DD-WRT Firmware on the Asus RT-N16 Router – Part 3, Services

June 8, 2012

This article continues an overview of the functionality provided by the DD-WRT OpenSource router firmware. The previous article can be found at: DD-WRT Firmware on the Asus RT-N16 Router – Part 2, Wireless.

The previous article dealt with the different Wireless options available, whereas this article will detail the Services configuration options available.

The goal is to understand the different options provided by the DD-WRT OpenSource router firmware and compare it with the firmware provided by Asus when you purchase the RT-N16 device. Also, another popular OpenSource router firmware distribution from the Tomato Firmware group will be reviewed.

What is a DD-WRT Service?

A very basic definition of services would be additional functionality. Typically, services are background processes which run continuously and automatically perform tasks for which they have been configured to perform.

With the Windows operating system a service is conveniently referred to as Windows Services. In the Linux operating system (which is the basis of the DD-WRT firmware) services are referred to as Daemons.

The services reviewed here will be the core ones distributed with the mini version of DD-WRT. One of the best attributes of OpenSoftware distributions is for other developers to be able to enhance the core software product. Many other installable packages can be found on the DD-WRT Tutorials Overview page.

The problem with services is that you should only enable those which you really need. The concept is not much different than activating too many plugins on a WordPress website. Too many being activated add complexity to your device in the form of added processing requirements and potential problems.

Added processing could involve simply too much CPU usage, which then affects the performance of your device in various ways. Another issue could involve using up your devices “disk space” and causing it to lock up. A simple service such as logging could easily use up your storage resources.

Other potential problems could result simply by having too much functionality available. It could open the door for a hacker or malware problem. The interactions between multiple services could simply cause issues which no one developer could have ever anticipated. Complexity type issues can be difficult to trouble shoot and typically involve shutting down services until the problem goes away.

Bottom line; use only those services which you need.

Services – Services Management

Basic services are configured on this screen including the DHCP Client, DHCP Server, System Log, Telnet and a WAN Traffic Counter.

Most home owners purchase a router because they unknowingly need a DHCP server to assign IP addresses to their home network. As a result this is enabled by default.

One option here is to assign Static Leases. This simply means that certain network devices, identified by their MAC address, should always be assigned the same IP address.

Printers are a good example. If they are network printers then typically the client software driver once configured finds the printer using the IP address. If this changes every time it’s powered off and then back on, you would be continuously reconfiguring your client computers so they could continue to print.

Port forwarding is another reason for assigning static IP addresses to certain computers. If someone or something on the outside of your home network, in the WAN, needs to connect to a specific computer it will find it using the IP address. If it continuously changed, you would be continuously changing the port forwarding rule in your router.

Telnet is a network protocol allowing you to connect with your device differently than using HTTP. It’s well known and popular so it is enabled by default.

System Logging by default is turned off. It runs a real risk of filling up your storage space. If you need it, then it can be enabled.
Services – Services Management

Services – VPN (Virtual Private Network)

A VPN is a way for you to securely connect to your home network from a remote location. It does this by encrypting the information between your remote location and your home gateway (this router).

There are different ways this can be accomplished, but one popular VPN protocol is the PPTP Server (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol). Both the server and the PPTP Client are available here to be enabled and then configured. In some scenarios this router may be the server, and in different scenarios this router could be the client.
Virtual Private Network

Virtual Private Network - Server

Virtual Private Network - Client

Services – Hotspot Portal

Maybe you run a small business and you want to offer a WiFi hotspot as a benefit. However, you may want them to first connect to a portal page, which is really nothing more than a simple HTML web page. Most likely you’ve already seen one of these when making a wireless at a hotel or bar.

You could use a hotspot portal page to explain terms and conditions first, before accessing the Internet, or to simply advertise. You may even want to charge for the hotspot WiFi connection.

DD-WRT has included the Sputnik Agent Firmware as part of its installation. You can use this screen to enable it and then configure it.
Services – Hotspot Portal

Services – My Ad Network

Another option is to simply advertise your hotspot and earn additional revenue from it. It could be a small business or maybe you would like to offer the service to your neighbors. DD-WRT allows you to create an ad-supported hotspot using the AnchorFree Hotspot Service.

Enable it and configure it and you’re good to go. Keep in mind you are exposing your home networks’ gateway to the rest of the world. While you may or may not earn much incremental revenue, the negative performance on your own home network may not make this worthwhile.

If you’re offering it as a small business service, then just make sure that your primary use of your internet connection for business purposes is configured at a higher priority.
Services – My Ad Network

AnchorFree Hotspot Service

Next Step

DD-WRT Firmware on the Asus RT-N16 Router – Part 4, Security and Access Restrictions

Return to the Firmware Overview: Asus RT-N16 Router Firmware Overview