Replace Actiontec router with Asus RT-N56U, etc. - Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums
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post #1 of 1744 (permalink) Old 2011-11-15, 01:31 PM Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Riverview, NB
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Arrow Replace Actiontec router with Asus RT-N56U, etc.

Background

As many of you know when I first got FibreOP I was displeased with the performance of the provided Actiontec router when watching TV and torrenting. While I could have limited my torrents I felt I shouldn't have to do this and ended up building a custom pfSense image that worked with the FibreOP service. Through bringing this image up to date I began exploring options that had appeared on the market for consumer (or near consumer) equipment that would be capable of providing the throughput and functionality that some power users are requesting.

Initially I evaluated the Draytek Vigor 2130. While Draytek is not a big name here in North America they are big over in Europe. I chose the 2130 model specifically because it has hardware NAT functionality which offloads most of the load to dedicated hardware, away from the processor. While this unit worked fine for internet access the IPTV functionality was a different story. Unfortunately a lot of the lower level stuff is only provided in binary form which forbids really messing with it in ways required to have IPTV be functional. Once I discovered this I dropped it as a candidate and moved on to the Asus RT-N56U which turned out to be the right choice.

Hardware

The Asus RT-N56U is built using a Ralink system on chip with a MIPS core running at 500MHz, but this also includes a packet processing engine that I will explain later. For flash it has 8MB. For RAM it has 128MB. Network side it has an internal Broadcom switch which provides 4 gigabit LAN ethernet ports and 1 gigabit WAN ethernet port. There are also two USB ports for USB HDDs/flash drives/printers. Dual band wireless (2.4GHz and 5GHz) is also provided using Ralink chipsets.

The really awesome thing about the RT-N56U is the packet processing engine. This allows a lot of the NAT functionality to be offloaded into hardware, leaving the 500MHz MIPS core virtually idle. This is important for FibreOP since we have both high speeds and for some many simultaneous connections. My testing shows that it can easily keep up with my 70Mbps/30Mbps package and through internal testing I've seen it hit 800Mbps in each direction. As for number of simultaneous connections I've hit well over 35,000.

The internal Broadcom switch is also awesome. While most switch chips allow you to do VLAN tagging the included chip also allows you to do 802.1p tagging, which is required for IPTV service to work. In simple terms this means that your IPTV traffic is switched instead of having to go through the 500MHz core and then sent back out.

Software

As with most routers the Asus RT-N56U is built on a Linux platform with lots of common software you might find in standard distributions. Asus also puts out the entire source code needed to build custom firmware with each firmware release. This makes it *incredibly* easy to modify the router as it will build a completely functional firmware image.

The GUI is one of the best I've used and I've found it to be easy to work with and fast.

With the latest firmware available from Asus the RT-N56U requires no modifications to be compatible with Bell Aliant FibreOP service. You will have to manually enter VLANs and VLAN priorities, though. To that extent I have made a tweaked firmware which adds Bell Aliant as an ISP which allows the router to do automatic configuration with this information. I have also added a passthrough option which essentially allows you to use your own router behind the RT-N56U, talking directly to Bell Aliant, but have your IPTV service be provided through the RT-N56U. I will be posting this firmware once I test everything out.

You can find more information about the RT-N56U here: http://www.asus.com/Networks/Wireless_Routers/RTN56U/

Questions?

Important Note: As mentioned in post 130 you must "release the IP address from your Actiontec before switching. You must do this or the Asus won't get one. Powering off everything will *not* release the IP address. You have to go into the web interface to do so."


Other Note: You will find a direct link to Files' firmware upgrades in the link below. However, it is highly recommended to read the whole thread since there is a lot of info to understand before you try to do the hack.
http://web.joshua-colp.com/firmware/

Last edited by Danster; 2012-02-14 at 09:01 PM. Reason: added link after note
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post #2 of 1744 (permalink) Old 2011-11-15, 02:59 PM Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Riverview, NB
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Silly me, it's actually realtek in the RT-N56U not broadcom. Too many routers to keep track of. Carry on.
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post #3 of 1744 (permalink) Old 2011-11-15, 04:23 PM
 
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Thanks a lot for the info and hard work
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post #4 of 1744 (permalink) Old 2011-11-15, 05:00 PM
 
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great work.. i look forward to buying one.. I don't like the actiontec one bit!!
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post #5 of 1744 (permalink) Old 2011-11-15, 06:10 PM Thread Starter
 
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I have made my tweaked firmware available at http://web.joshua-colp.com/firmware/...ell_Aliant.trx - It is based off of the latest stable firmware, 1.0.1.7c, but includes ISP support for Bell Aliant.

Once you have your RT-N56U plugged in connect a machine over ethernet to it. Visit the web interface at http://192.168.1.1/ and login using the username admin and password admin.

