Decided to try OpenWRT after Jim Getty's talk and strong recommendation
last month for improved security and reduced local buffer bloat. What
follows is my experience / thoughts from this process. I would happily
bring the hardware to demo at a future meeting if there is interest.
Likely wouldn't be a full meeting but a 10-15 minute filler. More likely
Q&A than anything else.
I decided to go with different router/firewall hardware so I bought a
Netgear WNDR3800 which Jim mentioned and is also a favorite of the OpenWRT
crowd. Mine was used and $50 shipped from e-bay. This model is one model
old and no longer available new. FYI: Netgear website lists it as "out of
My WNDR3800 was used prior, so I needed to do a hard firmware reset on the
bottom of router with a paperclip (didn't know the prior IP used or the
Once reset and rebooted, router worked fine and could login to the
"default" Netgear firmware and configuration. Default username & password
is printed under the router.
Downloaded the recommended OpenWRT firmware for this model. Needs to be
full "factory" (instead of partial upgrade) and squashfs is recommended.
Netgear WNDR3800 Firmware download link gets you OpenWRT version 10.X
version which is not latest OpenWRT.
Web browser login to Netgear webpage/firmware and followed "upgrade
firmware" link while pointing to OpenWRT download file on local disk. The
upgrade/re-flash took around 4 minutes and after a reboot worked fine. Set
password and reconfigured router and WIFI with my specifics. Was up and
working on OpenWRT v 10.x.
Next day realized I had OpenWRT, but not latest stable version. Upgrade
firmware link does not go to Internet directly, so first download OpenWRT v
12.4 with "upgrade" and "squashfs" and save to local disk. Second apply
this via upgrade button in OpenWRT web link.
I could likely have saved a step by grabbing the OpenWRT v12.4 for WNDR3800
with factory and squashfs. I bet this would have worked had I tried it
(and saved a step).
General thoughts after use for a week:
OpenWRT does not have an "update direct to mother ship" feature best I can
tell that downloads file and updates it from web interface. Not a show
stopper for me. Instead need to know your version of OpenWRT and download
an "upgrade" file and apply as two steps. This would only matter if router
was used/maintained by a non-geek.
Prior problem occurred with similar hardware WNDR3700 with latest Netgear
firmware (happened with prior Linksys also). A few embedded WIFI devices
in home would disconnect and fail randomly and at least weekly. Thus far
these device annoyances have not occured since swap to WNDR3800 and
OpenWRT. No idea why, but definitely A win!
OpenWRT has transmit power level settings for the WIFI radio transmit. Can
decide to bump up the WIFI radio settings if user chooses. Even if you
melt/destroy them, a cool option if needed & tested.
Firmware update for OpenWRT works from a laptop on WIFI, which in my
experience Netgear & Linksys and other vendors do not support flash without
a cabled ethernet port. So the OpenWRT update scripts the 1) copy file 2)
apply file 3) reboot device.
My Next Steps:
In another week will likely repurpose the WNDR3700 likely as a WIFI gateway
for the "cheap WIFI radio" devices, (mainly TV, roku, DVD, etc.). Not yet
sure if I will use OpenWRT for this.
Look into the option of external antennas for the WNDR3800. I live out in
the country and have few neighbors to notice/know/care. If I can get
there... improved & reliable WIFI signal at my mailbox would rock.