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Wireless Networking Software Upgrades Hardware Linux

Creating A Super-Router (For Free) 329

Posted by timothy
from the if-you-own-the-hardware-that-is dept.
Aaron writes "Kind of an interesting discussion and story over at Broadband Reports about the flurry of vendors releasing modified Linux based firmware updates for the Linksys WRT54G router. The updates bring a whole new level of functionality Linksys couldn't be bothered to incorporate. Among a long list of free improvements is the incorporation of bandwidth management, allowing users to end the days of choppy VoIP conversations without swapping out hardware."
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Creating A Super-Router (For Free)

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @12:15PM (#8180143)
    Cisco only bought Linksys to prevent their routers from getting more advanced and competing with their expensive stuff.
  • by Mysticalfruit (533341) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @12:18PM (#8180166) Journal
    Combine this with a good Broadband/DSL provider and Vonage and you've just freed yourself from the tyranny that is Verizon...
  • Comcast Users: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pirogoeth (662083) <mailbox&ikrug,com> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @12:19PM (#8180189) Homepage Journal
    Once Comcast lets you in on what your unlimited bandwidth limits really are, you could use this to meter your access to help keep you under the unlimited limit...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @12:20PM (#8180197)
    The updates bring a whole new level of functionality Linksys couldn't be bothered to incorporate.

    Thanks for the link to the modifications you couldn't be bothered to make for me, Aaron. I guess I'll have to go buy a Linksys, since you couldn't be bothered with buying one for me.

    Nice little anti-corporate jab there. Linksys builds good solid stuff for a reasonable price, and all you can do is complain that it doesn't do everything.
  • by junkymailbox (731309) * on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @12:30PM (#8180290)
    They also take an increase risk in people screwing their hardware up and damaging their reputation .. or arguably worse .. try to get a warranty / refund.
  • by nelsonal (549144) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @12:31PM (#8180301) Journal
    Cisco is very much a hardware company. Their hardware requires some software to operate, and they found software licensing terms quite useful when all the failed dotcom hardare was hitting the market cheap, but they are still in the hardware business. It's interesting that this would be so easy to add, and isn't probably because there is a Cisco VoIP router for enterprises that costs 10 times as much and does the same thing.
  • Not quite (Score:5, Insightful)

    by binaryDigit (557647) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @12:33PM (#8180309)
    Linksys is a hardware company. They make money by selling hardware. By opening up the software (and making their hardware "hackable"), they will increase their hardware sales.

    That's a very simplistic view of the world and one that only works if the hardware manufacturer only sells a single product or has large jumps in capabilities between products within a family. Suppose Linksys intended to supply many of these features in a more expensive (i.e. more profitable) version of the router. They're now hosed as it is now possible for users to upgrade their firmware for free. So sure, they sell more of the cheaper routers, but this is not what they want. This problem will occur anywhere hardware manufacturers try to take advantage of hardware commonality and differentiating similar products through software based features.

    Another potential issue is fighting "cloners". If Taiwanese company CloneCo now has easy access to the software feature set, they "merely" have to develop a clone architecture to run the now readily available software.
  • by kiwimate (458274) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @12:38PM (#8180357) Journal
    From the posted story:

    The updates bring a whole new level of functionality Linksys couldn't be bothered to incorporate.

    From the parent post:

    There's a very important lesson hidden in here, which I hope the other hardware vendors will see and take note.

    Why would they, when the story gets picked up by the open source community (represented here by Slashdot) and is immediately regurgitated using phrasing which insults a company that is actually doing something we like? Perhaps other people see it differently, but if I were a Linksys person reading this, I'd be pretty bugged by the "couldn't be bothered" cheap shot. Especially for a product that is apparently under a hundred bucks [amazon.com].

  • by Milican (58140) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @12:39PM (#8180375) Journal
    You can also do a CNAME from your Custom DNS to your DynDNS domain. For example:

    www.customdns.com -> thog.dyndns.org

    The CNAME will always track your dyndns name that way :)

    JOhn
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @01:01PM (#8180554)
    Be carefull by doing this you might be violation some FCC laws to use the device. If you read the lincense you will see that modifications might be a violation of federal laws.
  • by Sloppy (14984) * on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @02:05PM (#8181118) Homepage Journal
    Want to hack your Linksys WRT54G Router yourself?

    Here's a detailed guide on how to do just that.

    How strange the world has become, when following someone else's detailed guide, is referred to as "hacking." ;-)
  • by NerveGas (168686) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @02:06PM (#8181123)
    and a lot of the routing logic is hardware based so they are able to scale & perform much better than the latter

    That's only true if you're not doing anything but routing. Start adding in any features that are remotely useful, and you've gone from CEF/fast switching to process switching. And that means you take a 5x to 10x performance hit.

    You actually have to purchase a *VERY* expensive Cisco to get one that can't be out-performed by even a relatively modest PC.

    And even on the high-end, there are PC's that will completely blow away any but the very largest offerings from Cisco.

    There are, of course, several real advantages to using a Cisco router instead of a PC. First and foremost, if you have the money for it, you're going to be able to find a network interface for almost any type of network you can imagine. DSL to SONET, the interfaces are there for the buying. I'd *almost* say that they would "just work", but that's not always the case. I just had to upgrade the IOS versio on one of my Ciscos (a *paid* upgrade) to get nothing but support for an additional ethernet WIC.

