Saturday, December 29, 2007

Darned Linksys WRT-54G router!

OK, in all fairness, running 6 computers through one Linksys WRT-54G router probably wasn't the best idea. It ties our Charter cable modem to the home network, but from there it goes a bunch of different directions, all with varying demands on the connection. Let's see...

1. Vonage VOIP Motorola box
2. Both home security cameras transmit via the VPON ethernet video box
3. Two computers run WarCrack online during waking hours
4. Two computers (mine and Mrs. G-98) run Pandora Radio nearly constantly
5. One computer (mine) plays Battlefield 1942 online
6. One home business machine moves large Adobe PDF files to and from clients
7. My wife does the VPN telecommuting bit between home and her office
8. My Dell Inspiron 6000 notebook web-browses via the wireless connection
9. A Linksys WMA11B media adapter streams MP3s to the living room stereo
10. A duo of Adaptec SnapServer 1100s with upgraded hard drives play network data server for all in the house

So, yeah, there are a few packets moving here and there. A little D-Link DI-102 broadband accelerator between the router and cable modem keeps the phone voice quality and game latency pretty much in check, and at times the little "traffic" light in the DI-102 lets me know it's working hard to keep things streamlined. However, every now and again, I was getting dropped connectivity - even though the cable modem lights were displaying nominal function.

At first, I figured it was Charter doing an IP address re-allocation, so I simply rebooted the cable modem and all the other components of the laundry room comm rack. That fixed it, for a while. Still, I had to do the reset between 1-3 times a week. Digging a little deeper via the process of elimination, I discovered it was the router that was dropping offline, not the cable modem.

It turns out that the Linksys WRT-54G v5.0 router has an absolute minimum of internal memory, and the router caches a great number of connection types for up to 5 days at a time. Once that cache fills, everything comes to a screeching halt. Were I not running all sorts of stuff through it, it would probably do just fine - but I'm not. Because I have one of the later versions, it doesn't do well with the aftermarket DD-WRT firmware, so I've come up with another way to flush the cache and keep performance optimized until I can come up with a better solution:

It's a digital audio timer, and it simply powers off the router at 5:00 AM every morning, then powers it up again at 5:01 AM, one minute later. Voila'! The little Blackout Buster UPS powers everything there, so that the clock doesn't lose time save for really long outages.

So far, it's been working just fine. I am keeping an eye open for one of the older, large-memory WRT-54G models so I can run DD-WRT Linux and have it reboot/flush via script or menu option. In the meantime, necessity is the mother of invention!

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