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Networking Open Source Wireless Networking Hardware

Ask Slashdot: Life Beyond the WRT54G Series? 427

Posted by timothy
from the blue-pill-that-stacks-neatly dept.
First time accepted submitter jarmund (2752233) writes "I first got a WRT54GL in 2007. Now, 7 years later, it's still churning along, despite only having one of its antennae left after an encounter with a toddler. As it is simply not up to date to today's standards (802.11N for example), what is a worthy successor? I enjoyed the freedom to choose the firmware myself (I've run Tomato on it since 2008), in addition to its robustness. A replacement will be considered second-rate unless it catered for the same freedom as its predecessor." Is there a canonical best household router nowadays?
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Ask Slashdot: Life Beyond the WRT54G Series?

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  • Buffalo (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot&gmail,com> on Friday August 08, 2014 @03:50PM (#47633297) Homepage Journal

    Personally I love my Buffalo routers running DD-WRT. I'm pretty sure you can run Tomato on them too, but I thought it wasn't maintained anymore.

  • TP-Link (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 08, 2014 @03:53PM (#47633311)

    Go TP-Link. wr1043nd ; wr3600 or even bigger ones.

    Vajk

  • Re:Buffalo (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nimey (114278) on Friday August 08, 2014 @03:53PM (#47633319) Homepage Journal

    Tomato itself is no longer maintained, but there are several mods out there. I use Shibby's mod for my Asus RT-N16.

  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Friday August 08, 2014 @03:56PM (#47633347)

    Every time I've tried to figure out this question for myself, I've run into a maze of "router [foo 600] works but [foo 601] doesn't, unless you have [foo 601 revision 2, 3, or 5] with firmware version X but not firmware Y." If you just tell us a brand name or something, your post is fucking useless!

  • Mikrotik (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cigamit (200871) on Friday August 08, 2014 @03:57PM (#47633355) Homepage

    I use Mikrotiks for just about everything nowadays. I haven't really found any situation that it couldn't do the function I required, even when it was something as complex as L7 regexing on a URL to force specific requests into a different priority queue.

    http://routerboard.com/RB951G-... [routerboard.com]

  • by mysqlbytes (908737) on Friday August 08, 2014 @04:01PM (#47633419) Homepage Journal
    I've moved over to a Mikrotik RB2011 series device and I have to say I'm loving it. Has all the features I need, and even though the hardware is 3 years old at this stage, it's still alot faster than the older WRT devices. Interface and command line are a little whacky, and hard to get used to, but once you do, you'll never go back. http://routerboard.com/RB2011U... [routerboard.com]
  • by ElBeano (570883) on Friday August 08, 2014 @04:01PM (#47633421)
    1. Pick your favorite firmware 2. Check the lists to see which routers are supported 3. Check forums and reviews on the equipment, with the firmware in question (many perform better with dd-wrt than stock) 4. Make your choice
  • by chaoskitty (11449) <johnNO@SPAMsixgirls.org> on Friday August 08, 2014 @04:03PM (#47633437) Homepage

    I have long advocated for separating everything - the cable modem / DSL modem should JUST be an interface to the upstream provider, with no NAT and DEFINITELY with no wireless. See the issues with Xfinity and other providers who are now piggybacking their "free" Wifi on customers' connections - I bet it'll be shown in the near future that the already existing NAT table size issues, which already cause many consumer devices to be problematic, are being exacerbated by trying to maintain state entries for the "free" wireless, too.

    So you have a cable / DSL modem which is in bridge mode. Then you have some sort of NAT device. If you like running your own OS, a Raspberry Pi or some other tiny StrongARM device is cheap and can run whatever GNU/Linux or BSD you like. Heck, you can even still use your WRT54GL if the CPU in it isn't limiting the speed of your upstream connection.

