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Ask Slashdot: Best Open Source Project For a Router/Wi-Fi Access Point?

timothy posted about 10 months ago | from the what's-the-nsa's-least-favorite dept.

Wireless Networking 193

An anonymous reader writes "My wireless router just died. I have an old netbook lying around that has a wired network interface and a wireless one. The wireless card is supported in master mode by Linux, FreeBSD, and OpenBSD. What does Slashdot recommend I use to turn it into a router/wireless access point? DD-WRT? pfSense? Smoothwall? Fedora/Ubuntu/OpenBSD with a manual configuration? I'm not afraid of getting my hands dirty and I know what I'm doing, but I want as close to zero maintenance as possible."

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DD-WRT on Buffalo hardware (5, Informative)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 10 months ago | (#45045233)

If you want something powerful but maintenance free then DD-WRT on dedicated router hardware is the way to go. Running an ARM system-on-chip without active cooling and everything on flash memory is going to be far more reliable than any kind of PC set up. DD-WRT does pretty much anything you want and you can get a root shell if you want.

For what it's worth I prefer Buffalo hardware. It's robust and performs well.

Re:DD-WRT on Buffalo hardware (5, Informative)

agoodm (856768) | about 10 months ago | (#45045299)

A properly configured and set up PC based router with appropriate active or passive cooling will be more reliable than ARM SoC based solutions due to the additional speed providing additional routing capacity. Most SoC solutions ive seen have insufficient power for reliable operation under anything more than a moderate load. Source: I manufacture and install PC based routers in places where ordinary routers are becoming unstable

Re:DD-WRT on Buffalo hardware (4, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 10 months ago | (#45045477)

That's why I recommend Buffalo hardware. Their main market is Japan where symmetrical gigabit connections are quite common, so their hardware is capable of routing that. I find it to be reliable long term (5+ years).

Re:DD-WRT on Buffalo hardware (4, Informative)

johnnys (592333) | about 10 months ago | (#45045521)

This is probably not what the OP wants to hear (surprise! It's Slashdot after all) but I agree that a VERY good option is a Buffalo router. I bought a Buffalo WZR-600DHP running DD-WRT and it has been completely reliable in my SOHO environment. The feature set, tunability and capabilities of DD-WRT on this device are extensive and impressive.

I have tried DD-WRT on some older routers (Linksys) in the past and although the features were there the reliability and dependability were just not there. I had to reset every few weeks and reconfigure. So when I saw Buffalo was using DD-WRT I decided to try it and I have been very happy.

Re:DD-WRT on Buffalo hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45045617)

I've heard good and bad (read Newegg feedback for example) about Buffalo routers going dead. Some are just REBRANDS.

Re:DD-WRT on Buffalo hardware (1)

icebike (68054) | about 10 months ago | (#45045645)

Add to this the fact that a laptop wifi card is not exactly known for its range, or power.

I understand that this is slashdot and people want to turn sow's ears into silk purses and run Linux on their toaster ovens, but that doesn't make it a good solution. Just about ANY off the shelf wifi router will be a better solution.

Re:DD-WRT on Buffalo hardware (4, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | about 10 months ago | (#45045965)

You guys all seem to be missing the point. He wants to repurpose old hardware without spending anything. I used to do something similar in my teenaged years (this was in the analog era) when I'd turn used transistor radios into guitar fuzzboxes. "But you can get a professional one for only $250!" Yeah, but I could turn a broken radio into one for $2.50.

If my aging router dies before this notebook does I'll probably do something similar with it. Plugging a new router in is no fun, building your own out of useless junk is.

Re:DD-WRT on Buffalo hardware (1, Redundant)

icebike (68054) | about 10 months ago | (#45046369)

I'm pretty sure I didn't miss the point, as you would have realized if you read past the first sentence. (Yeah, I know, its slashdot, but for gods sake the world does not stop at the first piece of punctuation you encounter.!!)

Even after his experiment, he will need a new router, for all of the reasons mentioned by several posters above.

Re:DD-WRT on Buffalo hardware (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45046437)

...until the power bill spoils your fun.

Especially 'older' x86 gear is easily in the 130-150 watts range idle, compared to ~10 watts for a typical home router. Another issue is the antenna situation, you don't want long cables to 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz antennas, but at the same time keeping the close to a big steel PC case affects your reception as well. The same goes with the price, while you can get a decent 2.4 GHz wlan card for around 20 EUR, 5 GHz capable ones start around 40 EUR - so the radios alone easily reach the price ranged asked for pretty good mass-produced plastic router (which have no interference/ shielding issues).

In most cases, unless we're counting the number of concurrent users in the medium 2-figure range, a cheap plastic router is a much better choice, which pays off within a few months just through saved electricity. With only a bit of searching you can even find pretty hackable devices as well.

Re:DD-WRT on Buffalo hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45046115)

Source: I manufacture and install PC based routers in places where ordinary routers are becoming unstable

So you're saying you're biased...

Since OP didn't say what workload, it's safe to assume it's for a home environment. Arm SOC is more than enough for a home broadband line. A PC is the wrong option.

Re:DD-WRT on Buffalo hardware (1)

sribe (304414) | about 10 months ago | (#45045813)

For what it's worth I prefer Buffalo hardware. It's robust and performs well.

Seconded. I can give you plenty of reasons not to buy Linksys, or Cisco, or NetGear, or D-Link. I can give you 0 reasons not to buy Buffalo ;-)

Re:DD-WRT on Buffalo hardware (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | about 10 months ago | (#45046061)

Seconded. I can give you plenty of reasons not to buy Linksys, or Cisco, or NetGear, or D-Link. I can give you 0 reasons not to buy Buffalo ;-)

And I can give you one reason yes to buy Netgear. My new Wireless N-150 WNR1000 cost me $9.95 through my cable company.
Make that 2 reasons - It has run rock solid for ~3 years now on its standard firmware.
Point: Always look at the overall ROI.

Re:DD-WRT on Buffalo hardware (1)

_Ludwig (86077) | about 10 months ago | (#45045857)

FWIW, several of Buffalo's wireless routers ship with DD-WRT now.