    Another large (perhaps HUGE) advantage is the fact that as long as you want to keep paying the money for it, there will always be someone there to back you up and make sure your problem gets resolved, even if you're not capable of fixing it yourself.

    So, I'm not saying that there's no use for Cisco. I'm just saying that absolute performance (and especially price-for-performance) are not real advantages for them.

    I don't know why they would want to hold back Linksys development though

    You can't? Let's think about it: Do you think they'd rather sell a $200 Linksys router, or a $2,000+ Cisco router?

    I know, it sounds cynical. Unfortunately, I've worked in enough corporations to know that is *exactly* how decisions are made on these things.

    They'll keep the Linksys line around for the low-end market, the home users that don't demand much. But for anything above that, they're never going to let Linksys compete with their Cisco line. They're not stupid.

    steve
  • by SpamJunkie (557825) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @02:07PM (#8181135)
    The problem with throttling at the client, such as bittorrent, is when you have more than one computer downloading, which many geeks do. The second computer might be the living room box, the girlfriend's or, more likely, the roommate's. You don't want to give each box half your desired max since usually only one machine will be downloading at a time.

    The proper solution is to throttle in the router.
  • by jjwahl (81757) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @02:17PM (#8181229) Homepage
    I've got a WRT54G that I tried to install for a client to connect with her corporate PPTP VPN. It didn't work with PPTP VPN - apparently it was dropping GRE packets.

    ...I then tried various versions of the Linksys firmware to no avail. Eventually I stumbled across http://h.vu.wifi-box.net [wifi-box.net] and found a hacked firmware upgrade that fixed the problem but I have serious reservations about using this for my client!

    I have no access to the source code so how do I know whether or not this hacked upgrade monitors outgoing connections and passes interesting bits of information on to the author?

    Certainly I could sniff the wire and find out for sure but I don't have time for this!!! There's tremendous potential for a malicious third party to monitor traffic using this. It just makes me leery when there's no source code to preview. Even if there was, I don't have the time to review it!

    Any similar thoughts/concerns?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @02:27PM (#8181323)
    Debian is Slow, Worse, Expensive

    Open source may be good, but there is one example that sticks out like a sore thumb as a problem with open source. Debian gnu/Linux. It is offically the Worst Linux Distribution ever made.

    First of all, Debian has the most out of date software packages of any major mainstream distros. Even in the unstable version, is KDE 2.2 and Gnome 2.0, with Xfree86 4.1 (A version that really sucks). There are literally years that pass between each update of Debian.

    Secondly, its a pain in the goatse to set up, first of all, you are forced to use Kernel 2.2, which is horribly hacked with "backports" to get any use on any modern machine (Read, made after 1999). Good luck memorizing all the *.ko files in /lib/modules, as you are going to need it.

    Configuring XFree86 is hell! If you don't have a Thick X11 orilley book, and a list of your horizontal sync values from your monitor's intruction manual (if you even have one), BOOM! There goes your monitor.

    Even then, good luck getting anything over 640x480@16 colours.

    The most common response to help questions on the Debian mailing list is "n00b, READ THE FUCKING MANUAL, you idiot, go back to WINDOWS XP if you can't learn to use dselect", true too, search the archives if you think I'm lying. Other distros give you comprehensive PRINTED MANUALS, PHONE SUPPPORT and/or freindly forums where repling RTFM gets you banned!

    Debians support for any decent hardware, including USB mice, scanners, Sound cards, heck even Serial devices struggle. If you can even get 80x25 text mode with PS/2 input devices you are really lucky.

    Apt-get has many flaws. First of all it uses a non standard package format (the rest of the world uses RPM, deprecate the DEB format!), has broken respetories, and out of date software to install. All this combined with the kludgey dselect user interface make package management a nightmare.

    And if you think I'm joking about this, find out why THOUSANDS of Debian users are switching to REAL distributions [osnews.com] Debian is falling to pieces, if it is to survive any market share it will be through its superior forks (Xandros, Lindows, K/G-noppix) and unoffical package respetories.

    Of course, while all this is going on, the only thing the Debian maintainers do is argue about politics on the mailing lists. The distribution decays while its creators argue over inane details like software licensing and the virtues of Marxism. Please! Spare me the political rhetoric and just give me a working distro!

    Don't get me wrong, I love Linux, and I'm happily using distros such as Mandrake, SuSE, Gentoo and Fedora. But I'm sick to death of zealots that push obsolete Distros on me EVERY FREAKING TIME linux is mentioned. I'm speaking from real world experiance here.
  • by jjwahl (81757) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @04:10PM (#8182347) Homepage
    It wouldn't take nearly as much time. It would be relatively easy when one diffed the hacked code against the original.

    I would also feel much more comfortable knowing that the source is open and available for anyone to review (not just myself). That in itself will stop the vast majority of those that would code such hacks from doing so, being found out and effectively ostracized by the community. Maybe I wouldn't spot the malicious code, but surely one of the hundreds of others that review it would.

Always think of something new; this helps you forget your last rotten idea. -- Seth Frankel

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