this is my first message to this great forum, and I am sorry it can only be in English as I do not speak German.
Fritz!box Fon Wlan is a wonderful piece of hardware but it is hardly known (and thus distributed) outside Germany.
For this reason, if you live outside Germany, it is quite common to buy this device on e-Bay, and this is what I did.
Unfortunately, chances are that the Fritz!box just cannot work out of the box and a number of interventions are necessary.
This article is intended for helping the non German speaking persons (like me, unfortunately), to have their beloved Fritz working outside of Germany.
This information is based on my understanding of the articles on this forum and hands-on experience in turning my great unusable Fritz!box into a great working Fritz!box.
No need to say that modifying the box voids the manufacturer warranty. Only use these instructions:
- if, after reading these notes, you feel confident with your understanding
- if, as it was my case, you do not see any other use for your unusable box (that is, you have nothing to lose)
This post does not explain anything that is not already explained / found out on this forum. Its only purpose is to expose the subject in english and, possibly, join all the necessary information in one place.
Before I start, I must mention that I asked the manufacturer for information on:
1 whether the box in my possession was ISDN or POTS (analogue)
2 whether it would be possible to convert it from ISDN to POTS
3 whether it would be possible to load an english language firmware on the box
I can post my message and the answer I got if this is of interest to anyone, but basically the answers were:
1 as it is built for the German market, it is ISDN
2 it is impossible to convert it to POTS
3 it is impossible to load a firmware in English
The guy from the support ended making little fun of me concerning point 3 - he said this could be an opportunity for me to improve my German.
Indeed I would love to speak German, to be able to read all the interesting threads of this forum!
After this long introduction, let's come to the technical part of my post.
The first problem to the non German fresh buyer of Fritz on e-Bay is that the box will not synchronise the DSL line.
This is because, as far as I understood, in Germany THE ENTIRE TELEPHONE INFRASTRUCTURE is ISDN!
In the rest of Europe we have POTS as a standard, and when we buy a generic modem it complies with the POTS analogue standard. When we want an ISDN modem, we specify that it has to be ISDN because this is an exception to the rule.
As opposite, in Germany, ISDN is the standard, and it is so normal to have ISDN that many Germans do not even realize that they have ISDN instead of POTS.
Nowhere in my Fritz!Box package (router + packing + manual + stickers) I found an indication of its standard. The web site was of limited help because it just stated that the product is "Annex A" (analog) or "Annex B" (ISDN) depending on the model, but it gave no clue on how to make the distinction. This basic fact gave me the impression that the difference between the "Annex A" and the "Annex B" model had to be in the software.
So how do you get the verdict? If your box does not synchronise, you can check whether it is "Annex A" or "Annex B" using the web interface and checking the picture in "Internet" -> "DSL-Informationen".
On the bottom of the picture you will quite certainly find out that the device is "Annex B" (ISDN) like every piece sold in Germany.
At this point you are probably thinking that you bought the wrong hardware.
OK, this is where we have to forget what the manufacturer says and we have to rely on the friends of the community.
Before we go on, I want to draw your attention on what is inside the tiny red box.
The Fritz!Box is a Linux based device, and as such it provides a set of standard tools to those that are familiar with Unix.
If you have never worked with Linux, you might perhaps ask a Linux enthusiast friend to come and help. He will find this procedure very simple.
The conversion of the Germany targeted box into an international targeted box requires access to the command line.
This is achieved using telnet, that has to be activated using the following sequence on a telephone connected to a "FON" port:
To deactivate telnet:
It is good practice to deactivate telnet when it is not needed.
For the transition from "ANNEX B" to "ANNEX A" it is not necessary to use telnet, but to start getting familiar with the beast I suggest opening a little "explorative" connection, for instance opening a dos box and typing:
or whatever the IP address of your Fritz is.
Once a telnet connection to the box is active, a number of standard Unix commands are available. For instance, the command:
displays the environment variables and is a nice start to check the values of variables like "Country" or "ANNEX".
The transformation from "ANNEX B" to "ANNEX A" is actually a change to the value of one of these variables.
On this forum, there are some nice "scripts" to perform the transition at:
(thank you haveaniceday, I owe you everything!)
Basically, you have to pick the relevant file for you and send it to the router like you would do for a firmware update.
As I am assuming that you bought a German equipment with web interface in German and ISDN (ANNEX B), the right file is:
in the file name, avm stands for the standard german version (as opposed to avme for english language equipment) and "ANNEX A" refers to the effect of running the script, that is setting the equipment to work with analog "ANNEX A" standard.
To install the script, open Fritz! web interface and choose "System" > "Firmware Update"
Click on Browse, pick fritz_als_avm_annex_A_new.tar, press upload.
** IMPORTANT ** The file must be uploaded AS IS, without decompressing it.
You will see the "Info Led" blinking and a message recommending to wait a few minutes on the screen.
At the end of the process the router reboots and you have a router usable with a POTS (analog) line!!
To confirm, open the web interface, "Internet" -> "DSL-Informationen", and you should see that your box is "ANNEX A". If you have the DSL cord plugged, you router has already started synchronising!!
How easy is this? THANK YOU HAVEANICEDAY!!
If you are afraid of harming your Fritz!box now that it is finally usable or you just don't have any interest in changing the language (because you are a german living abroad, for instance), then you can stop reading here.
Still there? Then take a pause, as this is where it gets a bit tougher.
Unfortunately, downloading the English firmware from the manufacturer website is not enough. If you try to install the international (english) firmware, you get an error.
When the firmware is uploaded to the box, there are checks that are performed to make sure the new firmware is appropriate for the box. As your box is German (avm), the English (avme) firmware installation fails.
To overcome this problem, you have to make very few changes to the firmware.
The firmware comes as a standard tar file, and with any flavor of Unix it can be expanded, modified and compacted again.
As soon as the firmware is sent to the box, a script is run to perform some checks and eventually install the firmware. We need to slightly change this script.
Untar the firmware in a directory, i.e. patch:
tar xvf ../firmware.image
you get a ./var directory containing, among other stuff, a script called "install"
edit the script:
and locate the platform check. Where the script checks for the string "avme" (in the list of accepted installtypes) modify "avme" in "avm", so that the script will go on if the OEM string found is "avm" (what you have).
There are two such checks, one for "Annex A" and one for "Annex B". To be on the safe side, just modify both occurrences of
"avme" in "avm".
When the install script is patched, just create the tar file again:
tar cvf patched.image ./var
and check that the newly created tar file has the same structure than the original one. More specifically, make sure that the contents of the tar file start with a trailing slash:
tar tvf patched.image
The file should have its contents with the relative path ./var/ and not just var or /var. (Actually I am not sure about the importance of this detail, but the original firmware features the ./).
The "patched" firmware image is ready to be uploaded to the box using the web interface.
*** IMPORTANT - Please read further on before actually uploading the patched image ***
The sending of the patched image should work like a charm, but when the router will reboot.... it will not be the end of the story.
Please do not panic when you will notice that the web interface is not working anymore. It is just part of the job, and there is an explanation for everything.
To solve and understand the problem we have to connect using telnet (see above).
With an established telnet connection, go to the var directory on the Fritz!Box:
you will see that there is a link called “html” pointing to /usr/www/avm/en
This link points to a non coherent (and non existing) hybrid, as we learned by now that "avm" stands for the German version and "en" stands for English...
To repair the web interface we just rename this defective link and we create the correct one:
mv html html.orig
ln -s /usr/www/avme/en html
Then we restart the webserver:
and voilà, the English web interface is alive, as you can check with your browser.
At this time, the best use we can make of the web interface is to upload another great contribution from HAVEANICEDAY: the script:
and, if at the consequent reboot we still lack the web interface, we manually correct the html link and restart the webserver as explained above.
The final step is uploading the english firmware as downloaded from the manufacturer web site to the box, so that we make sure that everything is as it should be.
This is all: after following these instructions, your box should be as great and useful as mine.
Just a few final words. When I modified my Fritz!Box Fon Wlan I was working in "nothing to lose" mode. I did not take any notes, this is why I tried here to pass the idea more than the specific commands.
I decided to spend a few hours of my time writing this paper hoping that someone I don’t know could find it useful because I believe in the sharing of the information. I "recycled" a box that was of no possible use to me thanks to the posts I found on this forum, and I wanted to make the information accessible to the English speaking.
I was very disappointed by the manufacturer answer to my questions. Fritz!Box Fon Wlan is a fantastic product, deeply based on open source solutions. In embedding open source software in their commercial products for profit, I think the manufacturers should also commit to "openness" to their customers. After all, if I threw my Fritz!Box Fon Wlan in a trash bin (as they almost suggested), it would have certainly not been to buy another one.
Please do not hesitate to send your feedback, corrections and opinions.