Re:DD-WRT on Buffalo hardware (5, Interesting)

mellon (7048) | about 10 months ago | (#45045949)

I'm a little bit surprised to see DD-WRT getting such prominent billing. I've been using OpenWRT very happily for a long time, and had trouble getting DD-WRT to do what I want. It's possible that things have changed since I last investigated, of course.

I'm a bit biased in that I wanted something hackable; I've been able to make packages for OpenWRT and have them work with very little effort, and even been able to debug stuff under gdb on the router. This is probably also possible with DD-WRT, but when I investigated, OpenWRT seemed clearly easier to develop on. Building the router image from source was dead easy; customizing it was easy with "make menuconfig" and building packages within the build tree (with support for the packages in "make menuconfig") was easily done as well.

My point here isn't to say "don't use DD-WRT," because I have nothing bad to say about it; rather it is that it's worth considering OpenWRT as well. Personally I've had a lot of success with it, and recommend it highly as a development router OS.

Re:DD-WRT on Buffalo hardware (4, Insightful)

saleenS281 (859657) | about 10 months ago | (#45046319)

DD-WRT for all intents and purposes might as well be dead. At this point they've essentially stopped releasing updates unless you're paying for a subscription. And their last release for most hardware platforms wasn't even GA code, it was "pre-SPX".

Re:DD-WRT on Buffalo hardware (0)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 10 months ago | (#45046651)

I looked at OpenWRT but it doesn't support many 802.11ac routers, including my preferred one which is the Buffalo WZR-D1800H-EU [] . DD-WRT does fully support it though, and in fact Buffalo offers official support for many models. I didn't even know there was a subscription but the firmware I'm using was released last month.

Re:DD-WRT on Buffalo hardware (1)

Alef (605149) | about 10 months ago | (#45045991)

I used to run DD-WRT once, and liked the configurability and stability. However, a gigantic security hole [] found in 2009 pretty much destroyed all my confidence in the competence of the maintainers with regard to security. Basically, it would execute commands (as root!) directly from the url of a request to the management interface. All an attacker would need to do is get you to click an embedded link somewhere, and you are owned. (My link above is safe, by the way -- did you click on it?)

Re:DD-WRT on Buffalo hardware (1)

jackb_guppy (204733) | about 10 months ago | (#45046823)

Please do not talk to my 486sx25 with 12M of memory and 283M harddrive running an old IPCOP version. Works just great.

RouterOS (0)

Beardydog (716221) | about 10 months ago | (#45045263)

That's a thing, right? Am I making that up?

Re:RouterOS (2)

mcgrew (92797) | about 10 months ago | (#45045975)

Google is your friend [] (I hope you're not spamming).

pfSense (5, Informative)

kroby (1391819) | about 10 months ago | (#45045273)

pfSense is a great open source router distro and should have no problem running on your net book. However, Sophos UTM/Astaro Security Gateway is a commercial product that is free for personal use. I recommend it if you need any UTM features such as gateway AV, IPS/IDS, Spam Filtering, and centrally managed AV.

Re:pfSense (1)

CrudPuppy (33870) | about 10 months ago | (#45045705)

I just retired my office wireless (three WRT54GL units) and replaced with a pfSense firewall and three Aruba Instant 105's

For the pfSense, I used two Intel wired cards instead of the crappy onboards.

I couldn't be happier. granted, the Arubas are probably a bit pricey for a house (depends on who you are)

Re:pfSense (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | about 10 months ago | (#45045859)

pfSense is extremely limited on the Wi-Fi end. Otherwise, it's a great product, if you like tinkering with stuff and don't want a plug-and-play experience.

Re:pfSense (2)

pnutjam (523990) | about 10 months ago | (#45045917)

The 2.0 series works well with wifi. I have been running pfsense on Alix hardware using an Atheros chipset wifi card and it has been rock solid for at least 5 years. I update it occasionally, but it is truly no maintenance.

If your wireless card is supported for AP mode it is a great solution, feel free to email me with questions.

Re:pfSense (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | about 10 months ago | (#45046225)

What about wireless N and AC support? Officially, they're not supported...
Fortunately, it's not something I have to mess with, since I only use pfSense for firewall/routing duties, along with an Asus RT-N66U for Wi-Fi.

Re:pfSense (1)

pnutjam (523990) | about 10 months ago | (#45046641)

That's true, neither of those are supported, but I expect N will be available soon. This guys appears to be cost conscious, so I doubt he is running N or AC equipment.

Re:pfSense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45045973)

I've been running IPCop as a virtual machine inside the free version of ESX on a retired HP business desktops for years. I use it at home and at all of our different offices at work for our DSL/Cable circuits (non production lab and guest access). I even use to connect all of those different offices lab sites together using IPSEC on it. You just need two network cards and ESX supports many cheap realtek models. I never have to reboot them or have problems with them, they literally run for years sitting in the corner headless with no one touching them. Bonus is if you have 4-6GB of memory in the ESX machine, you can run a few other small Windows or Linux instances on it as well. Disk I/O with ESX running on a single desktop SATA drive is not great but it more than enough for this case. You can also NFS mount other disks to the ESX server if you desire.

I've never actually used (4, Interesting)

opus_magnum (1688810) | about 10 months ago | (#45045281)

either, but there are also Zeroshell and ClearOS.

zero maintenance (2, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 10 months ago | (#45045301)

I'm not afraid of getting my hands dirty and I know what I'm doing, but I want as close to zero maintenance as possible."

DD-WRT. Pick a good router with a fast cpu in it if you plan on running P2P with it. My high-end Asus 'black knight' (one of the recommended high-end dd-wrt models) shits itself if you have more than about a 800 or so simultanious connections, because the CPU isn't fast enough. I would not recommend using a 'netbook' with a wifi card simply because it consumes a lot of power and you'll make up in lower power consumption costs what you'd spend on a purpose-built router in about 15-18 months.

