Author Topic: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?  (Read 76647 times)

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Offline sairon

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Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« on: March 06, 2014, 10:20:06 am »
Hello,

In the recent days I have been in discussion with people who both created or backed a Kickstarter project known as the Soap router: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/soaprouter/soap-first-smart-router-w-touch-display-powered-by

I'm in a serious doubt about this project - as I have some experience with building embedded devices, I summarized my finding and wrote a post on reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/kickstarter/comments/1zjhvg/warning_soap_router_a_soapy_bubble_of_scam/

Now, because my investigation does not lead any further, I'd like to ask the EEVblog community to help me and enlighten the problem a bit. I know there are many people here who have experience with hardware development and roughly know the costs. Maybe they'll prove that I was wrong, so I'll be happy to hear any ideas why this project could be real or not.

Thanks,
Jan
« Last Edit: March 06, 2014, 10:44:44 am by GeoffS »
 

Offline sync

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2014, 01:43:00 pm »
A firewall with tons of other services and applications. What a great idea - NOT! :palm: :--
 

Offline madires

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2014, 03:21:38 pm »
A router running Android? Ouch! Those guys don't have any idea of networking! I'd would take Soap Essentials, ditch any wireless toys, add two WAN ports and make it a nice plattform for OpenWrt.
 

Offline Fsck

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2014, 06:11:00 pm »
A router running Android? Ouch! Those guys don't have any idea of networking! I'd would take Soap Essentials, ditch any wireless toys, add two WAN ports and make it a nice plattform for OpenWrt.

So ewww! I would just sell a haswell-based mitx appliance for people to run sophos UTM home edition (and probably do a ridiculous easy low tech background guide). I still don't know why intrusion prevention systems and deep packet inspection aren't desired by everyone as standard features in routers. (real time antivirus/malware aren't because typically, to get to 1Gbps throughput, you're looking at effectively a <=2 generation old mid-high end desktop)

and I'm curious what they'll claim as their virus/malware protection throughput. unless they're using a signature database from like 2004 or their v/m protection doesn't act like most "enterprise" UTMs.

if you needed to drop the price down to consumer-level, just throw it on one of those cheap celeron/atom mitx boards and limit the signature database so it doesn't need to work as hard (this would sort of be a pain). but, at this point, you're probably(almost certainly) not going to see >40Mbps (I'd really be quite amused if you do get more than 25Mbps) of real time antivirus/malware throughput, but probably still >5x more than any current arm router can do.

^All the above assumes that there isn't anything else consuming cpu cycles other than the UTM and routing functions.

moving on:
--Soap FlyPaper
The FlyPaper is an exclusive feature that allows for you to trap potential hackers who make attempts to invade your network. What the software basically does is that it creates an ‘artificial vulnerability’ area, which lures hackers into accessing your network. What the hacker doesn't realize is that s/he is now trapped.

--Soap Ninja
Not sure what the ninja mode is all about? Well, it’s actually a mode that makes it possible for you to browse the Internet while making sure that your network remains hidden from all other unconnected devices. What’s so good about it? The fact that it would be extremely hard for hackers to access your network!

--Soap Spy
Want to keep an eye on what the other users on your network are up to? That’s easy! With Soap’s SpyMode, you would be able to see in real-time what users from your network are doing. Through Soap, you can actually stream their screen over its touch display! This way, you would be in a far better position to check on the content that your children are watching – you would also be able to prevent someone from gaining access to your personal data!

>> I don't know what hell those 3 functions actually are or how they're implemented. For "Spy", I'm not sure what the hell it is unless you permanently compromise all the clients on your network. For "Ninja" and "FlyPaper", I don't have a freaking clue about what they really mean with their vague descriptions but it does sound like very good marketing to the masses.
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Offline Kean

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2014, 07:45:52 pm »
That is way too many features in a router (for security and sanity), and priced too cheap to be viable.
Despite all the effort they've put in to meet the Kickstarter prototype rules, there is too many red flags for me.
Oh, and yeah the hardware development history is very weird - but I couldn't see any major similarities to Bunnies Novena PCBA.

I'd suggest you submit it to Ch00f at Drop-kicker.com for a review - they have some more visibility to the press and backers.
 

Offline minibutmany

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2014, 09:18:15 pm »
The prototype just looks like a nexus 7 glued to a plastic box.
 

Offline sairon

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2014, 09:19:30 pm »
Oh, and yeah the hardware development history is very weird - but I couldn't see any major similarities to Bunnies Novena PCBA.

