Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Hardware Software Linux

Hacking the Actiontec 56k Modem/Gateway 233

Posted by michael
from the dsl-backup dept.
william_lorenz writes "The Actiontec Dual 56k External Modem is an inexpensive device with a built-in 56k modem and two Ethernet ports that can be used as an Internet gateway of sorts. What's great about it is that it runs some form of uClinux, it's easily hackable, and Greg Boehnlein of the Linux Users Group of Cleveland and NOOSS fame recently contributed a detailed report on his findings! Pictures of the board are also available here, here, and here. Lots of specific details are included in Greg's article, and there's been some further discussions about this on the LUGC mailing lists."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Hacking the Actiontec 56k Modem/Gateway

Comments Filter:
  • 56k gateways (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sir Haxalot (693401)
    are almost pointless, a 56k connection is bad enough without it being shared across several computers.
    • Re:56k gateways (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mackstann (586043) on Monday September 01, 2003 @03:33AM (#6843274) Homepage
      Two ethernet ports + linux + easily hackable = who cares about the modem jack?
      • Re:56k gateways (Score:3, Insightful)

        by screenrc (670781)
        I have worked on such uClinux gadgets (for pay); although I have not bothered to read about this product, it should be safe to make these observations:

        1. Two posts only? That is not very useful at all. You probably need a hub as well.

        2. uClinux is not readily hackable, at least until you drift of it, and also know how to recover when this thing freezes. You can not just dive into it as if it was a linux PC.

        3. The modem is probably the *best* part, but that has been done for many, many years. Nothing spec

        • well.. one use jumps to my mind..

          2 _ports_(theres more than 2 posts in this thread anyways too).. hmm.. where i have seen 2 ethernet ports lately.. oooh! in my firewall+nat machine!

          yeah, so that is a possible use provided that they've hacked it far enough(of course i didn't read the article).

          -
        • 2. uClinux is not readily hackable, at least until you drift of it, and also know how to recover when this thing freezes. You can not just dive into it as if it was a linux PC.

          You have never worked on any embedded system, for pay or otherwise.
          • Re:56k gateways (Score:3, Informative)

            by Sleepy (4551)
            >>2. uClinux is not readily hackable, at least until you drift of it, and also know how to recover when this thing freezes. You can not just dive into it as if it was a linux PC.

            >You have never worked on any embedded system, for pay or otherwise.

            Be nice. I think what the author says is true... from the average Linux hacker's perspective, an embedded platform is NOT readily hackable.

            Plus he will have no documentation from the manufacturer. The manufacturer likely modified uClinux and possibly Bus
        • It sounds like you're looking for one of these [seattlewireless.net]. It's a wireless b/g router, 4 port switch, 125 Mhz MIPS processor running Linux 2.4.5 with 16 meg of ram. You can pick one up for around $100. I'm running snort [batbox.org] on mine.
      • Re:56k gateways (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        this is not a modem sharing thingy! this is a cheap single board computer that runs linux, has two ethernet ports and a modem, probably some other digital/serial io. (boxed, with psu, etc) that runs linux!!! perfect candidate for a web thermometer, ethernet garage door opener, robot brain, home weather station controller, etc.
        • this is not a modem sharing thingy! .... perfect candidate for a web thermometer, ethernet garage door opener, robot brain, home weather station controller, etc.

          There are less subversive uses than the ones you suggest. You forgot...
          • War dialer
          • Packet Sniffer (runs, say dsniff all day, occaisionally sends list of sniffed passwords to somewhere via. IRC) that can be hidden in suspended ceiling

          There are also Trojan Horse uses. It could be passed off as doing it's primary function to a small busin

          • There are less subversive uses than the ones you suggest. You forgot...
            Either that's a failed attempt at irony or you have very a very different definition of subversive than I do. When was the last time you heard of a bushy-bearded loner secretly building home weather stations in his remote shack?
    • Re:56k gateways (Score:5, Interesting)

      by zakezuke (229119) on Monday September 01, 2003 @03:59AM (#6843335)
      56k is better then nothing. Keep in mind also the fact that primarly text information gets compressed unlike in broadband technologies. Keep in mind that many a small business or small remote office doesn't nessicarly need lots and lots of bandwidth just to get e-mail.

