Product Review: Linksys WRV54G

 in
This router offers a lot of features for its price point and has great potential--potential that won't be realized until the configuration, documentation and support improve.
What Should Be Done?

The Linux community in conjunction with Linksys really needs to take this product under its wings and work out the problems. This product, as well as other Linux-based products from Linksys and other vendors, have an impact on the impression that people have of Linux in general. In my case, this was the first time any of my clients have had contact with Linux. Considering the hassle this project was, I suspect it will be difficult for me to convince this client and perhaps others to consider moving away from "other vendors" products in the near future. I believe most of the problems with the WRV54G now have been resolved, but the first impression is a lasting one.

Finally, Linksys really has to get its act together on the tech support front. At one point, Linksys tech support was the gold standard, but it has declined to the point that it now is the butt of jokes. It drove me crazy that the Linksys "techs" obviously were reading from a database of answers, and most had little actual knowledge of the equipment. Further, it drove me nuts to have to explain my situation over and over on multiple phone calls on exactly the same trouble ticket. To me, the ability to contact the same tech would be a dramatic improvement over the present situation.

Michael Boerner is a consultant based in St. Louis. He prefers to focus on Linux and can be reached at michael@boernerconsulting.com.

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WRV54G issues & problems

additude's picture

Right now I have owned 2 of these for about 1.5 years. I've experienced all of the problems mentioned here.

But I do believe there is a "Trick" to this madness. I currently have 2.39.2 firmware installed. I just moved one of these to a new location about 3 miles from where it was.

This one still has a problem that it will not accept the automatic time setup to Eastern -5. It is stuck on Pacific -8. I am east coast BTW. So I probably need to flash the bios. What a mess, I don't want to do that so I leave the time setup on Manual.

One of the things in the old location that I think seemed to bother the WRV was radio noise interferance. After several times, I was beginning to believe that the business next door was causing the lockups because they would do some remodling and the guy had his Radial Arm saw there....I swear everytime he used his saw it would kick me down.

However, without drawing any conclusions, this WRV's antenna output fed a 1 watt 2.4 G amp that fed into a 6 ft. Dipole antenna. I caught that signal about 600 feet away, into a Linksys bridge that was also connected to a 1 watt antenna and a 6' dipole. I kept loosing the link between the bridge and the WRV.

I just know that I was continuously needing to hard start the router. But it wasn't always just when the guy next door was using his saw. That just seemed to agravate it. I'd even take my laptop locally and even ethernet cable directly to the back of the router and it was still frozen up.

For my settings I like to have something in the basic setup page domain field. I just put my local domain.local in there.

MTU I have set to manual and 1500 (You must hard start the WRV for this to take effect, software re-boot will not change the setting, only the displayed setting). 1500 for both cable and dsl seems to give me a pretty good speed test (Speedguide.net) and tweak test (DSLReports.com).

Getting the VPN connection to work between the two WRV's initially was a major issue. Most of my problem was inadequate documentation. I'd never done this before and the documentation lacked severely.

I actually on my third call to tech support talked to a guy that knew what was going on and got me connected...but using settings that I had previously used but the WRV's had failed to connect. There seems to be some latency in connecting. I think a person needs to be patient and try the same settings a time or two before concluding they are not working.

So my connect sequence now is:
1. Set up WRV to use a DDNS like dyndns.com
2. Add remote access to Administration page
3. Login to remote WRV via DDNS
4. Add and save settings to each WRV for VPN
5. If using FQDN use format "my.ddns.com." Include period at end.
5. Be sure remote VPN connection is disconnected. Use disconnect button if needed for both WRV's.
6. Start remote WRV to connect using connect button. It will say waiting for connection.
7. Start local WRV connection. It should connect if you have all your settings correct. If it doesn't, ping both DDNS names or IP's to insure they are alive, then disconnect and hard reboot the local WRV.
8. After hard reboot give it about 2 minutes and try to connect again. This should work if all your settings are correct.

As for tech support. Forget it. I just got lucky and once talked to the right guy to set VPN up. Every other attempt to live chat or call was a disaster. There was one other time the tech on live chat was able to tell me to set my WRT54GS MAC cloning to the computers MAC for setting the WRT to work behind a linksys BEF cable modem.

So now I have had my WRV's on line for 2 days and they seem to be working. I need to re-flash that one with the time problem. Maybe this weekend. It was the one that was giving me issues at the old location. Maybe that's all it needs.

