We weren’t impressed with the last Linksys-branded router that passed through Maximum Lab North. The dual-band Linksys E3000 (in reality, a rebadged Linksys WRT610N) delivered humdrum performance and lacked a number of important features we expect to find in a high-end router. The E4200 fares better, but we’re still scratching our heads over some of Linksys’s decisions.
Logitech has all but given up on the plain vanilla set-top box war in favor of Google TV powered devices, but owners of the previous generation DMA2100 and DMA2200 Media Center Extenders woke up to a nasty surprise yesterday, their devices had been bricked. According to hundreds of upset forum posters over at The Green Button, the cause can be traced back to a dial home protocol built into the boxes firmware that now points to an address which no longer exists. Speculation up to this point is suggesting that Cisco may have pulled the plug on the server in question, but if this were true it would be a bitter pill to swallow since the oldest of these devices only went on sale last summer.
If you are unfortunate enough to be fighting with one of these boxes yourself, you might want to stop by The Green Button forums where some users have crafted some interesting work-a round’s such has blocking the dial home function via your router, or simply pointing it to an invalid gateway. Of course this could all just be a massive misunderstanding to a simple server crash, but Cisco’s silence on the issue leads us to believe it is something slightly more sinister.
We would like to take the opportunity to remind the victims of this tragedy that had they built a trusty home theater PC they wouldn’t be in this boat at all, and yes, we have a how-to for that.
You’ve been getting by with the cheapie router you bought two years ago, so why should you upgrade now? In a word: Performance. And features. Oh, sorry. That’s two words. We looked at a host of budget offerings in our last router roundup (February 2010) and didn’t find much to get excited about. This time, we asked seven manufacturers to send us the best consumer routers in their stables regardless of price tags.
In most cases, that meant a simultaneous dual-band router capable of running 802.11n wireless networks using the typical 2.4GHz frequency band and the less-crowded 5GHz band, plus a guest network that isolates its clients from your primary LAN. In all cases, it meant a router with an integrated four-port gigabit switch and at least one USB port for sharing a printer or a storage device over the network (some have two USB ports to support both functions). In an interesting twist, however, no one submitted a product using a three-stream wireless chipset promising raw throughput of 450Mb/s.
As we mentioned earlier, the Linksys E3000 is actually a rebadged WRT610N. We’re taking a second look at it now because it remains Cisco’s best consumer router; as such, we owe it to our readers to compare it to the best of what the rest of the industry has to offer.
We updated the router with the latest firmware for this review and downloaded fresh drivers for the Linksys AE1000 dual-band USB client adapter, so we were quite surprised to see the router perform more poorly than it did when we tested it several months ago. Cisco Connect remains the easiest tool we’ve ever used to establish a connection to a router, but Cisco’s “fix” for a problem we described in our initial review has rendered the router a whole lot less appealing.
Keeping the Linksys name alive, parent company Cisco on Wednesday unveiled a new line of wireless routers, the Linksys E-Series. The sleek looking lineup is part of Cisco's effort to streamline its Linksys routers, as well as showcase the company's new Cisco Connect software.
"Linksys pioneered the first home router 10 years ago, and 50 million units later is the world's leading provider of home wireless routers," said Jonathan Kaplan, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco Consumer Products. "The new E-Series caters to Linksys' core technology-minded consumer base, with a simplified product lineup that is ideal for today's sophisticated home network user."
There are five new routers in all, including the E1000 Wireless-N, E2000 Advanced Wireless-N, E2100L Advanced Wireless-N with Linux, E3000 High-Performance Wireless-N (dual-band), and AE1000 High-Performance Wireless-N USB Adapter. Each one comes with Cisco's Connect Software designed to simplify the process of setting up and configuring settings, such as auto-assigning the WPA security passkey and SSID.
Pricing has been set to $70 (AE1000), $80 (E1000), $120 (E2000 and E2100L), and $180 (E3000).
We hope Linksys’s marketing effort with the WRT120N won’t blossom into an industry trend, but we know it will. Linksys advertises this router with the tagline “Step up to the speed of Wireless-N!” Read the data sheet, however, and you’ll find this: “Complies with IEEE 802.3u, 802.11g, and 802.11b standards, and [is] compatible with some 802.11n features” (emphasis ours). The 802.11n standard has achieved sufficient brand recognition that many consumers won’t look past the N in the product’s name, and they’ll fail to notice that the Wi-Fi Alliance certification logo on the WRT120N’s box extends only to 802.11b/g.
