus far for this situation:

Expresscard Options:
- Most current Netbook models don't have Expresscard slots, but it looks like many upcoming models will have it standard,
- - So, for models that do/will have ExpressCard slots, we have simple options for adding another GbE port. +$20-$30
[News blurbs about released or soon to be released Netbooks with ExpressCard expansion slots]
- - netbookbaords.com expresscard list
- - HP Mini 1100 netbook specs released, confirm ExpressCard slot and here.

[Mini PCIe Options]
Update 3.2.2009: From what jraynorlxx wrote below, it looks like the majority of Netbooks that have a Mini PCIe slot that are only for proprietary SSD card expansion. In other words, they don't have a real Mini PCIe slot.

So until we discover that Netbook manufacturers start adding actualy Mini PCIe slots, the options are limited. However, once they do offer them there are some limited options;

Since the Mini PCIe slot is typically on the bottom of the Netbook, and its made to be enclosed (have the cover put back on) you would probably have to run the header-to-RJ45 adaptor in a creative way, or leave the bottom plate off the Mini PCIe access hole.
- Here are a few Mini PCIe Gigabit Ethernet modules | Other Link 1 | Link 2 (dual GbE)


[USB]
On the Netbooks, there are typically 3+ USB2.0 ports. So USB to ethernet adaptors could be used, but USB sucks and is horribly ineffecient, (even a 1GbE USB 2.0 adaptor is limted to 100-150mbit not matter what due to USB overhead) so I would count this as a last resort if you are moving more than 10mbit(?) from your WAN to LAN side. [Unanswered Q?] Does DD-WRT support most USB -> ethernet adaptors?
- - USB to ethernet adaptors are plentyful: List of adaptors


Summary:
I'd say an expresscard GbE adaptor would be the first choice, USB -> ethernet adaptors would be the second choice, and Mini PCIe GbE cards would be a later resort once more Netbooks feature genuine slots.


Atom based Mini PC's / Embedded PC's

There are tons of these motherboards and barebones kits already on the market, with quite a few more (and better) ones coming in 2009. I'll try to copy over my notes and links to this section soon. Here is what I have for now:


[List of Atom motherboards or mini PC's]
* IBASE MI812 | (1) 100mbit | (1) 1GbE | (1) PCI slot | (1) PCIe 1x!
* Jetway | NC92 Atom Motherboard & PDF With one 1GbE interface. Here on newegg for $140 no case)
| - Arrow 3 port GbE expansion daughter card for the NC92 MB. Laughing
* Advantech ARK-6310-3M04E | Dual Gigabit Ethernet!
* BCM MX945GSE - Product page here | Dual Intel 82574L 1GbE ports, 1 PCI, 1 Mini PCIe, no PCIe 1x:evil:
* 3.2.2009 info from jraynolxx MSI-945GSE0A
- - MSI IM-945GSE-A | 945GSE, 2 Intel GbE, 1 PCI slot, 1 Mini PCIe) found Here and Here on mini-box.com
- - Foxconn RS233 ITX-Barebone system. $110 and includes a low profile PCI slot which means for +$10 you've got (2) GbE ports. Pretty good deal.
* List of Atom MB/CPU combo's and barebone kits on Newegg.



[Networking options for Atom motherboards/kits]

Initial summary:
- Most of the current Atom Motherboards have a single PCI slot or a slot riser for expansion.
- Very few have a single accessable PCIe 1x slot, but it looks like this is changing as more upcoming Atom motherboard revisions will have a PCIe 1x or 4x slot!
- All Atom boards/kits have at least (1) 10/100 port, some have a single 1GbE port. *AND* I'm now finding a few with DUAL 1GbE!
- All, of course, have multiple USB ports (for using USB -> ethernet)


So the options that gives us:

[Motherboards with a PCI slot]
- it should be pretty easy to add 1-4 10/100/1000 ports using a PCI card:
- - List of PCI single ethernet port cards. +$10 to $40
- - Multiport PCI 1GbE cards | Here is one, and here is a 4 port, and another 4 port here..

[Motherboards with a PCIe slot]
Only a couple current Atom MB's have one PCIe 1x slot and it seems upcoming units will make this more common.
- - There are lots of PCIe 1x 1GbE cards. Cheap example: RoseWill RC-411 1GbE for $15


However, if you wanted to take the jump to 2 or 4 additional 1GbE ports, most come as PCIe 4x.
Being that these are 1x slots, a 4x PCIe card won't work unless you are brave enough to dremel out the end of the PCIe 1x slot so the 4x card will fit (yes this works and is safe). I think by this summer we'll see more Atom motherboards with a PCIe 1x or hopefully even 4x slot. - Here are a few PCIe 2 & 4 port cards.


