ASUS EA-N66 or an alien pyramid

Introduction

External design and hardware

Firmware upgrade

Web-interface review

Command line interface review

Testing

Conclusion

Introduction

When the vendor gave us the ASUS RT-N66U wireless router, he added a small beautiful device – ASUS EA-N66 that combines the functions of a wireless adaptor, an access point and a repeater. We found it quite interesting and decided to devote a whole review to EA-N66 that we here offer to our readers.

External design and hardware

ASUS EA-N66 looks like a pyramid made of matte grey and shiny black plastic – a product of an alien civilization. Its dimensions are 122x111x62 mm and its mass is only 110 gr. For its operation ASUS EA-N66 requires a 12 V and 1 A external power adaptor.

The inner bottom surface looks like water with a wave originating in the center. In the side walls there’re blue LEDs that make the device even more surrealistic. On one of the base sides there’s a Gigabit Ethernet interface and a slot for the power adaptor.

Most part of the bottom is occupied by the ventilation grate. Also, here’re three rubber stands to put the device on the table. The sticker with brief information about the access point provides the user with everything he needs to know about it. ASUS EA-N66 can also be mounted on the wall for which there’s a Y-shaped technological hole in the center of the bottom. The sunk Reset and WPS buttons are also placed here.

All electronic filling is placed on both sides of a red hexagonal board. Unfortunately, all interesting elements are covered with metal screens. The only things available are 128 Mbytes Winbond W971GG6JB-25 RAM, 8 Mbytes Macronix MX29LV640EBTI-70G flash-memory and a Realtek RTL8211E GE-controller.

Now let’s study the device software component.

Firmware upgrade

Firmware upgrade can be performed from the web-interface with the help of the Firmware Upgrade tab in the Administration point. The upgrade procedure is not at all complicated and doesn’t require any special skills from the user – one only has to choose a file with a new firmware image and click on Upload.

The whole upgrade process takes about three minutes.

When the article was being written, there were no utilities for ASUS EA-N66 available on the vendor’s web-site. So, for firmware recovery in case of its unsuccessful upgrade we took the Firmware Restoration utility for the ASUS RT-N66U wireless router about which we’re going to talk very soon. In our view, it would be quite logical to provide ASUS EA-N66 with some minimum number of utilities with Firmware Restoration and Device Discovery among them. One can find out that EA-N66 is in the rescue mode if the LEDs are flashing slowly, or rather slowly changing their brightness. It’s also worth noting that the administrator can manually drive the device into the rescue mode by switching ASUS EA-N66 on with a pressed Reset button. Restoration goes correctly despite pop-up warnings regarding the firmware foreignness.

After a successful restoration procedure ASUS EA-N66 boots in the regular mode and the Device Discovery utility from the same RT-N66U set detects it.

We can’t but mention the option of fully manual firmware recovery. We directly connected to ASUS EA-N66 that was in the rescue mode and ran a Wireshark version 1.6.7 network analyzer. It determined that the device sends ARP-queries about 192.168.1.75 from 192.168.1.1. As our test machine had a different IP-address from the 192.168.1.0/24 subnet, our model at hand ignored all attempts to send a file via TFTP. However, as soon as we set the IP-address on our test PC to 192.168.1.75, we were able to send a file with new firmware to EA-N66 via TFTP.

C:\>tftp -i 192.168.1.1 put c:\EA-N66_1.0.1.5c.trx
Successful transfer: 3778875 bytes in 3 sec, 1259625 bytes/s

Now let’s see what the device web-interface features.

Web-interface review

EA-N66 web-interface design is characteristic of ASUS-WRT firmware – it’s performed in dark colors and is available in eleven languages. As the device web-interface in the wireless client mode has only a minimum number of settings we’re going to study all menu points.

The Quick Internet Setup allows choosing the device operation mode and configuring essential connection settings.

With the help of the Network Map item the administrator can get brief information about all network devices taking part in the connection.

The tabs of the Administration menu give the user the ability to choose the device operation mode, change the password, turn on and off access via telnet, upgrade firmware as well as restore/save/upload user settings. We should also mention that EA-N66 allows managing LED indicators built into the case. Actually, we think it strange that EA-N66 can’t work as a wireless router when the only wired port is connected to the provider and all user clients are wireless as we’ve already seen in ASUS WL-330N3G. Perhaps, the device main purpose is to serve as a two-range repeater and client; as at the moment virtually all modern televisions have a LAN interface, with the help of EA-N66 it’s possible to establish a 5 GHz connection to a router that will provide maximum bandwidth enough for transmitting high quality media content.

The System Log menu allows the administrator to study the device log data. To be fair, it’s worth noting that the number of items in the menu changes according to the chosen mode. For instance, when EA-N66 works as an access point, a Wireless log tab appears in the System Log. Besides the menu altering, the change of EA-N66 operation mode results in the change of the IP-address of the managing interface. Unfortunately, for this model the vendor’s site doesn’t provide any utility pack that could detect ASUS wireless devices in the local net. Luckily, the Device Discovery utility produced for other ASUS devices readily detects EA-N66 as well.

Turning in the repeater mode adds a Wireless item that allows managing the connection with the help of WPS, filtering MAC-addresses and specifying the transmitter power.

Although the Wireless point is already present in the repeater mode, jumping into the access point mode gives more flexibility in changing the device wireless parameters. The same goes to the System tab in the Administration menu where additional features appeared as well.

Although the vendor’s site claims that EA-N66 is an N900 wireless adaptor, in reality this device will be able to work only in one frequency range both as an adaptor and as an access point, i.e. to be an N450 device.

The LAN point allows the administrator to specify IP-parameters for the device wired interface. Unfortunately, ASUS EA-N66 can’t work with IPv6. Although we certainly understand that this device is going to be used exclusively as a bridge between the wired and wireless segments of an existing network, it’s not long before users will turn from IPv4 to using a next generation protocol completely.

We would like to mention that after applying new settings ASUS EA-N66 reboots though in our view, sometimes it’s far from necessary.

Here we’re through with the web-interface review and are moving on to studying the features of the command line.

Command line interface review

Command line interface access can be performed via System tab on the Administration menu. You can also use the hidden page Main_AdmStatus_Content.asp that allows making system calls and execute a command run_telnetd.

To log in you will use the same login and password as for the web-interface (admin/admin by default). In such devices the use of the BusyBox library is traditional.

EA-N66 login: admin
Password:
BusyBox v1.12.1 (2012-02-03 09:54:01 CST) built-in shell (ash)
Enter 'help' for a list of built-in commands.
# busybox
BusyBox v1.12.1 (2012-02-03 09:54:01 CST) multi-call binary
Copyright (C) 1998-2008 Erik Andersen, Rob Landley, Denys Vlasenko
and others. Licensed under GPLv2.
See source distribution for full notice.
Usage: busybox [function] [arguments]...
or: function [arguments]...
BusyBox is a multi-call binary that combines many common Unix
utilities into a single executable. Most people will create a
link to busybox for each function they wish to use and BusyBox
will act like whatever it was invoked as!
Currently defined functions:
[, [[, arping, ash, basename, brctl, cat, chmod, chpasswd, cp, date, echo, expr, free, ftpput, grep, halt,
hostname, ifconfig, insmod, kill, killall, klogd, ln, logger, login, logread, ls, lsmod, mdev, mkdir, mknod,
mount, mv, ping, poweroff, ps, pwd, reboot, rm, rmmod, route, sed, sh, sleep, syslogd, telnetd, test, touch,
traceroute, umount, vconfig, vi, wc
# cat /proc/version
Linux version 2.6.21 (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.n) (gcc version 3.4.2) #67 Fri Feb 24 16:05:05 CST 2012

With the help of the command ps let’s see what processes are running on the device at the moment.

# ps
PID USER VSZ STAT COMMAND
1 admin 2560 S /init
2 admin 0 SWN [ksoftirqd/0]
3 admin 0 SW< [events/0]
4 admin 0 SW< [khelper]
5 admin 0 SW< [kthread]
26 admin 0 SW< [kblockd/0]
37 admin 0 SW< [kswapd0]
38 admin 0 SW [pdflush]
39 admin 0 SW [pdflush]
40 admin 0 SW< [aio/0]
175 admin 0 SW [mtdblockd]
241 admin 0 SW [RtmpCmdQTask]
242 admin 0 SW [RtmpWscTask]
254 admin 2668 S httpd
258 admin 1224 S dnsmasq
259 admin 1468 S /usr/sbin/infosvr br0
260 admin 1704 S /sbin/syslogd -m 0 -t MST-3 -O /tmp/syslog.log
262 admin 1704 S /sbin/klogd
279 admin 1708 S telnetd
283 admin 1196 S lld2d br0
284 admin 1472 S /usr/sbin/wanduck
295 admin 2876 S watchdog
297 admin 2552 S ntp
299 admin 2556 S ots
301 admin 1448 S detectWan_arp
302 admin 1832 S networkmap
303 admin 1712 S /bin/sh
316 admin 1832 S networkmap
468 admin 1716 S -sh
1043 admin 1708 R ps

Let’s get into the contents of the catalogues /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin and /usr/sbin as well.