      Hackability? Well I'm somewhat curious what they can do with such a device. The first thing that comes to mind is a standby gateway that goes online when the primary gateway fails. This would be MOST handy.

      • The first thing that comes to mind is a standby gateway that goes online when the primary gateway fails. This would be MOST handy.

        Doubtful. How do you control the active gateway? You think thins thing support HSRP?

        No, in the real world, where we get paid to set these things up, the standard config is a Cisco 1721 with a T1/E1, or second ethernet WIC to DSL or cable (ADSL WICS are evil, and cause endless problems, especially with the fingerpointing when the circuit is down), and the dial backup is a U
        • No, in the real world, where we get paid to set these things up, the standard config is a Cisco 1721 with a T1/E1

          In the real world, where there *is* a market for Linksys routers because not everyone can afford a 1721 let alone a t1/e1 connection, let alone some bugger to set one up.

          Do I think this thin thing supports HSRP? *NO* In fact, i'm unsure if there even is anything resembling HSRP under linux yet. What I am sure of is, assuming you are behind a nat firewall, you can indeed change from peforming
          • In the real world, where there *is* a market for Linksys routers because not everyone can afford a 1721 let alone a t1/e1 connection, let alone some bugger to set one up.

            If being online is really enough of a priority to need an automated failover gateway, it's just a poor decision to try to "simulate" it with junk equipment. Those are the kind of customers that need to be "fired", because any project you do under that type of short-sighted budgetary constraint is doomed to failue.

            HO users can use a mo
    • Re:56k gateways (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MadX (99132)
      Hmm .. perhaps in your country. In South Africa, this is basically the standard .. sure you have ISDN / ADSL ..
      BUT

      ISDN - very expensive to start with (+- R2000-00 initial startup @ R 7.50 / $1) then you still pay for the call charges. If the config goes haywire you can end up with a bill of R 4000-00/month.
      ADSL is only available in certain areas - but there is a 3gig monthly cap. some guys can go through that in a day if they wanted to, and the service is being oversubscribed so quickly that the transfer
    • Re:56k gateways (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      A NATted LAN is certainly better than nothing when you're sharing a house with multiple machines. Yes, it's slow if two people are using it at once, but it also means you don't need a modem in each box, don't need to risk someone else trying to dial out with another machine while you're already connected, someone can sneak in a quick Google or mail-read around your activity (or, in my case, I could stay on IRC while others browsed to their hearts' content)... ...But most importantly, it's a dramatic conven
      • A lot of small businesses rely on DSL or Cable shared through a simple Linksys, but should there be an outage, their LANs are dead in the water. With a modem *in* the dinky embedded router, they'd have the option of falling back to dialup rather than closing up shop or waiting for their MCSE to get to dealing with it. With the appropriate firmware load, one of these things could provide fully automatic failover - and "failback" when it detects the DSL or cable has returned.

        How, how how! People keep sayi
        • Well, the thing is that the device is a simple ARM-based single-board computer with two ethernet ports and a modem. It runs uCLinux. Anything you can cross-compile and cram into the flash, it will support.

          It should be relatively simple to set up, say, PPPoE on one of the ports, a connection to a LAN on the other. Then write a simple script that watches the PPPoE connection status, and dials the modem if the PPPoE has been unable to connect for a certain amount of time.

          The device would obviously have

    • It's actually not that bad. I spent a few months sharing a 56k connection with a housemate once - we had an old (and rather noisy) PC with Linux as a gateway. Okay, it wasn't blazingly fast, but we did quite successfully manage to both play Unreal Tournament online at the same time, which I was quite impressed by.

      Currently I have a broadband router connected to my cable modem - it has a serial port at the back which I keep connected to my old modem - it's useless most of the time, but damnned handy when so
      • I spent a few months sharing a 56k connection with a housemate once

        2 people, that's not too bad. here in Saint Petersburg, Russia, we have 3 apartment buildings with cable stretched between them. altogether, we have 29 users online all sharing a single 64k connection.
        i've setup iptable accounting chains to 'see' who the abusers are, but haven't yet figured out how to do shaping or throttling.

        we prefer to get DSL, but with DSL we have to pay 5 to 8 cents per megabyte (yes, we pay in American dollars for
    • Yeah, 56k is pretty slow for lots of us these days.

      But, the device is hackable, and so you can turn that modem into an incoming port, instead of connecting to the internet outgoing.

