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GUI Programming The Almighty Buck Wireless Networking Hardware Linux

Ubiquiti Announces RouterStation Challenge Winners 87

Riskable writes "Remember that $200,000 Contest For a Better Open-WRT Wireless Router GUI? Today Ubiquiti posted the winning entries to their support wiki. The grand prize was a tie between PyCI (written by yours truly) and NETSHe with OpenNET as the runner up. Source code and firmware images for each entry are available for download on their respective wiki pages. I'll be setting up a project page for PyCI (and l2sh) soon to make it a participatory open source product. Even if you don't have a RouterStation, or don't care about OpenWRT, there are numerous Python modules and tools inside of PyCI that could prove useful to other open source projects (e.g. can read/interpret over 400 permutations of the iptables command). I'll also be checking the comments if anyone has any questions for me about PyCI or the contest in general. BTW: I'd like to thank all the commenters in the original article that insinuated that the technical requirements were impossible and/or that making a GUI to configure such complex things is a waste of time. I read every one and I wouldn't have made it such an obsession otherwise!"
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Ubiquiti Announces RouterStation Challenge Winners

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  • Collaboration (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @10:38PM (#30002622)
    Wow. Thanks for the story about that. I'm not a programmer, but I'm impressed with the work you and people like you do with open source projects.

    That was really refreshing to read.
    • I appreciate this comment (thanks) but I thought I should mention that I'm not a programmer by trade. I'm actually a Systems Administrator/Security Consultant (CISSP, former PCI QSA). I taught myself Python two years ago and only just recently (within the past year or so) started programming real applications with it. Before that I never wrote anything except for shell scripts. So when I started this contest six months ago I had no idea how to write a web-based application from scratch let alone a conte

  • by R2.0 (532027) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @10:42PM (#30002636)

    "I'd like to thank all the commenters in the original article that insinuated that the technical requirements were impossible and/or that making a GUI to configure such complex things is a waste of time. I read every one and I wouldn't have made it such an obsession otherwise!""

    Ummm - you're welcome?

  • by spydabyte (1032538) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @10:43PM (#30002644)
    Seriously, when will we realize that the best User Interface is a 3D environment individuals can navigate as easily as the world around us. Just make a quake, darkforces, or HL mod, pull in dynamic data that any web interface can provide, and have the guns change variables in a fun interactive way. Fine fine, use more recent games or engines, but you get my point?
    • Re:What no HL mod? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @10:49PM (#30002676)
      ...Because that isn't the best UI? I find myself in real life wishing that it had an easy to use UI like a computer sometimes. Plus navigation in the real world is tiring and time consuming. For example in the "real world" you find things in a file cabinet, that is a lot harder than just CTRL+F and the filename. A basic GUI is much better than a "real world" environment. It also doesn't need a high-powered graphics card and an up to date CPU.
    • by Riskable (19437) <> on Thursday November 05, 2009 @11:08PM (#30002768) Homepage Journal

      You know, my winning entry has a Quake-style drop-down console window. Hit the ESC key on any page in PyCI and it will bring down the terminal just like in Quake and Half-Life (in this case, running the ash shell). I would've used the tilda key but that might actually be used in an input element somewhere.

      I know your post was in jest but PyCI actually does include some elements from a first-person shooter!

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This is only tangentially related but for anyone wanting a drop-down terminal natively on their desktop

        For Gnome, apt-get install tilda
        For KDE, apt-get install yakuake
        For OSX, Visor

        For Windows... command line? lol.

      • And you mean, the ESC key is *not* used?? LOL. How do you cancel things then? Especially those that have no cancel button. Like a dropdown or menu. I hope you did not make a mouse-only GUI. That would be *nasty*. ^^

        • by AvitarX (172628)

          How could you possible refer to something with a drop-down terminal be called mouse only?

        • PyCI checks to make sure that no input element is currently selected before it drops down the terminal. So if you just clicked on a drop-down menu and hit ESC you'd get the expected behavior. Press ESC again and you get the terminal window.

          So yeah, I already thought of that and took care of it. The only place where it actually overrides standard behavior is with jQuery-UI dialogs. By default the ESC key closes the dialog but PyCI overrides that feature. It isn't a big deal though... Just hit tab until

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by zapakh (1256518)

      Seriously, when will we realize that the best User Interface is a 3D environment individuals can navigate as easily as the world around us. Just make a quake, darkforces, or HL mod, pull in dynamic data that any web interface can provide, and have the guns change variables in a fun interactive way. Fine fine, use more recent games or engines, but you get my point?