Yep, this is a single-stream router, and the benchmark numbers reflect that design: The WRT120N achieved less than half the throughput of our zero-point router, Trendnet’s TEW-639GR, in our kitchen, bedroom, and patio tests. It did beat the snot out of Trendnet’s other router, the TEW-652BRP (reviewed on the next page), but the Trendnet’s street price is nearly half that of the WRT120N.
Routers, while essential, aren't particularly sexy. Most of them stick out like a sore thumb, like the Linksys WRT54GL, an old favorite among power users who like to use third party firmware (like Tomato), but might be put off by the ugly blue casing.
That's the dilemma Lego fanatic Luke Anderson found himself in, so what did he do about it? He gutted it and decked out the assembly in Legos, of course!
"My goal was to recreate, as much as possible, the stackable design of the original WRT54GL case while maintaining full functionality of the router (buttons, LEDs, ports). I also wanted to keep some air flowing through the case to avoid overheating the board," Anderson wrote in his worklog.
Anderson spent a couple of days designing his custom case and about $60 in parts, which is roughly $20 more than he paid for the router to begin with. But it's hard to argue with the end result. And the coolest part? He's packaged all of the design documents and images under the Creative Commons license, so if you get the itch (and have the scratch), you can dress up your Linksys router exactly the same way.
By launching a full line of music-streaming products, including the Director DMC250 reviewed here, Cisco clearly has the Sonos Digital Music System in its sights; unfortunately, it’s fallen well short of the target.
Our biggest complaint has to do with the convoluted setup process, which includes installing Cisco’s LELA (Linksys EasyLink Advisor) on at least one PC. LELA isn’t a bad utility—if you’re completely terrified by the prospect of setting up a home network. If you’re an old hand, it’s a waste of computer resources.
The default installation also forces you to set up a user account on Cisco’s website. A spokesperson tells us this is because Cisco needs to act as an intermediary between you and Rhapsody. Really? What if you already have an account with Rhapsody? What if you decide you don’t want anything to do with it? There’s apparently some way of installing the Cisco media server software without LELA or divulging your email address to Cisco, but the documentation doesn’t mention it.
Two security researchers on Saturday have warned that if you use cPanel to administer your website or certain Linksys or Netgear routers, you're leaving yourself open to web-based attacks that could potentially take control of your systems.
The attacks are based on CSRF, or cross-site request forgery, which can be exploited simply by surfing to the 'wrong' website, say Russ McRee of HolisticInfoSec.org and Mike Bailey of Skeptikal.org.
"CSRF is bad stuff," Bailey said at the Defcon hacker conference in Las Vegas. "It's a very under-appreciated vulnerability, and it's all over the place. Because it usually gets rated as a pretty minimal issue, it almost never gets fixed, and that means we have these kinds of holes all over."
When visiting a malicous website while logged in to the program, the attack is able to trick cPanel into carrying out sensitive commands by duping the device into thinking they came from the victim. And it doesn't look like this will be fixed anytime soon.
"The response I got from cPanel was we can't fix this because it's a feature," Bailey said. "Apparently, they're worried it's going to break integration with third party billing software, so they can't fix this."
Safe surfing remains the best defense against internet-borne attacks, but it won't provide you that warm fuzzy feeling that an additional layer of protection offers should you slip up. And if you share your PC, your safe computing regime goes straight out the window if your roommate wanders haphazardly across the web.
In an attempt to beef up security, Linksys announced it is teaming up with Trend Micro to integrate the latter's Home Network Defender internet security software into its routers to help block malicious sites from doing harm. Previously offered as a software application, Home Network Defender will be integrated with the Linksys WRT310N and WRT610N routers, offering protection to any computers connected to the network.
The software integration is meant to deny access to sites it deems unsafe with user-adjustable sensitivity controls, as well as embed parental controls and user-activity reporting into the above mentioned routers. What it won't do is offer anti-virus protection, however Linksys says that four licenses of Trend Micro Antivirus plus AntiSpyware will come included as part of the deal.
Existing WRT310N and WRT610N have the option of upgrading their router's firmware for the new software integration, which will carry a 30-day complimentary trial. After that, the service runs $60/year.