OpenWrt Everywhere

Ever since I’ve learned about alternative router firmware I wanted to give it a try. With bugs and security holes being found in vendor firmware every now and then it was becoming even more relevant. Being an open source software advocate, I was mostly looking into OpenWrt. Unfortunately, my hardware was either not supported (ZyXEL P660 ADSL router) or in some early alpha stage (D-Link DIR-300). But then I learned about a reasonably cheap TP-LINK TL-WR841N[D] router which has good OpenWrt support. So I bought it (for ~18 €, got version 9.2) and immediately flashed OpenWrt on it — which was super easy: I just uploaded .bin file and waited for reboot.

Then I had to connect the new router to the ADSL line. I decided to use ZyXEL P660 in bridge mode, so I logged into it, disabled Wi-Fi and DHCP server and enabled “Bridge mode” + “RFC 1483” in WAN settings. That was it for the modem configuration. I then connected my new TL-WR841 router’s WAN port to one of ZyXEL’s yellow outputs.

There’s a catch here though. After the procedure I cannot access ZyXEL configurator any more, neither web nor telnet. Not that I need it much (it’s just a dumb modem now), but it may be useful for debugging.

As for OpenWrt configuration, first I needed to go to Network → Interfaces and configure WAN to use PPPoE with username/password given by internet provider. Et voilà! The router connected to the modem and the only thing left was to enable Wi-Fi. After several days I can say that the network is very stable, occasional internet interruptions are still there, but they’re caused either by modem or ADSL line. The best part is that there are no more spontaneous reboots which would bring down not only internet, but internal network too.

And later that day I found out that some fine folks had put together a stable build of OpenWrt for the router I have in another place, D-Link DIR-300 (B1) which is connected directly to an Ethernet network. Naturally, I had to give it a try. Flashing was a little trickier this time since I had to use emergency web interface which required performing some magic passes with power plug and reset button. To be fair, the router was pretty stable with original firmware v2.15. But D-Link has been plagued with security issues in recent years, and old routers don’t get much update love as we all know. So I figured it would be safer to use the firmware which is open and has more chances for future updates.

So far I’m very happy with the system and cannot recommend it more. And I haven’t yet mentioned thousands of additional packages. Imagine the possibilities, especially on more powerful hardware with USB ports and other goodies!

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