Jan 142011
 
Screenshot of Tomato wifi router firmware - realtime bandwidth plot

For the last few years, I’ve been using DD-WRT on my home wifi router (a Linksys/Cisco WRT54GL). I found DD-WRT to be perfectly fine, and certainly an improvement over the built-in firmware. It was easy to set up and customize the wireless network for our house. Unfortunately, that was about all the use I got out of it.

Besides the easy set up, there wasn’t much that impressed me about DD-WRT. I found the interface to be a bit clunky – I always had to click through many tabs to find the settings I needed. Additionally, the bandwidth/usage statistics it provided were minimal. I would never check it unless the wifi had stopped working.

Eventually, several people starting using wifi and I needed to set up QOS (quality of service). I wanted to ensure video streaming and large downloads didn’t impede remote login sessions, remote router administration, etc. This is where I became particularly unhappy with DD-WRT.

I felt the QOS settings in DD-WRT were quite difficult to understand. Several of the settings seemed to have no documentation, and what was there didn’t seem to lend itself to what I needed to accomplish. In the end, I could only get it to rate limit all traffic (including remote administration traffic) or disable rate limiting. This meant that if I enabled rate limiting and someone starting downloading a huge file, I couldn’t access the administration interface for the wifi router.

I knew there were other options available, but there ended up being a lot of choices – see this list of wifi router firmwares. Tomato sounded good, and I found a few screenshots, but google searches for “dd-wrt vs tomato” didn’t seem to turn up useful results. I decided to take the plunge – I didn’t really have anything to lose.

After installing Tomato, I had QOS working properly on the first attempt. Traffic was properly marked depending on the source/destination, port and type of protocol. Not only could I give SSH sessions higher priority, I could easily classify connections depending on how data intensive they were! Tomato came with very sensible defaults, so I had very little to modify.

Screenshot of Tomato wifi router firmware realtime bandwidth plot

Tomato wifi router – Realtime Bandwidth Plot

Screenshot of Tomato wifi router firmware QOS classification interface

Tomato wifi router – QOS Classification Interface

Tomato wifi router firmware screenshot of QOS settings

Tomato wifi router – QOS Settings

I’ve been much happier with Tomato. In short:

  • Easier to use
  • Faster user interface
  • More stream-lined interface
  • Snappy/efficient traffic plots
  • Better (or at least understandable) QOS settings

It still seems clear to me that OpenWRT and DD-WRT have advanced features not present in Tomato. But for home/small business users, Tomato is likely to work just fine!

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