The new FriendlyElec R2S is more fully described as NanoPi R2S: a Raspberry Pi alternative that incorporates two Gigabit Ethernet ports.
That’s not strictly true, it is nothing like an alternative to the Raspberry Pi 4, for example, but with 1GB RAM it runs OpenWrt – the FA version which works straight of the box – no problem – I set it up recently and the RJ45 connection works perfectly – I needed to test my Spanish Raspberry Pi which is on a different subnet to my UK installation and the R2S did the job perfectly.
As it later turns out, that Pi also needs to talk to ESP8266 devices – so I need WiFi – SADLY no matter where I look out on the web, the same old rehashed promo information is on view, lots of sites stating that “the company recommends USB dongles based on RTL8821CU since those are supported by the default firmware out of the box. The board also supports 4G LTE via Huawei 8372H-155 USB dongle.” but up to now I’ve been unable to get a straight answer from FriendlyArm – or indeed anyone else as to how to support a WiFi USB dongle with FriendlyWrt “out of the box”.
I’ve installed FriendlyWrt, I’ve added a WiFi dongle (one of the very common ones which simply state “802.11n” on the side of the USB WiFi dongle) – and there is no sign in the setup for FriendlyWrt as to how to enable the WiFi or select an SSID or password.
If anyone out there has the answer (in simple form) as to how to add WiFi, it would be appreciated – I have lots of those commonly available WiFi USB adaptors – NONE of which state the make and ALL of which have the above stated “802.11n” on the side – so that doesn’t help.
The R2S arrived as a small yellow boxed unit that looks remarkably like one of those inexpensive Mango mini-routers. I perhaps should have held onto this blog entry until suppliers start stocking the R2S, but I had an immediate use for this device using the FriendlyArm supplied rk3328-sd-friendlywrt-5.4-20200118.img.zip image – check their WIKI.
This lovely little init was ready to go, needing only for me to download the above OpenWrt image onto an SD (I had a 16GB microSD handy) and power up with a USB supply (not provided). As you will see in the photo, the microSD sits in the corner of the board, opposite the Ethernet blocks. I connected the Ethernet leads, USB and plugged in an SD – that’s it.
My need in this example is for a router with WAN input and one LAN output (for the Pi which has to sit on subnet 192.168.1.x) – my internal network as it happens is 192.168.14x so I simply plugged the WAN connection into my network and the LAN connection into my Raspberry Pi.
Well, not quite, the R2S software by default sets the LAN to 192.168.2.x and it took all of 30 seconds to change that to 192.168.1.x – and add a passord (default none) to user ROOT.
Regular readers will know I’ve set up LOTS of FriendlyArm boards with various operating systems but in this case all I needed was the stock OpenWrt software from the FA site. You might be interested in their FriendlyCore (Ubuntu) software if you want something more ambitious.
I’ve already noted some comments in here about speed (good or otherwise) of this mini router… my experience so far suggests not trying to pretend it is a proper router (like a Draytek or similar) but for testing and experimenting it’s great fun and doesn’t tie up an expensive router.
My only gripe (and it’s a BIG one) is lack of WiFi – the company claim you can plug in an inexpensive WiFi dongle to do that job but I’ve yet to see a WORKING example of how to set that up, I’ve asked FriendlyArm and to be honest – got no-where which is unusual as they are normally quite helpful.
Having tried several of my commonly available WiFi dongles – I sent off for the specific USB WiFi dongle they recommend. I plugged in the dongle, turned on the power, still no WIFI. I even tried the only WiFi-related setting in the OpenWrt menu do with WiFi schedule – indeed things went backwards at that point with “Starting configuration apply” at which point the board remained busy for over 5 minutes until I eventually gave up.
March 29, 2020 Update – Antonio (Mr Shark) and I (socially distanced by thousands of miles) decided to give the alternative operating system FriendlyCore-Bionic a go…. Got the Ethernet working – LAN and WAN – but again – we seem to be having difficulty with WIFI even using the better dongle. Imagine walking into a car showroom with your wallet – salesman says – here’s the car, complete with engine – but you will have to source your own exhaust, fit it and test it. The car will kind of work without it but if you want the full experience, you are kind of on your own, sir.
Antonio just spent HOURS, firstly with the company’s recommended WiFi dongle, not supported in BIONIC- then with my popular WiFi dongle which works but cannot be used as an access point.. ultimately the R2S looks able to function only as an Ethernet-only unit.
It seems that FA have suggested using a dongle not recognized by THEIR OWN Linux as a WiFi dongle, while the other dongle I had already, mentioned above, is recognized and usable, but ONLY in client mode, to join a WiFi network, not in AP mode to serve up an SSID so other devices could connect to it.
Let’s have your comments… have you used the Previous model R1S – or ever come across the Mango I mentioned?