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Wireless Firmware

Want better performance out of your home Wi-Fi setup? Most of us are now so dependent on Wi-Fi around the house that we do want that, but not everybody realizes that there are open source tools that can help improve your wireless experience. dd-wrt and Tomato both support more routers and have added functionality. They're open source firmware replacements for the intelligence built into routers, and they can juice your wireless performance and extend your range, in addition to other features.

Tomato is a small, lean and simple replacement firmware for Linksys' WRT54G/GL/GS, Buffalo WHR-G54S/WHR-HP-G54 and other Broadcom-based routers. It features a new easy to use GUI, a new bandwidth usage monitor, more advanced QOS and access restrictions, enables new wireless features such as WDS and wireless client modes, raises the limits on maximum connections for P2P, allows you to run your custom scripts or telnet/ssh in and do all sorts of things like re-program the SES/AOSS button, adds wireless site survey to see your Wi-Fi neighbors, and more.

Indeed, the GUI for Tomato has improved over time, and it can really add much more functionality to your router than you already have. It's Linux-based, and even small things that it's capable of--like giving you automatic reboot options--can provide convenience.

If you haven't looked into dd-wrt, get to know it. It started out as a Linux-based firmware replacement for one Linksys router, intended to add various types of authentication options. Since then, it has ballooned into many downloadable versions for over 200 common Wi-Fi routers. With dd-wrt, you get a whole lot of router options that you wouldn't otherwise have, you can increase your range substantially, and you can get better performance around your home.

If you're unfamiliar with these applications, the dd-wrt wiki tutorial page is a good place to get started. Some of us use multiple routers and have old routers around. If that's you, you may especially appreciate these free tools.

ARTICLE on how to use Tomato.


Google Talk Soft Phone

GoogleTalk has Video and Voice chat which you can easily use through Gmail. Users of Gmail in the USA can now make and receive free telephone calls from their computers, communicating with any other telephone. A VOIP softphone for your computer.

To make telephone calls you should install Voice and Video chat plug-in to Google Chat in Gmail. To receive telephone calls you need a free Google Voice phone number and in Google Voice's voice settings/phone tab, check Google chat. If you have a webcam, you now also have a Video Softphone. Even if your friend doesn't have a video camera, you can still have a voice phone or a 1-way video phone.

If you do not already have a full Google Voice account, you must upgrade your Gmail account before receiving phone calls in Gmail. This process is free and gives you access to additional Google Voice features such as one Google Voice number that rings all your phones and voicemail transcription and more.

GMAIL  Google Talk  Google Voice

Note: upgrading to Google Voice requires a valid US number to get started.

Tip: If you download the GoogleVoice App to your Android phone and in settings select to always call with Google Voice, then (if necessary) add your Google Voice number to your 'friends' list with your Cellular provider prevents call minutes. Your calls will be made via Google Voice through your data plan.

Tip: Inbound calls through your Google Voice number may be recorded simply by pressing 4 on your dialpad. Recording outbound calls is not directly supported but can be done using a Call Widget created in your Google Voice Settings. Create a Call Widget, save the code in a text file with the html extension and when you wish to record an outbound call, open the file, click the call me button and insert the number you wish to call. Google voice will connect with the person you called, then connect to you. You can then press 4 on your dial pad and the call will be recorded and placed in your Google Voice mail. In both cases, an announcement "this call is being recorded" will be made which cannot be prevented.