Hooray opensource!

A while back, my brothers wanted a WiFi access point so they could play online games on the Gameboy DS. I ended up picking up a Linksys WRT54G for them, with the intention of running one of the open firmware packages on it. After getting it home, I learned that Linksys had switched the newest version of the router to VxWorks, making it incompatible with the custom firmware. I got it working mostly the way I wanted1 with the Linksys firmware, so I mostly forgot about it.

I recently got looking at the custom firmware stuff again, and found that Jeremy Collake (aka db90h) had found a way to load the custom firmware onto the VxWorks routers. I followed his step-by-step instructions and now have a WRT54G v5 running DD-WRT Micro. There’s some bad blood between Jeremy and DD-WRT now, and I’ll probably switch to something else once I do some more research, since my opinions seem to match Jeremy’s. But for now, DD-WRT is working like a champ, making this (almost) brand new Linksys as functional as the D-Link router I got for $20 almost 7 years ago.

1 For some reason, most broadband routers don’t seem to think reserved DHCP is important. “Reserved” or “static” DHCP is when your DHCP server always assigns a certain IP address to a certain PC. You can leave all your PCs set to automatically configure via DHCP, but each PC will always get the same address. Having a constant address is a requirement for port forwarding, which almost all broadband routers have. However, most tell you that to get unchanging IPs for use with port forwarding (something that almost everyone will need to use at some point if you do anything more than looking at websites and checking your email), you should disable DHCP on the router and manually configure the network settings on all your PCs. Not only is that more work for the user, but it also makes it much easier to make a typo in a config or duplicate an address on two devices. It also involves reconfiguring any guest’s computer to get it to work on your LAN. With more and more devices becoming WiFi-capable, the number of devices on home LANs is only going to increase, making this problem more and more of an issue. Almost every non-embedded DHCP server has this option, so it’s nothing exotic. The D-Link DI-704 I got in 2000 for $20 has it, so it’s not something too complicated for a home router. I really have no idea why most of the “advanced” routers sold today still don’t have that option. I will never purposely use a router that doesn’t. I’ve personally recommended against Linksys (and other brands) to a number of people specifically because of this.

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