For the last umpteen years I’ve been using a Linksys WRT54G (hardware version 2.2) wireless router. I’ve used OpenWRT, dd-wrt, and most recently Tomato custom firmware images to allow me to do things that the stock firmware didn’t fully support. Through all of these permutations I’ve always had an open wireless network, both because I’ve always felt it’s a pain to type in passphrases on client devices and because I think it’s important to provide wireless access to neighbors in need. To date, no one has egregiously abused the wireless access I’ve made available to them.

But the WRT54G is getting long in the tooth. I have a couple of devices that can speak Wireless N, as well as a couple of gigabit capable devices. The WRT54G is limited to Wireless G and 10/100 Ethernet ports. I’ve also had a desire of late to split off our personal network traffic from that which I make available to my neighbors, so I’ve been looking at wireless routers that support a so-called “guest network” option. Finally, the WRT54G sometimes simply flakes out, and requires a power cycle in order to work properly. That’s usually not a big deal, but it can be a real pain during the middle of a movie we’re streaming from Amazon.

Today I bought a Linksys E3200. It has most of the features I want: A/B/G/N wireless support, 10/100/1000 Ethernet, and a guest network. It has support for Dyn dynamic DNS, a service on which I rely; though it sadly does not support DNS-O-Matic.

Setup was easy, and I was able to get everything configured without any real hassle. It wasn’t until I was all finished that I noticed no local domain name was being supplied to clients. Indeed, there are no local DNS controls anywhere inside the E3200 configuration pages (that I could find) which means that none of my local clients could address one another by name. This meant my Sonos couldn’t find my NAS to stream music, and the Mac connected to my TV couldn’t find the NAS to stream movies.

With the WRT54G – through all the custom firmwares I used – I had a local caching DNS resolver that was able to arbitrate local client names. I used skippy.lan as my local domain name, and have come to rely on foo.skippy.lan being a resolvable address.

The workaround for this problem was to install and configure DNSmasq onto my Pogoplug NAS, and then to configure the E3200 to tell clients to use the Pogoplug as their primary DNS server. This somewhat defeats the purpose of the E3200, because it means that my network is now dependent on two devices for full (internal) functionality. It also places just a little more load on the Pogoplug, a device with extremely limited resources that I’m trying to maximize.

After a couple hours of use, the E3200 works as expected, so I’m moderately satisfied with it. I may try to flash a custom firmware onto it in the future, but for now I’m just going to stick with the stock image and see what happens.

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