Re:zero maintenance (5, Informative)

dugancent (2616577) | about 10 months ago | (#45045467)

TomatoUSB is another option. I prefer it over DD-WRT personally, but they are both good options.

Re:zero maintenance (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45045621)

Agreed. I use the Shibby branch on my ASUS RT-N16. Been running strong about 2 years with no problems.

Re:zero maintenance (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45046421)

Ditto. Shibby on a Belkin F7D3301. Factory firmware on that thing was trash, which happens to be where I found the router to begin with. I was about to trow it out (again) but on a whim tried Shibby's TomatoUSB. Rock solid stable, coverage throughout the house, and it consumes like no power (doesn't even get noticeably warm). But yeah, Shibby TomatoUSB - good stuff.

Re:zero maintenance (4, Informative)

spongman (182339) | about 10 months ago | (#45046387)

Please mod parent up.

Tomatousb is brilliant. Hardware compatibility is a little less broad than some of the others, but once you get t installed the usability is like butter.

Re:zero maintenance (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45045693)

DD-WRT in my experience can make "flaky" routers on default binaries suddenly WORK AS ADVERTISED.

I've had both linksys and dlink routers that rebooted themselves constantly, DDWRT solved whatever was causing it and they're now rock solid!

Re:zero maintenance (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | about 10 months ago | (#45045905)

Which Asus are you talking about? The RT-N66U and RT-AC66U, as well as the RT-N56U are known for being able to handle loads that would be unbearable on lesser devices.

In any case, the N66U and AC66U (and the soon-to-be-released AC68U, which has a much faster processor than its younger siblings) have excellent official firmaware support and are compatible with tons of different OS, from slightly modified stock firmware (it's open source) to DD-WRT. They're also easy to load a different OS at will with no hacking required.

The best part is that they're crazy fast and have excellent range on Wi-Fi, besides very good routing.

Re:zero maintenance (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 10 months ago | (#45046133)

I'm talking about the RT-N66U, with the latest stable version of DD-WRT; v24-SP2, July 2013 release. Through trial and error, I've found the max before the load average causes it to start choking and delaying packets is about 1300 connections, with a TCP timeout of 900 and a UDP timeout of 60. Note that these numbers are far below what the 'out of the box' defaults are. Those defaults may work if you are not using QoS, but if latency and buffer bloat is a concern of yours, then you're going to find it chokes at a much lower threshold than the documentation and online reports suggest.

It's hardly a surprise to me that a CPU running at 300mhz might have problems shaping more than a few mbits/s of traffic.. hell even with the overclocking tweaked to nearly double speed and the damn thing hot enough you could cook an egg on it, it still can't handle the load for very long. This is entirely CPU bottleneck, there's plenty of memory and plenty of I/O available.

Re:zero maintenance (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | about 10 months ago | (#45046291)

Where did you get 300MHz from? I've always read 600MHz... In any case, if it's not enough for you, you might want to look into a dedicated router (like a pfSense box) or the RT-AC68U, since it has two CPU cores at 800MHz.

Maybe DD-WRT is slower than the official/slightly modded firmware, 1300 connections sounds low-ish judging by what is commonly said about the N66U. Unfortunately, I have no numbers to share because I use mine exclusively as an access point, with routing delegated to a pfSense box...

Re:zero maintenance (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 10 months ago | (#45046055)

Get another cup of coffee, he wants his old netbook to be the router. He doesn't want to BUY one, he's a nerd. He wants to make one out of junk. I commend him for it, I do the same when I can.

If I were doing the same thing with my setup, a wireless notebook and two wired towers, I'd slap a NIC or two (I'm sure I have some old ones somewhere) in one of the towers, feed the DSL to that and feed the home-made wireless router with that.

I'd still want advice on the best OSes for the two routers.

OpenWRT (5, Insightful)

Knuckx (1127339) | about 10 months ago | (#45045303)

OpenWRT Attitude Adjustment 12.04; loads of packages available from official repositories, nice webinterface, and no commercial side selling product activation keys for certain features (like DD-WRT).

Re:OpenWRT (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45045425)

Yeah. OpenWRT is the way to go. You can build or customise everything and it has pretty decent documentation in the wiki.

Development for DD-WRT is a mess and the documentation is awful. You can't trust the DD-WRT website with its database since it is massively out of date and has a ton of just plain incorrect information. You need to work out what specific blessed build number works for your particular hardware and revision but the only way to find that out is to trawl around in their forums with the huge threads. Once you've found a working build then don't ever upgrade since it is likely that they've broken it in mysterious ways in a later build.

Re:OpenWRT (3, Insightful)

jonsmirl (114798) | about 10 months ago | (#45045533)

OpenWRT is the way to go. Just buy a new, cheap commercial router and replace the software with OpenWRT. Don't mess with the laptop. It chews too much AC power and the wifi is probably not as powerful as the radio in the commercial router. You can buy fine 2.4Ghz router hardware for $30.

DDwrt is a mess, OpenWRT project organization is much better.

Re:OpenWRT (1, Interesting)

keith_nt4 (612247) | about 10 months ago | (#45045875)

As somebody who spent about 3 weeks (I'm kinda new to linux) trying to get OpenWRT working on my router I would like to disagree. I can't speak to DDWRT's organization but the OpenWRT community seems completely dead to me: the wiki is outdated/inaccurate/contradictory (often on the same page) and the forum seems dead as well except from one or two threads. Good luck finding any help from that "community" *.

I was exploring DDWRT at one point and that documentation said OpenWRT packages will work with DDWRT. I don't know if that's true, partially true or untrue but I don't think I'm ever going to bother with OpenWRT again. If that is true of DDWRT at least for my purposes DDWRT will be just as flexible as OpenWRT. Also from what little I observed the DDWRT forums seem to have constant activity, the supported hardware list is much larger and the documentation much more complete/better written. In fact if you dig deep enough you'll find that OpenWRTs seeming officially supported hardware list is maintained by a completely different entity then that of the people in the forums and the forums is actually the place the look for your router.

