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Networking Wireless Networking Hardware

Why Do We Have To Restart Routers? 936

jaypaulw writes "I've owned a WRT54G, some cheap D-Link home Wi-Fi/firewall/routers, and now an Apple Airport Extreme (100/10 ethernet ports). In the context of the discussion about the worst uses of Windows — installation in places where an embedded device is superior — I've gotten to wondering why it's necessary to reboot these devices so frequently, like every few days. It seems like routers, purpose-built with an embedded OS, should be the most stable devices on my network."
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Why Do We Have To Restart Routers?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 12, 2008 @07:45PM (#24167677)

    You're doing it wrong.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 12, 2008 @08:08PM (#24167917)

      That's what I was thinking. I have a linksys wrt-54g or whatever they are running ddwrt and I've probably has to reboot a handful of times in all the years I've had it.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 12, 2008 @08:19PM (#24168019)

        Mine never used to need re-booting until I added a Vista Laptop to the network???

      • by livewire98801 ( 916940 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @08:35PM (#24168155)

        I'm a network admin for an ISP, and we've been recommending UPSs for the frequent-reboot routers that our customers have. We've found that routers (especially Linksys) have a real problem with power fluctuations that most other systems and devices don't notice. A decent line-conditioning UPS might solve your problems, but a cheap one will suffice.

        Also, could be the device is running out of memory, if your ISP is changing the properties of your connection a lot, or you might have a duplex issue causing a lot of retransmissions. . .

        Just a couple of thoughts :)

        • by nuintari ( 47926 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @08:53PM (#24168285) Homepage

          mod parent up, as I came here to say that.

          Also, the Linksys WRT54G up to version 4 was a fine router, plenty of memory, ran Linux, was very stable. Then Linksys decided that quality wasn't nearly as important as driving me batshit insane, and we started getting tons of complaints about users needing to reboot Linksys routers, which came _highly_ recommended from the geek squad over at worst buy.

          The modern WRT54G, and anything past version 4, that doesn't have an 'L' in the name is an utter piece of crap, firmware revisions to the VXworks OS they now run have helped, but they are still lockup city.

          • by DaedalusHKX ( 660194 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @08:58PM (#24168321) Journal

            I've noticed that ALL home routers at some point will require a power cycle, and not because they're bad, but because they all seem to occasionally lose their ability to provide DNS resolution. This isn't a problem on a LAN (like mine, obviously) which has a dedicated nameserver on the inside of the LAN, but for people who (like I once did) use their router as a nameserver.

            • by thegrassyknowl ( 762218 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @09:05PM (#24168371)

              All the Linux-based ones (decidedly few, admittedly) I have seen use the same DNS proxy (dnsmasq). I guess it's just not perfectly stable but I haven't seen a reboot anymore than once every few months.

              I gave up on mine and turned it into a dumb PPPoE bridge. An OpenBSD box at the border handles the dirty guff of PPP sessions and NAT. Now my connection is perfectly stable and the modem never needs to be rebooted. To top it all off I trust the BSD box and the firewall I created on it more than I trust the router to do it properly.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by ckaminski ( 82854 )
                What I've noticed sometimes is that I need to reboot my Cablemodem to get a new ip address, and then MIGHT have to kick the router, but I NEVER have to reboot my router without also rebooting the cablemodem.

                Sometimes comcast flips my IP and the modem can't keep up with it.
              • by Malc ( 1751 ) on Sunday July 13, 2008 @02:26AM (#24170267)

                Is that OpenBSD on a 12W device that sits silently on a shelf?

                Personally I prefer to use a decent modem. I have a SpeedTouch DSL modem that seems to be more functional than most consumer routers, as well as being one of the more stable modems I've used on a marginal line. I connect my wireless devices to my network just on the switch side (use them as wireless access points and not routers). Very stable set up.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by aurispector ( 530273 )

              I have a Netgear WNR834B and have never had to reboot it. I really don't know what we're doing right, but the damn thing just works, wired or wireless. Our old Linksys WRT54G worked pretty well; we gave that to my in-laws and it's been good to them, too.
              Come to think of it, we had a cheap-assed Dell wireless router that worked ok, too.