      It would be great for me. I've got ADSL, and a non-router modem. I want to share the ADSL between the PCs in my house, and also allow my girlfriend to dial in to use it too (instead of paying an ISP). And, I don't want to have a noisy, power chugging PC running 24/7 just to do that.

      This device would be great. One ethernet
    • I used to use a 3COM 56K LAN Modem for Internet access. It was very convenient. All of my computers were on a local Ethernet. The 3COM box was a DHCP server and router, and it dialed my ISP on demand.

      Some people are spoiled. 9.6 kbps used to be a high speed data line that required a $10K modem and 56 kbps was a very expensive wideband data line.

    • Re:56k gateways (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nettdata (88196)
      are almost pointless, a 56k connection is bad enough without it being shared across several computers.

      Almost, but they still have their uses.

      I was the IT Manager for Lilith Fair, and when we sent the tour buses out on the road, 2 of them were dedicated accounting buses with LANs, printers, etc. We couldn't be guaranteed any kind of broadband connection at our stops, but we WERE guaranteed just about as many POTS lines as we could handle.

      We set up two similar devices, one on each bus, and they were ver
      • what device did you use? where they network stand alones? how did they perform? and yeah, I am looking for these for exactly the same reasons ( I have been playing with the actiontec for the last week).
    • I differ (Score:3, Interesting)

      by WindBourne (631190)
      I bought this the other day to use on networks for remote systems. One of the problems that you run into is being able to access a network when either the internet, the main server, or the firewall machine is out. This is very useful
      In addition, I was thinking that this is the perfect device to load a hylafax on. For incoming faxes, I was thinking of using nfs v3 over tcp for the storage.
    • are almost pointless, a 56k connection is bad enough without it being shared across several computers.

      Oh, you won't be able to surf your pr0N, but it's good enough for email and irc, when your broadband goes down (it happens, and chances are, your POTS will still be there).

      But that's not the point. The point is, you can run your own code on this thing. One application I've always wanted: a fanless unit sits on my dsl connection, always on, waits for me to connect from overseas, say, and powers up my se
    • Re:56k gateways (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dreamchaser (49529)
      I know that others have disagreed, but I had to add my ten cents. It is not worthless. A lot of people seem to forget that the vast majority of people do not have broadband yet. Until we were able to get it I used a single 56k line to share with my family. For web browsing and email it worked, though I'd usually disconnect everyone else when I wanted to play Quake.

      No, it isn't very fast and the latency is rather high, but it isn't at all pointless. It works quite well actually.
      • I agree. I have a similar setup (with the PC as gateway) that works flawlessly with all network clients (5 computers at my house).

        You gotta have a proxy server, though. Using my setup (squid) Web surfing with 3+ clients is quite satisfactory.

        I hooked my parents up with a similar confuration, and it works great with no intervention on their part.
    • shotgunned 56K connections would be a GREAT backup solution for many small/medium offices or businesses. I go around doing system upgrades at facilities like this all the time and most of them have a single broadband connection with no backup. What happens when their POP goes bellie up or their broadband ISP screws something up? They are hard down. With a 112Kb backup connection they could continue to work, sure you wouldn't want to download the multimedia training film that day but at least they could acce
    • Ever think of backup for when your DSL or cable goes down?

      Or for those people that are still on a waiting list for broadband? Having something like this ( or the USR equivalent ) lets you setup the network and when your broadband finally arrives, nothing really changes.. makes it easy for end users.

      56k is NOT dead.. Though it IS slow as hell, and not ones first choice for a business, sometimes its your only choice...
    • --Back a few years ago before I got DSL, I had a 56k modem connected to a Linux box running wvdial on-demand and Squid, with about 1 GIG of cache. It was better than nothing, and a valuable learning experience. I was thrilled when it was all up and working, and had 2-3 PCs connected to the server.

      --With Squid, if a fairly static page had been loaded by another box beforehand (like comics or yahoo) and the page hadn't changed, delivery was pretty fast - even over 10MBit Ethernet. Remember, the things tha
  • Nice machine (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@NOSpAM.beau.org> on Monday September 01, 2003 @03:29AM (#6843256)
    Looks like a nice machine with default software that is a bit lame. But since that is now easily fixable, I can think of a few folks in dialup hell that I'll probably be crossing off my Xmas list. :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 01, 2003 @03:31AM (#6843262)
    Jeez...

