Optware is the name of a software repository shared around a number of small linux appliances to host useful packages, like web servers, utility programs and similar. The main website is at http://www.nslu2-linux.org/wiki/Optware, but ASUS have automated the installation onto your own router as they use the same infrastructure to deliver some of their advertised features.

To enable Optware, you need an unused (we'll wipe it - so make sure you don't need anything on it!) USB stick or external hard disk to plug into the back of the router, and to follow the below procedure:

  1. Get a command prompt for your router - see Getting command line access).
  2. Wipe the USB stick & format it with a fresh Ext2 partition - see Formatting a USB stick on the router.
  3. Initialise the Optware installation via the ASUS supplied admin website - see the next section

If you have already plugged in a USB stick & successfully installed one of the ASUS "USB Applications" like "Download Master", "Media Server" or "AI Cloud" have already have Optware installed! But if the partition is not Ext2 there might be permission issues in the future, so I'd recommend starting again…

Installing Optware

After getting your newly formatted/blank USB stick, we'll use the ASUS scripts to install Optware for us:

  1. Visit the web management pages (http://router.asus.com/APP_Installation.asp), choose an application like "Media Server" and press the "Install" link.
  2. Choose the USB disc to install on (likely "sda", or the label if you added one when formatting) and the ASUS code whirls for a few minutes downloading stuff - let it.
  3. Once finished, if you don't actually want to use the ASUS application "Uninstall" or "Disable" it - this will leave Optware initialised on the USB stick anyway.

Optware commands

To install new stuff you need to use the ipkg command at the router command line, which is documented elsewhere (e.g. http://buffalo.nas-central.org/wiki/Overview_of_the_ipkg_package_management_system) or you can use the below cheatsheet:

Command Description
ipkg update Get/update the list of packages available from the Internet repositories
ipkg list List packages available from the Internet repositories for you to install
ipkg list_installed List all packages and dependencies you/ASUS have previously installed to the router
ipkg list | grep -i <searchtext> Search through available packages to find something interesting
ipkg info <packagename> Get information on a give package - e.g. version numbers, description, immediate dependencies
ipkg install <packagename> Install a given package plus dependencies
ipkg remove <packagename> Uninstall a given package only (not any auto-installed dependencies)

BTW, "dependencies" are low level packages which are needed for the package to work. E.g. when installing the SSH server Dropbear with "ipkg install dropbear", it will also install the "psmisc" package for you. Not a problem, but if you install/remove a lot you may have some unnecessary stuff cluttering up your space.

ipkg update will complain about a "wget server error" - it's just that ASUS haven't quite set up their package repository for ASUS custom stuff (AiCloud, etc.) properly. You can ignore it, the update still gets the list of latest packages.

Interesting Packages

There are a lot of packages available - over a thousand - but some of the more interesting ones (at least IMHO) are:

Package Description
nano A simple text editor for editing configuration files
dropbear For SSH access - see Dropbear
openvpn To establish VPN tunnels to other OpenVPN systems you may have - see OpenVPN
rsync A file synchronisation tool - useful for backing up the USB stick to a local PC
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