    Then, you have your wireless device. Again, I strongly recommend something that just does bridging - you have the simplest setup because you're not using the wireless device for NAT or any other "features". With all the stories about consumer devices having poor security and intentional back doors, the less exposure, the better. Personally, I pay extra for Apple because the 802.11ac Airport Extreme does wonders with existing 802.11n clients.

    The great thing about this is that you can have as many segments as you want without needing a switch which does VLANs. You can plug two USB-ethernets into a Raspberry Pi, for instance, and keep your wireless and wired networks on completely different segments. Or three, and you can have your old device provide a completely separate guest network.

    The best thing about this setup is that if one device fails or is shown to be insecure and the manufacturers won't fix it, you can just replace that one device.

  • Re:Buffalo (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 08, 2014 @04:03PM (#47633445)

    I already liked Buffalo for the DDWRT support. I recently discovered that they also provide excellent support, even for old routers. I strongly encourage you to look at them.

  • Re:Buffalo (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 08, 2014 @04:04PM (#47633455)

    Yes, I love our Buffalo AirStation N600 WZR-HP-AG300H which has gigabit ports, dual-band wireless, and lots of RAM and flash so they'll be able to keep running newer firmware for a long time to come. They probably have newer variants by now. I've run the DD-WRT that came with them but they are supposed to work with OpenWRT too.

    I've used a pair of them with as a wireless bridge, using one dedicated band for that and allowing clients to use the other band so there is no interference when a wireless client accesses a wired host that is on the other side of the wireless bridge. In another location, I've just put both wireless interfaces on the same SSID and let clients roam between them depending on signal quality etc.

  • by highvista63 (587404) on Friday August 08, 2014 @04:07PM (#47633485)
    I very recently replaced my faithful WRT54G with an ASUS RT-AC68U router. Over several weeks, it has never had an issue. I am running a mix of 802.11ac/g/n clients. Range and performance are fine. I live in an apartment with a very crowded 2.4GHz band and it still blasts through fine. The 5GHz band isn't as crowded and is great for the N and AC clients--wish the Chromecast had support for N on 5GHz. And if you want a slightly-tweaked custom firmware, a hobbyist developer maintains the Merlin firmware that is widely admired and used.
  • ASUS RT-N16 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cthefuture (665326) on Friday August 08, 2014 @04:08PM (#47633499)

    Follow the herd: RT-N16 [asus.com] running Tomato or similar firmware. Gigabit, 802.11N, USB, open-source.

    One of the most popular routers ever made and the natural successor to the WRT54.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday August 08, 2014 @04:13PM (#47633537) Homepage

    I abandoned the toy routers a while ago, bought a used Firebox X700 on ebay for dirt and installed pfSense. Is it fast enough to route a 10,000Base T internet II connection? nope, but it's fast enough for anything that Comcast can throw at it, plus there is a metric buttload of add-on's plus you get epic street cred with your digital posse'.

  • by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Friday August 08, 2014 @04:18PM (#47633579)

    But the price is pretty bonkers

    http://store.linksys.com/Links... [linksys.com]

  • Asus RT series (Score:4, Informative)

    by Algan (20532) on Friday August 08, 2014 @04:24PM (#47633619)

    I have an Asus RT-N66W (same as N66U, only white). The latest stock firmware is decent, and if you don't like it you can install a host of others. Asus develops the firmware as GPL, and is friendly to outside developers. I believe DD-WRT runs well on it, but I haven't tried, the stock firmware does what I need.

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday August 08, 2014 @04:27PM (#47633649) Homepage Journal

    For a company headquarters job I did recently we looked at a bunch of options, and went with a dozen WNDR3800 [amazon.com] refurbs for about $50 a piece. Running OpenWRT with luci-ssl and wpad (not mini, for WPA2) installed on them.

    Great for doing multiple SSID's over VLAN's back to the routers/firewalls for handling. After doing another job with a "big company brand" central controller and "dumb" AP's, I'd go the OpenWRT route again in a heartbeat. You waste a few hours configuring a dozen instead of a few weeks debugging a nasty, buggy, proprietary deployment.