Be sure to follow the flash sequence:
1. Save settings to file
2. Load factory defaults from Admin page
3. Hard restart the WRV
4. Flash the WRV
5. Setup WRV. (I'm not sure if you can reload same version saved settings file to same version or not). As picky as this thing is I'd Print Screen each page of the WRV and just go back and manually enter the settings.

Overall, I think with better documentation, my problems would have been minimized. Even now with 2.39.2 installed the "log" send email logs documentation is messed up. It has info about fields that I do not even have displayed.

But emailing logs seems to work fine.

It's a great unit at a great price. Needs better support and better documentation.

Interference

Lance64's picture

Did you try connecting it to a UPS (if it isn't already)? It could be line current drops and spikes when the saw turns on. I've noticed that all components, including routers, cable modems, and PC power supplies last a lot longer and work with a lot fewer glitches and require fewer resets/reboots when connected to a decent quality UPS.

I hook up just about everything to a UPS, including all the components connected to my TV at home. I feel it makes a big difference.

It wouldn't take much of a UPS to power it, you could probably use the smallest UPS you could find.

Hopefully that's helpful.

It doesn't even support WPA.

Anonymous's picture

It doesn't even support WPA. That's the killer.

WRV54G and Linksys Nonexistent Tech support

Anonymous's picture

Worst experience I have ever had was trying to get this piece of junk stable and connected. Linksys Tech support is the worst ever- they deserve an award - unintelligbile and totally clueless, hand up on you when they do not know the answer- throw it away

Same issues -- almost

acole02@sbcglobal.net's picture

Very interesting article. Thanks Michael.

I have almost exactly the same configuration -- WRV54G router with Speedstream 5100 DSL modem via SBCglobal DSL, but am connecting to a windows network with primary PC running Win2k and 802.11G/B mixed with three wireless laptops (myself, wife, daughter). For months this setup was very stable, even keeping a VPN pipe open to my work. I was very happy. Initial setup was a breeze -- everything including the PPOE programming worked the first time I did it. This also included 128bit WEP combined with MAC access table with 12 entries. For the first 6 months, I had to reboot/power cycle the router only after blackouts -- a total of perhas three times.

I then changed jobs and deleted the VPN settings from the WRV54G, leaving the WEP in place and updating the MAC table for the laptop from my new work. This new work uses the same VPN -- Sonicwall, but all but one of the offsite workers use WindowsXP to setup and manage the VPN pipe. For the first five or six months of this setup things remained rock solid.

But towards the end of last year some more neighbors installed wireless networks, and MetroWifi put a unit about 150ft away. (Outside I can see no less than five networks!) My WRV54G started irretrievably disconnecting from the PPOE and/or 802.11 spontaneously and only a hardware reboot would bring it back (i.e. software reboot did not do the trick).

I tried resetting the unit to factory config and reprogramming all settings. This took about an hour but gave the same behavior in the end. Thinking that perhaps the increased 802.11 traffic here might be causing the problem I decided to check the linksys site for a new BIOS. Some of the text seemed to indicate that this might be relevant, so I decided to flash the laterst version -- 2.37.

Again the upgrade seemed to go fairly smoothly. And this does seem to have solved the freezing problem. I have uninterrputed access for up to a couple of weeks of uptime. (I haven't tested it longer yet because of the new set of issues.)

After about three weeks of extremely frustrating debugging I have all but concluded the new firmware has added a significant amount of latency to the way Ethernet packets are passed through to the internet. But very selectively. When I setup the VPN pipe on my laptop I can up/download large files from my work LAN with speeds exceeding 2Mbps down and 500kbps up. But MS Outlook refuses to send emails larger than about 1kB. If I delete my offline folders Outlook will happily connect to the server and download a new OST file (about 500MB in my case) without a hiccough. But try to send any email and it chokes.

Quite a bit of research later I've come to the conclusion that this means that the loop -- Outlook to Exchange server and back has a latency just around, but mostly exceeding 5 seconds which causes Outlook to conclude that the server is unavailable.

A little while ago I decided to test this theory and setup a PPOE network connection on my laptop connecting that to the Speedstream 5100 directly. This connected immediately and I created a VPN pipe to work. This was rock solid and I sent and received several 5MB messages without one timeout.

So, now I'm a little at a loss as to what I should do. I'm probably going to try some older firmware versions, even back to the factory default. If none of those work (i.e. no dropouts and acceptable latency), the WRV54G is for the round file.

