Saturday, April 23, 2011

How to Boost Networking Performance by Installing Tomato on Your Router


Your newly purchased router has a ton of potential, but unfortunately the manufacturer usually downplays the capabilities by only enabling limited features. Here’s how to unleash some of those features with an open source firmware.

The firmware we’ll be using today is called Tomato, and it’s an alternative to the DD-WRT firmware we’ve already covered in a previous article.

What is Tomato?


It’s a delicious fruit you eat that can help prevent cancer due to its high levels of Lycopene. Some people enjoy tomatoes on hamburgers and in salads. Oh! You wanted to know about Tomato as in the powerful, user friendly, full-of-features, alternative router firmware? Well, why didn’t you say so?

The original firmware that comes installed on your router does the basics, but Tomato offers a wider range of features including our favorite, bandwidth monitoring. You don’t have to take advantage of all of Tomato’s features to enjoy it; we would even recommend it to novice users because it’s so easy to use.

Prerequisites


1. This guide assumes you have a basic understanding of networking and using a Windows-based computer.

2. We will be using a Linksys WRT54GL router, so if you’re using a different model be sure to check below to see if it’s compatible with Tomato. Another detail, although minor, is we’ll be using Windows 7 throughout the guide. If you’re running Linux or Mac OS X, you might notice slight differences but not enough to interfere with the end result.

3. Tomato only works with certain routers. Make sure you’re installing Tomato on one of the models listed below otherwise you may end up with a new chew toy for your dog (please note: we do not advise giving your dog a router as a chew toy). Other routers may work with Tomato also, but the following have been tested and are known to work:

· ASUS WL-500G Premium  · ASUS WL520GU
· ASUS WL500GE
· Buffalo WHR-HP-G54
· Buffalo WHR-G54S
· Buffalo WZR-G54
· Buffalo WBR2-G54
· Buffalo WHR-G125
· Buffalo WZR-HP-G54
· Buffalo WVR-G54-NF
· Buffalo WHR3-AG54
· Buffalo WZR-RS-G54  · Buffalo WZR-RS-G54HP
· Buffalo WHR2-A54-G54
· Linksys WRT54G v1-4
· Linksys WRT54GL v1.x
· Linksys WRT54GS v1-v4
· Linksys WRTSL54GS
· Microsoft MN-700
· Motorola WR850G/GP
· Sparklan WX6615GT
· Fuji RT390W

Installing Tomato


First thing you’ll want to do is set up your router on your network. By default, most routers will have an internal IP address of 192.168.1.1. Open up your browser and enter in your router’s IP address. You’ll be prompted for a username and password. The defaults for a Linksys WRT54GL are “admin” and “admin”. Keep this window up because we’ll be coming back to it shortly.




Head over to Polarcloud’s homepage to download the latest version of Tomato. You’ll want to look for the file called Tomato_1_28.zip. Despite being released almost a year ago, Version 1.28 is the latest version and offers a few software fixes including an updated version of Dnsmasq, a lightweight DNS forwarder and DHCP server. Now extract the files in your Tomato_1_28.zip file, and you’ll notice 9 files that are named after certain router models.

Open up your browser session from earlier and click the Administration tab at the top. Next, click Firmware Upgrade as seen below.




Click the Browse button and navigate to the extract the Tomato files. You’ll want to select your router’s appropriate Tomato firmware file. Since we’re installing Tomato on a Linksys WRT54GL, we’ll choose the WRT54G_WRT54GL.bin file. After you’ve selected the appropriate .bin file, click the Upgrade button in the web interface. Your router will start installing Tomato, and should take less than a minute to complete.




Your router will restart by itself, and your computer will attempt to capture an IP address from Tomato’s DHCP server once it’s back up. Fire up your browser again and behold! It’s your first sighting of Tomato.




Okay! We’re almost done! Now the first thing you’ll want to do is secure your wireless connection. You don’t want any potential thieves noticing your vulnerable wireless network, so let’s quickly put an end to that fear. Click Basic in the left column. Scroll down to the Wireless segment and change the Security drop down menu to WPA2 Personal. Feel free to choose a different encryption method that you prefer. WPA2 Personal is what we use because it’s the most secure. Don’t forget to change your SSID to something creative like “Pretty Fly For A WiFi” or “FBI Surveillance Van”.




You might also want to configure the DHCP server IP address lease range and the WiFi channel. To determine the best WiFi channel to use, click the Scan button next to the Channel drop down menu. You’ll see a list of your neighbors’ WiFi networks and which channels they’re using. Choose a channel that is not being used by your neighbors to avoid channel frequency interference.

That pretty much wraps it up. It wasn’t that bad, huh? You’ll begin to love Tomato for its clean user interface and robust features.

Download Tomato from polarcloud.com
Update: You can download an updated version of Tomato from http://tomatousb.org/.

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