My Router Died -or- How To Live Without The Internet

11:26 am General

Last Saturday I decided I had time to troubleshoot a problem I’ve been having with my phone. I use a VOIP service from ViaTalk that I’m very happy with. But it means that occasionally I have to reboot equipment if things start to degrade in quality. I don’t mind. I’m saving a ton of money and sticking to the (Qwest) Man!

So I was having Quality of Service (QoS) problems where I could hear what people say just fine (indicating that my download speed was fine) but they said my voice was all choppy (indicating a problem with upload speed). So first I ran a speed test to see what my upload/download speeds were. I was getting about 4 Mbps download and about 450 kbps upload, which is more than enough for a good call.

I rebooted my VOIP box and that didn’t help. So then I turened to my QoS setting on my Linksys WRT54G v8 router running DD-WRT v24 SP1 (which is all fancy talk meaning I’m running replacement firmware on my router that is the latest full release). The screen in the browser looked messed up. All the sections where there but there were no graphics–all text based. Kind of a minimal interface. I didn’t think about it at the time.

I went into the QoS settings and found that they were set wrong. My main LAN is on port 1 and my VOIP box is on port 2. Port 1 was set to “exempt” and port 2 was set to “normal”. I changed the settings to what they should be: Port 1 – Normal, Port 2 – Priority. I hit “save and apply” and the web page never reloaded.

I had to go into the basement to see what was going on. The Linksys router had 4 green lights on, one for each network port. What should happen is the power light comes on, and I see link activity on the different ports. But I didn’t see that, just the 4 green lights. That was it. I power cycled the router. Same. I reset the router. Same result. I super reset the router. Same result. I attached a notebook directly to the device and unplugged it from the rest of the network. Same result. In the end I concluded that the screen anomoly I saw and the QoS settings that were wrong were indicators of a failure.

I now belive the device to be “bricked.”

My cable modem still worked so I was faced with a decision. I could hook up ONE device to my cable modem. What would it be? I decided to hook up the phone because one computer on the Internet was as bad as no computers on the Internet. I need at least two computers on the Internet an a WAP working for basic needs. I had no other NAT devices… or did I?

I still had my old Smoothwall firewall. I thought I could just hook that baby up and buy me some time to figure out what I really wanted. Turns out the reason I went with the Linksys and DD-WRT was because my Smoothwall firewall machine died. I only remembered that after about 30 minutes of cursing and my wife reminded me. So back to having only one device on the network. I went with the phone.

I lasted until about 8 PM that night without Internet and then I decided that as the man of the house and provider I HAD to restore service. So I went to my parents house a few blocks away and looked up the list of campatible devices for DD-WRT and cross-referenced them with models sold at Best Buy and Circuit City.

I quickly decided NOT to go with Circuit City because if I had to return the item Circuit City would probably be out of business. I stuck with Best Buy. It came down to two models: the WRT310N ($130) and the WRT54G2 ($54). The WRT310N has 4 MB of flash memory so I would be able to run a better version of DD-WRT. But the WRT54G2 was cheaper and I’ve been running fine off the micro version of DD-WRT.

My wife said I should get the more expensive one because it probably has more advanced features and, to quote her, “you are an Advanced Features kind of guy.” I was sold. I drove to Best Buy.

But while I was standing there looking at the two models I began to have doubts. This is not unusual for me. I vet on things all the time. I came up with a plan that I believe is good.

I bought the WRT54G2 and then went home and looked online for a cheaper supplier of the WRT310N. What I found was that I could get a WRT350N for $75 on a Buy It Now on eBaY (with my coupon and free shipping). The WRT350N has 8 MB of flash memory so I can run any version of DD-WRT that I want AND it comes with a USB port so I can plug in my USB external hard drive and use it as a file server.

When the WRT350N comes I’ll return the WRT54G2. I feel pretty good about it. And I have Internet access right now.

Man, those were a boring 10 hours on Saturday without Internet access! I never realized how much my kids play online.

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