Atheros

Atheros is chipmaker specialized in telecommunication, including Wi-Fi systems. Atheros has a policy similar to Ralink. First step has been the availability of Linux driver in source form for AR9271 chip. Around it are built many TP-Link Wi-fi adapters. This driver requires also a .fw (firmware) file. It means that the chip firmware runs not in flash, but in Ram, and is downloaded from host driver during power-up initialization. A very well known follower is AR9331. It is a 32 bit MIPS CPU with Wi-Fi adapter on chip, and again his datasheet has been disclosed. It is available here. It does not come from company site, and i am ready to remove it in case of copyright complaints. Packaging is a BGA, out of reach for hobbists, but, thanks to company openness, breakout board are availables on the market. Lietuvos company 8devices produces and sells Carambola 2, a very small module including CPU, flash , ram, I/O, and a preinstalled OpenWrt. The good new is that it is a general purpose, open system. There is nothing to hack, serial console is ready to obey to the owner. Atheros MIPS compatible chips are also installed in TP-Link adapters and routers. OpenWrt site is full of information about reprogrammables models and how to do it. They can be buyed on DealExtreme site and prices are very cheap. Registered mail delivery is free, but requires in general a month. Last new is Qualcomm QCA9557 chip (Atheros now belongs to Qualcomm). Latvia company MikroTik uses already it, but the datasheet is not yet available. It is instead available a MikroTik board built around QCA9557. Price is not "chinese", but still affordable. Wi-Fi module is extended to 5 GHz band (802.11 ac), but probably for technological reason is now an external chip (QCA9882).

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