Last edited by mvrx on Mon Mar 02, 2009 14:16; edited 41 times in total
tobee
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Joined: 14 Dec 2007
Posts: 12

PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 11:30    Post subject: Reply with quote
I own Intel D945GCLF2 - Atom 330 mobo.
Therefore few notes about this motherboard:
- chipset is consuming around 40W or so
- chipset requires cooling(which is loud)
I believe you would do better by installing gentoo on such box rather then asking for dd-wrt
I found one blog which contains some useful tips when it comes to atom and i believe it would help other people as well.
http://tux-power.dk/
Generally I find this motherbord useful when it comes to NAS/http server/ftp and similar usage but not the router because of high power consumption noisy fan and lack of Ethernet interfaces(only one built in)
Of course if you can live with high power consumption you can always replace the original cooler with something better(I replaced the 40mm 6k rpm fan to 120mm 1k rpm fan and it is laying on the motherboard loose Razz) you can always add PCI card that will give you more Ethernet slots and maybe wifi or just add one USB dongle.
You can also wait for new atom mobo with new chipset which should be available this year(i hope).
mvrx
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Joined: 17 Feb 2009
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 18:10    Post subject: Reply with quote
tobee wrote:
I own Intel D945GCLF2 - Atom 330 mobo.
Therefore few notes about this motherboard:
- chipset is consuming around 40W or so
- chipset requires cooling(which is loud) <snip>


Hi Tobee. 40W means nothing to me to be honest. I'm concerned with performance, 'being green' isn't an issue. Chipset cooling noise is dependant on your setup really, there are several Atom kits (330 included) that have zero moving parts, just better heatsinks. Personally, I don't care if it does have a bit of fan noise, my network hardware lives in a closet and I don't hear stuff in there really. To the point, there are going to be more Atom systems that are quiet or silent than there will be that are as noisy as you are apparently dealing with on your model. Also, you need to remember that many of the Atom based Netbooks are fanless or have very small fans in them.

Ah - I see what you mean from the blog, it looks like this is the Intel OEM motherboard that is noisy?

I agree that these will be usefull NAS/HTTp/FTP servers, but I also think we've got a very powerful router solution on our hands, especially with DD-WRT! Smile My issue is, that every consumer router I've tried has completely failed to live up to the extremely detailed QOS profiles I've been setting up. I run a Skype conference server (http://s4pg.us) for Gamers (its a Ventrilo competitor). And on my curreny beta servers I am behind only a 8mbit connection. I need hundreds of active Skype calls to receive top QOS priority, while http/ftp/torrent/video traffic is properly given very low priorities. A Dlink DGL4300 "top of the line" router not only slows to a crawl, but crashes (!) under this load, and my new DIR-655 is handling it, but not very well.

So -- I think a Dual core Atom 330 machine with (1) 10/100mbit port (WAN side) and (1) 1GbE port (LAN side), for less than $225 is a heck of an option (assuming I get DD-WRT working on it).

I'm confused, why did you suggest Gentoo? How does that give me a super router?

You are right about the future Atom revisions. Probably going to be much lower power, heat (noise) with much of it being integrated into a large SoC. Probably have 32nm version by 4q 2009. Sweet Cool
tobee
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Joined: 14 Dec 2007
Posts: 12

PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2009 10:48    Post subject: Reply with quote
mvrx wrote:
I'm confused, why did you suggest Gentoo? How does that give me a super router?

It doesn't matter tbh.I did try to set up openSUSE/Ubuntu and both of them failed in one or another area. Some distributions failed to boot installer properly even. With Gentoo I managed to get stable environment(with some effort).
Most likely I did choose gentoo because I had some experience from the past with this system.
It's rather personal preference and a result of ubuntu/openSUSE failing to work stable on it.
Also I wanted to refresh my memory when it comes to working with linux.

