Ralink is chipmaker specialized in telecommunication, including Wi-Fi systems. A well known chip is the Ralink 3070. Around it are built many wi-fi adapters, sometimes sold under different brands or, on chinese e-commerce, without any brand. In general producers keep everithing secret about their chips, and supply only a Windows driver. Ralink has always been more open, and RT3070 has been one of the first chipset Linux compatible. Not everything is disclosed, but the Linux driver is distributed as a source, to be installed after compilation. Obviously reading the source something can be understood. Ralink 3050 has been a further improvement. It is a 32 bit CPU MIPS compatibile, with a on-chip Wi-Fi adapter (probably also RT3070 was a CPU MIPS compatible, but i am not sure). The big step ahead has been the disclosure of the datasheet. It is available here. I have found it on the net, but not on Ralink site, and i am ready to remove it in case of copyright complaints. The chip is packaged in a 17 x 17 pin BGA, then out of reach for an average hobbist, requiring a multilayer PCB and a complex machine soldering. Fortunately hardware information allowed the porting on it of OpenWrt. This is a very compact Linux distribution, for embedded systems, without GUI and only a serial console for programming and system configuration. It works very well on limited resources hardware. OpenWrt has been compiled on X86, ARM e MIPS architectures, but most widespread and de-facto version is the MIPS version. It has become the standard internal operating system of many chinese commercial systems (modem, routers, wi-fi adapters), sometimes declared and sometimes undeclared. As a consequence Linux hackers are been able to re-program many devicess, trasforming black boxes in small general purpose embedded systems, user programmables for different purposes. The most interesting device is a very small board from chinese company Hi-Link, originally designed as a triangular bridge between serial, Ethernet and Wi-Fi. RT3050 is also the engine of Carambola 1 module from Lietuvos company 8devices, but is under replacement with Carambola 2 module built around Atheros 9331. Anyway on OpenWrt site an updated list of compatible hardware is available.

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