    Slashdotted already.. this article's gonna set the record for redundant posts.

    Yes, we KNOW his server MUST be behind that 56k modem.

    Right, now that we've got that out of the way...
  • by Empiric (675968) * on Monday September 01, 2003 @03:31AM (#6843266)
    Personally, I'm more intrigued by the company's anti-kidnapping technology [actiontec.com]. I'll sleep easier once that's out of the way.
  • by madsen (17668) <madsen@NOspAm.iki.fi> on Monday September 01, 2003 @03:31AM (#6843267) Homepage
    From the ActionTec site:
    the External Dual PC Modem keeps you connected
    longer, and faster.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 01, 2003 @03:34AM (#6843276)
    "it's easily hackable"

    If only we could hack it into a 256k modem...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    although a bit larger, you can shove a mini itx board into just about anything. and you can have full on linux & routing capabilities.
  • Inexpensive? (Score:2, Informative)

    by camilita (694206)
    If you dont need bells a whistles a 56k modem for more than 50+ bucks [amazon.com] seems a bit pricey. There are plenty of linux "compatible" modems [linmodems.org] for less than 30 bucks.
    • Re:Inexpensive? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by EnglishTim (9662)
      I think the point is that it is easy to connect two computers to the modem via the ethernet ports if you don't want to have to set up internet connection sharing on one of your computers.
    • "If you dont need bells a whistles a 56k modem for more than 50+ bucks seems a bit pricey."

      But $50 is about par for the course for external RS-232 modems, which will work on anything with a serial port (we don't need no steenkin' driver!). The cheap ones you're thinking about are the accursed winmodems that require an accompanying software kludge.
    • Re:Inexpensive? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Damin (135893)
      The purpose of the article was to demonstrate how the box can be modified to fit your own needs with the hopes that others will take the initiative and explore. This box is an awesome introduction to embedded computing platforms at nearly 1/4 the price of DIY boards. The fact that it actually is usable as a gateway is not really relevant, nor is the comparison of adding a modem to a Linux box. You won't learn a thing about embedded Linux by adding a modem to your box.
  • by narkotix (576944) on Monday September 01, 2003 @03:51AM (#6843313)
    Would it be possible to hack an adsl/cable router to be used as a simple webserver? For a low traffic and static site it would be perfect for my business website hosting needs. 10watts consumption...fanless operation...and small footprint it sounds like a dream! I could even imagine other hacks like interfacing a larger amount of flash storage or running a real low end db &scripting engine to have behaviour like mysql/php3 together.
    • I know about hackvalue, but why bother for a webserver? All of the reasons you mention are easily met by a mini-itx [mini-itx.com] board.

      Fanless, low on power (can even be frequency/voltage scaled if I remember correctly), small physical footprint, and a lot cheaper than mucking around with some custom built router.

      Gramted it is not nearly as much fun than hacking some piece of proporitary hardware! ;-)
    • Let's see :
      - Most of them already have some web interface.
      - Some of them allow you to access this interface from the internet.
      - All of them are firmware upgradeable, so they have *some* sort of easily-erasable memory in it.
      - Some have an obvious directory structure that is read-writeable when you (t)ftp to it. If you're really lucky, this area can include the web pages your router uses to show you info.

      So it seems all you mostly have to do is :
      - bend router firmware to allow non-local network access to po
    • My question is why? At the very best, you might be able to implement a very basic web server for static pages but forget about scripting or anything too advanced. It would be dependent on some server in your LAN for storage as well, so you'd still have to run a "real" server anyway. I think you overestimate the amount of processing power in those things. For not much more cost, just get one of those mini-itx boards and install FreeBSD or Linux. You'll get a modern, standards compliant server that can h
  • The "dual modem" mention in the article header made me think for a moment this product allowed multiple users to share a composite link. (See my earlier post on this topic [slashdot.org]). Rather this product allows 2 users to share *one* link.

    A composite link to two *different* ISP could be implemented quite simply by say, using a proxy server to multiplex outbound HTTP requests among multiple interfaces (each interface corresponding to one phone connection).

