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1) Are you sure that MAC is actually coming from that one flash that netgear's programming? The real datasheet for the AR7161 isn't public as far as I can tell, but very few SoCs require the end user of the SoC to write their own firmware to provide their own MAC. That type of thing is usually stamped in at the SoC factory. Commonly, it's on a ROM or other OTP memory somewhere, but without the datasheet, I can't tell for sure. And the process which programs that information in is likely separate from the process which programs netgear's firmware in. If you've signed the requisite NDAs and have access to the datasheets, then you may know more, but I still don't think that's a common setup and I doubt netgear would write their firmware assuming that setup.

2) Even if we lived in a world where netgear was doing all this for MAC addresses on SoCs anyway often in computing the question isn't why something isn't done now, but why it was done that way the first time someone wrote it. Build systems, factory processes and other legacy cruft build around a certain way of doing things and often those ways become the way even if new technology makes other ways more simple later.

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