      Agreed - Once you've used a tool like psdoom [] to terminate a runaway browser process, there's no going back. It's only natural that the killing of processes should be represented as killing in the user interface! I'm just waiting for the VR helmet or at least some head tracking. Using a keyboard in the course of system administration is so... artificial.

      • by symbolset (646467)
        Any truth to the rumor there was a Windows version of that but it didn't get popular because in Windows the processes shot back and were spawncamping?
    • by nametaken (610866)

      Hey, if it worked in Hackers and Johnny Mnemonic...

    • "This is Unix! I know this!"

  • by gozu (541069) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @10:43PM (#30002646) Journal

    Yo I'm really glad for you and imma let you finish, but your links have the least screenshots of all time, of all time!

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yo I'm really glad for you and imma let you finish, but your links have the least screenshots of all time, of all time!

      All things considered, this is a very strong point.

      Three of the links to the winners, -has no homepage -links to , which is DOA -links to , which is DOA.

      Perhaps custom firmware between their webserver

    • Re:Screenshots? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Riskable (19437) <> on Thursday November 05, 2009 @10:53PM (#30002694) Homepage Journal

      Yeah, I'm not sure why Ubiquiti chose to post so few screenshots of my entry (and they're really small). I posted a bunch (full-size) in my flickr photo stream: [] (they're all tagged with "pyci").

      • by Techman83 (949264)
        Thanks, screens they had were too small to be distinguishable!
      • by richlv (778496)

        nice, very nice. it's probably somewhere in the docs, some forum or so, but what are the system requirements (mostly ram, i guess, and diskspace) ?

        • I thought I had this in the docs somewhere but I'm not seeing it. Anyway... PyCI requires that python 2.6+ be installed along with pyOpenSSL (an ipk for which is included in the PyCI source package). The packages and dependencies add up to the following:

          python_2.6.1-2_ar71xx.ipk: 2.4M
          python-openssl_2.6.1-2_ar71xx.ipk 14k
          python-sqlite3_2.6.1-2_ar71xx.ipk 40k
          pyOpenSSL_0.9-1_ar71xx.ipk 45k
          PyCI_0.5-1_ar71xx.ipk 793k
          libopenssl_0.9.8k-2_ar71xx.ipk 493k

          So in total you need about 3.7MB free (unless I'm forgettin

  • Congrats! And, well done!
  • by Philip K Dickhead (906971) <> on Thursday November 05, 2009 @10:45PM (#30002658) Journal

    When there are TWO "first place" winners! HA!

    I'm torn between exclaiming "Bravo!" and muttering "Typical..." :-)

    Now, we can't decide between Qt, GTK-2, EXT3 or 4 or JFS or, between Beryl or Compfusion or between...

    Any way, GOOD WORK LADS! Now, can you find a better way to inject this on most of the horrid little boxes? All that TFTP setup for 1.5 mb of binary, just one time? I can hardly bother!

    • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @10:51PM (#30002686)
      Well, in open source, if there are two good projects and you leave one out, chances are the developers who favored that will either fork it or simply stop coding for you. If its 50-50 you are risking over half your coders which on most OSS projects, they can't afford to do that.
      • What's the reasoning (in general) behind more coders is necessarily better for the project in Open Source? For something like wikipedia, where it does not need to compile as a whole, and the parts are loosely coupled, I could see scaling of productivity or quality with numbers. If more is better, why do the biggest projects choose to funnel their development through their respective Alan Cox counterparts?

    • by frooddude (148993)

      Well, it's a windows app and it's not open source... BUT!

      It's free as in beer and damned easy to setup/use: []

    • by Korin43 (881732)
      GTK/Qt is a big deal, but the others really aren't. Every major distro seems to be moving towards ext4, and Compiz Fusion is Compiz + Beryl.
    • by mirix (1649853)
      I don't seem to recall tftpd being difficult to set up?
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It isn't. Not at all. It literally has "Trivial" in the name. Some people really shouldn't be here.

  • practical questions (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @11:45PM (#30002892) Homepage

    I'm currently running OpenWRT+Gargoyle on my linksys wrt54g. The reason I picked OpenWRT and Gargoyle was that at the time they seemed to be pretty much the only options if you wanted a fully free-as-in-speech OS and interface on your router. However, Gargoyle is pretty feature-poor.

    From a cursory look at the links, I'm still left with some questions. (1) Are these systems really usable and debugged at this point, or are they just proof-of-concept mockups, or early alphas or something? (2) I don't know what RouterStation is, or what Ubiquiti is. Are these general-purpose interfaces that could run on my linksys hardware, or are they specialized to certain hardware?