    There wasn't a huge budget so instead of buying twelve new ones we went with 16 refurbs. The 4 spares are still on the shelf a year later, knock on RSSI.

    This model has a lot of users, projects like CeroWRT have chosen it as a target, and the OpenWRT wiki has it very well documented (port numbers, VLAN setup, etc.) Even a real power switch (next to the integrated gigabit switch) and a USB port. What it doesn't have is external connectors for big antennas, so if you need to do long-haul, either solder them on or look elsewhere.

    N-range is not good on any compliant hardware, so for a typical house I just get two of these and give them the same SSID's on different channels and then there's great signal everywhere. The OpenWRT wiki's HOWTO on deploying a Guest SSID works well (I've done those for neighbors) but given the option I prefer to send the traffic back over a VLAN to a pfSense firewall and handle it there instead. That's fine for commercial but makes less sense in a typical residential install.

  • Re:+1 for this Post (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 08, 2014 @04:29PM (#47633665)

    I've been using an open-mesh access point for years. One of them recently went down after a freak thunderstorm, but it's been reliable and useful. I've been using an OM1P, but I see there's an updated version now. http://www.open-mesh.com/products/access-points.html

  • Re:+1 for this Post (Score:5, Informative)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday August 08, 2014 @04:42PM (#47633813) Homepage Journal

    I have a Linksys E900 I've been running DD-WRT on for a while, and never had a lick of trouble with it until this week, when the WAN port fried thanks to a power surge (caused by some dumbass with a drill...).

    That's the router I'd recommend, as it's 802.11n, has enough space in flash to support a pretty feature-rich build of DD-WRT, and can be had for less than $50.

    Product Page [linksys.com]

  • Re:Mikrotik (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 08, 2014 @05:08PM (#47634009)

    Sorry, but I'd have to downvote the Mikrotik -- at least the RB751G-2HnD and RB951G-2HnD. I bought the 751 for my small place (~130 m^2) and it was DOA out of the box, with the "all LEDs flashing" symptom described here [mikrotik.com]. (Apparently this problem was somewhat widespread.) Contacted MT support, and was instructed to return the unit as DOA even though I eventually got it working with a different power brick.

    The US distributor [streakwave.com] from which I got both of those MT boxes said that their normal return policy would require sending the unit back to Latvia, and could take up to two months. I responded that this was far too long to be without a router, and that I'd have to just go buy some other brand instead. Eventually they processed the warranty claim by sending me an "upgrade," the 951.

    The 951 didn't have the same power supply issues, but its radio coverage is still extremely spotty, and it doesn't play nice with my networked stereo receiver (some streaming stations suffer frequent dropouts; the DNS caching server on the MT confuses the receiver; etc.).

    Also, understand that the MT is not really a good choice for novice home users. RouterOS exposes a ton of options, many of which would be totally cryptic to all but those who have serious TCP/IP networking experience.

    Bottom line: my MT works, but the only reason I still have it is that I've been too busy to find a good replacement.

    Just my $0.02,

    --CF

  • Re:ASUS RT-N16 (Score:4, Informative)

    by DeathByLlama (2813725) on Friday August 08, 2014 @05:40PM (#47634209)
    I would have to second this: The ASUS RT-N16 (or even the Asus RT-N66) is the 802.11N successor

    If you're looking for the latest tech (802.11AC), I would say the go-to would probably the Asus RT-AC66U or Asus RT-AC68U (or for internal antennae, the Asus RT-AC56U) with the close runner up being the Netgear AC1900

    As you can see, Asus has really taken hold of the "open source router" market (you can install Tomato/DD-WRT on these), much as the WRT-54G did back in the day.
  • Re:+1 for this Post (Score:5, Informative)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@NOspAm.world3.net> on Friday August 08, 2014 @05:42PM (#47634231) Homepage

    Linksys hardware is crappy, unfortunately. Also, it is debatable if any hardware made by a US company can be trusted, especially since Linksys is a subsidiary of Cisco who are the NSA's bitch.