If I get around to it I'll post my results here too.

I absolutely agree with Michael's comments on Customer support. My previous router was a D-Link. Their customer support was 24hour, polite, and helpful. What a cold bath Linksys was. I have no experience with Cisco, but concluded after a couple of attempts to get help from Linksys that I was pretty much on my own with the router. I'm not sure I'd buy another Linksys product.

I'll close with wishes of good luck to anyone who goes for this router. Having managed people writing drivers and embedded software I suspect the development here was not as rigorous as it might be. The hardware may even be part of the problem. In any case, the end product seems nowhere near as solid as it should be.

Andrew Cole

My WRV54G freezes up too

Jim Miller's picture

I have similar issues. It used to be rock solid. Nowadays I either lose my internet connection or just lose wireless connection (PC's with Ethernet cables still fine) and have to reboot the WRV54G several times a day. Interestingly enough it seems to be worse especially when I use heavy bandwidth. I also have the newest firmware available from Linksys. As a technology professional myself, I am more familiar with their wireless router products (several models) then their support technicians. How frustrating! If anyone makes a breakthrough, please let us know!

SOLVED!!!!

Andrew Cole's picture

I tried updating firmware to version 2.37, and have enven tried 2.38.6 (beta). Neither worked. The clue came when I tried
pathping
in the cmd window.
This showed just two hops over the vpn to the exchange server with total latency less than 50ms - a long way from the 5sec needed for Outlook to timeout.
This led me to the conclusion that the server was either dropping IP packets from Outlook or breaking them somehow. Although this makes me nervous, I tried setting MTU to manual, 1458 bytes.
Bingo. Outlook is rock solid, and all other applications seem to perform perfectly.

WARNING: If you are reading this and looking for a solution, to similar problems, make sure you save your router configuration before you set it. It's possible that setting MTU to a fixed value may mess something up and you may have to reset the router to factory defauts.

Good luck.

Outlook and Exchange timeouts

Marshall Moreland's picture

Andrew,

I have run into a very similar problem but the WRV54G is not even a factor, we don't own one. I was just doing research on it for a new project. I'm very interested in hearing if you have had this problem with other products in Outlook? If so, do you think the Exchange server was causing the problem? I would not want to set the MTU on our gateway router because of the potential for breaking other apps. However, I'm considering changing the MTU on the Exchange server.

What do you think of this solution?
Thanks.

VPN over wireless

Enrico's picture

Does anyone know if the WRV54G or WAG54G can provide access to the VPN endpoint over wireless, or do they only allow it through the WAN port?

Problems with shares

Alex's picture

I have set up the WRV54G and the QuickVpn software. I am on release 2.37 for the firmware of the WRV54G. I can connect from my remote site over the vpn tunnel without problems. Once in, I can ping the internal IP address, telnet to MS ports, etc. I have found problems with mapping drives or viewing shares, though. Initially, this would always fail. But after working on it on another machine, I have been able to see some shares if there is only 1 small file in it. If the share is large, I get an error See:
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Networking/Q_21258689.html

That describes what I am currently experiencing. I have contacted technical support and they simply keep saying that the vpn is connected and they do not understand that through the vpn file shares are failing.

Linksys has hit rock bottom...

Anonymous's picture

It's a shame to see a decent company go south.
The WRV54G I bought never could get the QuickVPN
to successfully connect.

Customer support sucked and Documentation wasn't
even any good for toilet paper. :(

Will be a long time before I give Linksys any business

No Problems with WRV54G

Jeff (MCSE)'s picture

I have two of these routers, one is working with a SpeedStream 5100 (in bridge mode)like the configuration mentioned earlier, and both use Norton Firewall and Anti-Virus for security. I have had no problems with vpn, DDNS, port forwarding, PPPoE, WEP, firmware, etc. Only had to turn the thing on and off twice in over a year do to a hang condition after the DSL went down. I have upgraded the firmware at least twice to keep things current, and that seemed to work well. I have the latest version currently loaded.

QuickVPN worked okay with it also, though the documentation with QuickVPN is crap, and the connection is slow. All VPNs are slow though, so my expectations were low anyway. You are typically better off using remote access software like Anyplace Control in conjunction with Norton Firewall (to keep intruders out), and FTP client/server software that incorporates SSL security for transferring big files (I recommend Gene6 for the server and CoreFTP Lite for the client). It is a much faster process, but still slower that desired. The remote access software requires a static public IP address, if you do not have one use the DDNS feature of this router in conjunction with opening a free account with dyndns.org. This is a great feature.

