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a few basic hardware questions


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i'd like to give the pineapple a go and have been reading and watching quite a lot of hak5 / openwrt stuff but there are still a few things i can't get my head around.

I almost don't have any wifi hardware at hand, so i'm gonna have to buy everything and I wouldn't want to get things wrong.

I'm a total wifi noob, never used it (on purpose), but i'm quite fluent in linux so if the answer is in the range of “yes but you'll have to do that manually” it should be fine. I also do my fare share of hardware hacking. My setup will also have to deal with portability.

1- I understand something quite important is having an atheros chipset (any?) but i don't quite get why some setups show the AWUS036NHA (ar9271) added to an ap121u (ar9331)..

Am I right to assume that it's only a matter of signal range (20dbm vs 30dbm for the NHA) or are there some protocol features only available on the NHA ar9271 chipset ?

In other words can I do everything, pentesting wise, without an additional NHA ?

2- I was going for a tplink TL-MR3020 which is easily found in my area but the smaller 4mib flash size makes it necessary to use a usb stick to install the pineapple software so I decided to try and get the alfa ap121u.

Are there any hidden goodies on the tplink that would make it more valuable, power consumption and so on..

2b- should I consider other hardwares with atheros / 8Mib flash ?

3- One thing I really don't get with the alfa hardware is their rs232 flash header (for a clean flash / unbrick).

Is it a proprietary protocol, making it mandatory to buy that quite expensive peace of junk.. sorry, interface ?

Or can you manage your way around that with a regular pc serial port ? And maybe with some minor hardware setup ?

4- one last thing I know nothing about is antennas.

If I don't get the additional nha device, is it still relevant to plug a better 9dbi antenna on the ap121u ?

The tplink does not have an external antenna and that was also a hardware hack I was going to do, so the same question applies.

I'm pretty sure some of those questions are quite basic and have been asked before, sorry about that, but I couldn't really figure out the AWUS036NHA question by looking at the specifications.


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1. Atheros is the only wifi vendor with open source drivers. As such the modified Karma Hostapd drivers are written for this hardware. Ath5k or ath9k should work. Previously the pineapple was on the AR2315 chipset for example.

2. I've gotten it working, albeit stripped down, on TP-Link hardware. It worked but the low memory and weak antenna was limiting. Also it's not FCC certified so if you're using it in the United States it isn't exactly legal. The AP121U is. I don't know of any other hardware in its class.

3. The most popular bootloader for this type of device is uboot. Another is redboot. Both support flashing over Ethernet, though the former is typically not configured as such. Any cheap UART / TTL will work - just keep voltages in mind. The ALFA dev board is nice, but not necessary for most.

Whatever wifi hardware you go with keep in mind inherent limitations of the chipset as far as transmit power is concerned. You're really going to want a high gain antenna attached. 9dbi is a good place to start. Google the relationship between dbm power, dBi gain and EIRP and it should all make sense.

Good luck! When I first started playing with pineapples I knew only basic Linux and embedded hardware. It's really a fulfilling project to take on.



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hi darren, thx for your answers.

Well okay i'll skip the 4Mibs flash devices, it's not much fun to fight for free space.

Thx for confirming the serial uart ttl info, i'll probably use a raspberry pi to do some ttl level uart flashing if needed, my pc serial headers have rs232 levels so it won't do any good.

With that in mind i'll stick to the alfa ap121u.

Anyways, i did get most of the answers i was looking for from your set of wifi hacking workshop videos, very nice intro to the whole thing.

I must admin the pineapple is actually a side project of the main thing i'm working on which is a ultra cheap and mobile, raspberry pi based, wireless (wifi) hd video transmitter, that is supposed to equip some medium to large size drones.

I think i'll go full starwars on this with directional antenna, if i can find or build a very small one, and tracking.

thx again.

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