$60 router + DD-WRT = high-end wireless router and switch

$60 router + DD-WRT = high-end wireless router and switch

Summary: Getting a high-powered wireless router with some high-end features is a lot cheaper than most people think.  In fact it doesn't cost any more than a regular router needed to connect to the Internet which allows the sharing of IP addresses between multiple clients.

TOPICS: Wi-Fi, Networking

Getting a high-powered wireless router with some high-end features is a lot cheaper than most people think.  In fact it doesn't cost any more than a regular router needed to connect to the Internet which allows the sharing of IP addresses between multiple clients.  With the addition of DD-WRT, you can turn a cheap commodity router in to a high-end wireless router and switch.  With the addition of a high-powered antenna located high up in the air which amplifies the send and receive capability of the wireless access point, anyone can set up their own wireless hotspot service with a massive coverage area.

Pictured to the left is the Buffalo WHR-HP-G54 router that sells for as little as $60 at all the local electronics stores like Circuit City, Best Buy, and Fry's or it can be ordered online.  The WHR-G54 sells for as little as $50 and is virtually identical except for the fact that the WHR-HP-G54 has a receive side amplifier which helps the router hear faint laptops coming in on long-range connections.  Both routers come with an RP-SMA antenna connector for external antennas which makes this router extremely flexible for wireless ISP and long-range bridging applications.  The WHR-HP-G54 also comes with a wall mounting bracket so that you can mount the device up high.

This particular router can run DD-WRT using this specific upgrade procedure.  DD-WRT can turn this cheap device in to an enterprise class product with enterprise features normally found in devices costing hundreds of dollars more.  Things you often don't get on your consumer routers are features like VLAN (Virtual LAN) support on the switch, Enterprise Wireless LAN security support, QoS (prioritization), site-to-site VPN tunneling and VPN servers, Hotspot, and advanced routing features like OSPF and BGP.  You can see a full gallery here with all the important features of DD-WRT.

[Update 10/17/2007 - Readers have commented that the OpenVPN function is very nice too.  I'll also be looking at adding FreeRADIUS to this device and will follow up on it.]

Topics: Wi-Fi, Networking

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  • dd-wrt demo

    I've been running dd-wrt on a Linksys WRT54GL for about a year now--it really is true folks--high-end features.

    You can check out a demo of the web gui features [url=http://www.informatione.gmxhome.de/DDWRT/Standard/V23final/]here[/url].

    Nice article George.
    D T Schmitz
    • That's why I said it isn't worth using client-side mesh

      That's why I said it isn't worth using client-side mesh when stuff like this is so cheap. You need the Ethernet Switch and router anyways and the Wireless AP essentially comes for free.

      Can you make an 433 MHz XO do all of this? Sure, with some hacking. But why would you waste a perfectly good $200 XO laptop when it's much easier to get a $60 device like this and a $40 antenna?
      • Furthermore, the XO-1 doesn't have a built-in Ethernet port

        Furthermore, the XO-1 doesn't have a built-in Ethernet port so you'll have to get an extra USB to Ethernet adapter for it. Avoiding infrastructure simply isn't wise.
      • Interesting point

        Your point is well taken, but here's an [url=http://www.gettysfamily.org/wordpress/?p=27]explanation from Jim Getty[/url], one of the OLPC engineering team members, on why mesh networking was chosen.

        Thanks George.
        D T Schmitz
        • But his logic is fundamentally flawed

          "Many or most children in the world do not have electric power, nor do they have computer networking. Without power being available, even if access points cost nothing, you have no network. So we are deploying mesh networking, to allow a child?s laptop to forward packets for their friend or neighbor?s laptop; each laptop becomes, in effect, a battery powered access point for the others."

          The point here is that if you must have some kind of router with Internet uplink. The router (which comes with an Access Point for essentially $10) and the modem that connects to the Internet MUST have some kind of power source be it Sun, Wind, Coal power plant, Nuclear plant, leg power, arm power, whatever. Therefore providing the extra watt of power for the radio is essentially moot and the cost of the radio is moot. Your only cost for creating a massive hotspot is the $40 antenna which you can?t possibly connect to the OLPC without some serious hacking plus a USB-to-Ethernet adapter. What makes sense is connecting that $40 antenna to one of these dirt cheap routers (which you have to have anyways) running DD-WRT.

