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This is something I have been meaning to do for many years now but I finally took advantage of the Christmas break to put my Linksys Wireless Router (WRT54G) on steroids. Since I was upgrading my Windows machine from XP to Vista and my Linux machine from Dapper to Edgy (Ubuntu), I figured why not break – I mean upgrade everything.
First a little background – Linksys had used Linux as the OS of its network products including the ubiquitous WRT54G router. When Cisco acquired Linksys in 2003, they were forced to open source all of the Linksys code because of the GPL. This led to people to create updated versions of the code for these Linksys routers and soon people started adding features to the $60.00 router there were available in network devices costing a lot more than $60.00. Linksys (and Cisco) continued to make these Linux routers for a while and then switched to another real-time UNIX variant, VxWorks which removed the requirement for Cisco to release their software into the open-source community.
So I’ve been thinking about upgrading my existing Linksys router to another with Gigabit ports and so upgrading and potentially turning it into a brick didn’t seem that big a deal. In fact, a part of me was hoping the upgrade wouldn’t work so that I would have the excuse to replace a perfectly working router with another with additional goodies. There are a lot of different software packages out there for your Linksys router but I decided to use DD-WRT because of the features. I wanted to add WPA/WPA2, QOS and the ability to boost the radio transmission power. The default Xmit is set to 28mw and I bumped up mine to 70mw as the Xmit site suggested and I noticed a HUGE improvement in my wireless performance. Before the upgrade, the wireless was really weak in the other end of our house but know I get perfect connection that really awesome throughput. In fact, the strength of the signal was so high, I had to switch to another channel to let me neighbor’s wireless routers and phones work. The enhanced security was also a nice bonus – The other features like the ability to run a wireless business don’t interest me but the ability to VPN in really does. I haven’t had a chance to use that yet as I typically use a SSH tunnel to setup a proxy to securely access resources when I am using a public network but it’s a nice feature to have if you need security or as just paranoid of open/free/public networks. (As you should be)
To me, the coolest thing was the ability to SSH into my wireless router and browses the directory structure. The DD-WRT upgrade turned my router into an SSH server and so I can SSH into it to check out the configuration or even SSH out from the router itself.
Here are some screenshots taken from the interface – Before you decide to upgrade your router, please remember that there are no warranties and you could end up with a $60 brick.