According to sensors I have:
Chipset Temp: +30.0°C
CPU Temp: +44.0°C
with this 120mm fan on top of radiators
jraynorlxx
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Joined: 27 Dec 2007
Posts: 12

PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2009 21:15    Post subject: Reply with quote
Hi,
I am also doing research in this kind of topic in recent days.
Here is something I found and want to share with you.
for the mini-pcie in those netbooks, you mentioned those slots for ssds. Unfortunately, those will not work as you imagine. The reason is that, these kind of "mini-pcie"in Asus eeepc are actually sata port and those in dell mini9 are actually pata port. They just have the same shape as a common mini-pcie, but they are not mini-pcie bus based. However, the mini-pcie for those wlan card should work for your mini-pcie giga nics. Some netbooks may also have a mini-pcie slot for WWAN cards, I am not sure if these will work. Because I heard about that they may only have those usb lines available on the mini-pcie port.
Another question I have for your post is that, if you do not care about power consumption, where is your point to go with atom? You can build a system with intel celeron D(35w), AMD sempron or even VIA C7, the price will be cheaper and you can get other stuffs for cheap and the performance is better(based on benchmark at least). It is even not too hard to find some mini-itx board for them, jetway have a lot available.
Anyway, the best Atom board I can find for this purpose will be MSI IM-945GSE-A(N270,945GSE,dual intel giga nics,pci slot, minipci-e,4X RS-232)
you can find it from logic supply http://www.logicsupply.com/products/ms_9830
or mini-box.com
http://www.mini-box.com/MSI-IM-945GSE-Mini-ITX-Motherboard?sc=8&category=100
The price is around 180(plus shipping, tax, psu, case. the total may go up to at least $300, which I would say very pricy)
Another cheap one may be ECS 945GCT-D available at newegg
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813135100
This one might be the only one has pci-e x1 and pci slot at the same time for under $100. But the onboard NIC is an ATHEROS AR8112 which I personally consider as a poor one(yes, Atheros makes great wlan card but nics are...) the Mini-DTX structure is also not a good one for it is hard to find a case that fits it. You can choose a micro-atx box but in this case you lose the slim size.
My last idea would be a Foxconn RS233 ITX-Barebone
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16856119011
For this one you have all the case, psu and board for 109.99 plus shipping and tax. You also get a low-profile pci slot available for extra nic. But there is no mini-pci or mini-pcie slot in it.

For those mini-itx you mentioned that looks fancy from those Taiwan companies builds Industrial Boards. The price are very crazy. I once asked about one of them and got a reply that each board is around $580 and they have a MOQ of at least 10.
fernsie
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Joined: 15 Feb 2009
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2009 22:18    Post subject: Reply with quote
As an aside to using the netbook as a router, would it be possible, do you think, to modify an x86 version of this firmware, should it ever materialise, into a netbook which is simply an snmp trap with a screen.

I would love to have a device I could plug into a network, configure, then leave it ... when finished, unplug i, walk away and have all my data available.

yes, I know this is possible with a switch and say a lapop with some software, but the netbook would be a much neater install
mvrx
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Joined: 17 Feb 2009
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2009 12:35    Post subject: Reply with quote
jraynolxx I updated my 2nd post with some of the links you added. Keep adding more as you come across them and I'll try to keep things updated.

fernsie wrote:
As an aside to using the netbook as a router, would it be possible, do you think, to modify an x86 version of this firmware, should it ever materialise, into a netbook which is simply an snmp trap with a screen. I would love to have a device I could plug into a network, configure, then leave it ... when finished, unplug i, walk away and have all my data available. yes, I know this is possible with a switch and say a lapop with some software, but the netbook would be a much neater install


Well the x86 DD-WRT seems pretty mature, what we seem to be lacking are mature installation tools. As I've said before, there needs to be a nice packaged GUI that can write a Hard drive image, USB boot operating image, USB & CDR/DVDR bootable installer image, and flash. It seems the main thing keeping DD-WRT from a mass audience of x86 users is that the install is not only confusing, but once you do get it installed you still have to go into the command line and do a few things before it brings up the simple plug-in ready web interface that has spoiled us all with off-the-shelf consumer routers.

As you mentioned, I could see many network admins loving having a display/keyboard enabled router that could just drop in in front of a subnet and handle the routing functions of what used to be medium range cisco routers of a couple years ago. I think it would be quite cool if the included display could be scrolling thru tons of statistical information about the network traffic.
bjoeg
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Joined: 26 May 2008
Posts: 418

PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2009 13:26    Post subject: Reply with quote
I find it hard to believe that a missing GUI installation tool is keeping the masses away from using the x86 build.

Before even considering x86 build, you would need to make a computer, with the appropriate hardware which are supported by DD-WRT (drivers).

Then comes the software/OS installation part. Though for some it may seem a bit overwhelming it really is not.

