As more and more routers are beginning to rely on embedded Linux, the phenomenon of router hacking -- where router owners can substitute their own firmware for the ones that comes from their router vendors -- is beginning to take off like wild fire. To my surprise, it's no longer just for geeks better known for sticking water hoses in their PCs to squeeze out every last megahertz. It's relatively easy for mere mortals to completely change the personality of their routers with downloads that can be found on the Net.>
Even more surprising is that, rather than threaten you with a voided warrantee should you hack your router, hardware vendors like Cisco/Linksys are practically encouraging the hacking community by freely distributing the source code to their routers (which originally comes from chipset maker Broadcom. Consequently, supercharged custom firmware downloads that empower oversized WDS (Wireless Distribution System) networks and home brewed hotspots are turning up all over the Web. Commercial enterprises like Boingo actively seek new recruits with $80 routers and a cheap broadband connection for the promise of revenue sharing.
Most of these hacked Firmwares have advanced features like traffic-shaping that even enable software VoIP phones or Skype to work somewhat reliably. Even if VoIP over a hotspot isn't your cup of tea, traffic shaping really does make these shoe string operations usable for business users since it can improve the reliability and stability of VPNs. Now if they can just make fuel cell technology a reality, then we'll really achieve the promise of wireless everywhere.