Recommended DD-WRT settings

I’ve been asked a few times now for my recommended DD-WRT settings, or at least my good-enough settings. I think that’s a great idea, so I’ll walk through how I configure a DD-WRT router. Follow these steps and I can almost guarantee¬†you’ll have the most secure network on your block.

For the purposes of this tutorial, I am going to assume you are configuring DD-WRT as your primary router.

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Using a router as a switch

Most of us have an old router like a Linksys WRT54G laying around, or if we don’t, it’s very easy to find one–the nearest garage sale or thrift store is a good bet–but sometimes all we need is a switch, to hook up a couple more computers or other devices to a wired connection.¬†Using a router as a switch wastes some of its capabilities, but it’s easy to do.

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Something strange is going on

I’ve been noticing a lot of slowness that I’ve traced to DNS issues lately, typically with the caching DNS in routers. It happened to me, and it happened to my mom. We have different routers from different manufacturers, and they probably even use different embedded operating systems. Hers almost assuredly runs Linux; I have an oddball one that runs FreeBSD.

But the caching nameservers aren’t working well lately. I haven’t investigated why just yet. The solution I found was to hard-code the DNS settings on all my computers rather than letting them pull it from DHCP (my oddball router won’t let me specify external DNSs to use–lovely). Be sure to pick the best ones for your network.

Making that simple change fixed my mom’s dog-slow computer, and fixed my unreliable one.


Home network projects for a budding sysadmin

A very good question came in as a comment to my earlier post, the benefits of practicing IT at home. What do I mean by putting some Windows 7 machines on a domain? It’s one of several good home network projects.

I mean standing up a server with centralized user accounts and shares, running on Windows Server or Samba, whichever you can afford. Make it a print server too, and print from it, just like you would from an office. Then extend it, and extend your sysadmin skills. Here are several ideas for projects of varying length, difficulty, and expense.

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An update on the shortcut to wiring a house with Ethernet

Last week, I presented a shortcut for wiring a house with Ethernet using cheap keystone couplers. I’m happy to say I’ve done it twice now, and it all works, but I wanted to follow up and share a little more experience now that I’ve wired about a dozen ports this way.

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I could ping my router, but not the rest of my network

I don’t know what happened, but my Ubuntu Linux server crashed hard the other night. And when I brought it back, the rest of the network couldn’t see it. I could ping my gateway (router), and the server was pulling an IP address over DHCP, and the rest of the world had connectivity to it, but I couldn’t ping anything else on the network. And my Windows machines couldn’t connect to it.

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Toggle between two registry settings with another simple script

On the heels of yesterday, the same technique that swapped hosts files can be adapted to toggle registry settings too.

Perhaps you want to be able to toggle your screen saver timeout from the default of 1500 to a value of 9999. That way, you can easily choose between the screen saver interrupting you or not. I run into a problem when running certain emulators with the screen saver timing out on me; this would solve the problem.

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DNS and iTunes and other streaming media

There are reports floating about regarding third-party DNS affecting downloads of movies and other media, particularly from iTunes.

So, if tweaking DNS settings used to be what all the cool kids are doing, maybe it’s about to become less trendy, thanks to advice circulating to ditch third-party, centralized DNS providers like Google and OpenDNS, because they “defeat the distributed nature of DNS itself.”

The answer of what DNS to use and why is more complex than that.
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How to clean viruses off other people’s systems safely

What should you do when someone hands you a computer, tells you they think it has a virus, and asks you to clean it?

Proceed carefully, that’s what. You don’t want to infect your other computers with whatever it has.

To get it gone safely and effectively, you really need two things: an antivirus live CD, and a spare router.
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