A simple command, which are different if the user installing DD-WRT originates from Unix/Linux or from Windows enviroment

And any user can build their own GUI based installation media. Linux live CDs already exists and anyone can build their own Windows PE media (though finished medias may be hard to find).
So installation is easy as run Live CD, get dd-wrt from Internet, USB or whatever (and get physdiskwrite if on Windows PE) write installation to media.

People making x86 DD-WRT installations usually have the knowledge of installing a PC from scratch, so they should have the necessary skills on how to install DD-WRT too.
ccplcguy
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Joined: 02 Sep 2008
Posts: 37

PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2009 14:33    Post subject: Reply with quote
I turned directions a couple of months ago and stopped using consumer devices for routers. Instead I have used Alix boards for small environments and a Jetway J7F4 based mini-itx boxe for my office and have been very happy. I even get the same bandwidth with the router as when I go straight to the cable modem, I have never achieved that with any consumer router. I am not running DD-WRT X86 however, I went with PFSense and use my WIFI routers as access points. I don't have to worry about the limit of 4096 connections that I just don't understand why DD-WRT X86 imposes (unless you pay) and wireless can run on the access point and use FreeRadius on PFSense for authentication. PFSense does support WIFI, but it is much cheaper and easier to use a consumer wireless router instead.
jraynorlxx
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Joined: 27 Dec 2007
Posts: 12

PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 22:43    Post subject: Reply with quote
Some update on atom based system
MSI have released some new atom system which is interesting. And they are available from logicsupply.com now.
http://www.logicsupply.com/categories/barebones/intel_atom_barebones

This two have one built-in NIC and one mini-pcie which made them a good access point. And the power consumption is nice since they are not those energy hunger 945GC.
However, I am still doubting if you really need the atom power for a x86 dd-wrt. Basically, you can get a nice embedded system for sub $200 which powerful enough as a router(ALIX,Ubiquity, Mitroki...)while the power consumption is much lower than an atom one. If you want something super reliable, than those crappy realtek NICs on atoms should be skipped, and several Intel nics means an extra several hundred dollars while you can get them for free on some mid-level server board which is definitely much more reliable than your atom.

PS: I am wondering why there are so many people around recommending Pfsense in such a way... I know Pfsense is a great system, but this is not a correct way to expand its market no matter these guys really love it or something else is behind the post.
ccplcguy
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Joined: 02 Sep 2008
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2009 12:32    Post subject: Reply with quote
Quote:
PS: I am wondering why there are so many people around recommending Pfsense in such a way... I know Pfsense is a great system, but this is not a correct way to expand its market no matter these guys really love it or something else is behind the post.


Maybe because "so many people" have tried and used the platform as a router successfully. Once DD-WRT X86 gets a larger installed based then possibly people will be quoting it instead. Has nothing to do with a marketing plan or conspiracy.
jraynorlxx
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Joined: 27 Dec 2007
Posts: 12

PostPosted: Fri Mar 13, 2009 17:38    Post subject: Reply with quote
New cheap 945GSE board option
Jetway released a new atom based motherboard and looks like it is their first 945GSE one.
Jetway NF94-270-LF Atom Mini-ITX Mainboard
1.6G Atom N270
1XSO-DIMM
1XPCI(Jetway board supports pci-riser card which can offer two pci slots)
1XRealtek RTL8111C Giga NIC
http://www.logicsupply.com/products/nf94_270_lf
Logicsupply offers it for $174, which is not very good price in compare with the other 945GSE from MSI which suffers much better specification(at least the mini-pcie and two Intel giga NICs)
However, this is still another low power atom option(general atom boards use 945GC which power consumption is a horrible 20W) especially when the MSI one constantly goes out of stock.
Jetway usually offers their boards in barebone style in their own mini-itx case(with no pci slot or two pci slot via riser card) along with PSU and the price is great.(e.g you can buy their case w/ two pci slots riser card and psu from logicsupply for $103 and motherboard for around $80 from newegg while their barebone with excatly the same things is only $140) We might be able to expect a barebone unit based on this board in the near future at a price around $200~250(I guess) which will make it a real good bargain.
Last thing, this board does not support Jetway's daughter boards. lol
slybunda
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Joined: 09 Jan 2010
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 03, 2010 2:08    Post subject: Reply with quote
is there any point in using a dual core cpu for router purposes since dd-wrt only supports single threadding?
Sash
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 03, 2010 9:21    Post subject: Reply with quote
slybunda wrote:
is there any point in using a dual core cpu for router purposes since dd-wrt only supports single threadding?

wo's telling u this?

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