Scott Hanselman

Own a LinkSys WRT54G? Sveasoft released Alchemy v6.0RC6 and I HAD to install it at 2am

January 22, '05 Comments [10] Posted in Gaming | Tools
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Shoot, who DOESN'T have this router? Seems like the LinkSys WRT54G is ubiquitous these days.  Greg Hughes turned me on to this little $99 gem, and while I have a love-hate relationship with it (and Greg :) ) I have stuck with it.

I just noticed on LinkSysInfo that "Sveasoft has released a new release candidate for alchemy v6.0RC6, This firmware is for WRT54G v1.x and v2.2 and WRT54GS 1.0 and v1.1 models."

The deal is this, you paypal Sveasoft US$20 every year and they continue to improve the LinkSys firmware under the GPL. This little LinkSys is just a firmwarey Linux Box and god-forbid we should leave the default software on it! :) If you are too cheap for $20 there are free public versions you can run also.

There are a number of Firmwares available from Sveasoft under various code names. The ones you should know about are:

  • Satori - This is the current stable/public release. It includes bandwidth management and VPN support along with a host of other good things. You can download this for free and mess around.
  • Alchemy (Alchemy-6.0-RC6 v3.01.3.8sv) - The current pre-release available to subscribers. It has a fantastic QoS interface (Quality of Service) to guarantee bandwidth by MAC, by IP Port, by protocol or by RJ45 port! It supports local DNS caching (DNS MASQ), UPnP (for seamless XBox support), Port Forwarding (so my two ReplayTVs can talk to Poopli), as well as the dubious ability to increase the milliwatt output of your Wireless router by 900%. This can make the wireless signal a lot more realiable if you're on the back porch if you know what I mean.

Good Things:

  • QoS: I'm using it with Vonage and have been able to easily setup a Static IP in DHCP to be assigned to my Vonage Router via MAC address. Then I went into the Sveasoft Quality of Service interface and set Vonage to be at the "Premium" level. This means that bits going to and from my Vonage Router have PRIORITY. I tested this by downloading a 3 GIG file from Microsoft via FTP while the wife was on the phone. I've got 3 megabits downstream, so I get about 300-350K/sec down. When QoS was off, Mo could barely hear your sister and the digital artifacts sent here directly to me to complain. When QoS is on, Mo hasn't once mentioned any trouble with Vonage sound quality.
  • Port Forwarding: I've always found this to be hard to configure and a tricky thing. However, once you know what IPs each machine is on via static records in DHCP (rather than plain old static IPs which are hard to keep track of and configure) the Sveasoft interface makes it easy. I 'opened up ports' for Vonage and my two ReplayTVs, as well as the XBox for good measure (I know it's not required.)

Bad Things:

  • Flakey: This is a flakey router. I have to reboot it once or twice a month. Also, when I flashed it this evening with the new Alchemy build (I was upgrading from Satori) I had to hold the reset button for like two minutes. Also, the power light wouldn't stop flashing (a bad thing) until I disconnected and reconnected the Internet cable (a weird thing) then everything started working again (a good thing.)
  • I'm Not Smart On These Things: I got an 'A' in TCP/IP class and I can run Ethereal with the best of them, but I don't understand how the Linux TCP/IP stack is organized and I can't calculate NetMasks without scratch paper and I don't have my 128-bit WEP keep memorized, so I feel stoopid when I read the Support Forums on Sveasoft.
  • You CAN Screw Yourself and Your Router: Greg has messed his up during the firmware flashing process a few times. When that happens you sometimes have to open the router up and fiddle with dips or something. I haven't messed it up that bad, but I've gotten close. You should always have a default LinkSys firmware already downloaded as it sucks to have no Internet Access and the tool you need isn't already on your system. There's five second window of time on bootup when you can re-flash an older firmware via TFTP.

Thank God I got this working again before Mo wakes up. Having no email is bad, but having no phone service is a problem.

All that said, I'm digging it. Chris Brooks is running it now I believe, as well as Greg Hughes and (I think) Chris Sells without any screams of pain.

Do you run Sveasoft or the default firmware?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Saturday, January 22, 2005 11:42:18 AM UTC
Added bonus, with radius support you could share your AP with other registered users via www.radiuz.net

Of course you may want to use a seperate AP to keep them off your internal LAN.
Saturday, January 22, 2005 3:46:33 PM UTC
Note that there is a bug in the Alchemy 6.0RC6 firmware that will cause users with static IP addresses to lose all connectivity to the internet/wan network. If you're provided a static IP by your provider, wait for a fix. I just spent an hour and a half troubleshooting and recovering (had to go back to RC5a version).
Saturday, January 22, 2005 4:53:09 PM UTC
You can use the 2 linksys routers bridged together like I do, if you don't want to run cable from one end of you house to the other. This makes it cheaper and more powerful than buying a LinkSys Bridge. Of course you'll need to flash them both with Sveasofts fixes. Here's a great link
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?s=aae67e8c61fdb27fb54634c11d816691&threadid=498303
Saturday, January 22, 2005 5:09:16 PM UTC
Scott - Router is flakey? Umm no - the Sveasoft firmware certainly flakey however... I've been using HyperWRT for quite a while - my router uptime is over 70 days (the last time that I changed firmware).

The only redemption that Sveasoft had was Lazy WDS to work w/ WDS bridges. When I'm taking tech-support calls from my wife (WAF right?) then its gotta go - regardless of how many cool features it has.
Saturday, January 22, 2005 5:10:26 PM UTC
By the way - happy birthday old man. ;)
Saturday, January 22, 2005 7:24:33 PM UTC
Steve,

Talk to me more about HyperWRT...
Monday, January 24, 2005 3:11:57 AM UTC
Started writing a comment, then after the 3rd paragraph thought it might be better
captured as a posting :)

http://stephbu.homedns.org/blog/PermaLink,guid,93861a5d-7645-4533-b897-7f33ac666f92.aspx
Monday, January 31, 2005 5:05:57 PM UTC

I never had to reboot. I can't say its flakey. It might be flakey because you're screwing with yours.

Abdu
Abdu
Tuesday, February 01, 2005 2:06:53 PM UTC
First of all yes, Sveasoft's firmware seems to be flaky in my experience too. I actually found this post while searching for information on said flakiness. In my case in particular, the routing tends to be fine most of the time, but every couple of days DNS will inexplicably stop working, so nothing can be resolved.

Second of all, to people like Abdu, if you run the original firmware, you don't know what you're missing out on. In my case, I did it so that I could configure certain hosts on my network to static IP addresses, while still using DHCP to deal out said addresses. I don't see why such a simple configuration setting isn't in the stock firmware, but it isn't, so I replaced it. :-)

I would install OpenWRT or a similarly powerful router distro on it, but I have great fears of doing this again. The last time, the router bricked, and even TFTP didn't work after flashing on OpenWRT. I've come to the conclusion that this was because OpenWRT never provide any known, working binaries on their site, and expect everyone to build from source. It seemed to build from source okay, but without a reliable checksum, how do I even know it will work?

Oh well, I just need to save up a little money and take a gamble with OpenWRT again.
Monday, July 18, 2005 4:06:37 PM UTC
To revive a "dead" linksys:

Assign a static IP to a computer connected directly to the router. (I use 192.168.1.50)
Then flash the firmware.

It has worked for me numerous times on BEFSR41s BEFSR81s and WRT54Gs.

Good luck.

Router is excellent, but the Sveasoft firmware is what is flakey. Reflash it if you have problems.
Jack
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.