* First I had to figure out my router would only run with the bleeding edge daily builds. Then I was trying to setup using local storage on router's USB port(s) then I was trying to get tftp-hpa configured, then I was trying to make the local storage/tftp daemon start/stop with a button press. Too much to ask I guess. Probably a little different if I had only wanted router functionality.

Re:OpenWRT (2)

markhahn (122033) | about 10 months ago | (#45046819)

yes, if you want to do fringe things that no one else in the community is interested in, then a community-supported system is a bad choice. surprise!

Re:OpenWRT (1)

mrmeval (662166) | about 10 months ago | (#45045553)

Yea, sure so tell me does it work or doesn't it work? DD-WRT just works. When all this babble is clean out and it says "Supported withotu BS" I may try it.


The WHR-G54S runs a tftp server at on the LAN interface during the boot process. OpenWrt should be installed via TFTP, follow the instructions in the HOWTO section.

If the device has been installed with OpenWrt in the past, it is possible that (somehow) the tftp server address is set to (mine was)

In the past there have been some reported problems with the 2.6 kernel versions but these appear to be resolved. Although Attitude Adjustment 12.09-rc1 does appear to run on this router it is extremely slow.

Now officially Trunk and AA are not supported for this router (from Attitude Adjustment announcement) "Lower end devices with only 16 MiB RAM will easily run out of Memory, for bcm47xx based devices is Backfire with brcm-2.4 recommended" Backfire 10.03.1 (suggested previous to my edit of this wiki) provides a more acceptable level of performance.

The base trunk as of r36656 will OOM this router at boot time, even without wireless drivers loading (

In any case the generic brcm47xx image should be used. The filename for that image will be something like openwrt-brcm47xx-squashfs.trx

Consider a Microtik Router? (5, Informative)

mysqlbytes (908737) | about 10 months ago | (#45045309)

I recently got a Microtik router running RouterOS, and I have to say I love it functionality at it's price point. Even supports BGP if you are that way inclined. My DSL was annoying me, so I turned it to bridged mode, and now the new router does everything else. NAT seems faster, with pings being 3ms quicker which I was astonished at. My other idea was an old desktop running linux, but I worked out the pricing for hardware vs electricity. And within a year (in Ireland) I am going to save money with the Microtik router. The router uses about 7W fully loaded, whereas my desktop would be churning 250 watts fully loaded... This is my one: []

Re:Consider a Microtik Router? (1)

ezdiy (2717051) | about 10 months ago | (#45045559)

I love MikroTik as much as nearly any other eastern european do - the gui/cli is just plain awesome and dumb proof - even people unfamiliar with networking are able to pick it up quickly, compared to the "horrors" of linux routers or cisco-cli.

Sadly, your point is somewhat moot - AR9132 chipset of RB2011UAS is just home ap SoC and that is it. Routing performance is generally god-awful to make any use of BGP or OSPF. People generally just buy high-end RBs or run routeros on PC to do any kind of ISP networking.

RouterOS comfort comes at a price too - it is just linux kernel inside, but 3 years outdated, undebuggable corner cases etc etc. It works ok most of the time, but only very brave people are running eBGP on RouterOS or any core backbone for that matter. Wiping low-end routerboard and installing openwrt there won't help much either - people do that all the time with the very same SoC chipset, from tplink, edimax etc plastic boxes which come 30% cheaper and are the same utter crap reliability-wise (usually PSUs).

Fix possible? (5, Insightful)

jones_supa (887896) | about 10 months ago | (#45045311)

My wireless router just died.

Well, can it be fixed? Maybe it's just a dead AC/DC transformer or blown cap.

Re:Fix possible? (1)

module0000 (882745) | about 10 months ago | (#45046599)

Best post yet! if you want to be DIY - then put on your big boy pants and DIY. Kudos to jones_supa

Just get a router (5, Insightful)

SQLGuru (980662) | about 10 months ago | (#45045319)

Using an old laptop as a router isn't the most efficient use of your resources (time, money, energy, etc.). Sure, it can be done......but a router can be had for around $20 that is probably as good or better (I'm assuming your old laptop is at least 5 years old and probably G at best). Spending more would get you a better router (and if you shop around, even open-source compatible), but if the goal is to go on the cheap (assumed because you want to reuse a laptop), I'd still get a stand-alone router.

But if you insist on going that route, go with Linux and manual configuration. Then you can use the laptop for other things as well. Print server, web server, etc.

But in the end, giving the laptop to a group such as this: [] is better use of the technology.

Hybrid; use a router as a wifi bridge (3, Interesting)

Khopesh (112447) | about 10 months ago | (#45046509)

I've done this in the past. My routing computer's wifi has never been able to compare with a wifi router, but if you ignore the "wan" port and plug your linux box into one of the other ports, you can use the wifi router for wifi only (essid, etc) and your own router for how traffic flows to the internet and to your wired network. The best of both worlds.

OpenWRT on Buffalo Hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45045331)

It comes with their own DD-WRT firmware, but I personally prefer OpenWRT.

Don't use a netbook (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45045333)

It's a bad idea to use a netbook from the perspective of power consumption. Compared to a dedicated system (often ARM or MIPS), a netbook's going to suck up a lot of power that could be better put to other uses. I'd personally suggest getting a commercially-available router that's well-supported by OpenWRT [] , such as a Netgear WNDR3800.

If you must use this netbook, then your best options are probably OpenBSD or Debian (stable), depending on hardware support and what you're comfortable with.

Re:Don't use a netbook (3, Informative)

jones_supa (887896) | about 10 months ago | (#45045713)

Actually it's not that bad. A netbook idles at 10W, which is on par with the power consumption of a DSL modem.

Re:Don't use a netbook (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45045867)

Well, if you really need/have/plan to use the netbook, well there's nothing like Debian (stable). I used it on my Slug successfully for 7 years and it served me well.
On my routers I use OpenWRT

OpenWRT on good commodity home ap (4, Informative)

ezdiy (2717051) | about 10 months ago | (#45045353)

OpenWRT on cheapo commodity hardware - personally I'm using TL-WR1043ND, 4x1gigE/300mbps 2.4ghz N, USB storage [] is best bang for 50 bucks.