    • by Riskable (19437) <> on Friday November 06, 2009 @12:06AM (#30002946) Homepage Journal

      You can actually run PyCI on any old Linux box with Python 2.6+ installed. A lot of the configuration screens won't be useful if it isn't OpenWRT though (pretty much all the network configuration screens won't work but Users and Groups configuration will work great =). So to answer your question: Yes, it'll run on any OpenWRT host with one caveat: You need enough space for the requirements.

      PyCI requires Python 2.6 (more than just python-mini) which itself requires libopenssl which is over a megabyte. I forget the exact sizes but your OpenWRT router will probably need 8MB of flash ROM at a bare minimum. You can get around this requirement by using external storage (PyCI doesn't care where it's installed) and loading Python + PyCI there.

      There's ipk files for PyCI, pyOpenSSL, and l2sh in the PyCI zip file on the wiki. The rule of thumb is this: If you can "opkg install python" with ~1MB free afterwards you can install and use PyCI.

      • by Qwavel (733416)

        I think this looks great. Thanks to ubiquity for sponsoring this and thank you for creating such an excellent solution.

        A couple of questions about the requirements. Isn't libopenssl a general requirement of openwrt rather then a requirement of PyCl itself? I don't know openWRT too well but was under the impression that openSSL was central to any secure networking functionality in Linux.

        Also, why do you require pyOpenSSL? I thought that open SSL support was part of the Python standard library as of Pytho

        • by Riskable (19437)

          libopenssl isn't a general requirement of OpenWRT because all the default web-based interfaces (LuCI, X-WRT, etc) don't use SSL (not by default anyway). I suspect the reason for this is precisely because libopenssl is so large (from an embedded perspective).

          PyCI requires the pyOpenSSL package because PyCI was built using the CherryPy framework [] which currently uses that module for SSL capability. The next release (3.2) will support the regular Python SSL implementation and I plan to get rid of the pyOpenSS

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mirix (1649853)
      routerstation is a router board made by ubiquiti []

      Looks a fair bit more powerful than say, a wrt54G, so I'm doubting this will run on one..?
      • by Riskable (19437)

        The RouterStation is much more powerful than your typical WRT54g but PyCI doesn't require a super-fast processor or huge amounts of RAM. On a RouterStation with 64MB of RAM PyCI takes up about 27% according to top. This will be reduced significantly in the future as I optimize things (the contest didn't give me much time to do that). Also, I'm pondering porting the whole thing from CherryPy + Mako to the Tornado framework which would speed things up and reduce the memory footprint considerably.

        I don't th

  • by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Friday November 06, 2009 @12:09AM (#30002958) Homepage Journal

    Can someone recommend some good hardware to run these on?

    Last time I bought a router, Linksys was doing their best to kill the WRT line it seemed by putting out new routers with less memory, and slower processors.

    I bought a D-Link DIR 655 because it has a fast processor, does 802.11n, and has gigabit ports. Is there any hardware out there that is comparable (or better) that I can throw Linux on?

    • Although it doesn't include a switch, I greatly prefer PC Engine's ALIX routers: []

      There are a few cases available for them and you get get quite a few interfaces/minipci combos for ethernet and wireless. Switches are cheap anyway. []

      No I don't work for them, I'm not even European, just a happy customer :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by gad_zuki! (70830)

      What? Linksys sells a special 54g for WRT. Im too lazy to get the full model number but it ends with L.

      • by paul248 (536459)

        The WRT54GL has 4MB Flash and 16MB RAM. While that's better than the stock WRT54G, it's still pretty tight for a distro like OpenWRT.

    • by queBurro (1499731)
      have a look at the Asus wl-520gu and the wl-500gp; they've got a USB socket and will run 3rd party firmware.
      • I have an Asus 520GU running OpenWRT. The current limitation is you have a choice of running the 2.4 kernel and getting wifi but there are some USB issues (although USB is working fine for me - YMMV), or the 2.6 kernel and getting no wifi.

        Apparently the closed braodcom driver has now been reverse engineered for 2.6, but it isn't yet in the main branch so you have to do your own build and patch of the kernel.

  • by eviltediz43 (1177325) on Friday November 06, 2009 @01:37AM (#30003216)
    WRT, PyCl, ALkJ what? All these words are too confusing. Isn't there something simpler, whiter, and more expensive that could fit in an envelope and do the same job? Like iOpen -WRT?
  • I just was responsible for setting up routing for a microwave network between three college campuses on separate islands. The inter-island links used Motorola (formerly Orthogon) PTP600 radios. I used six ImageStream Rebel routers (which run Linux) for the moderately high performance routing, and four Linksys WRT54GL routers running OpenWRT for less performance-critical areas. I specified the WRT54GL because it is quite inexpensive, but it also has barely enough flash memory to do what was required. If
  • Thanks a lot.

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