GL-AR300M Shadow 5GHz dongle?

Hello there, I’m wondering if anyone can recommend a wifi dongle with the following criteria:

  • Supports 2.4 & 5GHz
  • Single or dual external RP-SMA antennas (I plan to use these)
  • Supports promiscuous mode / usable for sniffing

It would be nice if it works perfectly with GL-inet firmware, but I understand dongle support on models that aren’t Brume is limited. So, as long as it works properly on the latest vanilla OpenWRT available on GL-AR300M Shadow, that would be sufficient.

Anything like this out there?

Edit: if there’s nothing that supports promisc mode, I would still like to hear recommendations for dongles that don’t, and work well with GL’s firmware. Thanks!

I am investigating the same for my GL-AR300M16 and another GL.iNet router and looking into USB wifi adapters with the MediaTek MT7612U chipset, which should work with the kmod-mt76x2u driver package. They probably do not support promiscuous mode and only works in either 2.4GHz or 5GHz mode, not both at the same time.

I do not work for and I am not directly associated with GL.iNet

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Thanks for the tip. Only working in one mode at a time is totally sufficient for my base case - using the dongle to connect to remote wifi with a directional antenna.

Promiscuous mode is a nice-to-have, very much so, but I can live without it.

I could swear I have a MT761x dongle laying around somewhere actually - no external antenna, but, if I can find it, it might be worth it to see if I can get it working just to verify that the driver you mention actually works. If so, then I could buy a dongle with external antenna.

UPDATE:
I bought a generic USB AC1200 wifi adapter with MediaTek MT7612U chipset for $20 from Amazon. After installing the kmod-mt76x2u package on my GL-AR750S and plugging it in, a new radio showed up in LuCI → Network → Wireless (does not show up in the GL.iNet UI).

I was able to configure the new 5GHz radio in LuCI as a LAN Access Point with the built-in 5GHz radio as a WAN Repeater, instead of using the slower built-n 2.4GHz radio.

EDIT:
It seems better to configure the new 5GHz radio as the WWAN Repeater and the built-in 5GHz radio as the WLAN Access Point.
The MT7612U wifi adapter gives improved speed and reliable connection because I get frequent wifi connections when using only the built-in 5GHz radio for both WWAN and WLAN.

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The MediaTek MT7612U wifi adapter and kmod-mt76x2u package also works on my GL-AR300M16 Shadow. I configured the 5GHz radio as the LAN Access Point which gives almost twice the throughput than using only the built-in 2.4GHz radio for both WLAN and WWAN.

The same will probably work for other routers with the kmod-mt76x2u package.

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I have no overview what is exactly in each device, but if I need a usb-wlan with good (Linux) support, i start always with ‘alfa wlan’ at amazon. Most times (16 out of 19) I got a useable result.
Only downside: I only search for dongles with external antenna. If you’d like no external antenna, maybe this solution isn’t for you.

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=alfa+wlan

The Alfa AWUS036ACM (detachable external antennas) and and Netgear A6210 (attached flip up antenna) also have the MediaTek MT7612U. For brand names products, you can often look up the chipsets on deviwiki.com, techinfodepot.shoutwiki.com and/or fcc.io. There are a number of generic products on eBay and a few on Amazon (but not available in every country), if you search for "MT7612U".

The Alfa and Netgear products costs 2X-3X more than the generic products, so everyone can decide on which to buy. The generic product I bought also has dual RP-SMA antennas, which was a criteria in glinoob’s inquiry.

I’d love to hear it if you have any trouble with that driver, I could swear I have a MT7612U dongle (with internal antenna only) that gave me a lot of trouble last year or so when used with an old laptop. I’ll have to dig that dongle up and see if it is indeed the same chipset.

Edit: the troublesome dongle in question uses the MT7610U but it’s the same driver. Had problems with 5GHz wifi with it on Debian 11. It may work perfectly fine on OpenWRT - just relating my experience here and would love to hear feedback if anyone has experienced stability / connection issues with a MT761xU device on recent GL-inet and/or OpenWRT firmwares.

