Updated 5/12/2008 - Freshened links, updated DD-WRT info.
I received an email a few weeks back that asked me to see whether I could determine whether Linksys' WRT54G V5 wireless router is really as bad as users seem to have found it to be. For those of you unfamiliar with the situation, here's a short synopsis.
Linksys, like most consumer networking companies, constantly evolves the design of its products. Some changes are for cost reduction, others for performance reasons and others for reasons known only to the company. At any rate, these companies seem to think that consumers need not be concerned with the changes, since they in most cases don't change the model number of the product.
The WRT54G wireless router is probably one of Linksys' top five most popular products, with sales volumes in the "hundreds of thousands per month" according to this LinuxDevices article. It is Linux-based and also is probably the #1 "hacked" consumer networking product, with numerous alternative firmware distros available including Sveasoft, FreeWRT, DD-WRT, OpenWrt and Tomato.
Although loading any of them voids the product warranty, enough users have found the risk worth it due to the features they provide. Some simply provide access to transmit power settings, while others add features not available with Linksys' code.
For whatever reason, with the V5, Linksys decided to remove the hackability "feature", switching to the proprietary VxWorks embedded operating system that is used in other consumer networking products. The V5 also halves the amount of both RAM and flash memory to 8 and 2 MB respectively, which according to the LinuxDevices article lets Linksys come out ahead in cost reduction even with the additional cost of the VxWorks license fee. The reduced memory also serves as a deterrent for hackers who might want to find a way around the new bootloader.
The change didn't sit well with enough of Linksys' customers that the company responded to the outcry and created the WRT54GL (L for "Linux"), which is still loadable with alternative firmware. At the time of announcement, Linksys said it wouldn't guarantee how long the "L" would be available. But apparently it's popular enough that it has progressed to a "V1.1" version.
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Average user rating from: 2 user(s)
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|User Rating [Back to Top]||Overall:||4.2||Features :||3.5||Performance :||4.0||Reliability :||5.0|
Have one of this and one of the older G with Linux (v3)
June 27, 2012
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Although the default firmware was working I missed some features so decided to update with compatible "hacked" firmware. Now I not only get more features, but the complete menu layout is much easier, more understandable and I feel the performance has increased (both wifi as LAN).
Not As Much Loved But Inexpensive and Handy
March 20, 2010
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After Linksys introduced the WRT54G router for home/small office use it must not have taken them long to figure out that they had a hit on their hands. Linksys used an open source Linux based operating system for the router and this worked well and also opened the door to 3rd party firmware developers such as DD-WRT, Tomato and many others. All was well.
Measures were taken as time went on to reduce production costs yet keep the unit identical on the outside and as far as the consumer was concerned. At some time it was determined that money saved by using Linux was offset by the fact that more memory both RAM and flash were required to store Linux than would be required if the router instead used VX Works (a more compact yet proprietary operating system that was not open source).
The change to VX Works happened with the V5 of the WRT54G and with this change 1/2 of the memory both flash and RAM was installed and thus saved money for Linksys on each box sold. Sure the firmware cost more but the overall unit cost was reduced.
This reduced memory or the switch to VX Works caused problems for some users and made the product less stable when used under higher than normal loads. Was this caused by VVX Works or by the reduced RAM? I'm not sure.....
The reduced resources on the new WRT54G caused problems for the authors of 3rd party firmwares and special "micro" versions were needed to allow them to fit in the reduced flash memory which was now only 2MB in size.
It didn't take long for the word to get out that the later, v5, v6 etc versions of the WRT54G were "neutered" and thus worth less money than the earlier versions. In fact Linksys re released the V4 as the WRT54GL model to fill this niche.
Now when shopping for used equipment in places like E-Bay these neutered models tend to be inexpensive(good). As it turns out the micro versions of DD-WRT work very well on them and the micro versions have most of the features needed to make these routers very versatile and handy devices. They make bargain AP's, client bridges, game adapters, etc when flashed with DD-WRT and they are very reliable when used in this capacity and I've used a bunch of them in these applications for a very long time.
Since these versions(V5, V6) are inexpensive and still have the removable antennas using them outdoors in waterproof enclosures with large directional high gain long distance links becomes a "why not" situation. They are cheap and reliable enough that it makes sense to use them and keeping a spare or two is no problem.