              Do other people generally have to screw around with their networks a lot?

            • by PitaBred ( 632671 ) <> on Saturday July 12, 2008 @09:53PM (#24168707) Homepage

              DD-WRT on my WRT54GL, I've never had to reboot it for those issues. I even have a couple separate VLAN's set up, two DHCP pools on separate interfaces, etc. I've had uptimes of over 80 days before I tweaked something else on it that required me to reboot it.

              It's not the hardware... it's the generic crap software that they run on.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              x2. I was using a walmart grade linksys router on the LAN at work. It was for like 6 users, mixed wireless and wired, and a NAS with a switch for wired users. Low budget, low cost, low reliability, low performance.

              It required periodic reboots, which I eventually narrowed down to being most likely router DNS table problems. Now, we are using a Zyxel wireless router provided by our new ISP, on a much better network (real switches, a rack, everything).

              Yeah, it's pretty much a consumer grade router on
            • by Achromatic1978 ( 916097 ) <robert@c[ ] ['hro' in gap]> on Sunday July 13, 2008 @03:03AM (#24170431)
              Most often, actually, I've found that the cause is, gasp, Bittorrent. Fills up the NAT tables and they're not purged fast enough, unable to open / map more ports, effectively, no more connectivity.
          • by badasscat ( 563442 ) <> on Saturday July 12, 2008 @08:59PM (#24168329)

            Also, the Linksys WRT54G up to version 4 was a fine router, plenty of memory, ran Linux, was very stable.

            Yeah, I have a 1.1, which I didn't even know until right now (checked the sticker), and I don't think I've rebooted that thing once in the entire time I've owned it. It's been running continuously right now for at least six months 24/7, and before that had a stint of probably 2 years uninterrupted. (I was forced to use Verizon's POS FiOS router for a little while.)

            I was about to leave a comment wondering what the hell the submitter was talking about, because to me the WRT54G is probably the most stable router that exists. It really couldn't *be* anymore stable. But I didn't realize there were such problems with version 4 and above.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by dfn_deux ( 535506 )
              Even the post version 4 wrt54g works fine with openwrt, takes an extra step to flash it and you don't get the FULL version of openwrt, but the micro version with vxworks killer has been running plenty stable on my ver. 5 for quite a while now.
        • by bangthegong ( 1190059 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @08:54PM (#24168289)
          I have to agree on the first point about power. i have experienced that power has a big impact on stability, especially on linksys. I have had several linksys devices (WRT54G, WAP54G, WRT150N) and they all got flaky when too many devices were powered from the same outlet (I have a multiple monitor setup with a KVM and multiple computers). Moving these routers to another outlet in all cases helped, but it unfortunately was not convenient. I didn't try a UPS, but that seems logical. I have found that my Airport Extreme is less sensitive to the power on the same outlet. So I repurposed the Linksys devices, and keep the Airport near my desk, but lesson learned.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by sc7 ( 1141597 )
          I've found that to be true. Where I live, the summer months bring terrible thunderstorms. If there's ever that lightning strike that causes the lights to flicker, the internet always "goes down". Every time, it's always been fixed by unplugging and re-plugging the power to the router.
        • by macdaddy ( 38372 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @09:18PM (#24168495) Homepage Journal
          Agreed on the power problems. I'm the engineer for an ISP here too and we also run into problems with our residential FWs. We were reselling D-Link but have switched to LinkSys. Both of them exhibit problems with power fluctuations. My parent's live in our service area, far from the paved roads. They are literally the last meter on the line. They get browns often. The usual outcome is that the router freezes hard. Rebooting does not fix it. The only fix appears to be a week or so with no power. The device eventually starts working again. We resell 350w UPSs to our users but our CSRs don't push them hard enough IMHO. Since most of our service area is rural we should really push them a lot harder. Personally I recommend Panamax surge strips []. They actually open the circuit on undervoltage. Unlike most surge strips they actually cut off on overvoltage as well. They don't require the massive surges to set them off like most of the rest. Good stuff. I wish we sold them.
        • by Midnight Ryder ( 116189 ) <midryder&midnightryder,com> on Saturday July 12, 2008 @09:20PM (#24168501) Homepage

          My off hand guess, Bittorrents. I've noticed with the WRT54G that I had for a while would have problems if you're running multiple torrents, and don't have any cap on how many inbound and outbound connections there can be (IE, overnight runs where you don't need to use any of your bandwidth :-) A reboot always fixed the problem - I assume it's either running out of memory, or running out of ports to work with (since each connection has a timeout of an hour, IIRC)

          • by ottothecow ( 600101 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @09:30PM (#24168569) Homepage
            Torrents are what have always locked up my routers or at least made them unusable. It seems to be the connection count rather than bandwidth that matters so I usually capped connection totals.

            Now I have a Buffalo G125 with dd-wrt and is AMAZING (good luck finding one of them these days in the states after their legal troubles though). The last time I had a necessary reboot was when I upgraded the firmware (to enable cool things like bandwidth graphs). Sometimes I will reboot it when it is not necessary--such as when comcast has some sort of unknown network issue so my first thought is to start powercycling things until I remember the cable modem's IP and see that there are connection errors in the log. Other than that, rock solid stable with 5 active users and a good deal of game/torrent traffic.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by PitaBred ( 632671 )

            I used to have that problem, but DD-WRT on my WRT54GL fixed it. I can run torrents day and night, tons of connections, and it never gets upset. It tends to run out of memory like you said, it tries to manage state incorrectly or something, the connections don't time out soon enough.

            If you have an older WRT54G (pre v4), you can just load DD-WRT, or I'd highly recommend the investment in a WRT54GL so you can run DD-WRT.

    • by pablomme ( 1270790 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @08:14PM (#24167981)

      Yeah, I've never had a problem with my rou

    • by po134 ( 1324751 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @09:25PM (#24168539)
      it's simple, most router keep tcpip connections alive for 3600 sec or more (especially d-link one), so each time you establish a connection on a bittorrent client your router open a new one. After a few hours, sometimes a day or a few ones, it can become a problem very quickly as you might imagine. Just install dd-wrt or tomato and drop the timeout to 360sec, it'll do the job.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cashman73 ( 855518 )
      I think I've rebooted my WRT54G router like twice since December. It's quite reliable.
  • USR8054 (Score:5, Funny)

    by NFN_NLN ( 633283 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @07:47PM (#24167687)

    US Robotics 8054 (USR8054). At least it has the decency to reset itself though throughout the day. Saves some manual labor I suppose.

  • My theory... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 12, 2008 @07:47PM (#24167693)

    I base this on absolutely nothing, but my primary suspect is the cheapskate power supplies that these devices come with. However I've never cared enough to test it out.

    • Re:My theory... (Score:5, Informative)

      by AimHere2000 ( 1112185 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @08:43PM (#24168221)

      I base this on absolutely nothing, but my primary suspect is the cheapskate power supplies that these devices come with. However I've never cared enough to test it out.

      I think you're right. This seems to be especially common on D-Link routers. I used to run a DI-624 which was stable for years, until one day it just started rebooting itself. Did it infrequently at first, but progressed to the point where it rebooted continuously and was unuseable. Poking around, I discovered that the AC adapter (power brick) was not only VERY warm, the plastic shell was actually deformed a little on one side. I replaced the AC adapter, and the router worked good as new... until a few years later, when AGAIN it started rebooting, then stopped working entirely. And AGAIN, the AC adapter was at fault (totally dead this time). And again, replacing the AC adapter resurrected the DI-624.

      It seems to me that the manufacturers of residential-class routers really skimp on the power supply, or at least D-Link does. The AC adapters they've bundled in recent years are smaller than a deck of cards, yet I'm supposed to believe that they can put out 3 amps of current at 5VDC indefinitely?

      • Re:My theory... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Cramer ( 69040 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @09:07PM (#24168393) Homepage

        The AC adapters they've bundled in recent years are smaller than a deck of cards, yet I'm supposed to believe that they can put out 3 amps of current at 5VDC indefinitely?

