Thursday, January 7, 2010

Upgrade a wireless router with Linux

Wireless routers are cheap and often the firmware they come with shows it.
It can be buggy, unstable and require you to reboot the router frequently to maintain your internet connection. If you're a network geek like me you've probably heard you can run linux on your home firewall router. Projects like dd-wrt and OpenWrt both offer excellent ways to do that.

You need a router that is supported and there are many so you may already own one. You can buy the Asus WL-520gU at Newegg for under $40. It's a bargain with it's USB ports and Linux compatibility. Asus even mentions support for dd-wrt on their product description.

I use OpenWRT at home and it's been great. I've also recently tried dd-wrt and it was so easy to install and setup that I figured I'd write about it to encourage others to try it. If you're not comfortable configuring you current router this may not be something you want to attempt.

Before you start I recommend reading the official documentation specific to your router. For my Asus router the instructions are here. After reading that, you can follow the list below which summarizes the steps to install this new firmware.
  1. connect an ethernet cable between your computer and the router
  2. configure your computer with the manual address
  3. hold in the recessed reset button while you connect the power cable to the router
  4. the router power light will flash slowly to indicate it is ready to receive the new firmware (then you can release the reset button)
  5. load the latest "Standard Generic" .bin firmware file for your router with the tftp command
  6. then wait 10 minutes and login to your router at and setup the admin password

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