My personal , indipendent Fonera review

hi there folks ,
On monday 2 October I received the fonera.

After 3 days of tests , I want to write a small review.

Package and first sight.

The unit comes in a decent carton box . The quality of the carton is not so good ,but this seems to be a trend in chinese production as , this year I also encountered many problems with carton box coming from china for my shoes. Maybe the carton suppliers in china rised up prices and the only choice to reduce the price of a carton box to 0.25 us$ is to reduce the quality of carton.
Inside the box you will find:

La Fonera
the power supply
the ethernet cable
a printed booklet with quick install guide
a warning paper for PPPoE connections
a cdrom with documentation

La Fonera is a cute white box , very attractive , neat and compact. There’s some similarity to apple products , expecially airport or macbook power supply. There are no sharp edges , nor screws or protuberances . The device is very light and portable. We found three connections , the dc-in jack , the rj45 plug and a reverse sma connector with a small white antenna plugged in.

The power supply is a wall socket type one , black coloured (this is a lack of taste , could have been white to match main unit colour ) with a mainland europe type plug. I don’t know if there are other versions shipped to america , UK or asia , as they have different power plug. Anyway this is common to many other even more expensive devices. To buy a multi plug adapter can do the trick if you need to carry the fonera with you on your trips.


The ethernet patch is a non standard one . It is a flat straight cable without shield , so maybe some problem with interference may occour.

The printed booklet is very nice , with pictures and colour photos . It’s written in four languages , the italian is missing , and this is once more a proof that my country is loosing appeal in the international business. Perhaps the foneras for the asian market will have japanese , mandarin and korean languages .

The orange warning paper was inserted to alert people that with PPPoE connection to dsl modem the firmware flashed in the unit may not work. It advise you to download the latest firmware . In the fonera I received the latest firmware was already in.

The Cdrom I didn’t check it so I don’t have anything to say about.

The Fonera @ work

I tried to connect the fonera as described in the quick installation guide. I plugged the ethernet cable into my network switch , which release ip addresses with DHCP and connection to the internet. Then I switched on my macbook , open up the airport and the survey showed two wlan’s one named my place and another named FON_AP .
As explained in the booklet , I connected to FON_AP wlan , opened up the browser and I have been redirected to the fon login page . After entered my login , I proceeded to register the new hot spot and everithing went as smooth as silk.
When I tried to connect to the private LAN my place , I followed the instructions , but entering the serial number of the fonera as WPA passphrase , cannoct get access . The macbook say that the code entered wasn’t correct.
I then tried to access with a notebook with windows XP , and had success , but cannot get the ip address by the DHCP server of the fonera.
So i tried to connect my macbook to the wan port via ethernet wired. This time , cannot get ip address , but , pointing the browser to address 192.168.10.1 let me get inside the control panel.
In there , I changed the configuration of the private wlan to WPA2 instead of WPA/WPA2 mixed , I set the cypher to DEFAULT instead of MIXED and changed the WPA passphrase to a 10 charecters log exadecimal.
I rebooted , unplugging the DC and now the private network works like a charm.

This lead me to a consideration : Why FON decided to encrypt by default in a so complicated way? As suggested by Giorgio Zarrelli , would have been much better to set the private wifi in WEP flavour , and let then the user change accordingly to his hardware.

This is a suggestion FON people , and according to me it will keep you apart from a storm of support requests.

Security.

I tested with the nmap the fonera , and the firewall is very well designed . Permit what is to be permitted , deny what is to be denied. I dare to say that you can sleep safely with your network behind the fonera.

Radio coverage.

A made a simple test , the fonera and the linksys side by side and move away from them with the kismet working in passive mode , monitoring constatly the signal strenght. The result is that the fonera has good radio coverage maybe a little bit better than linksys.

Hacking the Fonera.

Fonera has been designed not to be hacked. There are no administration port , the only tcp ports opened are 80 (http) 8080 (http-alt) and 53 (domain). There is a 10 pin serial port , and probably , using a serial cable with a max323 converter , same as ipod keyboard hack , and redboot bootloader you can reflash la fonera , but this hacking is not for the masses.

In the web gui there’s an upgrade firmware menu , but don’t try to reflash the unit with a standard openwrt or another firmware built for wrt54g or other hardware platforms.
In the dd-wrt forum anyway , there’s a thread which speeks about porting dd-wrt on la fonera. We all know that if he wants , Brainslayer can port the dd-wrt on the device in a couple of weeks , the problem is that la fonera has been designed to accept only signed and encrypted firmware. Though reflashing via serial console might be possible , are we acting against FON willings ?

Final considerations.

I found la fonera an overall good device , and extremely easy to use . The wlan performance are better than linksys , a dual essid has been implemented and the radio coverage is slightly better.
The bad is the private wlan encrypted with a too much hardened WPA encryption , which can cause some troubles to unexperienced users as I explained before.
I think that this device can help fon to spread his business or “movimiento” and to reach their targets very quickly.
In three words : Good Job guys !

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