Friday, October 17, 2008

Trying out Tomato on WHR-HP-G54

Back in August, I upgraded the DD-WRT v24 firmware to SP1 on my router as part of routine maintenance. At first, everything seems to work fine but soon I noticed that QoS stopped working; Skype calls were getting dropped, frozen video on receiver side and slow web browsing when BT is running in the background.

I tried a couple of different configurations in QoS, from tweaking the max bandwidth settings to changing classifications and even the packet scheduler type. Nothing worked which pretty much left me with two choices; (1) rollback to the older version or (2) try out other flavors of alternative firmware. I decided to go with option (2) and try out Tomato since I have been hearing many good feedback on its performance and especially on its QoS reliability.

Upgrading from DD-WRT to Tomato is a breeze. Simply download the Tomato firmware (latest as of this writing is v1.21) and flash it using the DD-WRT web admin GUI. Just remember to make a note of the router password before you flash! (Detailed instructions here)

In under two minutes, I was running Tomato on my router with nearly all settings intact. The only settings that I found to have been lost are:
  1. Static DHCP lease
  2. WiFi Security (it defaults to none!)
  3. QoS (naturally since its implemented differently)
  4. WOL
  5. Lan domain name
Once I have configured QoS, I tried a web download and also surfed a couple of local websites while starting BT in the background. I found no noticeable decrease in the download and web surfing experience. Problem solved!

Of course, there is no perfect ending in the real world... A couple of things I had to give up for choosing Tomato over DD-WRT:
  1. VPN Gateway - The official builds do not offer this functionality but a quick google showed that there are people working on unofficial builds that included this feature. I will probably give that a spin once I am happy with stock features.
  2. Bluetooth Compatibility Mode - I require this feature as my router sits very close to my HTPC which I'm using a bluetooth keyboard to control. Since WiFi and Bluetooth work on the same frequency band, I have been experiencing frequent dropouts from my bluetooth keyboard when WiFi is on. Activating this feature on the DD-WRT seems to have reduced the interference quite abit. Since Tomato does not include this feature, I may have to consider relocating my router or my bluetooth receiver.

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