So far I am finding that Shadow does not want to bring up the wireless LAN when I try to boot with a MT7610U dongle plugged in, and kmod-76x0u installed. Going to have to drag out ethernet cables etc. I’ll update this post with my findings.

Here’s a sequence of events that happened while testing Shadow with latest stable GL-inet firmware and the MT7610U dongle:

  1. Factory reset Shadow, plug its WAN port into internet and my laptop into its LAN port with Ethernet cables (the idea being to avoid touching any wifi settings until the MT7610U device is plugged in), and power it up without MT7610U device plugged in
  2. Set a root password
  3. install Luci
  4. in Luci, install (without updating package lists … using what’s already there presumably from us installing Luci in the previous step) kmod-mt76x0u
  5. power cycle the router without MT7610U device installed to see if it comes up and brings the built-in radio up
  6. it brings the built-in radio up
  7. power off the router and plug in the MT7610U dongle
  8. power up the router
  9. it comes up but does not bring either radio up
  10. Luci now sees both radios, interesting values are as follows
    radio0
    Type: 80211bgn
    Bitrate: -
    SSID: GL-AR300m-7a3
    Mode: Master
    BSSID: -
    Encryption: -
    Associations: -
     
    radio1
    Type: 801.11bgnac
    Bitrate: -
    SSID: OpenWRT
    Mode: Master
    Wireless is disabled
     
    Log tidbits:
     
```
Wed Aug 10 22:41:21 2022 kern.info kernel: [   29.547372] mt76x0u 1-1:1.0: ASIC revision: 76100002 MAC revision: 76502000
Wed Aug 10 22:41:21 2022 kern.info kernel: [   30.720378] mt76x0u 1-1:1.0: EEPROM ver:02 fae:01
Wed Aug 10 22:41:21 2022 kern.debug kernel: [   31.197181] ieee80211 phy0: Selected rate control algorithm 'minstrel_ht'
Wed Aug 10 22:41:21 2022 kern.info kernel: [   31.199053] usbcore: registered new interface driver mt76x0u

Wed Aug 10 22:41:21 2022 kern.debug kernel: [   31.374528] ath: EEPROM regdomain: 0x0
Wed Aug 10 22:41:21 2022 kern.debug kernel: [   31.374538] ath: EEPROM indicates default country code should be used
Wed Aug 10 22:41:21 2022 kern.debug kernel: [   31.374541] ath: doing EEPROM country->regdmn map search
Wed Aug 10 22:41:21 2022 kern.debug kernel: [   31.374558] ath: country maps to regdmn code: 0x3a
Wed Aug 10 22:41:21 2022 kern.debug kernel: [   31.374564] ath: Country alpha2 being used: US
Wed Aug 10 22:41:21 2022 kern.debug kernel: [   31.374567] ath: Regpair used: 0x3a
Wed Aug 10 22:41:21 2022 kern.debug kernel: [   31.388120] ieee80211 phy1: Selected rate control algorithm 'minstrel_ht'
Wed Aug 10 22:41:21 2022 kern.info kernel: [   31.390054] ieee80211 phy1: Atheros AR9531 Rev:2 mem=0xb8100000, irq=13
Wed Aug 10 22:41:21 2022 user.info kernel: [   31.422048] kmodloader: done loading kernel modules from /etc/modules.d/*

Wed Aug 10 22:41:31 2022 daemon.notice procd: /etc/rc.d/S30gl_ssids: uci: Entry not found
Wed Aug 10 22:41:31 2022 daemon.notice procd: /etc/init.d/gl_ssids: uci: Entry not found
Wed Aug 10 22:41:32 2022 daemon.notice procd: /etc/rc.d/S36gl_route_policy: uci: Entry not found

Wed Aug 10 22:41:43 2022 kern.info kernel: [   56.505001] eth0: link up (100Mbps/Full duplex)
Wed Aug 10 22:41:44 2022 daemon.notice netifd: wan (2330): udhcpc: started, v1.30.1
Wed Aug 10 22:41:44 2022 daemon.notice netifd: radio0 (2092): command failed: Too many open files in system (-23)
Wed Aug 10 22:41:44 2022 user.notice mac80211: Failed command: iw phy phy1 interface add wlan0 type __ap
Wed Aug 10 22:41:44 2022 daemon.notice netifd: wan (2330): udhcpc: sending discover
```

Perhaps the built-in wifi chip is being detected as phy1 instead of phy0 and then GL-inet firmware is getting confused?