# ls /bin
mkdir reg sleep cat iptables-restore upnp_xml.sh
mtd_write sh upnpd date rt2860apd ls
igmpproxy iwconfig touch wpa_supplicant vi rm
iptables busybox ln iwpriv echo ated
mount kill gpio hostname ping lld2d
mv login inadyn mii_mgr wscd cp
flash dnsmasq rtinicapd ps pwd umount
mknod chmod ash sed igmpproxy.sh grep
# ls /sbin
apcli_connect spiread chpasswd.sh init
wmac config.sh wan-down ATE_Get_PINCode
wps_stop run_ftpsamba speedtest ledon
wsrom config-dns.sh getChannel config-pppoe.sh
ATE_Get_ChannelList_2G startWan udhcpc.sh hotplug_usb_mass
ddns_updated run_apps getSiteSurvey usbon
gpio_setbit 3g.sh usboff setDisassociate
apcli_set getCountryCode ATE_Set_MacAddr_2G start_sta
lsmod stop3g ddns.sh getBSSID
relink 3g_LG.sh wan.sh erase
ATE_Set_RegulationDomain gpio_rdint link_down route
run_telnetd wan-up radioctrl pspfix
setATEd rsrom vpn-passthru.sh hijip
g3ledon gbr gpiotest getCReg
gpio_setdir restart_time detectWan_arp global.sh
restore getIMG getDtime getPIN
getWPSAP restart_dns ATE_Get_RegulationDomain ntp
ATE_Set_AllLedOff mdev wifi_unload.sh logread
ping_keep_alive gen_ralink_config greenap.sh start_ddns
getMAC dhcpc_apply_delayed syslogd config-igmpproxy.sh
usdsvr_unicast hotplug ATE_Sta_Connect_AP getCurrentAddress
get_device_id ifconfig g3alarm usbtpt
ATE_Get_SWMode usdsvr_broadcast getATEd ATE_Get_FWVersion
ntp.sh rewrite_redirect write ip-down
automount.sh restart_qos restart_ntp config-udhcpd.sh
run_upnp reboot logmessage watchdog
convert_asus_values ATE_Set_RestoreDefault wps_pin start_ots
get_modem_node halt link_status wps_pbc
3ginfo.sh asuscfe poweroff eject_usb1
get_sw ATE_Set_PINCode nvram_restore g3ledoff
ATE_Get_BootLoaderVersion hijdomain stop_sta umount2
klogd sta_wps_pbc config-3g-ppp.sh getBootV
ATE_Get_ResetButtonStatus sta_wps_stop nat.sh setMAC
g3alarmoff restart_dhcpd FWRITE link_up
stop_ftp gbe run_ftp ots
vconfig start_hij ATE_Get_MacAddr_2G rmmod
apcli_monitor insmod chkalltask config-l2tp.sh
wps_start disktest config-pptp.sh ATE_Get_RSSI
von ip-up voff ATE_Set_AllLedOn
getStaConnectionSSID getApCliInfo start_telnetd tracktest
wphy ATE_Get_FwReadyStatus gpio_wrint start3g
ATE_Set_StartATEMode ATE_Get_WpsButtonStatus setCountryCode ejusb
setBootV stopservice pkt_flood setPIN
dev_init.sh wps_oob atehelp ateshow
stop_hij flashread ATE_Get_ChannelList_5G
getSSID rc ledoff
# ls /usr/bin
wc logger [[ free basename ftpput
expr [ killall test arping traceroute
# ls /usr/sbin
ntpclient telnetd spiflash wanduck infosvr bpalogin arpstorm
udhcpc tcpcheck nvram chpasswd httpd brctl networkmap

The utility arpstorm that is responsible for sending APR-requests about all the addresses on the local net turned out to be interesting.

Now let’s move to the catalogue /proc and find out what files are located here, and learn the operating system uptime and its average load, get the information about the CPU used and RAM capacity.

# ls /proc
2279 297 258 37 loadavg mounts buddyinfo fs iomem
1710 295 254 26 uptime kmsg vmstat driver timer_list
468 284 242 5 meminfo devices zoneinfo tty swaps
316 283 241 4 version cpuinfo diskstats bus crypto
303 279 175 3 filesystems partitions modules sys rt3883
302 262 40 2 cmdline stat kcore irq mtd
301 260 39 1 locks interrupts net misc Config
299 259 38 self execdomains slabinfo sysvipc ioports
# cat uptime
1995.18 1941.29
# cat loadavg
0.00 0.00 0.00 3/31 2159
# cat meminfo
MemTotal: 29892 kB
MemFree: 8940 kB
Buffers: 0 kB
Cached: 12668 kB
SwapCached: 0 kB
Active: 6496 kB
Inactive: 7624 kB
SwapTotal: 0 kB
SwapFree: 0 kB
Dirty: 0 kB
Writeback: 0 kB
AnonPages: 1488 kB
Mapped: 1268 kB
Slab: 3796 kB
SReclaimable: 816 kB
SUnreclaim: 2980 kB
PageTables: 280 kB
NFS_Unstable: 0 kB
Bounce: 0 kB
CommitLimit: 14944 kB
Committed_AS: 3772 kB
VmallocTotal: 1048404 kB
VmallocUsed: 2148 kB
VmallocChunk: 1044924 kB
# cat cpuinfo
system type : Ralink SoC
processor : 0
cpu model : MIPS 74K V4.12
BogoMIPS : 249.34
wait instruction : yes
microsecond timers : yes
tlb_entries : 32
extra interrupt vector : yes
hardware watchpoint : yes
ASEs implemented : mips16 dsp
VCED exceptions : not available
VCEI exceptions : not available

To see the list of all supported file systems and types of encryption is possible from the files /proc/filesystems and /proc/crypto.

