Updating our home network router

There were several cascading events in the run up to buying a new router:

  1. ASUS RT-N16 routerOur Windows Home Server had a hardware hiccup, probably due to overheating during the Waldo Canyon fire (we had to keep the windows shut because of the smoke, but the weather was extremely hot). For a while it just wouldn’t boot properly at all.
  2. I decided to purchase a NAS server to replace the WHS, just in case I couldn’t resurrect it. (No point in buying another WHS: Microsoft had already announced its demise.) I picked the Synology DS212.
  3. Obviously, in order to use the NAS properly as a server for backups, I had to backup our machines. I started with my laptop. Well, hey, I’m the admin around here.
  4. My laptop is connected to the network via a wireless connection. A boring 801.11g connection since our Qwest-approved router is a good three years old and doesn’t have the “n” variant.
  5. My backup process then proceeded to soak up the entire wireless bandwidth for the router. Estimated time to completion: a couple of days.
  6. My wife could not then surf the internet, get email, do anything on her laptop. Timeouts galore.

It seemed that the best solution would be to use a wired connection to the router, except there were no longer any free among the four ports available. Especially not for anything longer than an hour or so. Therefore, it seemed the only plan of attack was to buy another router, preferably a much beefier one than the DSL router approved by Qwest (er, CenturyLink). My plan was to have DSL line come into the Qwest modem, turn off its wireless, and just attach those devices via Ethernet cable that needed to be there on that initial modem (they are DMZed, in essence). Then I’d have the New Router come off that via Ethernet cable and then have it be the main household wireless router, as well as plug in those non-wireless devices that I must have on the same subnet. Also, if I were clever, I could use some kind of Quality-of-Service system (QOS) to make sure that no one device (or two devices working in cahoots) could grab the bandwidth and paralyze the network.

But which New Router? It’s not like I spend a lot of time perusing router reviews. A router is a router is a router.

Then I remembered a recent discussion on routers by Jeff Atwood on the Coding Horror site. In it, he recommends buying a router with standard hardware (a Broadcom IC, in effect) and then using an open source router operating system on it. The cheaper router recommended was the Asus RT-N16, with the more expensive one the Asus RT-N66U, and the software, Tomato. I decided to plump for the cheaper option and got it from Amazon.

It arrived today, at which point, I started to worry about flashing Tomato onto it. Was I doing the right thing? After all I’d be voiding the warranty out of the box.

I went for the TomatoUSB mod, mainly because I found a reasonably good and easy-to-follow install guide for it onto my Asus RT-N16, using Windows. The version of TomatoUSB I went for was the “Kernel 2.6 for MIPSR2 Routers” and I selected the VPN option. I used the Asus Firmware Restoration Utility that came on the CD with the router, otherwise it was following the guide slavishly.

To be honest, I shouldn’t have worried. It was quick and a piece of cake. The lengthy part was making sure I swapped over the devices that needed recabling, and to find every wireless device, turn it on, and to sync it with the new wireless SSID. I disabled the wireless option in the Qwest modem and then turned off the wireless adapter in my laptop and connected it via Ethernet to the new router. No issues whatsoever: my email, my IM, my VPN, Tweetdeck, Firefox just worked merrily. I then upgraded our Internet connection with CenturyLink to the max speed possible just because.

Now to play around with QOS before I kick off another mega-backup.

Album cover for Freaks & IconsNow playing:
dZihan & Kamien - Where Are We?
(from Freaks & Icons)

Loading similar posts...   Loading links to posts on similar topics...

1 Response

#1 Jeroen Pluimers said...
29-Jul-12 6:29 AM

Funny that I wrote a couple of TomatoUSB related posts as I recently got an Asus RT N66U because my former router fried itself too (:

The posts are here: wiert.me/.../tomatousb

One of them includes some clarification on getting TomatoUSB installed in the first place.

I'm planning on writing a few more articles when I got dual WAN working.

First project to finish though is extending one of my HP XW6600 boxes with RAID6/quad-LAN and getting ESXi5 to run on it (and when everything goes well: upgrading the other boxes too).

Leave a response

Note: some MarkDown is allowed, but HTML is not. Expand to show what's available.

  •  Emphasize with italics: surround word with underscores _emphasis_
  •  Emphasize strongly: surround word with double-asterisks **strong**
  •  Link: surround text with square brackets, url with parentheses [text](url)
  •  Inline code: surround text with backticks `IEnumerable`
  •  Unordered list: start each line with an asterisk, space * an item
  •  Ordered list: start each line with a digit, period, space 1. an item
  •  Insert code block: start each line with four spaces
  •  Insert blockquote: start each line with right-angle-bracket, space > Now is the time...
Preview of response