Wi-Fi Problems? Don't Neglect Open Source Solutions

by Ostatic Staff - Jun. 29, 2010

Many of us spend a good deal of our time depending on Wi-Fi connections to let us interact online, and one of the most annoying problems around is a Wi-Fi connection that intermittently drops. Today, Slashdot has a story up on how annoying this currently is for a group of neighbors who can't maintain a connection in the evening. Like many computing problems, solving an annoying problem with your Wi-Fi connection can be as simple as trying a few different types of solutions, and the good news is that there are some free, open source choices.

Many people solve problems with dropped Wi-Fi by simply rebooting their routers, access points, the computers that they're connected to, and other devices that drive a wireless connection. Some others solve interference problems by changing channels on their routers. You can find out how to do both here.

Fortunately, though, the world of open source also offers some applications worth knowing about if you want to customize and optimize your Wi-Fi setup. Two of the best apps to know about are Tomato and dd-wrt.

If you don't know about dd-wrt, it's worth getting it and at least poking around. It started out as a Linux-based firmware replacement for one Linksys router, intended to add various types of authentication options. Since then, it has ballooned into many downloadable versions for almost any common Wi-Fi router. With dd-wrt, you get a whole lot of router options that you wouldn't otherwise have, and you can get better performance around your home or office.

You can set dd-wrt so that you have a router reboot in the middle of the night each night. Open source firmware like dd-wrt also decreases the likelihood that a hack or malware is going to affect your router.

Tomato is a very popular Linux-based alternative to dd-wrt that also adds several typs of functionality and troubleshooting to your Wi-Fi router. It can help you pull up detailed charts of signal strength and much more to optimize your setup.

It's always worth remembering that Wi-Fi is radio technology, which means that it's quirky. Simple placement of routers and access points can have an enormous impact on range and performance. To fix a Wi-Fi problem, experiment.