    This approach is more coarse-grained and inefficient than TCP/IP-level channel bonding. However, it would still be useful for places out in the boondocks where you can get two telephone lines, but no broadband. Also, its efficiency could be improved by using HTTP functionality that allows specific byte-ranges to be downloaded for a particular resource.
  • DirecPC server? (Score:4, Informative)

    by crypton (35785) on Monday September 01, 2003 @09:04AM (#6844226)
    Sounds like this might be usable for anyone wanting to set up a server for a satellite connection that has the downlink via the dish/usb modem and the uplink via ISP/phone modem like DirecPC does. The only linux project so far is at Sourceforge: http://sourceforge.net/projects/direcpc
  • by Guppy06 (410832) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:10AM (#6844545)
    Laugh if you want, but necessity dictates that I can only get a 56k internet connection, and there's two computers in the house. I'm currently using XP's internet connection sharing thingie but I'd kill for a hardware-based solution right about now, at least one that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. I thought Stratitec's (discontinued) "Easy Internet Router," which had a serial port for connecting an external modem as well as ethernet ports, would be The Answer, except that the router seriously slowed down when routing a dial-up connection (tech support's excuse was "Well, we only intended it to be a back-up and the router really isn't designed to do that...")

    Now I hear about this, which to me sounds like a Holy Grail, and I can't seem to find it anywhere. The only place I can find it is one of those shady dealers operating on Amazon. There has to be somebody slightly more reputable with some for sale, or at the very least something else to let me compare prices!
    • Ask around and you will most certainly find someone with an old system in the closet. Download the IPCOP (21MB) ISO (don't even mess with smoothwall, it doesn't support ipchains and the CEO is a dickhead that cannot be trusted), burn it to a CD, and install it on said old system.

      Now you have NAT on your 56k line AND security AND accounting AND a means of blocking the spammers when they start port scanning you.

      Anyone connecting a windows machine directly to the net is just asking for it. Thing is, if you d

    • I've been doing this for at least the last five years. I use a 3Com 3C886 56K LAN Modem: 4-port (+1 cross-over) hub, DHCP, NAT, Weblett access, etc.) firewalled by a Netgear FVS318 Firewall/router.

      I regularly run at least three PCs on this connection, and have had up to six Internet connections up at a time with no practical loss of speed (seat-of-the-pants benchmarking - the only kind that counts in the real world).

      The best part of using one of these rather than a standard modem is the elimination o

    • Pricegrabber [pricegrabber.com] is your friend. Search for "Actiontec dual modem" and you'll find it in several places, the cheapest at Provantage [provantage.com].
  • by Radical Rad (138892) on Monday September 01, 2003 @10:46AM (#6844691) Homepage
    They listed the device as compatible with:

    Operating System Compatibility Windows 98 / 98SE / ME / 2000 / XP/ MAC OS 7.1 and higher/ Linux / Unix

    But then for Minimum System Requirements they ask for:
    Windows 98, 98SE, Windows Me, Windows 2000, or Windows XP

    Is it necessary to have an ms Windows pc in order to configure the thing? What if all you have is Macintosh or, like me, Linux? Or are they saying that Windows is the bare minimum and, of course, anything else more than meets the requirements?
    • The short answer is "no, you do not need a Windows PC to configure this thing".

      When you plug it in, it defaults to 192.168.0.1 (and 2) and if you setup your PC to pull an address from DHCP, you'll get and address from the box. Then, you can simply http://192.168.0.1 from a Mozilla (or whatever flavor browser you like) and configure it.

      They ship this stupid piece of software called "Router Buddy" which has these lame graphics, opens a Web Browser session for you and then adds a Toolbar link to XP so that y
  • Being Linux based is cool and all, but what are the limits of the platform? How far can it be extended?

    Based on the circuit board, I assume storage is pretty limited (single flash chip), and RAM is probably small.

    Can the hardware be modified at all?? There is a header on one end of the board, what is that intended for? If it could handle CompactFlash, storage could be easily expanded.

    Reading through the spec's for the Conexant "Network Processor", it seems the ARM core includes a USB controller. Ext
  • There are still areas of the country where broadband is not available. I live in a rural area and our local cable company (Northland Cable) has absolutely NO plans to offer internet service. Many people around here do not live within 3 miles of the phone company central office or R-DSLAM.

    Before I got DSL, I did set up a Linux gateway with a Lucent 56k Winmodem. Not terribly easy to do, but the hardware is obscenely cheap.

"Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come." --Matt Groening

Working...