        Yes and no. Yes, a power supply the size of 2 US quarters can (and does) generate stable 5VDC@3A forever provided you never exceed specs (lightning, bath tubs, overheating, etc.) However, these things cost more than the pennies cheap hardware makers are willing to put into the process. They go as cheap as possible... huge coil of chinese wire (read: transformer), a diode, capacitor, and regulator (ala 7805) (if it's a "good" one.) [Note: most cheap hardware has the regulator in the unit, not the wall-wart.] [Note 2: USR/3com is even cheaper... the wall-wart is 100% transformer. It turns 120AC into 20AC.]

      • Sure (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 )

        Four words: Switched Mode Power Supply. Switching supplies are extremely efficient and thus small. You've seen this already, there's one in your computer. That's how they can pack an 800+ watt supply in to something that small. You try and do that with a linear supply and it'll be massive.

        Same deal for wall warts. Some companies still use linear supplies, but not many. It is to the point where SMPS is much cheaper to produce. They also have the advantage of being smaller, and running cooler.

        You can see the

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 12, 2008 @07:47PM (#24167695)

    Fast, Stable, Cheap - pick two.

  • Buy one that works. (Score:5, Informative)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) < .ta. .rcj.> on Saturday July 12, 2008 @07:50PM (#24167721) Journal

    I have a pair of Apple Airport routers, and the only time they get rebooted is when I change settings and restart them. That happens whenever I want to let another computer use my network, about every couple of months.


    • by E-Lad ( 1262 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @07:59PM (#24167839)

      Yeah, I've used Apple Airports (previously, the "UFO" kind and currently, the Extreme (1Gb ports) and Express (for my home theater) and have never had to do "therapeutic" reboots on them.

      But I have been irked due to having to reboot the router to make even the slightest of config changes - such as changing its syslog destination or adding a port to the forwarding table. You'd think that these and other operations, short of a firmware upgrade, could be handled without a full-blown reset, but apparently not. One has to wonder why that is so in this day and age.

    • by 7 digits ( 986730 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @08:14PM (#24167983)

      So you are lucky. My Airport Express needs to be rebooted from time to time (nothing damning, the express sometime stands month without needing it). My previous UFO Apple Airport also needed to be rebooted (and much more frequently than the Express).

      The symptom on the Express are that DNS queries stop working. I can ping it, ping my DSL modem, and ping website for which I have IP. I can nslookup into my provider DNS. I cannot lookup into the Express DNS.

      Another issue is that sometimes, I start getting more and more lag. Rebooting the mac or the DSL model doesn't fix it. But I discovered, amazed, that rebooting the express fixed it.

      Btw "Buy one that works" is an extremely arrogant comment. Those units work for you, it does not prove it works for anyone else.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by moosesocks ( 264553 )

        This may be just anecdotal evidence, but the Airport Express series has a reputation for being flaky, and typically dropping flat-out dead after about a year.

        I don't want to absolutely bad-mouth the product, because I've also got an Airport Extreme base station that has never needed rebooting in the few years that I've had it, and because I've also got an AE Express that's worked fine for me the entire time I've had it. However, the Airport Express seems to be based around *much* different hardware than its

  • by Puff of Logic ( 895805 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @07:50PM (#24167733)
    Bought a Buffalo router and flashed it with DD-WRT. The only time the thing reset was when the power went out. If you're restarting your router every few days, I'd suggest looking into your config for the problem.
    • by PseudoThink ( 576121 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @08:12PM (#24167955)
      I'm running DD-WRT 23v2 on two Buffalo WHR-HP-54G routers, and I never have to reset them. However, I did have to update their configuration from the default settings in order to make them reliably stable. With the default settings, I would have to reset them occasionally. I changed the "maximum ports" from the default of 512 to 4096, and changed TCP and UDP timeouts from the default of 3600 seconds to 120 seconds. The reason for this (as stated in the DD-WRT help documentation) is that P2P apps often open many ports without closing them properly. These settings allow the router to handle that kind of usage much better.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I have a similar setup on my Linksys WRT54GS. With the factory software it would lock up every other week -- wouldn't pass traffic and I couldn't log into it. Had to pull power to reset it. I loaded DD-WRT (23v2) and set it as you described and it has never failed to pass traffic, although every 3-4 months I can't access it from the Web GUI for some reason. I can still telnet into it though, so I just login from there and reset it.

