The other day the internet died. One moment all was good and the next, nothing. Gasp!
Poked around and all the lights on the router were out. Of course, this happens right as we’re flying out the door. So out comes the volt-ohm meter and find out the power brick failed. No problem, I’ve got a universal brick with changeable tips! I’ll just swap that out and we can get on our way… well, not exactly. Router still dead. Seems the connector is mating fine… funny. Ok, now really need to get out the door. Drop in a basic router from way back (no wireless) so the VOIP phone is back up and off we go.
Later, I use the V-O-M again to find my error. I had set one polarity on that universal brick, but that was not the one the router wanted. So I swap and plug it in — lights — yay! But it won’t stay up for more than a few seconds at a time now. Either the old brick killed it before, or I gave it the final shove with that reversed power.
OK, so now we’re short wireless. We’ve got a few mobile devices here and some of them have no ethernet jacks, so it’s off to NewEgg and I see there’s a very popular inexpensive router (Asus WL-520gU) on sale and with rebate. It seems to be a snap to convert it to a very full featured router/print server/NAS device, by use of an open source firmware package. Within just a couple of days I have the new toy. Google-ing ensues to find the best way to get the firmware updated.
The open source firmware package “Tomato” is already popular, but a person called “teddy_bear” created a custom version for this router to enable USB support for the print server and NAS capabilities. Before I install it, I try out the router with Asus’ own package. It seems pretty nice, but somewhat confusing in a Chinese-English language hybrid sort of way, and I can’t get the router to hold an internet connection to the WAN. If I reboot, it works for a few minutes and then goes away. Thinking Comcast may want a specific MAC address, I clone it from my original PC. Still no joy. Time to toss in a little Tomato.
There are some complicated processes on line for updating this router to Tomato by using the windows CD that comes with the router, and then loading another open source firmware, DD-WRT, and then using that to update the firmware to teddy_bear’s version of Tomato. Luckily, I found another post indicating success in downgrading the router’s own firmware from v 22.214.171.124 to 126.96.36.199 and then renaming the Tomato image file to v 188.8.131.52 and loading that, all using the Asus web page interface.
Well, my unit came with v 184.108.40.206. Wondering if the downgrade was solely to get the router to accept a “higher” revision number, I try renaming the Tomato image to fake a v 220.127.116.11 and load that. No dice. Firmware update fails. Meanwhile I’m having other issues with the linux laptop I’m using, so I think that is the cause. After futzing with it and then booting into WinXP to try again with the same result, I finally decide to just try the massive downgrade. I load version 18.104.22.168 on the machine and it works (albeit providing a very primitive interface)! I then load Tomato, renamed to fake a v 22.214.171.124, and it works straight away!
Tomato is definitely the secret sauce for this machine. Way, way easier to navigate through and the performance is now rock solid, keeping an internet connection (with the native MAC address, even) with no problem. All the devices but the linux laptop seem to love the wireless*, and the wired connections all work great.
I haven’t tried the print server function yet (I have a NSLU-2 unSLUng box that does that still) but the NAS function works fine and it even supplies an ftp service. And I was finally able to set up Mrs. V’s Mac to print wirelessly via the router to NSLU-2 as well.
One more set of tasks checked off. 😉
*This EEE PC netbook has had wireless issues all along, both under WinXP and linux. It seems to just not like certain routers. I can change drivers under linux, using either ath5k or ndiswrapper, and the solution will work for some and not for others. The opposite set up will work with those others. Go figure.