I must say I have not yet tried the router's new security features for the wireless portion (I am still using WEP). So, I can't vouch for that.

Most problems (but not all) I read on the Internet about router setup, remote access behind a firewall, VPN connection problems, FTP setup, etc. are due to lack of good background by the user, which is complicated by crappy documentation from the vendor. Most vendors are not ready for Prime Time. Whenever I am working with something new and having problems I always assume that there is a piece of information missing rather than the hardware or software is bad. Good troubleshooting techniques help narrow things down, but those are only available to experienced users.

From what have I read about this device on this site, it is not clear what was the common failure. Did it affect the hardwired side, the wireless side, or both. Did it fail to connect to the Internet, perform its DHCP role, forward ports to the proper private IP, not allow you to logon to the device itself, or what? When it "locked up" or "quit working" did you go to the command prompt, enter ipconfig to make sure you had a valid IP address? You can use ipconfig /release and ipconfig /renew to verify DHCP is working without rebooting. Could you see other computers on the network?

At home I have two computers connected to this router on the wireless side and one on the hardside. I have a big house (5000 sq. ft.) and there is good signal strength throughout. I suspect this device would be a good hotspot as long as the users were inside the building where the router is located. Not sure if it is strong enough to satisfatorily service people out in the parking lot if you are located in a brick building.

I think one problem is that these devices are too complicated for the average Joe and the vendors either don't realize it or don't care enough to put together documentation for the layman. If I worked at Linksys, I would get one of the secretaries and ask her to connect my device and get it working. If you write documentation for her to do it successfully, then anyone should be able to do it. Unfortunately, they must feel everyone has their engineering degree and a couple of years experience in the field. Not a good assumption for the mass market. I am sure their tech support is crap as well, isn't everybody's? Maybe the tsunami will change that?

Jeff

This product is junk. It work

Vladimir's picture

This product is junk. It works when it works, but very frequently a hard reset/bios reflash is need. It is unacceptable from the quality point of view. I'm amazed he could get VPN client working stable - for me it works on some days, doesn't on other. Moreover, on two similarly configured computers you'll see a different success pattern. This is very frustrating and outrageous, as on the same hardware/software CheckPoint Secure client has NO problem connecting to company's firewall, so it must be very low quality of software coupled with very problematic hardware by Linksys. The tech support is next to useless. Overall, avoid at all costs if your time is of value to you. Unfortunately, I must admit I cannot recommend any other vendor: my experiense with other popular routers is equally bad: feature bloat with less and less quality.

NOT "only product with this features at this price"

Anonymous's picture

http://www.buffalotech.com/products/product-detail.php?productid=88&cate...

WZR-RS-G54

can be had for about US$160; see Froogle.com.
just about to get one myself.

what about sveasoft ?

Anonymous's picture

how come www.sveasoft.com is not mentioned anywhere ?

p.s.
i am not affiliated with them at all.

Linksys Firmware

Anonymous's picture

Quite often the original firmware seems to be either crap or at least not having the features it could have.
After flashing OpenWRT onto my linksys, it runs extremely stable for months.

Can OpenWRT do VPN wirh WRV54G

Edz's picture

Can your wrV54G using OpenWRT do VPN ?

openwrt and wrv54g

Torleif's picture

Does openwrt really run okay on linksys wrV54G?

It is not mentioned as a compatible router on the openwrt web-page
http://openwrt.org/OpenWrtFaq#head-d5290822331e904798d5c4184ebc486ff47d5ffb

wrv54g

BigDog's picture

After reading the comments, I'm wondering how it works as a hotspot router?

Ive installed a number of

florenceit's picture

Ive installed a number of these over the last year. with latest beta firmware and configured correctly they are all working rather well. one thing --the 2 networks must be different subnets. what IS highly annoying is the vpn clients incompatibility with other vpn clients on the same machine, its hit or miss, sometimes works, sometimes not. the fact that it all tunnels through ssl is both the best and worst part about it (forget about hosting a secure website behind the router on port 443). for the price and the right application (small business), this is an excellent choice. I have experienced the problems mentioned, the unit needing hard resets occasionally, firmware updates wipe out all settings.. sigh. however once its finally properly configured it stays running just fine with alot of vpn use.

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