    I recommend Buffalo. Their hardware is made for the Japanese market where symmetrical gigabit internet connections are not uncommon, and thus they are capable of routing close to 1000Mb/sec over the WAN interface. Massive overkill for western internet connections, but once you add in some filtering and traffic shaping you start to see why that kind of processing power and memory is needed.

    Buffalo hardware is generally bulletproof and lasts. Some models come with DD-WRT pre-installed, many others fully support it. They are not too expensive either, and support all the latest stuff like 802.11ac and most importantly 5GHz.

  • by heypete (60671) <pete@heypete.com> on Friday August 08, 2014 @06:21PM (#47634643) Homepage

    Gotta agree. My RT-N66U(Shibby 121) is running a crap load of stuff with zero downtime. VLAN, IPTV, VoIP, OpenVPN server and client, Print server, etc etc etc.

    I've got an RT-AC68U as my access point. Not as mature firmware wise, and hard to test to it's full potential, but rock solid none the less.

    ASUS can shut up and take my money.

    Seconded in regards to the N66U. It's a fantastic router. I've been running Tomato Shibby for years (most recently v121) and it's been rock-solid, reliable, and stable.

    There's only one downside: Tomato doesn't include the necessary kernel module for hardware accelerated WAN-to-LAN NAT/routing. This only matters if your downstream WAN bandwidth is greater than ~120Mbps. If your downstream bandwidth is less, the software routing can keep up and you'll run at full speed. If your downstream bandwidth is greater, you will be limited to ~120-130Mbps, as that's as fast as the N66U can route in software. LAN-to-LAN bandwidth will run entirely in hardware regardless of what firmware you have.

    My ISP just upgraded me to a 250Mbps downstream link, so I reluctantly went back to the factory firmware to take advantage of the hardware acceleration. It's clunky and annoying compared to the elegance of the Tomato web interface, but it works. The Merlin firmware maintains the look-and-feel of the factory firmware, includes support for hardware acceleration, fixes a few bug and adds a few features (but not as many as Tomato) that makes it suck less.

    I highly recommend the N66U.

  • Re:Buffalo (Score:5, Informative)

    by rahvin112 (446269) on Friday August 08, 2014 @06:36PM (#47634719)

    Be careful with Buffalo, they have switched major components before with just a version number that sometimes didn't even appear on the box. There are versions of the same router that aren't supported by OpenWRT and DD-WRT because they swapped in a cheaper component that wasn't Linux compatible. People opened the box and found nasty surprises. I'd always wait a while after Buffalo releases a product then watch the reviews before you purchase to make sure they haven't pulled a WZR-HP-AG300NH again.

    I say this as an owner of the router I quoted but I got lucky and got the right version but I was only a month away from being one of the people that got burned.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 08, 2014 @06:46PM (#47634805)

    How can you expect a specific answer when the question is so vague? The best household router? Worthy successor to the WRT54G? That should leave a couple dozen on the list. What you really want depends on what you're going to use it for.

    IMHO the best household router is an AVM Fritzbox. The high end 7490 [en.avm.de] has dual-band and AC wireless networking (with separate "internet only" guest network) and a built-in 4-port gigabit switch (but can reduce the speed to save power). It serves media files from USB hard disks and connects USB printers via the network (LAN and Wifi). It is also a VoIP host and client for at least 10 accounts and connects DECT phones and wired phones (2 a/b ports and one ISDN S0 bus). The builtin PBX can receive faxes and record voice messages via VoIP, POTS or ISDN, store them locally and/or send them by email. The Fritzbox is a VPN host and supports IPv6 (native and several tunnel protocols). It can be used on a DSL line, behind a cable modem or with a 3G modem. See the web site for the full feature list. It all works out of the box. AVM supports the routers with updates and new features for years.