        I have a second WRT54GS (on it's own subnet providing open access to anyone i

  • TCP Timeout (Score:5, Informative)

    by allanw ( 842185 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @07:50PM (#24167739)

    TCP connection timeouts on some routers default to 3600 seconds or one hour. So, when you use some Bittorrent or such, opening lots of connections, your router keeps these connections (even after disconnection) in its memory for up to an hour. It fills up and your router grinds to a halt, opening connections very slowly.

    There's other timeouts too, but I'm not sure exactly what they do. Firmware like HyperWRT lets you change these timeouts to something much shorter, like 90 seconds, which typically prevents lock-ups like that.

    (I'm actually not 100% sure that this is the sole cause for router lock-ups)

    • Re:TCP Timeout (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sr. bigotes ( 1030382 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @08:09PM (#24167925)
      That sounds like an excellent candidate. These cheap home routers have very small routing tables (probably less than 512 entries for the WRT54G). If they're not ejecting old entries because of these extremely long timeouts and the table fills up, you're not going to be able to connect to anything new.
  • I never have to (Score:5, Informative)

    by missing000 ( 602285 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @07:50PM (#24167747)
    Not to be a dick, but I use a wrt54g with tomato firmware and it's about the most stable and powerful (QOS is great on it) router anywhere close to the consumer price range.

    I never have to restart my DSL router or Vonage router either, and I've kept all this stuff up 24/7 often with heavy use for years at a time.

    If you're restarting networking stuff all the time, perhaps you've misconfigured it...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ScrewMaster ( 602015 )
      I don't mind being a dick: stock firmware generally sucks. You're absolutely right about Tomato, though.

      The manufacturer's firmware in the DI-624 I used to have, as well as the original WRT54G that I flashed with Tomato, weren't hard to crash at all. Between gaming (I run a Halflife server among other things), multiple VPNs I use with my customers, Bit Torrent, VoIP (AT&T CallVantage) and some other things on my server, Tomato hasn't even stuttered, not once.
    • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

      Ok, exactly what setting on a cheap consumer router would cause it to randomly stop working at intervals? :)

      I have a cheap linksys router that had similar issues - every few days it would randomly hang. It would drive me nuts since I like to remotely connect to my home network, and I can't exactly reboot the router from outside the house.

      In the end I just ended up getting another NIC and running shorewall on a linux box. I only use the linksys box as a wireless access point. Even so, it still needs an oc

  • bad hardware (Score:5, Informative)

    by je ne sais quoi ( 987177 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @07:51PM (#24167755)
    The hardware on your router might be failing, power supply or whatever. I had the same problem with a DSL modem once, it eventually just outright died. The new one I bought (netgear DG834G) hasn't had to be reset once.
  • by BBCWatcher ( 900486 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @07:52PM (#24167765)

    Most routers are cheap. (Apple's is overpriced-cheap; the point stands.) A bunch of them are free after rebates. Considering that, it's a wonder they keep running for more than 5 minutes. They come off the same assembly lines as those Norcent (who?) $15 DVD players.

    You can buy reliable routers of course, from the C company, or the N company, or the J company, or a couple others. That's what corporations buy. What I wonder, though, is whether there's a middle ground: a "pro-sumer" router. Maybe somebody has got some suggestions.

    • I had several "consumer" grade routers before finally finding the Dlink gamer lounge.

      I've never been happier. I've had it for almost 2 years and I never have to reset it. The wireless always works, the gigabit is nice and the "Gamefuel" QOS is fairly effective.

