Opening Up the WRT54G
The Linksys WRT54G. It is perhaps one of the most popular consumer routers in existence. For you non-techies out there, a router is responsible for connecting different networks. In the case of a consumer router, it's job is usually to connect your home (private network) to the Internet (a public network). It typically does this through Network Address Translation (NAT) and also serves as a firewall. You can get consumer grade routers for around $40-$60. However, the WRT54G has a trick up it's sleeve. You can turn this router into a $600 router with all kinds of advanced commercial capabilities for free, nearly rivaling much more advanced routers/firewalls from Cisco (which now owns Linksys) or SonicWall. As it turns out, Linksys' original firmware for the WRT54G included components of Linux, which is under a free General Public License. Soo... long story short, many people started demanding that Linksys release the source (programming) code to the WRT54G which they were legally obliged to do since it used Linux modules. Once they did so- and people understood how to communicate with the router, then several people and organizations began writing their own firmware (software) for the router, resulting in firmware that essentially turns your $60 router into a $600 router. Very cool! The most popular firmware for it is DD-WRT firmware. They also have instructions and how to's on their web site. I just did this on my router and a friend of mine has done it as well, we both love the results. To see all of the features the DD-WRT firmware gives you over the Linksys firmware click here. It's quite impressive. Please note however, that not all WRT54Gs are compatible... check the DD-WRT site for details. The new WRT54Gs have proprietary firmware again, but Linksys now makes a WRT54GL model still based on Linux so it can be modified.