If you look at the pictures of Soap's PCB (the screenshots of layout and 3D renders - probably from Altium) and the layout of bunnie's Novena board you can see on the Novena wiki page, you can tell that they are exactly the same - focus on the layout of the connectors, positions of chips etc...

Edit: What the hell? They deleted those screenshots from the page! Well, I have a screenshot of the page anyway, if you wish, I can send it here.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2014, 09:23:52 pm by sairon »
 

Offline Kean

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2014, 09:32:44 pm »
Edit: What the hell? They deleted those screenshots from the page! Well, I have a screenshot of the page anyway, if you wish, I can send it here.
Ah, that explains why I couldn't see what you were talking about.  The only Altium thing I saw was the block diagram.  I did look hard (although I can't see the backer onluy updates).

The prototype just looks like a nexus 7 glued to a plastic box.
Yep, just what I was thinking!  With some connectors glued in place to make it look more convincing...

It is certainly possible they contracted a firm (Sage was mentioned) to do a prototype PCB design.  It would have been costly, and they obviously didn't provide much advice on business or pricing strategy and how to estimate COGS.
 

Offline sairon

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Offline Kean

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2014, 10:09:28 pm »
OK, agreed!
They've gone now, but were definitely identical to the Novena layout
http://bunniefoo.com/novena/
 

Offline Kean

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2014, 12:24:32 am »
I couldn't find a copy of the old project page anywhere, other than your captures.  Not that I think they're fake - it wouldn't be the first time for a project creator to stoop so low.

Very often I see crowd funding project descriptions getting edited, usually to improve readability or add additional info/perks/stretch goals/faqs, but sometimes for more suspect reasons (like removing ripped off images).

So I wonder if Kickstarter keep an (internal) archive of older versions of the project page, which in this case would provide evidence of deceit regarding the PCB screenshots.

IGG seem to be pretty lax with stuff like this, but KS generally have a much better handle on things (e.g. deletion of comments).
 

Offline Rasz

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2014, 08:03:22 pm »
pcb comparison is on hackaday
http://hackaday.com/2014/03/07/soap-the-home-automation-router-and-kickstarter-scam/

Looks like over enthusiasm to me, not a scam. They are planning to learn how to route 6 layer pcbs AFTER campaign ends, so far their hardware hacking was limited to asking on wandaboard forum how to connect LCD to their devboard.

Will end up like USB analyzer KS from 2-3 years ago? where dude used KS money to buy Altium license so he could learn how to do layout :o :D
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Offline Kean

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2014, 06:27:46 am »
So Soap have posted an update with credible looking PCB layout.  We can only see the top side, and it is pretty low resolution, but it does include the expected parts.  Who knows if it is actually routed or just has the most obvious components quickly placed to placate us.  It almost looks like they took the Novena PCB files as a starting point, moved things around, deleted a few things, and then added the extra ethernet and wireless modules.  All of which is certainly allowed *IF* they abide by the CC-BY-SA license.

They've also shown a video which includes a representative from Sage Electronics indicating they are working with the Soap team, but we already heard that they hadn't really done anything yet, and it is pretty clear that the project owners are not hardware designers.
 

Offline TMM

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #13 on: March 08, 2014, 10:47:32 am »
For "Spy", I'm not sure what the hell it is unless you permanently compromise all the clients on your network.
Probably just the same as every other linux router can do - display content from plaintext protocols and URLs being visited.
 

Offline tom66

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #14 on: March 09, 2014, 04:25:06 pm »
The new board looks like someone has thrown on random components - for example, there's no termination network for the HDMI, no visible DC-DC converter inductors, no termination for the RAM, and a large number of (very expensive) large format ceramic caps.
There could be more on the bottom, but it sure is an odd board.
 

Offline NANDBlog

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #15 on: March 09, 2014, 08:47:50 pm »
"We initially chose the Arduino" for a router. I cannot take anyone seriously who writes this sentence. But it is funny to read their "process of developing the hardware". We f*cked around with some devboards, someone got a 3D printer, now we need money.
Not to mention that most routers have ASICs in them for a reason. Speed and multiple Ethernet connection. Not a quad core ARM, even it has quite some speed : http://boundarydevices.com/i-mx6-ethernet/
 

Offline madires

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #16 on: March 09, 2014, 10:09:42 pm »
Yep, there are special network processors for high throughput. They include things like hardware NAT and so on. Even the chipsets of some inexpensive SOHO DSL routers got some basic features in hardware. Performance tests of software based NAT vs. proprietary hardware NAT on such a SOHO router showed about twice the throughput for hardware based NAT, and that's just for cheap Broadcom/Atheros chipsets.
 

