What’s the best firmware for the Linksys WRT54GL?

In my “job” as the weekend admin of my wife’s primary schools IT systems, I have to re-install the schools wireless setup – when the movers worked in the school during summer break, they broke the main DSL WiFi Router, so we had to get a new one.

I got another Linksys WRT54GL of course, as this is the one device that has never failed me yet. It’s been quite some time that I set up a new one, so I’m not up to speed with current developments in alternative formwares.

Here’s what I want to do:

  • set up a WPA2 protected wireless bridge from the DSL modem to the computer room
  • configure OpenDNS as a filter (GREAT solution!)
  • allow for remote management of the infrastructure

So, what do I use? So far I’ve used DD-WRT in most cases, but Tomato is also rumoured to be good. Any recommendations? Other firmwares I should be looking at?

Universal Wireless Repeater

Over the last few evenings, I have spent quite some time trying to figure out a combination of WPA (wireless protected access) and WDS (wireless distribution system) that actually works.

My DSL line ends in the basement of our house, and my wife’s office is on an upper floor. The signal of my primary WiFi router (AVM Fritz!Box 7050) doesn’t make it that far, so I set up a trusty Linksys WRT54G as a WDS repeater. That worked well, but it didn’t allow me to activate WPA encryption on the connection, as WDS over WPA just does not work in this combination. Not that I’m too scared about neighbours using my internet connection, but when someone from roughly 300m away told me they could see my SSID, I got a bit worried.

I went out and bought a second Fritz!Box, as some people mentioned this would be a solution. Unfortunately, with AVMs latest firmware update (…) there seem to be a few problems with exactly this setup. My wife going “what’s wrong with the internet again…?” didn’t exactly help.

Today I found this via Lifehacker (what a GREAT blog!):

“This How-To provides step-by-step instructions for creating a Universal Wireless Repeater appliance: a device that you can place anywhere and it will wirelessly repeat the strongest signal, onto another wireless network (with or without security). This functionality is also known as Wireless Client Bridge, or Range Expander. Unlike WDS, once you have this appliance setup, it will work with any open network.”

Doesn’t this sound just great?? I’ll give it a try tonight. Good thing I kept the Linksys.

Primary school goes Ubuntu

Recently we managed to fund the purchase of 16 new computers in my wife’s primary school. The old hardware were Pentium III 500 MHz boxes running Windows 98. When I connected the computer room to the DSL router (Linksys WRT54G running DD-WRT), they were all crying for security updates.

I wasn’t going to put Windows 98 on the new PCs, so what options did we have? Buying new Microsoft licenses was not covered by the budget, and probably not needed, anyway: the only software that was already available was a set of outdated education programs, most of which could easily be replaced by stuff available online.

After a brief trial with OpenSUSE, my choice was Ubuntu. The reason to go for OpenSUSE was that it’s available with german language pack – going to Linux and english at the same time might have been a bit too much for 3rd graders ;)

But then I found german Ubuntu CD images, and I was good to go. I prepared 5 CDs and installed 14 PCs in less than two hours, including account setup and Firefox preparation (start page to a kids friendly site, Adblock).

Very nice. The next thing to do will be to set up a common file storage, and to look for educational software (1st to 4th grade primary school, in german). Any hints gladly appreciated.