My Awesome New Router and Firmware

I find it ironic that after bashing an inferior phone company and praising Verizon in my previous article, that I should now rail on them a little. This concerns FiOS Internet. Basically, the router they give you sucks, and to get the full potential of your wonderful connection, you need a better router with better firmware.

This became apparent as soon as I got FiOS installed. The web GUI relied heavily on javascript, of course, with lots of single-click flashy setup wizards. The baboon interface quickly enraged me. Adding port forwarding rules became reduced to a point and grunt contest with a poorly programmed robot. Somehow, perhaps through UPNP, perhaps through some black magick, it would find new ports that needed forwarding, and write new rules. I did not like that sort of scary automation. Let me define my own rules, thank you very much. Additionally, running nmap on my public IP address showed me that the router opened port 4567. Probing it showed a rudimentary server, ostensibly for receiving firmware updates, though only Goddess knows its true purpose. Finding some sort of server on my router troubled me deeply. It had to go.

I heard about the Asus RT-N16. I love my Asus Netbook, though have heard horror stories about their motherboards, and had never owned an Asus router, but it got universally good reviews. Most importantly, it runs Linux, comes with open-source firmware, and more importantly, it can run third party firmware such as DD-WRT. This I decided to do, so started researching and collating. The router arrived promptly from Amazon, then sat on my floor, waiting for the right time.

The time came early this evening, a full moon in a humid Spring sky. I felt good and prepared. I saved a few articles in case I would need them while offline, downloaded the appropriate firmware, and set to work. Before actually upgrading, I first connected it to my FiOS Ethernet line, just to make sure it would work without the stupid Actiontec. Fortunately, I had gotten Ethernet instead of coax, and a static IP address instead of a dynamic one. These two factors would play to my advantage. Tech savvy FiOS users should certainly request Ethernet installed for this reason. Only business FiOS offers static IPs.

I felt very glad that things had worked out so far, and decided to take the plunge. I first upgraded the firmware through the regular GUI, under the administration menu. I put in the filename, and waited while it showed the update’s percentage. At last it finished, and to my delight I saw DD-WRT. It asked me to input a username and password, which I did. Now, the time came to reset the router, which you must do the first time to force a reboot. This router has two buttons on the back – a raised one by the power jack, and a recessed one next to the two USB ports. Yes, it can share external drives and printers! One button, the recessed one I believe, acts as the reset button, and the other button, called WPS, supposedly sets up some kind of wireless network, but also acts as a deeper reset.

The first time I reset, I did a 30-30-30 power cycle using the recessed button. After waiting about fifteen minutes, I started getting a bad feeling. It occurred to me that perhaps I should have not done this upgrade during a thunderstorm, as a medium rain fell, and thunder periodically filled the air with a low rumble, providing an uneasy background to this intricate technical operation. I know it says to remain patient, and that it can mess it up if reset while in the middle of the initial boot, but given that time has passed, and that I could ping it but not access the http interface, I figured I should try another reset. This time, I pressed the

raised button, and it came right up. I had to reenter my username and password, but I didn’t care, it had worked! I proceeded to upgrade to the latest firmware.

I immediately fell in love. The interface has a simple feel, and I quickly found myself online at blazing fast speeds, complete with wireless. In no time at all I had my port forwarding rules reestablished – very impressive. The auto-refresh pissed me off, since it causes my speech synthesizer to start babbling on as it refreshes. I disabled it in the admin panel, but it still happens, albeit not as frequently, so I still have some work to do.

I feel very satisfied with this setup. I notice a definite speed increase. Downstairs, I get a solid 96% signal strength. Out back, where before I could hardly se the connection, I got a solid 58% signal. Those three antennas must help. I can even telnet in to my router, and do basic Linux commands. How cool! If you care about utilizing your Internet connection to its full potential, you need a real router. If you care about your freedom, you should use open-source firmware, such as DD-WRT. The combination of FiOS Business with Ethernet, the Asus RT-N16 router, and DD-WRT Linux firmware gives an extremely satisfying experience.

These represent initial impressions. I may post future articles if things change.