The system is reasonably specced to run openvpn gateway for home network and serve USB drive miniNAS via smb.

DD-WRT is basically GUI polish for people who don't wan't to delve into scary command line, but otherwise nowhere near as flexible as openwrt is.

Re:OpenWRT on good commodity home ap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45045465)

OpenWRT (for x86 at least) has Web GUI built-in. I installed 12.09RC2 yesterday.

Re:OpenWRT on good commodity home ap (1)

robot5x (1035276) | about 10 months ago | (#45046777)

+1 to this, except I'm using the gargoyle build on my tp-link.

the features on it are amazing - I have a lodger who wants to use my whole data allowance in a single day. I set gargoyle to cap his usage at x GB per month, and once it's hit he gets 32kbps. I could have set it to kick him off the lan completely but I'm a nice guy.

Not quite as nerdy as OP requested but cost $50 and damn it just works

Re:OpenWRT on good commodity home ap (1)

datapharmer (1099455) | about 10 months ago | (#45046807)

Yes, I've used both DD-WRT and OpenWRT and agree the TL-WR1043ND is a great little device especially for the price. I've bought, configured an used quite a few. Occasionally you get a dud, but you will know pretty quickly and just RMA it to newegg or amazon.

On the DD-WRT vs OpenWRT front, OpenWRT is definitely the more up-to-date option, but my biggest problem, with it is lack of QoS and bandwidth control out of the box. Sure, there are plenty of scripts and such available for this, but I'd like to get up and on the internet and not be writing scripts and messing around with a 'project'. I plan to reevaluate tomato next time for this very reason.

OpenWRT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45045357)

OpenWRT is an alternative to DD-WRT

transmit power (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45045373)

you probably won't get the same signal amplification as with a dedicated wireless router wireless signal amplifier, it can reflect on your wireless coverage.

pfsense (2)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 10 months ago | (#45045381)

I'm using an atom cpu with several onboard intel gig-e ports.

fanless and has been pretty reliable so far. my 50mbps cable connection stays up and the 'router' has not needed rebooting in the month or two that I've been using it so far.

Re:pfsense (1)

no_such_user (196771) | about 10 months ago | (#45045779)

DD-WRT is no walk in the park. It's difficult to find a stable version for newer hardware, if there even is a recent release considered stable. Examples: I bought a router that was supposed to be compatible, but it turned out that the only release available wasn't stable. I installed it anyway, but I later found out it wouldn't accept a manually entered IP (due to a javascript problem on the web GUI - resolved in a later release) which turned into a huge headache. On another release (different router), the 5GHz radio didn't work - something about the driver. On the other hand, I have a slightly older router with DD-WRT which has been up for prob over a year with no issues. Verdict... ? If you do your research first and really vet the device you're going to use, you might be okay.

On the other hand, I've setup three boxes w/ pfSense in the past year, and each has been stable and good to me. The gui is certainly more cryptic than DD-WRT, but it's also far more powerful (as it should be, as it's running on beefier hardware). I've run it on an old P4 (the never ending supply of SFF Dell P4 desktops are good for this), but for something more efficient (and fanless) I've also installed it on inexpensive Atom-based boxes. Still more energy (and more expensive) than a ARM-based device, but the features and stability have been worth it. For WiFi, I just use an inexpensive AP-only device

Re:pfsense (1)

pnutjam (523990) | about 10 months ago | (#45045947)

pfsense shines if you are doing virtual infrastructure.

Re:pfsense (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 10 months ago | (#45045953)

I'm using an atom cpu with several onboard intel gig-e ports.

fanless and has been pretty reliable so far. my 50mbps cable connection stays up and the 'router' has not needed rebooting in the month or two that I've been using it so far.

I've been very happy with pfSense running on a PC Engines Alix2d13 [] board. The board has 3 100mbit ethernet ports and 1 miniPCI slot for Wifi expansion, but I think there's limited driver support for 802.11n capable cards. I already had an Asus 802.11abgn wifi router, so I'm using that router for Wifi, and the pfSense box just as a firewall, VPN server, and a home webserver. I have dual WAN connections and use pfSense to failover from the primary connection (Comcast 50mbit) to the backup 3mbit DSL connection. Works great, and I can set up policy routes to route certain traffic across either WAN connection.

The Alix is not super powerful and is somewhat memory constrained (256MB), but I can get a Speedtest peak of 60mbit down from my Comcast connection. They are supposed to be working on a more powerful Alix successor [] that will have 1 or 2GB of RAM and a faster, dual core CPU. The cost is supposed to be in line with the current boards ~ $200.

I've only had this setup for a few months, but seems pretty stable, I last rebooted over 70 days ago and haven't had any problems with it.

Re:pfsense (1)

iMouse (963104) | about 10 months ago | (#45046095)

I've been using pfSense for the last 3 years or so and really love it. pfSense just by itself isn't the best solution for Wi-Fi, but combined with APs or routers in bridged mode loaded with Tomato, DD-WRT, OpenWRT, etc, you can do a lot with it. Include managed switches with VLAN support, multiple NICs and you can nearly run an entire infrastructure off of it.

The captive portal has been improved since 2.0 and received a lot more features with the recent 2.1 release. There is also support for plugins that greatly expand the capabilities of your pfSense box.

Overkill? (3, Informative)

kheldan (1460303) | about 10 months ago | (#45045455)

In my opinion: Unless you're planning on also running servers (web, FTP, mail, etc) on your new "router/access point", then it's complete overkill to use even a netbook for that. Additionally, you'd be potentially opening yourself up to a world of hurt since your netbook, being a general-purpose computing device at heart, is going to be more vulnerable to outside attack than a purpose-built router/gateway/wireless access point.

Re:Overkill? (2)

fa2k (881632) | about 10 months ago | (#45045733)

Overkill isn't a problem in itself. It's not like the extra power is doing any harm.

Additionally, you'd be potentially opening yourself up to a world of hurt since your netbook, being a general-purpose computing device at heart, is going to be more vulnerable to outside attack than a purpose-built router/gateway/wireless access point.

