Free Linux Computer From A Printer’s WiFi Card

Whether it’s building a 3D scanning system with a Kinect, or using a USB TV tuner dongle for software defined radio, there are a lot of interesting off-schedule uses for commodity hardware. The latest comes from the fruitful mind of [sjMoquin] and a Lexmark N2050 WiFi card that runs Linux.

This build started off with a Lexmark X6570 all-in-one printer available for about $100 USD on eBay. This printer comes packaged with a Lexmark N2050 WiFi card running BusyBox. After soldering a few wires to the USB/UART pins on the N2050, [sjMoquin] had a very cheap but highly useful single board computer running Linux.

There is still a little more work to be done – the WiFi and USB on the N2050 aren’t currently supported. [sjMoquin] and [Julia Longtin] are working on that, so a fully functional embedded Linux board based on a printer’s WiFi card should be available soon. It might be time to hit up eBay for a few of these cards, you know.

40 thoughts on “Free Linux Computer From A Printer’s WiFi Card

    1. Man, you trolls just never get it! So what if there is a better or cheaper way? This is a DIFFERENT way to futz with hardware on hand — where’s the fun in making the same build twice?

      1. [Brian], I guess it WAS you that started the whole $100 bit… the authors of this hack never suggested that you BUY a printer to do this!

        But in any case… that’s NOT THE POINT. This hack underscores the presence of perfectly respectable embedded linux systems in many pieces of everyday hardware. In this case, a piece of hardware that is sold below cost as a way of making money from ink cartridges.

        More of these, please! – and to [sjMoquin]: “We salute you”.

  1. if the printer is free…
    (curbside or donation and yes i do find em curbside, and working)
    …then this hack shows true hardcore hardware hackers/modifiers/reuse-recycle-eers at thier best!

    keep up the good work, and in case people dont get it,… the true dream of us kind of people is to be able to pick up any random curbside device with a uC in it and be able to remove it and use it inside some project instead of the 5$.

    anyone can place an order for 5$, but it takes “true grit” for someone to rework an idea to make use of a random curbside sub-module (sub-circuitboard)


    1. Sometimes it seems that there are two kinds of hackers: Those just scraping by, and those who can afford to blow $3000 on materials for a project and then forget to build it. The ones without the money who have to scrounge are typically a bit more capable and driven. I say this as one of the latter.

      There are thousands and thousands of old guys out there who have fully equipped machine shops with CNC mills and all the tools needed to build anything from birdhouses to a full sized airplane, minisub or giant robot… but it all sits there gathering dust because they’re no longer motivated to invent and tinker.

      And I say this as a guy who has easily wasted 30% or more of my lifetime income on stupid tech projects and ridiculous tools that I later sold for pennies on the dollar to kids that took the time to tell me their dreams and could convince me that they had the flame.

      The guys who ask why you’d bother aren’t all bad. It’s just that every dollar you earn eats away a little at your dreams of building a spaceship; every year you’ve been able to afford to empty a radio shack of small parts makes you forget the joy of looking at an old PCB and thinking “God, look at all these parts!”

      There are exceptions, thank god. Go Space-X!

    2. Yea when the apocalypse comes (or your pay cheque hasn’t been deposited yet) and you can’t order then exact parts and tools off the internet people like sjMoquin will still be hacking.

      1. Matt,
        to be fair… if novels and movies have taught us anything about our survival, it’s that large single board computers will be venerated after the apocalypse.

        Also, Apple computer products can be used by everyone from Will Smith to a rag-tag band of Nazi Space Zombies to control spacecraft of both domestic and imported models, as well as make contact with alien civilizations.

        Scrounging is a necessary and important strain of human behavior. If I’m ever stuck rebuilding civilization from scratch, I’d want to pick those guys for the lifeboats.

        PS to charlie: It already ran linux. I can’t think of any modern printer line that isn’t running hacked 2.2 or newer kernels.

      1. Admitting ignorance is the first step toward enlightenment. (Just made that up) It seems to have something to do with proving prior patents don’t apply to your product.

  2. This is pretty cool. I bought one of these printers at my local goodwill a few years ago for10$ thinking I could do the same thing. Fizzled out, but has been a great printer since then. And now, when it dies, someone else will have done the legwork for me :-)

  3. nice.

    I am always saying people on my country waste lots of good stuff throwing it away, instead of re use/ recycle. Such behavior do not match with our economic situation (3rd world)

    this hack is a good example how to re use stuff that people usually throw away.

    def i will follow this project, thanks for sharing

  4. It’s not really right to compare getting something out of old hardware with products you can buy if they do the same thing. It’s a totally different kind of usage and posts such as these can give others opportunity to hack their own.
    On the other hand, it is fair to compare a new product with another in terms of cost and features.

  5. I really like this kind of presentation. What intrigues me is the fact the board in question is also host to a LAN port{unpopulated}that very well may be a easy to find generic like that found in embedded boards similar to this one. And also I had noticed that in the boot up attempt that the board was trying to load info from the printer in terms of hosts and device details ; makes for an interesting idea on using the card as an add on for a weather station etc. the external parts being sensors and what not tied to a peripheral board or w/e.

  6. i have been thinking of doing this type of thing with screen and board from a printer i had seen by a dumpster.
    found some doc’s for the screen but not the board it attaches to.
    the screen is touch and the board it goes to seems to be a type of motherboard (imbedded Linux OS ?).
    haven’t been able to figure out how to power it up plus i basically ripped it out of the printer lol.
    i can post some pics of it if anyone is interested and has time to give some pointers .

  7. If the link to our wiki doesn’t work for you, just try again in a few minutes. I’ve not noticed any downtime, and the box that is hosting the wiki seems to be at it’s normal CPU/Mem/Swap load. It is a small VPS, so the number of simultaneous Apache clients is limited, but it will automatically recover as soon as it isn’t hammered into the ground.

  8. I just stumbled upon this page and Im so glad to see it. I am working on a similar project. I am using the control panel from a lexmark s605. after taking this printer apart I found not only does it have a nice wireless card but the card just uses a mini B connector to plug into the control panel. Also the controll panel is using an arm9 series cpu and decent ram and a decent rom. Ive been trying to flash an image of android or some other form of linux on it and turn it into a little tablet. when I finish I am definitely posting it here! Oh I also found out you dont need the main board to supply power to the control panel there is a main power input you can use instead you dont even need the printers main board.

  9. All of the mundane “Appliance Operators” are in a world of not even suspecting what is “Inside” things. We live “Inside” all things.

    From which- perhaps the largest divergence between Hackers and Mundanes is in our cherishing knowing not only what IS inside, It’s the being able to DO THINGS with that knowledge.

    Armchair Hackers have a place by intelligent Commentary but the actual Do-Ocracy is where many of us live. I have a stack of Wireless Printers awaiting the day when they get replaced by CIS boxes- and then they may be hacked into controllers. One potential fate being a brainboard for my pool cleaner.

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