A few weeks ago, I was saddened to learn that Linksys had changed the best home router available for the worse. In case you don’t follow the router scene much (I know I don’t), here’s just a bit of backstory:
The Linksys WRT54G has been considered one of the best home / small office routers availible for the geek with too much free time. Why? Because people found out that it was running Linux. And even better, due to weird copywrite laws that I won’t pretend to understand, they had to release the source code for the software– aka “firmware” –that ran on it. Meaning anyone could take their software, look at it, improve it, and release it again. All for free.
And many people did that.
Thus, you could take this $50 router, add someone’s improved software, and make it almost as powerful as a router you might pay $600 dollars for. That’s a pretty good deal.
Then tragedy stuck… To save a few bucks, for the newest versions of this router Linksys has changed the internals of this model and crippled it from allowing this change in software to work. (And they changed the operating system, so anything Linux wouldn’t run anyways.)
And I cried at night.
But now, they’ve released the old (good) WRT54G under a new name: WRT54GL! It’s got all the cool features that it did before they crippled it, but it costs $70 now. So, basically they want geeks that want to hack these routers pay a few more dollars to be able to do it. This is still a good thing, because at least you can still buy it somewhere.
I have two of the original one’s, and they are great. One is running the original Linksys firmware. The other is connected to the computer we have hooked up to the TV and is running the dd-wrt firmware, so that it can run in client mode and connect to the other router upstairs.
This saves me from drilling a hole trough the ceiling to connect this computer to the network. I thought that was a good idea, my wife did not.
So, if you are in need of a router, and want the option to someday modify it to make it much more powerful, go grab a WRT54GL today!
And if you want more info about the WRT54g and its possibilities, check here or here for a mostly complete list of the firmwares you can get. Its really pretty exciting stuff… If you’re in to routers.
And hopefully someday electronic makers will figure out better ways to name their hardware, so we aren’t all left memorizing silly strings of random characters. I mean really, how hard would it be to come up with a naming scheme similar to vechiles for digital cameras, routers and the like.
It would be much cooler to say the Linksys “Firebrand” then WRT54g anyday.