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* WRT54G -- which will be going back.
* 2 4-port Audio-video switches: one for the stereo, upstairs, and one for the video games, downstairs.
* 2 20 foot Audio-only cables and a set of female-to-female connectors
* Replacement DVI->S-Video/RCA cable for the mac mini
* Replacement Mini-DVI to VGA cable -- which turned out to be the wrong one somehow? This'll be going back too. The mini-dvi plug does not match the one on my powerbook at all.
* 2 12 foot Video+Audio cables with 2 female-to-female connectors.
* 1 6 foot Gold Plated Component video cable (this was my real splurge)

Component video installation went seamlessly -- although I did break the DVD player slightly, but in the process learned that it's ridiculously easy to fix. That $20 charge for fixing it whenever julie broke it was definitely overpriced: It's a three-screw job to take the cover off and the DVDs are right there. (I may use it as a lesson for the kids on how these things work: looking at a spinning DVD might be cool.) Not only that, but the video quality is significantly better than with the composite video cable, something I never really expected to happen - it was mostly just a goal I've had since I first got a DVD player to be able to hook up component and see if there was a difference. (And it was confirmed by everyone who saw it that the colors were brighter, so it's not just a biased viewpoint because I spent $30 on it.)

Set up cables for the mac mini. No problem -- now hooked up to video 1 on the TV so we can watch movies from zeus without much effort, which is great.

Set up cables to desk and next to bed, plugged in turntable, got that all set up so we can just hit a button to choose. Need to move speakers around stuff into better positions.

Then I spent a lot of hours doing something really useless. The WRT54G is known as being a Linux-powered router, one that's easy to hack with an alternate firmware.

Yeah, right.

That used to be the case with the last one I bought, so I figured another one would work well. Little did I know that recently, the WRT54G firmware hsa been built to prevent the uploading of new versions to the router unless they're Linksys firmware, so you can no longer extend the capabilities of your router (for example, to support connecting to another Wireless Router for internet as a client, rather than acting as an AP.) After dicking with it and following every trick on the net to try and get it to work (and failing), I tried just installing a firmware on the old router, and succeeded.

However, once I did this, and brought the router downstairs (where it was to act as a wireless bridge), it still wasn't working. Connections failing, only talking to other machines when there was already an incoming connection, etc. I'm sure that some work could be done on it, but after spending 4 hours on it tonight, I'm done. I'm taking it back tomorrow, getting something small and designed to just connect to a wireless AP and be done. I'll also pick up a higher gain wireless antenna, the one thing I meant to get today but failed. I'll also pick up some connectors to go from the 4-way splits to the devices they're connecting to, which I also didn't think about. Overall cost should be about the same -- I'm really frustrated with Linksys for this crap though. I expected better of them.

Jess and I had dinner at California Pizza Kitchen: I had the Jambalaya, which was absolutely incredible. I also had my first ever drink-in-a-restaurant: Several times before I've thought about it, but never had my license or was taking public transportation, so it's simply never happened.

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- Component video should always be crisper than composite video, because the composite signal is effectively two syncs (horizontal and vertical), plus three colour channels (green, red-diff, blue-diff) all munged into one, which the other end has to try to figure out. Suffice to say this is suboptimal. If the component video wasn't crisper, then there'd be something seriously wrong with the equipment. (Eg, beware that some video switches have only a composite backplane, and hence munge everything to composite before switching, and demunge it again to send out. The result there is also... suboptimal.) The difference between S-Video and Component Video is much smaller, at least for short cable runs.

- Regarding the WRT54G, there've been four hardware revisions of these now. The first couple were relatively easy to hack, but the last couple have been made progressively harder to hack (including firmware fixes for the backdoors being used to get in). The OpenWRT project (which is very close to an actual release -- RC3 at present) has done fairly well at coping with the wide range of hardware, and explaining what is in each. And they've also got a pretty nice build system now. As well as what seems to be a "set one flag to use as a wireless bridge to another LAN" option added pretty recently.

But if you just want a wireless bridge there's probably something cheaper that'll do it out of the box. And WPA is close to being secure enough for a non-critical link (I never did trust WEP for security, and always used a VPN or something over it).

