Tip of the Trade: DD-WRT

by Carla Schroder

Looking to supercharge your cheap blue box? The Links WRT54G line of wireless broadband routers and its kin, may be the bargain of the 21st century when combined with DD-WRT -- Broadcom-chip-based open source firmware.

The bargain of the century is the Links WRT54G line of wireless broadband routers and its many cousins: Buffalo WHR-G54S, ASUS WL-520g, Belkin F5D7230-4 and others. These little four-port boxes will set you back less than $100, and some are even less than $50. On their own, they're not much to get excited about — they're just inexpensive, home-user-oriented broadband routers with fair-to-middling firmware. But you can turn your cheapie box into a $500 powerhouse by replacing the stock firmware with DD-WRT.

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DD-WRT is Broadcom-chip-based open source firmware written for 802.11g wireless routers. Although it's designed to fit on dinky devices with as little as 4 megabytes of storage and 16 megabytes RAM, it's a feature-filled powerhouse. Among its many capabilities are:

  • Name services
  • Dynamic DNS support
  • NTP timeserver
  • QoS Bandwidth Management
  • SNMP
  • SIP Proxy
  • VLAN
  • Wireless hotspot
  • WPA/TKIP with AES, and EAP (translation: meaningful WPA2 wireless security)
  • OpenVPN client and server

And, of course, bales more useful stuff. DD-WRT comes in several free-of-cost editions with different features. Commercially-supported versions are available as well. The commercial edition has additional features, like per-user bandwidth control and PPPOE-Relay. The developers will also contract for custom work.

Be sure to follow the installation instructions carefully when installing DD-WRT for the first time, to avoid the possibility of bricking your router. Visit dd-wrt.com for all kinds of howtos and links to supported devices.

This article was originally published on Tuesday Mar 27th 2007
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