Saturday, September 27, 2008

Linksys WRT54G and Tomato Stability Update...

For all the folks who have been hitting this blog via Googling the "Linksys WRT54G" and "Tomato Firmware" search terms, thanks for the traffic. Sitemeter says you're popping in here from places far and wide, and fairly often, too. Hopefully, you're getting your questions answered - if not, just ask! Tonight's blog posting will offer another answer to a question that I'm certain is being asked.

Playing around with this remarkable little piece of hardware, I've been more than just a little intrigued with the capabilities offered by the router and the aftermarket Tomato firmware.

In fact, one of the main reasons I migrated to Tomato was that particular firmware's reputation of excellent stability. Some will recall that I had to install a timer switch in my previous Linksys WRT54G v5.0 configuration, because it routinely experienced the dreaded "5 day" lockup problem. Others more technical than I related that it was due to connections being cached, and when the buffer filled up, the router locked up. My fix was to have the router reboot by setting the digital timer to simply turn it off for one minute every morning at 5:00 AM. That worked, but seemed a Mickey Mouse type of solution at best.

The Linksys WRT54G v5.0 and later have a reduced internal memory capacity and therefore don't do well with aftermarket Linux code, save for maybe the DD-WRT Micro installation. Truthfully, I wanted more functionality and performance than that, so I kept my eyes open for versions older than v5.0, as well as the special WRT54GL and WRT54GS variants that had the larger memory and Linux compatibility.

Long story shortened, I found an early WRT54G v1.0 variant for fairly cheap (see the picture below with matching Linksys WSB-24 and Linksys 8-port switch nicely stacked on top), and proceeded to modify it with heatsinks on all the larger integrated circuits, as well as the internal Mini PCI WiFi card. I've since also added an external squirrel cage fan to the router's rack to move a steady stream of air around and through it as an added measure of protection from overheating.

Once the hardware mods were done, I upgraded the factory Linksys firmware to DD-WRT. While it was neat and provided oodles of functionality, it was slow, and made the little WRT54G struggle to run it. Maybe it was a setting or two in the menu that I didn't toggle, but the hardware and firmware combination just didn't seem too happy together.

Then I found Tomato, and immediately set about to change the DD-WRT installation to Tomato v1.11. All I can say is, "Wow!" This was exactly what I was looking for to make my WRT54G get up and go, and did it ever! It goes like a scalded cat, I kid you not. Now, since that time, Jon has released several updates to the firmware, culminating at present with v1.21. I've purposely stayed with v1.19, because I'm not too familiar with DNSmasq theory and application. I may switch to it later, but darned if what I already have isn't working just fine, so I feel no real urge to fix it or otherwise complicate a wonderful thing.

Just how fine? Put it this way - about the only time I ever reset my WRT54G v1.0 is when my ISP does something goofy with their network, and my cable modem goes wonky. Sometimes when that happens, I have to cold boot the cable modem, and I get a new IP address assigned as a result. Then I also have to reboot the D-Link DI-102 Packet Optimizer (another really neat and useful gadget) and the WRT-54G. Otherwise, like that damned Energizer Bunny, it keeps going and going and going...

For example, had it not been for a cable modem hiccup, tonight's screen capture from the Tomato status page would show something longer than 37 days of continuous operation. However, I'm not complaining very much - 37 days is much better than what I was experiencing this time last year, and I'm confident that it's by no means a record.

So, the next time I post about the hardware/firmware combination, I have considerable confidence it'll be somewhere after the 60-day mark. Jon did his part quite well, and I hope I've done mine - we'll see.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Before you go to sleep tonight...

Put your U2 The Unforgettable Fire CD in the music machine.  You know, the one that looks like this on the cover:

Set it to play Elvis Presley and America

The track is hauntingly beautiful, and the drums - oh, my!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Asked at the range today...

What the heck is that thing, and what does it shoot to create such a huge fireball?

That, dear friends, is a Wichita Silhouette Pistol.

Think of a Thompson-Center Contender and Colt 1911 hybrid, complete with a break-action, a 10" Douglas Premium octagon barrel, and chambered for a rifle cartridge.

That cartridge is the 7mm Rimmed International, a brainchild of the late Elgin Gates, to better knock over heavy steel silhouettes at 200 meters. It's a necked-down .30-30 Winchester, using the now-familiar wildcat improvements of a sharp shoulder and minimum case taper. As a side note, the very similar 7-30 Waters came out just a few years after the 7mm Rimmed International, but was intended for the Winchester Model 94 levergun, vs. the IHMSA Silhouette Pistol game.

Does it have enough oomph to knock over the 200 meter steel rams? You bet your sweet bippy it does, and that was before the infamous Overhang Rule. Will I shoot my 140gr, 2000fps handloads through it without a PAST shooting glove? No friggin' way!