      The $100+ linksys routers aren't much improved over their $50 brethren, but the $100+ Dlink most certainly is.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I second this. I have a D-Link Gamer Lounge (DGL-4300). This is the most stable router I've ever owned. Thumbs up on the QoS, stability and speed (GbE). If I were able to run 'uptime' on it, I believe it would say close to two years (I live in Florida, but it's on a UPS). Oh, wait:

        Connection Up Time : 617 day(s), 12:04:53

        My last router was a WRT54GL that decided to brick itself after about three months of DD-WRT. I think I should agree with some of the above posts that offloading network servic
    • by rcw-home ( 122017 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @08:56PM (#24168303)

      What I wonder, though, is whether there's a middle ground: a "pro-sumer" router. Maybe somebody has got some suggestions.

      Here's two: Soekris [], Mikrotik/Routerboard [].

  • It shouldn't be... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @07:57PM (#24167809) Journal

    I've gotten to wondering why it's necessary to reboot these devices so frequently, like every few days.

    It's cheap, fast development... Not bothering to pay attention to correctness, not watching for memory leaks, etc., etc.

    It shouldn't be that way, of course. I got an old K6-2 system, underclocked it to 100MHz, removed CPU fan and replaced the PSU fan with a very slow and quiet model to make a nearly-silent 8watt system. Then installed OpenBSD on a 32MB CF card (stripped of unnecessary binaries for size, but otherwise completely normal), and have been using that for years. It will run indefinitely, without a reboot. My record for uptime so far is 5 months, and it's only that short because of power outages, and I don't feel the need for a UPS for my router...

    It seems like routers, purpose-built with an embedded OS, should be the most stable devices on my network.

    There's nothing about being "an embedded OS" that should make it any more or less stable.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      There's nothing about being "an embedded OS" that should make it any more or less stable.

      Except for the fact that the end-user isn't messing it up? And that there are very few programs that are installed/will be installed? Really, most embedded OSes should be very stable because the cause for most OS crashes are A) Applications B) Drivers and C) user error. Because applications are not going to be installed and it should ship with very few to begin with, that takes that out of the picture. For B, the router shouldn't need any specialized drivers, or if they do, they should be minimal, and C)

  • The problem is.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fjornir ( 516960 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @07:58PM (#24167815)
    ...the expectations of the user. Newsflash: when you buy cheap crap it is going to perform like cheap crap.
  • BitTorrent?? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 12, 2008 @07:58PM (#24167817)

    I had a WRT54GX for years that never needed a reset, until I started using BitTorrent. Then its 4KB (?) connections table would fill up and the device would hang. Had to build an OpenBSD firewall to handle the many active and inactive connections you get with BT.

  • by Kattspya ( 994189 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @07:59PM (#24167831)
    I've used some Zyxel router that needed restarting every few days until I found out the maximum amount of open connections and bandwidth it could take then it usually only crashed once a month.

    Now I've got an old PII with a CF as HDD running monowall and maximum uptime so far is about two months. It would appear that the modem is more flaky than the router so I've restarted it needlessly a few times. I'm inclined to think it's hardware causing problems when the router crashes on its own. It's a bare motherbord sitting ontop a cabinet with four NIC's (I had an abundance of NIC's but no switch) and it gets a bit jangled from time to time in its exposed position. I'm amazed that it works at all.

    Try to limit the amount of open connections if you're running bittorrent and maybe the bandwidth too. If that doesn't help you should probably build your own router. m0n0wall works for me and I've heard good things about IPCop.
  • by irlyh8d2 ( 1241290 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @08:00PM (#24167843)

    I just use a cheap Pentium 2 running Windows XP with Internet Connection Sharing. Disabled the automatic updates and firewalled it properly over 18 months ago, and haven't had to touch the machine since.

  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @08:16PM (#24168003)
    crappy firmware. I flashed my WRT54G V4 with Tomato and haven't looked back. Also haven't had to reboot it in the past year or so that I've been using it, other than the occasional update. Tomato's developer obviously knows what he's doing: compared to the stock Linksys firmware he's lightyears ahead. And he's just one guy, you'd think a company with the resources of Linksys could do an even better job.
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Saturday July 12, 2008 @08:28PM (#24168091) Homepage Journal
    ...for a router to require rebooting are memory leaks (especially for the routing tables or ARP tables), buffer overflows (same), a portscan or other attack - say by a zombie or skriptkiddie - putting the system into an unrecoverable state (eg: resources exhausted), or a kernel (likely driver) bug putting the kernel into an unrecoverable deadlock. There's almost nothing else that can possibly go wrong in a software router, at least to the point of locking the system up.

