Did my Wifi Radio project inspire you to buy a wireless router and start hacking? If so, I’d like to hear from you!
Leave a comment below and let me know how your project is coming along. Even if you’re not building a Wifi Radio but used my firmware or tutorials as a starting point (a great example is the Tweet-a-Watt), I’d love to hear from you.
If you have photos of your project, you can share them with the world by adding them to the Asus Wireless Router Hacks photo pool on flickr.
Many people have asked me for a cost breakdown of my Wifi Radio project. Well, here it is!
I added a link to possible sources for as many parts as I could. However, there were a few things I scrounged from local surplus electronics stores and couldn’t easily find a good equivalent online. I’m not expecting everyone to copy my design exactly (not everyone has a woodworking shop at their disposal), so use these numbers as a rough estimate only.
If you shop around you should be able to beat the listed prices on many items, so I see this as sort of a worst case scenario.
To flash the wireless router and create a minimal radio (with no user interface), you will need:
Cheap set of PC speakers (gutted for the speakers and amplifier) – $5 @ Weird Stuff
Oh yeah, and I almost forgot…
An awesome friend named Tony with a full woodworking shop in his garage who will make you a killer wooden enclosure for free – $priceless
Grand total (excluding the box) – $147.09
If you take out the cost of the development tools, namely the FTDI cable and the USBtinyISP, the total comes out to $105 (without the box).
By scrounging materials and using parts from your junkbox you should be able to reduce that figure even more, but obviously the grand total hinges on what kind of enclosure you use. Not everyone has a friend with serious woodworking skills willing to donate time and materials, but use this as an excuse to get creative.
I wanted a box that showcased the time and effort that I spent on the electronics inside, but that doesn’t mean an old boombox from the Salvation Army couldn’t work just as well.
When I first started this project, my goal was to keep the total parts cost under $100. On paper, it looks like I came pretty close to that, thanks to the donated box and excluding the reusable development tools like the FTDI cable and AVR programmer. To be honest, I probably spent twice that amount on spare power supplies, extra knobs, a second router to bring to NOTACON, and a bunch of other stuff that I didn’t end up using in the final project. But I’m pretty ok with that. I think this just highlights the fact that:
If you just want a Wifi Radio, it will always be cheaper to buy one off the shelf. But if you make your own, it will be infinitely more rewarding.
Newegg.com is currently offering the Asus WL-520gU for $34.99 after rebate. This is the lowest price I have seen in a while, so if you’ve been debating picking one of these up to play with, it might be a good time to buy.
It’s interesting to note that Newegg recently added the words “DD-WRT Open Source support” to the product title, so obviously they are aware of how many people buy these routers just to toss the stock firmware and throw on DD-WRT, Tomato, OpenWrt, or the oleg.wl500g.info firmware instead.
Have you created a project or hack based on the Asus WL-520gU or WL-500gP Wireless Routers?
It doesn’t matter if it was inspired by my project or developed independently – I’d love to hear from you!
I’m putting together a talk for NOTACON and I’d like to feature as many projects as I can to spread the word about how powerful, flexible, and affordable these routers are, especially when coupled with a Linux package (DD-WRT, Tomato, OpenWrt, etc.) and USB devices.
If you’d like to have your project included in the talk, leave a comment or contact me directly.