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There isn't much appeal in lugging unsightly 50 Metre CAT-5 network cables under carpets, in and out of stairway posts and under doorways to achieve an internet connection in a room away from the location of a router; with a wireless signal strength that could easily be put to shame by a pair of childrens' walkie talkies. Upgrading the router was a necessity to maintain internet connection in such rooms. With a severe lack of network knowledge, choosing my new distanced friend among an assortment of antennae and flashing LEDs was little more than overwhelming. Settling on a LinkSyS WRT54GL was brought about by its cheaper price tag, blue coloured face plate and the 2 antennae which surely meant double the signal strength to my single antenna Belkin disaster. It clearly wasn't top of the range but it served its duty well. Three years on and it occurred to me that I had bought the most powerful router in the shop that day.
Networking can be extremely daunting to those uneducated in this pool of the cyber-sea (like me) , luckily the LinkSyS WRT54GL 54mbps is extremely easy going to install. As long as a modem is available to connect into the modem port (leaving 4 ports left) along with a socket to power the router, the set up process is easily done and is clearly documented in a huge fold out instruction set which details everything but; how to refold this poster! Plugged in and ready to go, the router gracefully flashes its LEDs to show there is life inside. Hurrah! My PS3 can connect to the internet without that 50 metre long cable! With a signal strength at about 70 - 80%, this router has been a massive improvement over the last. With several wireless connections, the router does hold strong enough to stay online (although the strength does dip with every additional connection). Whilst wireless 'G' routers are not the top dog any more, the majority of devices at the moment are wireless-G or B anyway. Configuration options are what to be expected for most routers these day; wireless security such as WPA, WEP, WPA-2. Port forwarding, static IPs and all the little obscure settings that go beyond me. Its a nice little router that does its job well and reliably but there are better routers out there of course.
The WRT54GL model runs on Linux ( hence the L ) which leads to a lot of untapped potential. Three years on I discovered an article which was named: 'Turn your $60 router into a $600 router', ridiculous it sounded, but I was a bit intrigued. I had clearly hit gold for my router model was the kind that allowed such a transformation by altering the firmware on the router. Downloading and installing Tomato firmware on my router was the best networking choice I had made thus far ( apart from purchasing the router in the first place ). With a few tweaks, no longer was my router 'sort of good', it was one of the best routers at the time.
Tomato firmware has transformed my router at no cost at all, reaping in benefits all the time it is switched on. The number of alterations that can be made to the router with tomato firmware is nothing short of overwhelming. Most of these tweaks are for the real network geniuses who want to change every little detail down to the sequence of flashing lights when the router is powered on. The feature which attracted me most to the firmware upgrade was the ability to boost the transmitting power from the default 30 mW. With a safe ( as in, will not overheat and damage the router ) increase to 70mW, that is more than double the transmitting power. More power means more signal strength from the router. My signal strength remains at 100% with the PS3, desktop and a laptop connected by wireless to the router. I've heard stories of people affixing heat sinks and fans to the router to allow further boosts, but without living in a mansion this is really not necessary for 70mW is certainly enough for your wireless needs.
A boost in signal strength isn't all that this newly improved router can achieve. Its quality of service (QoS) is an excellent addition to the already brilliant tomato WRT54GL. QoS allows the user to distribute their bandwidth based on their preferences. Those pesky youtube video viewers constantly streaming videos can have their download speeds sliced to as little as desired, giving full service to Skype calls the minute a call is received or when that PS3 is loaded up to give the best gaming possible. Tomato's user friendly interface makes for easy setting up of QoS priority levels where devices can be assigned to different levels. Such a sly way to dictate the internet as you please. Another cool feature in this menu is the graphing of bandwidth distribution. A superb pie chart displays the bandwidth distribution of the different priority levels. Playing a youtube video shows a full chart with 100% of the allowed bandwidth being distributed to the youtube lover, flicking on my PS3 quickily presents a pacman shape engulfing the youtube part of the pie chart whilst the youtube video buffers much slower. It seems to work flawlessly! Unfortunately, QoS seemed to cause me PS3 PSN problems as it began to believe it was being capped (whilst it wasn't) resulting in the removal of this marvellous feature.
Like the sound of dictating the internet yet? It gets better. Access restrictions allow certain sites, sites containing certain words in its address, or even certain ports to be blocked within a time of your choice. With a sibling addicted to an online game, trying to sleep in the same room with constant clicks and bangs on the keyboard proves troublesome. The solution for me was to restrict his gaming to cut him off at the time I sleep. BANG, on the dot, disconnected from his game. Cruel, I know, but he struggles to get up in the mornings anyway so I'm only doing him good. Access restrictions on the router directly block websites at the very root to ensure a full-proof crackdown on anything that needs to be blocked permanently or temporarily, which could be used to defend children against accessing specific sites or to lock certain computers or devices from the internet at specific times.
Both before and after Tomato firmware, the router itself has remained cool enough not to be problem to anyone. It is lightweight which would not appreciate too many books being left on top of itself as tempting as it is with only a slightly curved top. With a huge catalogue of hardware tweaks that can be applied, the WRT54GL router loaded with Tomato firmware truly is a magnificent piece of kit to keep the network happy ( at least for the administrator! Haha :D )
The link to the article on how to upgrade the router is more than 80 characters so I cannot post it. Search on google 'lifehacker tomato' for the guide!
P.S: 50th review!
I know a lot of computer stuff from different hardware to software, but when it comes to network stuff,f I'm in the dark. Luckily Linksys has develop routers for us, for people who don't know anything about establishing a wireless or plain normal network. They developed Linksys Wireless-G Broadband Router WRT54GL. And, for those who want to play around or to give some extra strength to the router, they installed Linux firmware (this is why we have WRT54GL, where L stands for Linux), that means more security and longer life spend, and easy to upgrade/change the official firmware. BUT for all of us, who we'll not try to do this, WRT54GL brings simplicity to establishing a home or office network, let see why is that:
1. when you open the package and you put the router near the computer and your internet cable all you have to do is to follow the simple drawn or on screen (you get a manual CD) instruction. It takes you about 2 minutes to connect (one minute to connect and one for wondering "could it really be soooo easy?")
2. open your Internet Explorer (unfortunately this one work the best, some have try Mozzila and some have try Opera, some have manage to use this two and some have not, but if you use IE it will defiantly worked) and type the IP address that you get in your manual notes.
3. follow the instructions in the manual and type password and username
4. click save.
And you are ready. Sometimes you have to type some other stuff, but because of the excellent Linksys interface it's easy to do so.
You can also use one of the programs, that helps you to install the router automatic, simply by clicking "next" it easy, but I still recommend to do it manually.
Now what more do we get wit our router:
Internet in almost every part of the house. It's so powerful that even your neighbors could connect to your wireless network it, so be careful and protect your network.
And (coped from Linksys site):
All-in-one Internet-sharing Router, 4-port Switch, and 54Mbps Wireless-G (802.11g) Access Point
Shares a single Internet connection and other resources with Ethernet wired and Wireless-G and -B devices
Push button setup feature makes wireless configuration secure and simple
High security: TKIP and AES encryption, wireless MAC address filtering, powerful SPI firewall