    If you're looking for a router which can be flashed with OpenWRT, then look at the table of hardware on the OpenWRT site. Many chapters of the Freifunk [wikipedia.org] project have lists of recommended routers. They mostly use TP-Link devices, because they're well supported by OpenWRT, relatively cheap and widely available. If you're going to use the router for mesh networking, look for a router with detachable antennas. Again, what you're going to do with it decides your choice of router.

  • Re:+1 for this Post (Score:5, Informative)

    by LVSlushdat (854194) on Friday August 08, 2014 @06:57PM (#47634851)

    I'm using an Asus RT-N12, which runs any of the DD-WRT (or DD-WRT-ish clones), and since it has 8MB of flash, it runs the "max" version of Shibby's version of Tomato. This version has everything but the kitchensink, like OpenVPN, ipv6 support, including 4to6 tunnels. Since I'm on Cox, who doesn't seem to have any plan to roll out ipv6, its the only way for me to use ipv6 currently. It also has vlan support, virtual "guest" wifi support, and believe it or not, even has Tor node support.. I had been using a venerable WRT54GL for the last 7 years or so, but really wanted the vlan/guest wifi support and of course, ipv6 thru a tunnelbroker tunnel, and there was no way to shoehorn that into the measley 4mb of flash on the WRT54GL.. I read a few reviews on the RT-N12, and was pleasantly suprised, so I found one on eBay for a nice price, and waited for it to arrive. It was at that point I discovered the fact there are two distinct "versions" of the RT-N12. one a flat white box with the two antennas, which only has 4mb of flash... and then theres the black wedge-shaped version, which has the 8mb of flash... Guess which one I bought on eBay.. So, now I have a spare router around in case I need something quick. I proceeded to order the right one from another vendor, and flashed Tomato, and am happy as a clam with it... The old WRT54GL is still running as a wifi bridge on an older version of Tomato, being used to provide a cabled connection to the wife's computer in the living room. Previously I'd had a PCI wifi card in the system, but wanted to get rid of that.. Now with the WRT54GL there, I can plug my laptop in on the desk also without using wifi...

  • Re:+1 for this Post (Score:4, Informative)

    by skids (119237) on Friday August 08, 2014 @07:12PM (#47634915) Homepage

    Plus, decent sized onboard flash. Bought one of these for home (radios off, just wanted a router) and never looked back. Had work buy another and a bunch of USB serials on a USB hub as a console server, both running OpenWRT. Rock solid.

  • Atheros and OpenWRT (Score:4, Informative)

    by Movi (1005625) on Friday August 08, 2014 @07:23PM (#47634961)

    The original WRT54GL had a cult following, but in perspective was a pretty poor OSS router. The wifi driver was binary and heavily tied to broadcoms kernel tree. It was a start however.

    Nowadays we have OpenWRT which IMO is the pinnacle of SOHO router software - up to date kernel, upstream OSS drivers, and a kickass config system, all contained in ~6MB firmware file.

    Now to answer the question - you want to stick to Atheros/Qualcomm-Atheros chips and make sure the router is supported by OpenWRT. If you have those 2 things, you absolutely can't go wrong.

    My suggestion is most TP-Link stuff (except for the newer Archer C-series, it's just not ready yet), or the Atheros-based Netgear stuff (WNDR3700v2 or 3800 if you can still get them). Stay the f*** away from Linksys and D-Link, Asus seems to be nice but they keep using Broadcom chips which are extremely poor for OSS software.

  • Re:+1 for this Post (Score:5, Informative)

    by NoMaster (142776) on Friday August 08, 2014 @08:11PM (#47635179) Homepage Journal

    ... especially since Linksys is a subsidiary of Cisco who are the NSA's bitch.

    No they're not. Cisco flogged Linksys off a year or more ago to Belkin - which, granted, is an even bigger reason to avoid them.

  • Re:+1 for this Post (Score:4, Informative)

    by RR (64484) on Friday August 08, 2014 @08:38PM (#47635259)

    Been looking for another router for almost a year now, and still haven't been convinced of a better one than my WRT54GL

    The WRT54GL is a relic of an ancient time. Most importantly, it's a relic of a time without IPv4 address exhaustion, and without realistic demonstrations of DNS cache poisoning.

