Like many of my projects, this story starts with some late night online shopping. In this case I was browsing some government auction sites, which are always a good source for finding things with an incredible amount of engineering put into them that you didn't know you needed (or at least couldn't justify spending money on). I saw a lot of some fancy looking networking gear with the word Cisco plastered all over them, so I put in the minimum bid and went to sleep for the night. To my surprise I woke up the next morning with an email saying I had won the auction —after managing the squeeze a 100-mile day trip into my 3 hour break between classes— I was now one box of networking gear richer.
So what did I end up with?
Now if you're unfamiliar with Cisco meraki gear here's the shtick, it's all managed by "the cloud" which we all know is just a way of saying someone else's computer. The target audience for this product line is small to medium businesses who either have a lot of remote employees or small branches that can't realistically have an IT staff member to physically set up every device. There's hardware targeted towards single worker and small branch deployment, and software with a heavy focus on VPNs and quick deployment of saved profiles, all managed through a web portal. Now these devices might be aimed at small businesses, but cisco's idea of cheap differs from most other brands, and there's yearly licencing costs to match. So how would a business protect this investment at a small branch office with likely low security? (and prevent idiot users from wiping configurations) Well when you want to use a Meraki device you have to claim it in your dashboard using the serial number, and if you have a device that has been claimed by someone else than it's effectively bricked for you. In my case, 5 of the 8 devices has been claimed. I shot an email back to the person responsible for the auction, and within a week she managed to track down whoever decommissioned these within their organization and now I was free to do whatever. Which of course means flip as much as I can on eBay and tear apart whatever's left to poke at their insides.
The story doesn't quite end there however, I ended up learning a lot about this gear while I had it and was really intrigued by the idea of hacking something like OpenWRT onto that beefy Meraki mx100. I knew however that the other gear that I didn't sell would keep me occupied for a while and sold off the MX100. It wasn't long until I had discovered a set of 3 claimed Meraki mx84s for next to nothing on ebay, and suddenly I now had a new end goal along three shiny aluminum and silicon chances to get there.