# cat filesystems
nodev sysfs
nodev rootfs
nodev bdev
nodev proc
nodev sockfs
nodev pipefs
nodev futexfs
nodev tmpfs
nodev eventpollfs
nodev devpts
squashfs
nodev ramfs
# cat crypto
name : ecb(arc4)
driver : ecb(arc4-generic)
module : kernel
priority : 0
refcnt : 1
type : blkcipher
blocksize : 1
min keysize : 1
max keysize : 256
ivsize : 0
name : arc4
driver : arc4-generic
module : kernel
priority : 0
refcnt : 1
type : cipher
blocksize : 1
min keysize : 1
max keysize : 256
name : sha1
driver : sha1-generic
module : kernel
priority : 0
refcnt : 1
type : digest
blocksize : 64
digestsize : 20

Of course we couldn’t skip the ASUS devices traditional utility nvram, by means of which the user can look through the main settings of the system and change them.

# nvram
usage: nvram [get name] [set name=value] [unset name] [show]
# nvram get http_passwd
admin

It’s time to finish our review of the command line interface abilities.

Testing

The first traditional test is to detect the device booting time under which we mean the time interval between switching power on and receiving the first echo-reply via ICMP. ASUS EA-N66 boots within 36 seconds. We consider it a good result.

Later on we checked the security of the device by means of Positive Technologies XSpider 7.7 (Demo build 3100) network security scanner. All in all we detected six open ports: TCP-23 (Telnet), TCP-53 (DNS), UDP-53 (DNS), TCP-80 (HTTP), TCP-9998 and TCP-18017 (HTTP). The most significant findings are displayed below.

The main parameters of our testing stand are shown below.

Component PC Notebook
Motherboard ASUS Maximus IV Extreme-Z ASUS M60J
CPU Intel Core i7 2600K 3.4 GHz Intel Core i7 720QM 1.6 GHz
RAM DDR3 PC3-10700 Corsair 16 GByte DDR3 PC3-10700 Kingston 8 GByte
NIC Intel 82579V
Intel 82583V
Atheros AR8131
Atheros AR9285
D-Link DWA-160
Operating system Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus

We decided to check the EA-N66 performance in two modes: a wireless client and an access point. In the first case we connected to the router ASUS RT-N66U, in the second one as a wireless NIC we used the model D-Link DWA-160. Unfortunately, we didn’t have one more EA-N66 to accomplish a full check of the device as an access point since although D-Link DWA-160 NIC supports the work in both frequency ranges, but the maximum supported transmission speed in theory is only 300 Mbit/s, while RT-N66U and EA-N66 support the speeds up to 450 Mbit/s in each of the ranges. That is why, in our opinion, the speeds shown by EA-N66 in the access point mode turned out to be far lower than the ones we managed to get working with EA-N66 in the wireless client mode. All the results are exhibited on the diagram below. In this test we used the utility JPerf version 2.0.2, the data transmission was realized in one, five and fifteen simultaneous TCP-sessions.

This brings us to the end of the testing section. Let’s make conclusions.

Conclusion

We liked the multifunctional wireless device ASUS EA-N66 mostly because of its unusual futuristic design – never before have we seen such a case shape and the demonstrated data transmission speeds. At the time of writing the article the wireless adapter ASUS EA-N66 hasn’t been officially sold in Russia yet, that is why by the time of its sales the vendor promises to have eliminated a range of insignificant drawbacks that are usual for product demo-version. We consider incomplete translation of the web-interface and incorrect Russian time zones to be one of such disadvantages.

ASUS EA-N66 strong points are enumerated below.

  • Stylish design.
  • Switchable LEDs.
  • Dual-band (2.4 and 5 GHz) support.
  • High speeds of data transmission.

Unfortunately, we can’t help mentioning the drawbacks either.

  • No IPv6 support.
  • No utilities.

Some more attention should be paid to the fact that EA-N66 can work simultaneously in only one range unlike RT-N66U which lets wireless clients of the range 2.4 GHz as well as 5GHz connect at a time.

At the moment of writing the article ASUS EA-N66 wasn’t sold in Russia, that’s why it is too early to speak about the price.

Add comment


Security code
Refresh

Found a typo? Please select it and press Ctrl + Enter.