Linksys, despite being owned by Cisco, is pretty much on par with many of the other "consumer electronics" companies -- ie, most of the stuff mostly works, but less so when you try to push it to do something "unusual." The reusability with something like OpenWRT is the sole reason I'd buy them over any of the other consumer items, so it's a shame that they're actively trying to defeat that reuse.


S-Video I typically find annoying, simply because cabling it tends to be harder. (The plugs don't stick out on the back of the TV, for example, so hooking it up behind the 27" with relatively little light and even less space would be quite difficult.) Combine it with needing to orient it a certain way an the cabling tending to cost quite a bit (although probably less than Component -- if you can find it, which I couldn't) and you can start to see my dilema. :)

However, I've never been one to be a cable-whore: most of my cables are of crappy, 4th/5th run quality, and I seldom have problems. The Component video thing shocked me: I always thought that it would just be good for video-philes and the like, but with a consumer-grade combo DVD/VCR and a Sony Wega TV, the picture is significant enough that simply plugging it in I could immediately tell. The colors are richer, the text is sharper. All very nice to see that it may have actually been worth the cost.

The WRT54G was supposed to be a purchase that I could see using for something else in the future: possibly to help build the local neighborhood wireless that I selfishly want to build in the area. (Selfish only because I want to do it so that I can get wireless while I'm at the park with the kids. ;)) However, given everything I'm reading online, I think I'd rather just dump Linksys as far as I can at this point. Nobody else is any better, but I've been spending a little bit more on their products because of their support of the GPL for their firmware and the like. However, given recent developments, I'll take their "Fuck you, you want to do something different with our hardware", and go somewhere else.

I don't really understand the reasoning. Who cares if someone installs new hardware? They might get a slightly higher return rate -- the number of people who have turned the routers into bricks trying to flash them is certainly statistically significant -- but they don't make money on the router software, they make it on the hardware, surely. So long as you have the ability to drop support calls from people who are running modded firmware quickly (The version string should get you there pretty quick), I don't understand why they would try to limit people from doing what they want with it.

My fear is that it's simply an anti-open statement. I'm not sure if the release of their firmware under GPL was because it was the smart thing to do, or because it was required by the license. If it's the latter, than my thought that it was based on "Linksys is trying to encourage people to hack their routers" is really just wrong, and I don't need to go out of my way to support them.

I don't bother with any kind of data protection: anything I do that's important goes out over SSL or SSH, so I just leave it open, in part because I'd like to encourage the use by passerby of the device. I like open standards, I like sharing of resources, and I've got little to lose to someone seeing the network traffic here. So, WEP, WPA, whatever, doesn't matter to me.

Linksys were "forced" to release the GPL source after they were outed by people discovering (IIRC) busybox strings embedded in their firmware. (It was one of those situations where the vendor was basically told "you can do the right thing, or we can go to court and stop you distributing your product -- why not do the right thing?".) IIRC it was resolved pretty soon after Cisco bought them, by "doing the right thing" (although certain parts are still binary-only, such as the driver for the wireless interface); and their "firmware vendor" was blamed for the use. They do seem to have been pretty good about releasing the source promptly now, but I get the impression it's out of license obligation rather than a desire for modable hardware, and they don't exactly go out of their way to make modifications easy.

It's interesting reading through the current hardware compatibility list for OpenWRT ( to see just how many of these consumer products are running Linux internally, with basically the same hardware in them. I've not really followed the others much, so I'm not sure if any of the other manufacturers are more open-source friendly. But I'm not sure I'd buy any of them for "supporting open source", since my impression is that they're just using Linux because it was there and the price was right. (There are other hardware vendors which are more keen on open source in other areas though.)

As for the cables, my impression is that (again for short runs) the quality of cable makes relatively little difference, but keeping the signals separate (component) definitely helps a lot. In my case I'm actually using an A-V cable (intended for composite + left/right audio) for my component cable -- it's only a couple of feet long, and it works fine. In theory component video should be a little better quality than S-Video (since the cables are more physically separate), but as I said the difference is much less than the gap to composite. And you're right component video is generally easier to get hold of/plug in.


If you're going to buy a WRT54G, get one off eBay. Preferably a V2. I got my V2 about 9 months ago. I'm currently using the Talisman Freeman firmware, and it's wonderful. I cannot recommend these routers enough. Just don't get anything newer than a V3.

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