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Ask Slashdot: Best Open Source Project For a Router/Wi-Fi Access Point? 193

Posted by timothy
from the what's-the-nsa's-least-favorite dept.
An anonymous reader writes "My wireless router just died. I have an old netbook lying around that has a wired network interface and a wireless one. The wireless card is supported in master mode by Linux, FreeBSD, and OpenBSD. What does Slashdot recommend I use to turn it into a router/wireless access point? DD-WRT? pfSense? Smoothwall? Fedora/Ubuntu/OpenBSD with a manual configuration? I'm not afraid of getting my hands dirty and I know what I'm doing, but I want as close to zero maintenance as possible."
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Ask Slashdot: Best Open Source Project For a Router/Wi-Fi Access Point?

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  • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <(mojo) (at) (> on Saturday October 05, 2013 @01:11PM (#45045233) Homepage

    If you want something powerful but maintenance free then DD-WRT on dedicated router hardware is the way to go. Running an ARM system-on-chip without active cooling and everything on flash memory is going to be far more reliable than any kind of PC set up. DD-WRT does pretty much anything you want and you can get a root shell if you want.

    For what it's worth I prefer Buffalo hardware. It's robust and performs well.

  • pfSense (Score:5, Informative)

    by kroby (1391819) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @01:16PM (#45045273)
    pfSense is a great open source router distro and should have no problem running on your net book. However, Sophos UTM/Astaro Security Gateway is a commercial product that is free for personal use. I recommend it if you need any UTM features such as gateway AV, IPS/IDS, Spam Filtering, and centrally managed AV.
  • by agoodm (856768) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @01:19PM (#45045299) Homepage
    A properly configured and set up PC based router with appropriate active or passive cooling will be more reliable than ARM SoC based solutions due to the additional speed providing additional routing capacity. Most SoC solutions ive seen have insufficient power for reliable operation under anything more than a moderate load. Source: I manufacture and install PC based routers in places where ordinary routers are becoming unstable
  • zero maintenance (Score:3, Informative)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @01:19PM (#45045301)

    I'm not afraid of getting my hands dirty and I know what I'm doing, but I want as close to zero maintenance as possible."

    DD-WRT. Pick a good router with a fast cpu in it if you plan on running P2P with it. My high-end Asus 'black knight' (one of the recommended high-end dd-wrt models) shits itself if you have more than about a 800 or so simultanious connections, because the CPU isn't fast enough. I would not recommend using a 'netbook' with a wifi card simply because it consumes a lot of power and you'll make up in lower power consumption costs what you'd spend on a purpose-built router in about 15-18 months.

  • by mysqlbytes (908737) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @01:21PM (#45045309) Homepage Journal
    I recently got a Microtik router running RouterOS, and I have to say I love it functionality at it's price point. Even supports BGP if you are that way inclined. My DSL was annoying me, so I turned it to bridged mode, and now the new router does everything else. NAT seems faster, with pings being 3ms quicker which I was astonished at. My other idea was an old desktop running linux, but I worked out the pricing for hardware vs electricity. And within a year (in Ireland) I am going to save money with the Microtik router. The router uses about 7W fully loaded, whereas my desktop would be churning 250 watts fully loaded... This is my one: []
  • Don't use a netbook (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 05, 2013 @01:24PM (#45045333)

    It's a bad idea to use a netbook from the perspective of power consumption. Compared to a dedicated system (often ARM or MIPS), a netbook's going to suck up a lot of power that could be better put to other uses. I'd personally suggest getting a commercially-available router that's well-supported by OpenWRT [], such as a Netgear WNDR3800.

    If you must use this netbook, then your best options are probably OpenBSD or Debian (stable), depending on hardware support and what you're comfortable with.

  • by ezdiy (2717051) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @01:26PM (#45045353)
    OpenWRT on cheapo commodity hardware - personally I'm using TL-WR1043ND, 4x1gigE/300mbps 2.4ghz N, USB storage [] is best bang for 50 bucks.

    The system is reasonably specced to run openvpn gateway for home network and serve USB drive miniNAS via smb.

