31 March 2006

Linksys snafu with v5 routers

I started my home networking out on Netgear equiptment.  In the beginning it was a very basic network with just a couple of hubs.  Of course this was in the time before broadband.  At the time, using dial up internet was not only slow, but sharing it was near impossible.  As a result, routers and switches was not a consideration and the only thing we were concerned with was hooking PC’s together for a game of Age of Empires (the original), Birth of the Federation or Civilization.
Then came broadband.  Suddenly all computers needed access to the internet.  Initially I used multiple IP’s via the hubs, but over time I decided to eliminate multiple IP’s and use a router instead.  Suddenly routers became the new craze.  Before I bought my first router, I investigated a little bit.  I found the best performance/price value from Linksys.  Furthermore, their WRT54G router was Linux based so there were many community BIOS upgrades to be had.
My little WRT54G version 1 hummed along piecefully for several years until recently I just quit.  We had a pretty bad storm and I’ve seen electricity do some weird and wonderful things.  All my equiptment is UPS protected so the only way I can figure it got knocked out was through the cable line.  Of course it jumped the cable modem and hit the router… not impossible… of course, the router may simply have died too.
Whatever the case, the bottom line was that my router died and I needed a new router.  I immediately looked to Linksys again.  I had several wireless cards, so I couldn’t switch to the SRX router, but I found the WRT54GS that had speed booster technology and would work with my existing wireless cards.  I forked over the cash and brought it home.  I had to get this one directly from Best Buy since 1.  I could not get on-line to order one and 2.  I really wanted it right now!
I installed the new router and then went out to my favorite firmware site for Linksys routers…LinksInfo.org!  On the site I searched for downloads for the WRT54GS version 5 which I now had.  Then I found to my dismay that the version 5 routers, both for WRT54G and WRT54GS, was VxWare based and not Linux based.  That meant no 3rd party firmware! 
Well OK, so I can’t use 3rd party firmware.  No problem, I’m sure it will work just fine… WRONG!
I’m not the first to report serious problems with the new version 5 hardware.  It worked for a short while and then it totally quit on the land line connections allowing only wireless clients access!   I tried everything.  I upgraded and flashed the firmware with the latest version from the Linksys site but there was simply no way to get it working correctly! 
Then I started the search for version 4 routers.  I eventually even bought one off Ebay.  When it arrived, it was also a version 5.  After fighting with the company, they conducted a search with Linksys and it turned out that version 4 routers was simply not to be found.  Right when I was ready to give up on Linksys as a whole, I found the solution…
Linksys WRT54GL
Yep, you guessed it… the "L" is for Linux.  Linksys found such a strong backlash against their decision to move away from Linux based firmware that they created an entire new router just to satisfy the 3rd party firmware community.
So instead of going out and buying used routers off Ebay, I was able to go out and get a couple of WRT54GL’s to replace the version 5′s.
My recommendation, forget the WRT54G and WRT54GS.  Get a WRT54GL instead! 

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