    Ok, the router software - likely ripd, xorp, quagga or zebra for any domestic ADSL router - might crash, but the worst that will happen then is that you don't learn new routes. Since DSL providers don't tend to switch their internal IP addresses very often, that should not impact any existing subnet. It means tunnels can't be generated on-the-fly, it also means your next-door neighbor can't connect their LAN party to your wireless connection, but it shouldn't impact you in the slightest.

    The next question, however, is how on Earth are you noticing the router needs rebooting? The kernel is quite capable of rebooting itself under many (but not all) soft lockups. Linux provides several such mechanisms for doing just that. A simple watchdog circuit, using a bistable circuit, a couple of capacitors, a relay and a trigger line that has to change state, could be added by a manufacturer for maybe a couple of dollars. It probably doesn't even need to be that complex.

    When it does reboot, LinuxBIOS is under 3 seconds and I don't imagine OpenBIOS is that much slower. Intel's Tiano probably is, but it's open source so you can rip out anything that's useless. Therefore, recovery times should be barely detectable to an end user. (Most websites vary in download times by more than 3 seconds between visits. Unless you're playing Netrek or WoW at that precise moment, I seriously doubt you'll notice a 3 second outage.)

    Finally, however, why isn't the router using carrier-grade software? Again, carrier-grade Linux exists, which should give you 5N uptimes in the worst possible case. Domestic routers are not worst-possible. Even data centers rarely get the kind of stress that could be expected to force an unrecoverable state. If your router is not overheating, has plenty of RAM, and needs rebooting more than once every other year, there is something seriously defective in the software or hardware.

  • Crap hardware (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ivoras ( 455934 ) <ivoras @ f> on Saturday July 12, 2008 @08:44PM (#24168227) Homepage

    Cheap "embedded" devices like routers and NAS-es routinely have extremely bad hardware. The competition apparently is so fierce that cutting corners of everything, from basic motherboard-like functionality to network and disk controllers is ubiquitous.

    I'm occasionally doing hardware reviews for a local IT magazine and it's unbelievable what you can actually buy today as a bona-fide good equipment even from "brand name" companies. CPUs are usually ARM or AMD GEODE (You think VIA is slow? Think again. - Not to say there isn't a place for slow CPUs, only that this isn't it.), network controllers are cheap Realtek's and I don't know what they use for disk controllers (probably parts of the CPUs "companion" chipset) but it sucks.

    I've seen "gigabit" network controllers on NASes that actually negotiate gigabit speed, although they are connected to buses and CPUs that break a sweat even at 100Mbit/s speeds. NASes that accept 4 drives cannot service reads on even one drive at more than 15 MB/s - introducing RAID (especially RAID 5) into this setup slows things to a crawl.

    Practically all of these devices use Linux, because it's free (as in beer). They usually (I'd say 90%) don't acknowledge or obey the GPL.

    It's a sort-of reverse "best scenario" for Open systems (and Open source). The manufacturers have a choice between something like this:

    1. They'll design special ASIC-like functionality which will do one thing only and do it fast and stable.
    2. They'll use cheap off-the shelf hardware and software which is generic.

    The first choice is represented by "truly" embedded devices like ordinary small, unmanaged Ethernet switches (with which I have suprisingly good experience), but apparently it's too expensive to scale it to "smart" devices that have to support many features so everyone opts for the second one. You can (and this is verified!) build yourself a small managed router or a NAS device like the ones sold at every el-cheapo computer shop with the same cheap generic components, and the resulting device will be just as sucky.

    Creating a router or a NAS just like the above but with "proper" hardware (a Duron 800 MHz based system will be excellent) won't even cost you significantly more, but will deliver orders of magnitude better performance.

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson