My house of (network) cards has tumbled
March 30, 2008 6:00 PM   Subscribe

I live in a house with 6 other internet hungry people. Help me cater for our needs!

I live in a very connected household but I can't find a consumer router to cater for us. We have 4 laptops, 2 desktops, 1 NAS, 2 ps3's and 2 xbox360's in our house and I need help to find a solution that works.

Currently we have a fairly beefy ADSL connection and Belkin N1 wireless modem router sitting on the end of it to share with everyone. The game consoles are frequently used for online gaming (both PSN and Xbox Live) and there is often heavy access going on from the desktops/laptops (Web surfing, downloading, music/video streaming and some bit torrent).

When a lot of connections are created (i.e. p2p, joost) and a fair throughput is heading through the router (like to and from the NAS) it will often buckle and cause a small 5-10s outage, killing any transfers. Otherwise the Belkin N1 is almost perfect.

I have access to a WRAP board running an older version of m0n0wall which I have found to be very stable but gives me lots of problems with the game consoles because it lacks (and developers refuse to implement) UPnP.

I understand that UPnP isn't a great protocol and I always prefer to run a tight ship. BitTorrent isn't a problem because you can specify the ports to advertise on the client and match them on the router. However the game consoles lack this customisation and so far I have found NO solution to be able to use multiple console online services behind one NAT machine (bar buying more IP addresses and 1-to-1 natting them)

Does anybody have a solid solution to replace my Belkin N1 router, I would love to use the WRAP board I have and use the Belkin as an access point only.

So in short, my requirements are:
1) Can support heavy loads and many connections
2) Support UPnP (or another solution to allow Xbox/PS3 to play nice behind the router)
3) Wireless N support and decent legacy wireless support too
posted by puddpunk to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Well, I've found pfSense which looks like it may fit the bill - and run on my WRAP! Cool.

However, I can't find any confirmation on UPnP support but there's a lot of noise about it, mostly outdated mailing list/forum discussions. Also, no clue about it's performance on the WRAP even though it's forked from m0n0wall.

Anybody had any experience with pfSense? Specifically on an embedded platform?
posted by puddpunk at 6:13 PM on March 30, 2008
not sure about N cards there might be supported miniPCI cards
posted by evilelvis at 7:22 PM on March 30, 2008

Best answer: Get the Linksys 54G router and install whatever homebrew firmware you like, I use Tomato for 3 PCs, two laptops, one IP phone and one NAS with awesome results. The Belkin is most certainly NOT made for this sort of workload.
posted by Cosine at 8:29 PM on March 30, 2008

Best answer: I too have had great results with the Tomato firmware on the WRT54G. Obviously, this leaves your 802.11n requirement unsatisfied. Since 802.11n is still not an official standard, though, I don't know if you're going to have much luck finding routers that support it.

The obvious recommendation would be to buy a WRT54G to use as your main router and then configure your N1 as an access point only. One caveat: I've tried to use these things as access points in the past and have never successfully gotten them to propagate DHCP requests when they are not the DHCP server on the network. Maybe this has changed since I last worked with the N1 (I'd estimate about a year,) but it's something to watch out for. Static IPs work fine, or if one is sufficient to cover the house you can always disable DHCP on the Linksys and let the N1 handle it, though I've never tried this. Make sure you get the latest firmware for everything.
posted by contraption at 10:56 PM on March 30, 2008

Dude DO NOT GET A LINKSYS 54G. Any version you find in a store these days has crap hardware and (1) will be crushed by the load you place on it and (2) will not run a full version of any decent custom firmware. I had a version 5.0 54G and could bring it to its knees with one computer running bittorrent.

If you're going to stay with consumer grade hardware, have a look at DD-WRT's supported devices list. Pick something off of there with at least 4MB of flash and as much RAM as you can get. The Buffalo WZR-G144NH, for example, would probably work well for your needs. It also has the benefit of being the router of choice for the main developer of DD-WRT firmware.

Another option is more business-oriented routers like the Cisco 800 and 1800 series. These routers are engineered based on the assumption that many users will be concurrently hammering them, unlike consumer grade equipment. This could end up costing a decent amount and I'm not sure about the UPnP capabilities (haven't looked into it, though).
posted by doowod at 10:57 PM on March 30, 2008

doowod: You are incorrect, Linksys brought back the classic 54, it is now called the WRT54GL, the v5.0 you got was a terrible product but the proper one is still available.
posted by Cosine at 11:39 PM on March 30, 2008

According to this page you can use DD-WRT (which definitely supports UPnP) on a WRAP board.

Cosine: Your first post is incorrect and misleading (you can't install whatever custom firmware you like on a 54G), my post is accurate. Perhaps you should have called it a 54GL in your first post since both the junk 54G and 54GL are still being sold?

Also, the 54GL only has 16MB of RAM compared to the 32-128MB offered by more capable routers and doesn't support 802.11n. The Buffalo router mentioned in my post has double the memory of the 54GL, supports 802.11n, and is generally a substantially better option for the OP's situation.
posted by doowod at 12:02 AM on March 31, 2008

Might be useful to figure out why those outages are occurring. If the thing overheating and locking? Is it really the adsl connection and not the router?
posted by gjc at 6:49 AM on March 31, 2008

I've gotten DD-WRT on a Linksys WRT150N if the 802.11n is a requirement. The 300 or 350 is beefier, with more memory and/or a USB port.

I'd also go about throttling the P2P stuff. And UPnP might be considered a security risk.
posted by chengjih at 1:09 PM on March 31, 2008

Response by poster: Hi All, thanks for the replies.

Firstly, doowod, thanks for the suggestion but I'm in New Zealand and unfortunately I can't seem to source that Buffalo unit anywhere, although that looks like a great little box...

I did look into the WRT54G(L) but I already have a few 802.11G access points - it might just be best to ditch my Wireless N requirements (and my Belkin) until it is ratified and some stable products come out supporting it but for now just use some 802.11G AP's.

The WRAP has 3 routable ports with a 266mhz GEODE processor and 64mb of RAM + whatever CF card you can jam in it which seems to be better than a WRT54GL solution.

So at the moment it's looking like I'll use the WRAP with pfSense or DD-WRT (haven't decided) with my Linksys AM300 half bridge ADSL modem and one or 2 wireless G APs. I might plug the AP into the same switch as the NAS so it bypasses the router when transferring as to not interfere with internet connectivity.

gjc, I have no idea whats making it lock up but it drops everything including wireless <> switch connections that shouldn't be "routed" so it's the whole unit that takes a dive.
posted by puddpunk at 1:49 PM on March 31, 2008

Best answer: Hi All,

Just an update - had some problems with pfSense + WRAP, it seems the router/firewall was too strict, or the UPnP was faulty and it caused problems with multiple gaming consoles. Will have to find another use for that little thing :)

I did have a good look around for that Buffalo unit you mentioned doowod but I couldn't find it anywhere in NZ or Australia...

Instead, I got my grubby mitts on a WRT54GL and installed the latest Tomato on it. Colour me impressed - that's an awesome little machine. We're now streaming, gaming, downloading, voiping all at the same time !

L/Sys AM300 <> L/Sys WRT54GL (Tomato) <> Gigabit Switch <> FreeNAS

With all the clients either hanging off either the switch or the wireless and not a wrinkle to be had (minus some ISP problems...). Now I hope that when new 802.11N wireless/routers start to come to market we'll be able to install some sort of Tomato equivalent :)
posted by puddpunk at 7:25 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

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