The ever-disruptive Robert X. Cringely has published a lively editorial at PBS.org describing how embedded Linux and mesh network micro-franchises will forever change the Internet and telephone access markets. The article is called “The Little Engine that Could: How Linux is Inadvertently Poised to Remake the Telephone and Internet Markets.”
Cringely focuses on the Linksys WRT54G router, a $70 system more powerful than the servers of just 10 years ago. The router runs Linux, and like myriad Linux APs based on Broadcom reference designs, can be upgraded to even more powerful, freely available versions of Linux, such as this one, or the distribution from Sveasoft.
In his inimitable style, Cringely writes:
“If you have a WRT54G, here's what you can use it for after less than an hour's work. You get all the original Linksys functions plus SSH, Wonder Shaper, L7 regexp iptables filtering, frottle, parprouted, the latest Busybox utilities, several custom modifications to DHCP and dnsmasq, a PPTP server, static DHCP address mapping, OSPF routing, external logging, as well as support for client, ad hoc, AP, and WDS wireless modes.
If that last paragraph meant nothing at all to you, look at it this way: the WRT54G with Sveasoft firmware is all you need to become your cul de sac's wireless ISP. Going further, if a bunch of your friends in town had similarly configured WRT54Gs, they could seamlessly work together and put out of business your local telephone company.”
Cringely goes on to briefly describe several powerful open source applications for wireless networking. He then indulges in some economic modeling exercises, before concluding:
“Or imagine a school or a church distributing routers among parents or parishioners as a fund-raiser. Let's see how long SBC or Verizon lasts against the Baptists. Now THAT's disruptive.”
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