At this point I gave up and decided to try vanilla OpenWrt in the hopes of improved drivers. The Shadow does boot up just fine and recognize my MT7610U dongle with kmod-mt76x0u installed.

After verifying that, I ran directly into the fact that I don’t actually know how to set up a second radio and get it to act just like GL-inet “repeater” mode in OpenWRT, and it was quite late, so I will have to continue later.

In this case, Shadow is to be a travel router for me, so if I can get a stable & reliable connection using a MT76xxU based USB device as the client radio, the next questions will be, how easy is OpenVPN to setup in vanilla OpenWRT, and how resilient / user friendly will vanilla OpenWRT be about being a travel router. But I suppose that’s for a different thread.

I picked and ordered the MT7612U wifi adapter based on the OpenWRT section in the following link:

I first ordered one from eBay, which I thought it got lost in shipping. I then found and ordered a second one from Amazon, but the first one arrived afterwards. I ended up with 2 units and both of them work on my GL-AR300M16.

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Interesting, the author of your link / the MT7612U driver appears to maintain a collection of Linux wifi related info at https://github.com/morrownr/USB-WiFi which includes a “short list” of “superstar” wifi adapters:

https://github.com/morrownr/USB-WiFi/blob/main/home/The_Short_List.md

This doesn’t contain information directly about how well any of these do or don’t work with OpenWRT or GL-inet’s firmware, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

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Update: I’ve gotten hold of an Alfa AWUS036ACHM unit which is an MT7610U device.

Got it set up on Shadow after a little trial & error as to which kernel modules to install. It functions, but not well (yet). I suspect Luci is not quite up to the task even in latest stable OpenWRT, and I will need to figure out how to do all this on the command line.

Observations:

  • the device is detected as 2 radios, a Generic 802.11bg and a Generic 802.11nac
  • however, the so-called Generic 802.11bg seems to be able to associate to 5GHz networks as a client…
  • I think, though am not sure, that networks added to the Generic 802.11nac radio might in some cases later appear in the Generic 802.11bg radio.
  • I was able to get it to act in client mode (associated to an access point thru the Alfa unit, using it as WWAN and NATing packets from LAN to WAN thru it etc) only for a very brief time, loaded one or two web pages, then the connection died for some reason.

So, in short, the first MT7610U device I tested shows plenty of life signs, but it doesn’t Just Work™ in Luci as of now.

EDIT: I just discovered that OpenWRT 22.03 is now out for Shadow, so maybe everything I wrote earlier today is moot! Going to start testing on 22.03.

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So far the MT7610 is better handled in Luci in OpenWRT 22.03. The previous issue with it being detected as 2 radios, etc, is gone - once kmod-mt76x0u is installed and the device is power cycled, it detects a “Generic 802.11bgnac” radio.

I’ve gotten the device to associate with an access point in Client mode, but it’s not getting DHCP for some reason. More to do. But 22.03 looks promising!

My MT7610U devices don’t work well in client mode on 5GHz, among other problems. This includes with the latest snapshot release as of October 2022.

One useful bit of information: mainline Linux kernel mt76 and OpenWRT mt76 are not identical. So just because something is fixed in mainline doesn’t mean the patch has made it into OpenWRT yet, and vice versa.

Unfortunately it looks like there are still outstanding driver bugs in OpenWRT mt76 that affect setting and/or reading transmit power / txpower with MT76xx chipsets as well. The 5GHz radios on some of these devices just do not work well for some functions with current OpenWRT mt76.