    DD-WRT is basically GUI polish for people who don't wan't to delve into scary command line, but otherwise nowhere near as flexible as openwrt is.
  • Overkill? (Score:4, Informative)

    by kheldan (1460303) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @01:37PM (#45045455) Journal
    In my opinion: Unless you're planning on also running servers (web, FTP, mail, etc) on your new "router/access point", then it's complete overkill to use even a netbook for that. Additionally, you'd be potentially opening yourself up to a world of hurt since your netbook, being a general-purpose computing device at heart, is going to be more vulnerable to outside attack than a purpose-built router/gateway/wireless access point.
  • Re:zero maintenance (Score:5, Informative)

    by dugancent (2616577) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @01:37PM (#45045467)

    TomatoUSB is another option. I prefer it over DD-WRT personally, but they are both good options.

  • Power consumption (Score:4, Informative)

    by pla (258480) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @01:38PM (#45045481) Journal
    Keep in mind that while a dedicated consumer-grade wifi router draws around 5W, a netbook will draw 20-25W (possibly more).

    Although that may not sound like much, a 24/7 load of 20W, at $0.15/KWH will cost you $2.16/month. You will break even vs just buying a low-end (Rosewill, etc) new router in about 10 months, or two years for a mid-consumer-grade LinkSys/DLink.

    Admittedly, your solution will give you just about the highest-end wireless router you can get (limited by the radio in your netbook, of course), theoretically supporting any networking feature available with Linux. In practice though, how often do you really need anything beyond WPA2, IPv4 routing with a basic "block everything except what I allow" firewall, and perhaps (if you use VPN a lot) IPSec support?
  • by johnnys (592333) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @01:46PM (#45045521)
    This is probably not what the OP wants to hear (surprise! It's Slashdot after all) but I agree that a VERY good option is a Buffalo router. I bought a Buffalo WZR-600DHP running DD-WRT and it has been completely reliable in my SOHO environment. The feature set, tunability and capabilities of DD-WRT on this device are extensive and impressive.

    I have tried DD-WRT on some older routers (Linksys) in the past and although the features were there the reliability and dependability were just not there. I had to reset every few weeks and reconfigure. So when I saw Buffalo was using DD-WRT I decided to try it and I have been very happy.

  • Re:zero maintenance (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 05, 2013 @01:58PM (#45045621)

    Agreed. I use the Shibby branch on my ASUS RT-N16. Been running strong about 2 years with no problems.

  • by jones_supa (887896) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @02:07PM (#45045713)
    Actually it's not that bad. A netbook idles at 10W, which is on par with the power consumption of a DSL modem.
  • by fa2k (881632) <pmbjornstad @ g m a> on Saturday October 05, 2013 @02:26PM (#45045893)

    Many people say to get a router instead because of power consumption, wireless signal strength and stability.

    You have to work out the power use yourself (some figures have already been posted by pla). Keep in mind though that a laptop using 20 W also provides 20 W of heating. If you're in a hot climate, you may lose twice by having to run the AC harder. If in a cold climate, with electric (resistive) heating, the 20 W may essentially be free most of the year. Also, if you can eliminate other devices (like a VPN gateway) with the laptop, that could be a win. On the other hand, if you need wired network it seems you can't even get away with an extra switch, as the laptop doesn't have enough ports -- here the dedicated ones clearly win.

    The wireless signal can be tested. If you can boot a live-cd you could set up host AP mode and test speed by transferring data and latency with ping.

    The stability is hard to gauge. Both netbooks and consumer routers can be quite bad. I ran a Dell Insiron 1501 as a router for a few years and didn't have any problems (except a ExpressCard NIC, which was later replaced).

    I wouldnt' go for the laptop due to not having wired network, but otherwise I would definitely pick it. It's great for hosting small DIY services like a webcam. I wouldn't host internal-only services beyond those typically hosted on routers, for security reasons (e.g. if the webserver first binds to the local interface, then after an update binds to both interfaces).

  • Re:zero maintenance (Score:5, Informative)

    by spongman (182339) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @03:41PM (#45046387)

    Please mod parent up.

    Tomatousb is brilliant. Hardware compatibility is a little less broad than some of the others, but once you get t installed the usability is like butter.

  • Re:zero maintenance (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 05, 2013 @03:47PM (#45046421)

    Ditto. Shibby on a Belkin F7D3301. Factory firmware on that thing was trash, which happens to be where I found the router to begin with. I was about to trow it out (again) but on a whim tried Shibby's TomatoUSB. Rock solid stable, coverage throughout the house, and it consumes like no power (doesn't even get noticeably warm). But yeah, Shibby TomatoUSB - good stuff.

  • Re:zero maintenance (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 05, 2013 @09:10PM (#45048169)

    Also, TomatoUSB and it's many variants are still updated, unlike DD-WRT which is so far out of date it's not even funny.

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