It also does a very nice job on feral hogs, and I intend to use it for whitetail deer season this fall to put some venison in the freezer.

Just because you're a lawyer...

Doesn't mean you can read an ammunition box label.

You can, however, blame somebody else for your mistake.

See the finger pointing from our who's a sad clown lawyer, regarding a liability policy that's been in effect at more than just Wally World for a long time. (Hat tip to Tam, and those with at least a modicum of situational awareness in the gun/ammo business)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Stuff gets hot!

Truthfully, I can never leave well enough alone. I'm sure there's a medical description for such behavior, but it's best described as, "If something's not broken, keep fixing it until it is broken".

Such is the case with my household communications rack. Upgrading the router to Tomato firmware was the first step in what would become a vicious circle. With the firmware allowing an increase in transmission wattage, I was getting all sorts of happy trying out my Dell Inspiron 6000 notebook's 802.11g connection further and further away from the router. The Linksys add-on 7dBi antennae made things even better.

Could I just let that sit? Hell, no! So I found one of the older Linksys WSB-24 signal boosters, originally intended for 802.11b routers and wireless access points. Since 802.11b and 802.11g both transmit at 2.4Ghz frequency, it was no big deal for me to move the big 7dBi antennae to the Wireless Signal Booster's output terminals, then feed the RF output of the Tomato-modded WRT54G v1.0 router into the RF inputs of the WSB-24. Egads! Linksys doesn't want you to do this, because the extra output power more than likely violates an FCC rule or two. Honestly, I'm far enough out into the sticks that nobody's going to know the difference, and unless they have the correct WPA code to sponge signal off of me, they'll never get to take advantage of the larger wireless cloud I created anyway.

And larger it is. I'll say it's considerably larger, with excellent signal strength and connectivity no matter where I am in the house and also most parts of the property. That's what I wanted, and that's what I got.

However, when you stack all sorts of electronic devices in close proximity to each other, with each widget sucking a bit of wattage and converting it to heat as a byproduct, you have to pay the piper eventually. It may look all nice and tidy, but when things start cutting out on a recurring basis, chances are you overlooked something. The comm rack got hot, in other words - way too hot.

The fix? Sometime around Halloween and Christmas, all sorts of cute, inflatable, lit-up lawn ornaments go on sale, looking like pumpkins and snowmen. Inevitably somebody buys one, runs it for a short while, and discovers they tear open and generally refuse to stay inflated. That's too bad for the original lawn ornament owner/sister, but in my case, the little squirrel cage blower with low-voltage power supply came in darned handy. These things are really small, fairly quiet, and move a goodly amount of air with a minimum of fuss. I positioned the little fan underneath the Vonage Motorola phone voice terminal on the far left, and it now blows air to the right through the Linksys router/booster/switch stack and on towards the SnapServer 1000 and cable modem/packet optimizer stack. There's a faint "whoosh", and I can keep my hand comfortably on any component without feeling excessive heat.

That's somewhat of a "ghetto" fix, I know, but it kept everything neat and tidy, and we're no longer experiencing drop-outs caused by widgets overheating. That's the important thing, and it allows me to continue fixing perfectly functional items until I break them once again!

Steampunk Poseurs Need Not Apply!

Nothing here but real wood, water, and iron. None of that retro nonsense, these behemoths burn wood, make steam, and chuff along doing what they were designed to do, 100 or more years after they were built. If you have the opportunity to view the Badger Steam and Gas Engine Show near Baraboo, WI next August, I highly recommend it. Take a full day to do so, though - there are a LOT of big heavy things on display spread over many acres of real estate, like this steam tractor driving a sawmill:

Another of several steam tractors there, ball governor spinning happily:

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Hen's teeth - two of 'em!

For my next trick, I'll produce two each Intel Xeon MP 3.0Ghz processors, the seriously heavy little doobers with 4Mb L3 cache. Picking them up, they feel like they're made of depleted uranium! Evidently, the extra onboard cache makes them considerably more dense than their Xeon DP cousins.

These were the pinnacle of the Socket 603/400Mhz front side bus generation of processors, and were intended to play with others in batches of 4 or more per server. I just wanted two for insertion into my IBM Intellistation M-Pro 6850 workstation (one of 150 machines left over from the Lord of the Rings lease), and so that's exactly where they went!

They don't look much different than the 2.8Ghz/2Mb L3 cache processors I sourced and pictured earlier, but I can tell a definite improvement in performance, as well as an increase in heat output via the operation of the thermostatically-controlled fans in the Intellistation. A Koolance Exos water-cooling system is on the short list, as a matter of fact. Regardless, that's it for processor upgrades in this particular machine, because it cannot transition to the newer Socket 604/533Mhz FSB. That's fine, because the next IBM workstation I get is going to be a 64-bit beast. In the meantime, I'm enjoying the ride, and cannot resist taunting folks with pictures of expensive semiconductors: