Well it's been painful trying to persuade openwrt to boot debian instead. mostly just trying to figure out how to configure the kernel to boot from external hard drive. Also the u-boot is old and doesn't seem to know about usb. this isn't too bad but it basically means the kernel will have to be burned into flash each time we upgrade. not fun but workable. a modern u-boot would have built-in support for booting a file from external usb hard drive directly. Meanwhile, ran across a few links that are encouraging. First, looks like this chip -- AR71XX will be in mainline Linux before too long. check out the mips-linux mailing list and their GIT repository -- the 'queue' repository has a bunch of patches related to this chip.Also, the folks at DebWrt seem to have some sort of build system that pulls from both OpenWrt and Debian.