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If you have a tool or tip you think we could use in our "Tips of the Week" segment, post it here.
I'm running a TP-Link wireless router at home. The first thing I did when I got it was load the excellent "dd-wrt" firmware into it. DD-WRT is a free software replacement for many router's firmware. Since there are only a couple of chipsets used in those devices, it's pretty easy for the development team to port it to almost every router out there. From their page:
DD-WRT is a Linux based alternative OpenSource firmware suitable for a great variety of WLAN routers and embedded systems. The main emphasis lies on providing the easiest possible handling while at the same time supporting a great number of functionalities within the framework of the respective hardware platform used.
I use it for a number of reasons, primarily the stability compared to the buggy factory firmware, but also for the VPN function. That allows me to work from a Starbucks via an unencrypted wifi connection, securing all traffic via a VPN to my router at home. From there it goes out via my cable modem.
I can find my home router because dd-wrt includes a number of dynamic DNS clients. Now I can connect to it via a URL that always points to it even if my IP address changes (which in practice it never does except when the cable modem reboots, maybe once a year).
Yesterday I found an uber-cool feature that I never investigated before. It supports a number of hotspot modes. I chose the "AnchorFree Hotspot". It took about a minute to create an account and start it up. This thing is amazing. It leaves my normal AP mode intact (WPA2 encrypted for my household connections, SSID "PETE", DHCP address range 10.20.30.x). It creates an independent 2nd wireless AP on the same hardware. This one is unencrypted and has the SSID "AnchorFree Hotspot". When you connect to it you get a routable IP (75.x.x.x in my case) which is in fact a VPN connection from my router to their server someplace. That way when some random person connects to the hotspot and downloads a bunch of kiddie porn from the Al Queda servers in Pakistan, it traces back to the AnchorFree server, not my machine. In fact I have no visibility via my router into what's going on. I suppose I could sniff the unencrypted wifi, but I don't care. What I do care about is 1) being able to provide free wifi to neighbors and visitors, and 2) having that traffic egress via an IP someplace beyond my cable modem.
In theory AnchorFree inserts some kind of ads in a border around your browser page. In practice I don't see it. Maybe that's because I'm running Firefox with Adblock Plus on Linux Mint, I don't know. I can tell you it's plenty fast and seems to work perfectly for me.
It's just one more great feature in a great FREE software download.
If your router has a USB port than you can plug in a USB hard drive. DD-WRT can then support a Bit Torrent application (Transmission), an enterprise backup solution, file serving, and other such goodies. If you think about it, a router running DD-WRT is a tiny Linux PC and so can run anything that can fit into memory. As a central point in your network it can silently, and with almost no power consumption, do all kinds of 24/7 server applications that are file intensive.
One issue I had in Linux Mint was finding a program I wanted but it's not in a .deb package format and then unsuccessfully trying to uncompress and install the .tar.gz or other format to install via a terminal with commands.
One great life saver application was Alien & Fakeroot that can be installed from your package manager. It will convert your .tar.gz or .rpm package into a .deb that will make the process almost effortless.
In the terminal type >> fakeroot alien "DRAG FILE PACKAGE HERE"
(eg. fakeroot alien 'home/user/Desktop/firefox-18.02.tar.gz)
Hit Enter then you have a .deb package.
It's a GUI & command line tip in one.