How exactly? The software packages in the summary are specially designed for routing. It's not like the S/W becomes more vulnerable just by running on a faster CPU

Re:Overkill? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45046177)

Once he get the router going, he may very well want to run services on it. After all, it will always be up and running.

General-purpose is not more vulnerable. If all he runs on it is router software, it will not be any more vulnerable than other routers. (No need to have any general purpose software on the old pc when it is recycled as a router). If he run services he get the vulnerabilities of a server, but he'll get that with a dedicated server too.

There is nothing magically vulnerable about "a pc". It is all in the software. Without windows, none of the vulnerabilities that plague windows and cause people to think that "PCs are vulnerable to viruses". Run a router OS, be as safe as any other router. Hacking it might still be possible - but it is equally possible to hack a dedicated router too. It happens from time to time.

Power consumption (3, Informative)

pla (258480) | about 10 months ago | (#45045481)

Keep in mind that while a dedicated consumer-grade wifi router draws around 5W, a netbook will draw 20-25W (possibly more).

Although that may not sound like much, a 24/7 load of 20W, at $0.15/KWH will cost you $2.16/month. You will break even vs just buying a low-end (Rosewill, etc) new router in about 10 months, or two years for a mid-consumer-grade LinkSys/DLink.

Admittedly, your solution will give you just about the highest-end wireless router you can get (limited by the radio in your netbook, of course), theoretically supporting any networking feature available with Linux. In practice though, how often do you really need anything beyond WPA2, IPv4 routing with a basic "block everything except what I allow" firewall, and perhaps (if you use VPN a lot) IPSec support?

Re:Power consumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45046789)

This argument about Money in the form of cost of electricity is only half the story: How valuable is your time? I live in Ontario, Canada. Where minimum wage is $10.25 per hour, if it takes you 10 hours in research, collecting parts, install time and troubleshooting, that $102.50. If your really lucky, and get the perfect answer here on Slashdot, and download the ready to use software, and minimum troubleshooting/setup could take 4 hours, that's still $40.

Adding the difference in electricity over a year, you can go out and get a high end consumer router and still be in the green.

If you really need some high end features, you can pick up used Cisco 2600 routers on Ebay for as little as $50, it will be a little more playing around then a consumer router, but still cheaper than building/running a home made one.

I think you mean free as in freedom... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45045501)

Not Open Source.

Re:I think you mean free as in freedom... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45045943)

Agreed, that's an important distinction. The submitter probably does not intend to modify the software and thus need the source.

OpenWRT (1)

aglider (2435074) | about 10 months ago | (#45045525)

I only buy hardware where OpenWRT can run. With USD 50.- you can buy a TP-Link box and get a great router later on.

Beat bufferbloat while routing (4, Interesting)

billakay (1607221) | about 10 months ago | (#45045603)

Look at the CeroWRT project ( They have a fork of OpenWRT that is kept up to date quite often, and includes a lot of fixes for bufferbloat issues. The firmware gives a very low latency experience with very little effort.

Recommendation for ClearOS (2)

Lacrocivious Acropho (741314) | about 10 months ago | (#45045619)

You could do worse than take a look at [] and the community edition of ClearOS.

In my opinion it provides Cisco-like capability on any old PC you have lying around. That old PC almost certainly has more power and capability than any typical end-user-grade router in the $30 to $120 market.

Disclaimer: I have no relationship with ClearFoundation except that of a user since 2003.

If you're not afraid of getting your hands dirty.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45045631) can start with Google!

Re:If you're not afraid of getting your hands dirt (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 10 months ago | (#45045719)

How do you think he just found Slashdot? This site isn't one that you just accidentally type. ;^)

Use hostapd and Debian or Ubuntu (1)

freddieb (537771) | about 10 months ago | (#45045663)

I have tried what you suggest using both Ubuntu and Debian. I used one of the AR5212/AR5213 HP pci cards however if your laptop will work in the master mode you should be able to use it. I also have a Mikrotik router as someone else suggested. The hostapd solution is not as good as the Mikrotik even though I both are running high power. In my case it is probably the antenna placement. There are plenty of hostapd howto's on the net. wlan0 IEEE 802.11bg Mode:Master Tx-Power=27 dBm Retry long limit:7 RTS thr:off Fragment thr:off Power Management:on

NetBSD (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 10 months ago | (#45045701)

OP talks about FreeBSD and OpenBSD but not NetBSD, while it is as relevant as the other alternatives. Not better, nor worse, IMO: they are all capable.

low maintenance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45045761)

"but I want as close to zero maintenance as possible.""
That means just go buy a cheap appliance WiFi router for $30.
If nothing else, you'll spend more on electricity running whatever it is you were planning on doing with a netbook than the cost of the new router.

And really, off the shelf routers are pretty maintenance free. The 3 or 4 linksys and other brand routers I've got laying around have been essentially maintenance free for 3-5 years. When they fail, I throw them away.

On the other hand, if you want to use this as a learning experience, then, by all means delve into it. If you want a real challenge, do it in Win7 or Vista (or Win 8), and you can learn all about the intricacies of the "netsh" command.

My router is in a VM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45045767)

I run pfSense in a VM under ESXi and it works flawlessly. I figured since I have a server on 24/7, there was no need to add the power overhead of another box. I'm pretty sure pfSense in a VM consumes less than the 5W that a consumer router might consume.

OpenBSD - compact base + up to date PF! (1) (447981) | about 10 months ago | (#45045791)

My money is on OpenBSD [] for projects like this. You get very compact base system that still has all the stuff you need in there for a project like this. And even my old PF tutorial [] has enough info to get you up and running.

But with the man pages and the OpenBSD FAQ [] you really have all the information you need at your fingertips.

Re:OpenBSD - compact base + up to date PF! (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about 10 months ago | (#45046489)

The BSD's pf (or packet filter) is the best stateful packet inspection-style firewall, bar none. I'll go to my grave knowing this; but it is difficult to master the many configuration options. Luckily there are lots configuration examples and I like its flat, one config file style of doing it, like most BSD utils. If you really want to use BSD as your firewall software I would grab the latest rel. of OpenBSD, fire up pf, and play with it for a bit, see if it might work for you. On the other hand, after years of using a spare pc running that to do my firewall/NAT/cached name serving, and replacing hard drvies and upgrading and installing this and that I gave it all up for a netgear firewall/router for under $50 and never looked back.

I have tried Tomato and DD-WRT (0)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 10 months ago | (#45045821)

And about 12 hours after installing Tomato I installed DD-WRT over it.

DD-WRT is pretty sweet. It just works, is easy to set up, with a very easy and comprehensive website, but it also has loads of, well documented, advanced features.

Openwrt (1)

hdru (3381845) | about 10 months ago | (#45045839)

I would buy a router, for instance TP-Link TL-WR1043ND, and install openwrt on it. Why this combo?? Because the router is well supported by openwrt, not expensive and for little power consumption you get a wide-range of possibilities. You can do lots of stuff with it if you connect a usb [] , for instance: create a rsyncd server and connect to it through ssh (replacement for dropbox and the like), create a voip server, printer server, webserver, torrent downloader(rtorrent and rutorrent), rss reader (ttrss), distributed social networking, etc. I am only running an rsyncd server, rtorrent and a webserver and it is running ok. For simple things a pc server is overkill and expensive to run. [] .

Hardware router vs laptop (3, Informative)

fa2k (881632) | about 10 months ago | (#45045893)

Many people say to get a router instead because of power consumption, wireless signal strength and stability.

You have to work out the power use yourself (some figures have already been posted by pla). Keep in mind though that a laptop using 20 W also provides 20 W of heating. If you're in a hot climate, you may lose twice by having to run the AC harder. If in a cold climate, with electric (resistive) heating, the 20 W may essentially be free most of the year. Also, if you can eliminate other devices (like a VPN gateway) with the laptop, that could be a win. On the other hand, if you need wired network it seems you can't even get away with an extra switch, as the laptop doesn't have enough ports -- here the dedicated ones clearly win.

The wireless signal can be tested. If you can boot a live-cd you could set up host AP mode and test speed by transferring data and latency with ping.

The stability is hard to gauge. Both netbooks and consumer routers can be quite bad. I ran a Dell Insiron 1501 as a router for a few years and didn't have any problems (except a ExpressCard NIC, which was later replaced).

I wouldnt' go for the laptop due to not having wired network, but otherwise I would definitely pick it. It's great for hosting small DIY services like a webcam. I wouldn't host internal-only services beyond those typically hosted on routers, for security reasons (e.g. if the webserver first binds to the local interface, then after an update binds to both interfaces).

Re:Hardware router vs laptop (1)

fa2k (881632) | about 10 months ago | (#45046039)

I ran a Dell Insiron 1501 as a router for a few years and didn't have any problems (except a ExpressCard NIC, which was later replaced).

So I can actually reply to your real question, sorry I forgot about that:

-- On the Dell I used Fedora. Not recommended. Too many updates and the configuration system is constantly in flux. Apart from that, it did the job perfectly.

-- OpenWRT. Seems good, has its own package manager. I used it on a TP-Link access point to provide advanced network services including an IPv6 tunnel. It was not stable on the TP-Link, so I don't have much experience (would become unresponsive after about ~ 1 week). Seems like the thing you can "set and forget".

-- Debian (rasbian). I then used a Raspberry Pi as an advanced inverse access point, to access a wireless LAN and create a small subnet for my own computers. The hardware wasn't stellar, but the OS could be configured fine to do 1:1 NAT, as well as providing DNS with BIND, NTP, and support short-term DIY projects. A bit more updates than I'd prefer, but I suppose I could have left it alone and it would be fine. I wouldn't use Linux without any additional software if the main purpose is NAT and routing; too much work to set up. My setup was actually simpler than the standard home router stuff, except for BIND.

A networked hard drive changes things (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | about 10 months ago | (#45045933)

So far the comments are advising that you replace your router with another stand-alone router that car run open firmware, and I agree. But the calculation is different if you want to run an always-available hard disk on your network. You see, consumer routers sometimes have a USB port, but the bandwidth of the USB connection is so atrocious that it's almost unusable. You'd be lucky if you had access to 1/10 of the theoretical USB2 bandwidth. This is where homebrew routers excel. Any normal-ish motherboard - even for Atom - has a proper USB2 and SATA interface, which will actually work close to its rated speed. You could probably even hardhack the SATA on your netbook to connect to a full-sized drive. If you screen is off, I don't think that your power usage will be much higher than a router's. Mine uses about 8W, pretty much 24/7. Most likely, it broadcasts a stronger signal that what your netbook can do, but remember that you can buy a USB2 network adapter if you need to improve the connection strength.

OpenBSD every time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45046053)

I have run an openbsd firewall for the last 2 years. For 18 months I did nothing to it, and never needed to. It was SO RELIABLE, I forgot what version was running and how it was set up. The last 6 months I have been rebuilding the network, and all the new stuff is running a either openbsd and freebsd, but the router and firewall is always openbsd.

pfsense (2)

nurb432 (527695) | about 10 months ago | (#45046063)

Hands down the best choice for commodity hardware where you it it to 'just work' once its setup.

DIY buyer beware. (1)

nimbius (983462) | about 10 months ago | (#45046087)

there are several reasons why i outsource my wireless to a dedicated piece of off-the-shelf hardware that connects to a linux router. pci and USB cards have poor support and arent really suited for the task. for example:

open source ralink 802.11g chipsets in TPLink and other wireless cards have a sleep mode bug that causes the access point to disappear when using hostapd in the 3.10 kernel..its been a bug for quite a while. the AP cannot be recovered until the cards module is reloaded. in some cases, this cannot be recovered from until the machine is rebooted. the card isnt stable after suspend from ram either.

one more issue is Windows clients. if you have Vista users, they can usually connect to your pci/usb hostapd card. if you have windows 7/8 users the chances of them being able to connect and acquire a DHCP address is going to be spotty. they will randomly lose association as well. Ive never fully determined why some netlink USB adapters in windows 7 require multiple attempts to get on a hostapd network.

next up: antenna gain. the little antennas shipped with PCI cards in my experience are miserable. you'll want a dedicated 9db antenna of at least 6" in length, just like your linksys routers have. Even then checking the signal strength you'll notice a pretty decent lack of power. expect the problem to be worse with USB based solutions as voltage is pretty restricted. so is USB bandwidth:if you have more than 1-2 users on the wireless at a time, you can expect performance to be wretched.

This all having been said, I cant speak for newer wireless pci cards... id be curious to see how newer wireless N cards perform. are multiple SSID's supported? is there a chipset requirement that virtual SSID's be specially constructed to match virtual mac addresses in a specific means? for example again, Realtek and Broadcom chips do require, among firmware requirements in the latter, that virtual SSIDs are mapped to hexidecimally sequential MAC's and even then, Realtek will often times simply ignore other SSIDs its supposed to advertise.

My suggestion, and what as a network engineer ive used at home: linux router with a dedicated TPLink access point(s). I know, the point is wireless but here we really only want it for the excellent transciever(s) that maintain affinity with clients across a broad range of guest operating systems and provide uniform signal coverage in a predictable radiation pattern from the dipole antennas. you also open up the possibility of 48v PoE, so running access points looks cleaner if you're putting them across the house and in the yard. Finally, vlan capability and multiple SSID are affordable and quite functional should you need it.

gargoyle more stable than dd-wrt (for me) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45046131)

I had dd-wrt running on my linksys e3200 sharing internet from the office to the main house. Not stable at all.

Later I swapped for a cheap TP-link router running gargoyle to extend my range. It has been really stable. So happy with it.

Easy method (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45046155)

Super simple:

If you are using Windows, Windows: download and install the $13 Thinix WiFi Hotspot app at Launch it and click on the Configure tab. Set the name of your wireless hotspot in the SSID field. Add a password in the Wireless Key field and hit save. Hit the large Start Hotspot button at the top of the app’s window and get ready to share your internet connection.

NOTE: Thinx works on most versions of Windows 7 or Windows 8, but does not work on:

Windows XP
Windows Vista
Windows 7 Starter Edition

The same thing is even easier on Macintosh:
  Launch System Preferences and click on Share. Select Internet Sharing from the list on the left. Set the “Share your connection from” ethernet or in the case of a MacBook Air, USB ethernet. Set the type of shared networking to wireless under “To computers using” by checking Wi-Fi. Click on the Wi-Fi Options button and a window will appear to set your network’s name and password. Once those are set, hit ok.

Now turn on Internet Sharing and you’ll be able to log into your newly created Wi-Fi network from all your tablets, smartphones, and media streamers.

CeroWRT (1)

ad1c (591741) | about 10 months ago | (#45046179)

I'm a fan of Cero-WRT: [] Works well with Netgear routers (a couple of models) and my wireless links stay up for weeks on end.

OpenWRT AP - PfSense edge router (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45046317)

I would highly recommend the WNDR3800 running OpenWRT 12.04. You will be very happy with it's coverage,performance etc.

A low end "net top" system running PfSense will be great for routing/VPN etc. You can also speak BGP/OSPF etc with it. You'll need beefy specs if you want to do IDS with it.

I also have a Cisco Layer 3 switch. My network looks like this

CORESW01 (cisco 3750-pwr24)
Printer/wifi clients/Moca adapter for my TiVO boxes

I have a bunch of other development lab systems hung off the core switch. Everything is run as layer3 between the devices.

PFsense hands down (1)

funkboy (71672) | about 10 months ago | (#45046463)

PFsense is really at a professional level since 2.0 was released. I've had it on a little box with a Zotac AMD mobo with a 2 port Intel NIC for a couple of years and it's really fantastic. The GUI gives you access to all the knobs you need and the concept of converting all unix config files to one giant XML bundle really works for an embedded router platform. I've got a pretty complex setup & I'm pretty sure I could install & restore the whole thing & its half-dozen packages to a new box in less than half an hour if I had to.

CODING HORROR had a great blog post (1)

lemur337 (124114) | about 10 months ago | (#45046543)

about this a year ago. []

I followed the advice there and flashed an ASUS RT-N16 ($70 when I bought it. Maybe less now.) with easytomato firmware. The name says it all. I especially love the wireless print server. I believe easytomato works on the expensive dual band ASUS routers as well but haven't tried it personally.

Utilizing "extra" IP addresses (2)

nuckfuts (690967) | about 10 months ago | (#45046729)

I pay for 2 static IP addresses from my ISP, but using OpenBSD I can actually use 4. Here's how it works:

  1. * DSL router is in bridge mode. (Routing and NAT are handled by my OpenBSD box)
  2. * My ISP assigns me a /30 subnet. Normally this would mean only 2 "useable" IP addresses because 1 would be used for the default gateway and 1 for the broadcast address. Instead, all 4 IP addresses are added as aliases to the PPPoE interface.
  3. * NAT is performed using pf. (In my case, I have multiple internal LAN's, each one NAT'd to a different external address).

OpenBSD with pf makes a fantastic router/firewall. I'm sure the same thing can be done with other OS's, I just happen to find pf to be very good. OpenBSD's documentation is also great.

pfSense and OpenWRT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45046857)

As far as 3rd party firmware for a consumer wireless router goes, I've been most satisfied with OpenWRT. It's actively developed, the package management makes installing add-ones a breeze, the custom firmware builder is great, and I find the UI to be really intuitive.

Mainly I've been using pfSense for the last 6 months or so, which I'm very happy with. For wireless I still run OpenWRT on a WRT54GL running as an AP only, so I can't really comment on pfSense wireless support. I'm running pfSense in a VM and it doesn't recognize the host wireless card as a wireless card through VirtualBox.

pfSense is more versatile than the embedded systems. It gets my vote. If the wireless support is lacking you can do what I did and through an "unmanaged" AP on the network.

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