Installing OpenWRT on a Firebox X550e

I recently came into possession of a Firebox X550e Core that was thrown out due to a bad power supply. Turns out OpenWRT (or almost any OS for that matter) is pretty easy to install on this thing. Read on for some photos and a how-to.


First issue: The dead power supply. Turns out it uses a standard 20-pin ATX power connector and a 4-pin CPU power connector, so almost any PC power supply can run it.

Second issue: Installing an OS.


  • Linux box with a serial port
  • Null-modem serial cable
  • CF card reader
  • A partition management program (such as Gparted)
  • A program for communicating over a serial port (such as Screen)

The process is fairly simple. Hell, the default firmware even uses GRUB and it has it’s own partition, so I didn’t even have to install a bootloader.

The CF card has 6 partitions by default. We only need a boot partition and a root partition. Open up Gparted or another partition editor and delete everything except the first partition, since it’s where the GRUB is installed. Then, make an EXT4 partition over the rest of the drive (I created it within the extended partition that was already on the card):

grub cf card

Then head over to the appropriate OpenWRT downloads directory and grab “openwrt-x86-generic-rootfs.tar.gz” and “openwrt-x86-generic-vmlinuz”. Extract the rootfs onto your data partition on the CF card, and place the kernel on the boot partition. Next, fire up an editor and edit the /grub/menu.lst on the boot partition. It should end up something like this:

serial --unit=0 --speed=115200 --word=8 --parity=no --stop=1
terminal --silent --timeout=1 serial console

title OpenWRT
   root (hd0,0)
   kernel /openwrt-x86-generic-vmlinuz rw root=/dev/sda5 console=ttyS0,115200 libata.dma=0

Replace the “5” in “sda5″ with whatever partition number your data partition has. However, keep it as “sda” since it will be the first storage device on the firebox. Now, go to the x86 packages directory and download the kmod-skge package, which provides support for the onboard ethernet. Stick this package somewhere on the data partition.

Now, connect a serial cable to the Firebox and your PC. Use “screen /dev/ttyS0 115200″ to communicate over the port (press ^A k y to end the session, or ^A d to detach so you can later reattach by using “screen -r”). Unmount, sync, and eject the CF card. Slide it back into the Firebox’s CF slot and power it on. After a while, you should see GRUB come up over the serial console. Let the system continue to boot. It will hang a couple times for up to 30 seconds a couple times during boot (I suspect this is due to a slow card since the drive activity light is solid during these hangs) (this is solved by adding a kernel option to the bootloader, I have edited the post to reflect this) but eventually it will tell you to press enter to activate the console (pay attention, as you may miss it due to other messages appearing after it). Note that this is not the same as the message about pressing f to enter failsafe mode. The normal OpenWRT console should come up.

First, you should probably set a password using “passwd”. Then, use “opkg install <file>” to install the kmod-skge package you downloaded earlier. Once this is installed, ethernet should start working. However, it is likely not configured correctly. If you know what configuration you’d like to use, go ahead and configure it. The below /etc/config/network allows it to act as a simple node on a 192.168/16 network with a static IP:

config interface 'loopback'
   option ifname 'lo'
   option proto 'static'
   option ipaddr ''
   option netmask ''

config interface 'lan'
   option ifname 'eth0'
   option proto 'static'
   option ipaddr ''
   option netmask ''
   option gateway ''
   option dns ''

You should also configure /etc/config/dhcp so that the “lan” section looks like this so that it doesn’t start trying to answer DHCP requests:

config dhcp 'lan'
   option interface 'lan'
   option ignore '1'

Lastly, you will most like want to “rm /etc/resolv.conf” and then “ln -s /tmp/ /etc/resolv.conf”. This causes the system to directly use the DNS servers provided by your network config (or by DHCP if you’re using it), rather than trying to do everything through it’s own DNS server. Issue a “/etc/init.d/networking restart” after you’ve done your network configuration. Try pinging things to verify your connectivity. If everything works, you can start configuring it over the network rather than over the serial cable, and start using it as a normal OpenWRT device.