          So Jim Getty is trying to solve a problem using the OLPC that doesn?t need to be solved since there are cheaper and better solutions such as the solution shown in this blog. Here you?re using a Broadcom 251mW radio with a receive-side amplifier which I?ve just tested to have 4 times the range of any other access point I?ve used. That?s using the stock antenna in a really poorly placed location. Next step I?m going to get one of those antennas and put it on my roof and then test it again.
          • Be careful up there on that roof!

            D T Schmitz
          • You're ignoring one of his constraints

            George, your ignoring the power consumption requirement constraint that the project has set for itself.
          • Marvell

            The Marvell 88W8388 chip is a very low power consumer, in addition to the Geode's low-power spec and will continue running to maintain a mesh connection even when the Geode goes into suspend mode!
            D T Schmitz
          • His constraint is based on a flawed assumption

            His constraint is based on a flawed assumption; that mesh is necessary and that infrastructure is too expensive to put up. If he didn't have to use mesh, it would make his design a lot siimpler. As low-power as that Marvel chipset/radio is which operates even when the Geode processor is suspended, it's still non-zero. There simply isn't a need mesh because infrastructure is cheap to put up and it does a much better job.
        • One other point, you would have to have an AP even if you used mesh

          Since the XO doesn't have an Ethernet adapter, it will have to have a wireless base station to connect to and act as a repeater. The mere act of "repeating" just once cuts your bandwidth in half because you've doubled the congestion. Every hop you add then adds even more congestion.

          But the fact that you need an AP to begin with means you've mooted the entire need for client side mesh.
  • All in one security device if you have a usb port

    I've been running the Ubiquitous WRT54GL from Linksys with DD-WRT for almost a year now and love it. Completely stable. Works great with many open torrent connections etc. I remember you were looking for a way to do a very cheep and low power solution for a dedicate IP Cop solution. Well if you get a router with a USB port for mass storage, you can do just that for about 100 bucks. ASUS makes a couple of DD-WRT compatible routers that have multiple USB ports and faster 266mhz processors in them. There's a firmware package out there called Packet Protector that is basically the same IP Cop suite only reconfigured to run on the router. You need the USB port to add some additional storage for virus defs. You can do some fancy soldering and get a hardware hack for some of the other routers to accept a SD card, but why when you can get a faster router with usb built in?
    • Samba Filesystem on dd-wrt

      Having a router with usb ports is certainly nice but one other 'work-around' is available in dd-wrt: set up a samba share mount point into which you can install additional apps that run on the router. Being WRT54GL runs on Linux, setting a mount is straight-forward and can be done right in the dd-wrt gui settings.

      Read more [url=http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Samba_Filesystem]here[/url]
      D T Schmitz
      • SAMBA may not work for virus defs.

        Yeah I'm aware of the SAMBA solution. I'm not sure that it would be fast enough in that application. Then again, I'm not sure it wouldn't be. I think to have the virus def's on the "local" file system would probably create less of a bottleneck in the security appliance application. Otherwise SAMBA would be a good fit for file share or FTP.
    • I already found a cheap solution for IPCop/Copfilter

      I already found a cheap solution for IPCop/Copfilter using an Open Frame PSU and an Intel D201GLY mobo/CPU. I'm going to blog it when I get done.
      • How cheap?

        Cheaper than $100? I'll be interested to see it for sure.
        • No, under $200 with a 1.33 GHz "Yonah" Celeron 115

          No, under $200 with a 1.33 GHz "Yonah" Celeron 115, 512 MB RAM, 40 GB 2.5" HDD for caching, open frame 60W PSU. Whole thing takes about 25W power and it's very powerful. I want that much performance because of the content filtering and the transparent antivirus scanning.
  • Call me when there's a cheap dual band router for it

    No really. Many people would do fine with this, but there are multiple wireless access points running on all the G-channels where I live. All I need is a couple 11n neighbors, and I might as well be using 11b. I'm really disappointed with retailers who have sold consumers down the G-only path, and then overcharge for the dual band equipment.

    So, anyway, if I want to run enterprise quality, I'll want 11a too.
    GW Mahoney
    • Agree - need the 5.8Ghz band

      2.4Ghz is a mess. The reality is that in dense environments (made WORSE with high-powered AP's) the spectrum is so congested / noisy that real-world throughput sucks. This is why all our corporate laptops have A support.
    • Good point, I'll look for a dual-band solution

      Good point, I'll look for a dual-band solution and ideally a/b/g/n.
    • The WRT55AG is sort of listed but not tested

      It won't say what version is supported and it looks like the antennas are not removable. It also looks like the processor is severely limited.