    DD-WRT has support for 6in4 and 6to4, but not as much support for IPv6 over PPPoE or DHCP-PD or Sixxs.net AYIYA. I prefer OpenWRT, but I also prefer plain-text configuration via the command line, so I'm weird. OpenWRT officially dropped support for the WRT54GL in the last stable release, 12.09 from April 2013, and it didn't really work right in 10.03, either.

    I've been generally pleased with routers based on the Atheros AR7161, but those are obsolete (only N300 and N600), and not that easy to find. Probably the most famous from that line is the Netgear WNDR3800, [openwrt.org] the target model for CeroWRT [bufferbloat.net] and the EFF Open Wireless Router. [openwireless.org] 680MHz MIPS24K, 16MB of flash, and 128MB of RAM are so luxurious after the 200MHz BMIPS3300, 16MB RAM, 4MB flash of the WRT54GL.

  • Re:+1 for this Post (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday August 08, 2014 @10:43PM (#47635673)
    Well, I'll probaby catch flak for this but I've been using Apple Airport Extreme for years now and they are very good products. I've now got a recent but not newest model (N not AC), always had one of the best signals in my neighborhood, and I'm only running 1/2 power. I am very impressed with the design and quality. I have every reason to like them... except one.

    Unless something changes, I will never buy another Apple router. Why? Because they crippled the software.

    Apple's Airport Utility (the router's setup and diagnostics software) was always very nice, despite the amount of automation. For example, if this setting was not compatible with that other setting, you can't choose it but that was done in an intelligent way, not capriciously. All the essentials were there in Airport Utility 5.6: upstream config, downstream config, security, guest network, channels (manual or auto), wide or narrow, ACL, NAT, proxy, IPv6, port mapping yada yada yada.

    But Airport Utility 6.0 changed all that. Now it's all dumbed down. I guess dumb airhead customers don't have any need to look at logs or see who's connected for example. Meh.

    Apple's new AC Airport Extreme router is really nice. Yet again, the physical layout and electronics are very well designed. 3 MIMO 5GHz antennas, 3 MIMO 2.4 GHz antennas, beamforming, the whole schmear.

    But the router I now own is the latest one that is compatible with Airport Utility 5.6. Unless I can find software that is a hell of a lot closer to the hardware than Apple's latest Airport Utility, AFAIAC all that good design is wasted, because it's a product I don't want. And Apple is not very bright by chasing away loyal customers because it wants to "simplify" things too much. I've said this for years about apple: adding and even changing functionality are good if done for good reasons. But remove features, and you piss off your loyal customers. Which is a very bad idea.

    End rant.
  • Re: +1 for this Post (Score:4, Informative)

    by ericloewe (2129490) on Saturday August 09, 2014 @02:02AM (#47636171)

    The RT-N66U/RT-N66W is an excellent deal right now. Absolute best 802.11n router out there. Its sucessors, the RT-AC66U and RT-AC68U, are also very good.

    And yes, all of them are as open as you can realistically get.

  • Re:+1 for this Post (Score:4, Informative)

    by unitron (5733) on Saturday August 09, 2014 @05:21AM (#47636551) Homepage Journal

    If you've got an old 486 or early Pentium cooling fan, mount it inside the 54G.

    You can find +12V near the power inlet.

    You can use plastic/nylon motherboard standoffs with the little button clipped off to hold the fan up in the air over the big chip.

    Use RTV silicon caulking compound to glue them to the 54's motherboard.

    This presupposes you have a soldering iron and a voltmeter, or at least a soldering iron and enough knowledge of power supplies to tell where the filter caps are.

    I've got a stack of 54s and non-wireless BEFSR41s and putting a fan inside makes a world of difference.

It's a naive, domestic operating system without any breeding, but I think you'll be amused by its presumption.

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