Firebox Details and Photos


00:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Mobile 915GM/PM/GMS/910GML Express Processor to DRAM Controller (rev 04)
00:02.0 VGA compatible controller: Intel Corporation Mobile 915GM/GMS/910GML Express Graphics Controller (rev 04)
00:1d.0 USB controller: Intel Corporation 82801FB/FBM/FR/FW/FRW (ICH6 Family) USB UHCI #1 (rev 04)
00:1d.1 USB controller: Intel Corporation 82801FB/FBM/FR/FW/FRW (ICH6 Family) USB UHCI #2 (rev 04)
00:1d.2 USB controller: Intel Corporation 82801FB/FBM/FR/FW/FRW (ICH6 Family) USB UHCI #3 (rev 04)
00:1d.3 USB controller: Intel Corporation 82801FB/FBM/FR/FW/FRW (ICH6 Family) USB UHCI #4 (rev 04)
00:1d.7 USB controller: Intel Corporation 82801FB/FBM/FR/FW/FRW (ICH6 Family) USB2 EHCI Controller (rev 04)
00:1e.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801 Mobile PCI Bridge (rev d4)
00:1f.0 ISA bridge: Intel Corporation 82801FBM (ICH6M) LPC Interface Bridge (rev 04)
00:1f.1 IDE interface: Intel Corporation 82801FB/FBM/FR/FW/FRW (ICH6 Family) IDE Controller (rev 04)
00:1f.3 SMBus: Intel Corporation 82801FB/FBM/FR/FW/FRW (ICH6 Family) SMBus Controller (rev 04)
01:00.0 Ethernet controller: Marvell Technology Group Ltd. 88E8001 Gigabit Ethernet Controller (rev 13)
01:01.0 Ethernet controller: Marvell Technology Group Ltd. 88E8001 Gigabit Ethernet Controller (rev 13)
01:02.0 Ethernet controller: Marvell Technology Group Ltd. 88E8001 Gigabit Ethernet Controller (rev 13)
01:03.0 Ethernet controller: Marvell Technology Group Ltd. 88E8001 Gigabit Ethernet Controller (rev 13)
01:04.0 Network and computing encryption device: Cavium Networks Nitrox XL N1 Lite


processor       : 0
vendor_id       : GenuineIntel
cpu family      : 6
model           : 9
model name      : Intel(R) Celeron(R) M processor         1300MHz
stepping        : 5
microcode       : 0x45
cpu MHz         : 1299.969
cache size      : 512 KB
fdiv_bug        : no
hlt_bug         : no
f00f_bug        : no
coma_bug        : no
fpu             : yes
fpu_exception   : yes
cpuid level     : 2
wp              : yes
flags           : fpu vme de pse tsc msr mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 tm pbe bts
bogomips        : 2599.93
clflush size    : 64
cache_alignment : 64
address sizes   : 32 bits physical, 32 bits virtual
power management:


The firebox has 2 DDR2 slots, but I can’t get it to see anything over 1GB of RAM. As for ports, it has a keyboard and mouse ports (one of them seems to be a PS/2 port, not sure what the other is). It has a port labeled “CN V A1″ which I have no idea about. It has solder pads for a mini-PCI slot, a PATA port, 2 USB ports, and another serial port. There appears to be some kind of PATA connector on the motherboard although it doesn’t look like any of the normal IDE connectors. Its has a CF slot, a PCIe x4, and a PCIe x8. There’s also a JTAG connector, a clear CMOS jumper, and a couple blocks of DIP switches.

5 Responses to “Installing OpenWRT on a Firebox X550e”

  1. Jeff Says:


    You stated that it would be easy to install almost any OS. So I could install Linux on an old X550e and use it as a server?


  2. Matt Ventura Says:

    Yes, I was able to get Debian to work. Since Debian includes the necessary modules for the hardware to begin with, the only real work that needs to be done is reconfiguring the bootloader and inittab to use the serial port.

    You may run into issues with larger SD cards. As per the links in the article, if your card is larger than the limit in the BIOS, you will have to manually set up the card in the BIOS to get it to think that the card is smaller than it really is. I think it may be necessary to have a dedicated /boot partition and keep this partition smaller than the fake size you set up in the BIOS.

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