Routers and open source firmware

Routers and open source firmware

Start with Amazon reviews

Linksys WRT54GL Wireless-G Router
Linksys WRT54GL Wireless-G Router (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It started with a new router. I always start my buying process by looking at Amazon reviews. For routers under one hundred dollars, the Cisco Linksys WRT54GL and Medialink routers got good, overall reviews. For a good range wireless around two hundred, you can look at the ASUS RT-AC66U router. If you follow the Amazon reviews, you can’t go wrong.

Since I live in a condo building, the Linksys WRT54Gl would suit my needs just fine. After all, I’m must running a couple computers and a Ooma Telo device. All operate behind this router with ease. If I move or upgrade my wireless needs, the the ASUS is a good choice to look into.

Look into open source firmware

Then I came across an interesting article at 6 slick open source routers. DD-WRT looks interesting and they have an online demo at So should I use this one?

Here’s my thoughts. It looks promising. I still have an older version of WRT54Gl that still works. Right now, DD-WRT does have an SP2 version, which they label as beta. I’ll first wait until they have a production stable version, then experiment with it using my old Linksys router.

Another interesting element is that Buffalo routers now come with a customized version of DD-WRT.

Main problem with open source firmware


Open Source China, Open Source World


Now the main problem with DD-WRT and Open WRT is this: If you have a warranty on the original router, installing any other firmware will invalidate the warranty. In my case, it is OK to play with open source variations on my original router. But my WRT54GL is not subject to play with – unless I want to void the warranty.

Secondary problem with open source firmware

Now there is another issue. With a Windows based PC, it’s easy to install a version of Linux on it – like Ubuntu. But it’s pretty hard to destroy the hardware with the operating system software. It’s not the same with firmware. You can easily brick or destroy the hardware. Firmware is defined by Wiki as, “the combination of persistent memory and program code and data stored in it.” Yet if you are careful and follow the instructions carefully (i.e. Like those given by DD-WRT), you probably won’t brick your router.

Take away

I’m take the router out of warranty and wait until the DD-WRT SP2 is out of beta. It might be next week – next month – or next year – perhaps never. Then I’ll run it for a month or so, if the firmware replacement is successful. If the tests are successful, I might experiment with the second router and link them together. But considering the SP2 version was done in 2009 and the factory firmware had a release in April 2013 – it’s a long shot.  But nothing is happening right now.

So I”ll wait until:

  • Independent testing shows the core functionality of open source  firmware preforms just as well as stock firmware.
  • The open source firmware projects are as sound as software like Apache, Wild Fly, Perl, PHP, Ubuntu or a similar open source software.

What are your thoughts on open source firmware?


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