Offline chicken

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #17 on: March 12, 2014, 04:29:16 am »
Lots of hand waving in this interview with one of the creators on Hack a Day:
http://hackaday.com/2014/03/11/soap-drama-an-interview-with-the-soap-creators/
 

Offline tom66

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #18 on: March 12, 2014, 11:26:11 am »
They spec'd a gigabit chip that is NRND and unavailable everywhere. They really don't have a clue. This is another Mu Optics.
 

Offline madires

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #19 on: March 12, 2014, 04:58:59 pm »
They spec'd a gigabit chip that is NRND and unavailable everywhere. They really don't have a clue. This is another Mu Optics.

The Quad Core Freescale i.MX CPU supports just a single GigE with a maximum throughput of 470Mb/s for both directions added. In reality it's less than 400Mbit/s. That means that the maximum throughput for NAT or routing is 200Mb/s. You're right, they don't have any clue.
 

Offline tom66

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #20 on: March 12, 2014, 06:28:14 pm »
Yeah, you really want a dedicated gigabit chipset - probably what is used in your average router.

However, I think if you want gigabit speeds with firewall/antivirus(huh?)/etc. you're having a laugh, unless you go to enterprise grade hardware. How are you going to dynamically scan that kind of data with commodity hardware? The switch fabric required is typically 2 x NUM PORTS x SPEED, which mean they will need to be inspecting on-the-fly about 10Gbit/s data rate (1.25GB/s!)   with minimal latency (they claim it's good for gaming, etc.) whilst also running that silly tablet frontend.

I don't even see how you could do a practical antivirus scanner at 1.25GB/s. It would require constant processing of data to look for pattern matches against a database of 100,000+ signatures, this is not to mention that most databases aren't free and you're probably looking at a massively parallel ASIC to do this........

They have one poor hardware engineer, who's probably way above himself, no prototype, nothing practical, and they're going to take everyone's money and deliver nothing. It's like Mu all over again.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2014, 06:30:37 pm by tom66 »
 

Offline madires

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #21 on: March 12, 2014, 10:36:10 pm »
However, I think if you want gigabit speeds with firewall/antivirus(huh?)/etc. you're having a laugh, unless you go to enterprise grade hardware. How are you going to dynamically scan that kind of data with commodity hardware? The switch fabric required is typically 2 x NUM PORTS x SPEED, which mean they will need to be inspecting on-the-fly about 10Gbit/s data rate (1.25GB/s!)   with minimal latency (they claim it's good for gaming, etc.) whilst also running that silly tablet frontend.

The numbers would be correct if each PHY would be a dedicated Ethernet port of the CPU. Actually the typical SOHO router has an Ethernet switch built in. So in most cases the traffic is limited to the CPU's Ethernet ports. The standard design is a dedicated port for WAN, one for LAN (connected to the switch with 4 PHYs) and another one for WLAN (or two for dual band). Since most people just want to filter the incoming WAN traffic the requirement would be to filter/scan 1Gb/s. But that's still too much for the CPU of a SOHO router.
 

Offline sync

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #22 on: March 12, 2014, 10:46:52 pm »
Since most people just want to filter the incoming WAN traffic the requirement would be to filter/scan 1Gb/s. But that's still too much for the CPU of a SOHO router.
It's not needed. SoHo routers aren't used on an 1Gb/s WAN connection.
 

Offline Fsck

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #23 on: March 13, 2014, 07:06:27 am »
For "Spy", I'm not sure what the hell it is unless you permanently compromise all the clients on your network.
Probably just the same as every other linux router can do - display content from plaintext protocols and URLs being visited.

as I quoted them: "you can actually stream their screen over its touch display", sort of implies to me that they want you to think you can view the screen of the clients on the router's display.

to hit 1Gb/s, you can probably work it on a reasonably modern Intel quad-core. You can do your network scanning during low-usage time.
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Offline madires

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Re: Soap router - HW specs too good to be true?
« Reply #24 on: March 13, 2014, 02:29:34 pm »
Since most people just want to filter the incoming WAN traffic the requirement would be to filter/scan 1Gb/s. But that's still too much for the CPU of a SOHO router.
It's not needed. SoHo routers aren't used on an 1Gb/s WAN connection.

It's uncommon right now ;-) But you can get 200Mb/s Internet access in some towns via cable TV or FTTH/PON (GigE). A quad core CPU >1GHz with some network enhancements done in hardware should be able to process a GigE WAN at wire speed (just networking, no malware scanning). I assume that SOHO routers with such CPUs will be common in 2-3 years. At the moment most vendors present their first router with a dual core ARM >=1GHz. 
 


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