To upgrade the firmware to the Bell Aliant version go to Advanced -> Administration -> Firmware Upgrade. Follow the instructions on screen.

This will take a few minutes and once done visit the web interface again.

To configure for Bell Aliant go to Advanced -> WAN. Scroll to the bottom of the page to the "Special Requirement from ISP" section. If you want the RT-N56U to do NAT select Bell Aliant and put your Actiontec MAC address into the MAC address field. If you want the RT-N56U to only do IPTV and to passthrough internet responsibility select Bell Aliant - Passthrough.

For the Bell Aliant option ports 1, 2, 3, and wireless will be part of a local network and will have internet access through the RT-N56U. Port 4 (furthest towards the USB ports) will be solely for IPTV service. Port 4 *can not* be used for internet access or local network access.

For the Bell Aliant - Passthrough option port 3 will need to be connected to a router that will get an IP address from Bell Aliant and perform NAT. Port 4 (furthest towards the USB ports) will be solely for IPTV service. Port 4 *can not* be used for internet access or local network access.

I have not yet completed testing things but believe at least the Bell Aliant option fully works.

I am also open to any suggestions to further tweak things.
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post #6 of 1744 (permalink) Old 2011-11-18, 01:20 PM Thread Starter
 
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If anyone invests in this router and uses it I would *love* to hear feedback about it. Don't be afraid to post with comments or questions.
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post #7 of 1744 (permalink) Old 2011-11-21, 06:27 AM
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I've had my RT-N56U working smoothly since July in a Mac Lion OS. It was no problem configuring from their site as the Windows installer CD was useless for me. The only hiccup is it wouldn't recognize my two Brother printers and Xerox color laser. The workaround was to put the printers on Apple Express and then to the ASUS via USB.
For some reason latest firmware 1.0.1.7c isn't loading so I'll take it to the office and try on a PC. Very good consistent signal strength on both bands although 5Hz is always weaker. The GUI is a real treat after years of D-link.
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post #8 of 1744 (permalink) Old 2011-11-21, 03:27 PM
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Without trying to high-jack your thread as I really value the information you have provided. Did you ever consider other products like: http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/ps11025/index.html
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post #9 of 1744 (permalink) Old 2011-11-21, 05:18 PM Thread Starter
 
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I was trying to keep the price point at $200 or below, so I did not consider stuff above. If that price point seemed unreasonable I was going to expand. I do also have limited funds for playing with such things. ^_^
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post #10 of 1744 (permalink) Old 2011-11-21, 05:39 PM
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I'm certainly not suggesting I have unlimited funds either. I was more curious how universal the modifications were. If I understand what I've read correctly. You essentially require one of a multi-nic server, router and/or switch combination capable of IEEE 802.1Q and IEEE 802.1P plus the ability to manually reassign the MAC address of the WAN connected NIC prior to making the initial DHCP connection. There's obviously a bit more to the implementation, but those seem to be the highlighted capability requirements.

I have read many favorable reviews on the Asus RT-N56U. What I wasn't able to find were it's additional capabilities. I did download the manual. But it really doesn't answer a lot of questions. How many vlan's does support? What additional features have all of the firmware updates provided? How does it stack up against some of its pricier competition? I sent you a pm with other, more out of scope questions. If you don't accept pm's that's fine. I really appreciate the knowledge you and others have willing shared in this forum.
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post #11 of 1744 (permalink) Old 2011-11-21, 05:43 PM
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Is it possible to just use a managed switch for VLAN passthrough to a dd-wrt router ? Say something like the Netgear GS108T-200NAS for $99 ??
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post #12 of 1744 (permalink) Old 2011-11-21, 06:04 PM Thread Starter
 
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To both of you -

The requirements for internet are the ability to assign VLAN 35 and to spoof the MAC address.

The requirements for IPTV are the ability to assign VLAN 34, to set the 802.1p priority on packets going to that VLAN to video, and to have bidirectional traffic to the set top boxes.

hj74: It doesn't support VLANs on the local network side as far as I can tell, and each firmware version does have a terse changelog. You really have to use the latest firmware to get a feel for what you can do.

onemomentplease: If the switch can do as I mention for IPTV then you can use that to do the IPTV portion and have the internet VLAN just go to dd-wrt.
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post #13 of 1744 (permalink) Old 2011-11-26, 04:08 PM Thread Starter
 
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New firmware based off of the latest 1.0.1.7f firmware is now available at http://web.joshua-colp.com/firmware/...ell_Aliant.trx

This firmware brings things up to date and also fixes an issue where IPTV service would not work. I have now tested things out and confirmed it's all functional (in fact, I've completely integrated the Asus into my network).

An unexpected development is that TV service is actually improved when using the Asus. Channel changing time has been decreased (the amount of time before you get the TV stream) and on-demand content (available content, art, etc) retrieval time has also been decreased.
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post #14 of 1744 (permalink) Old 2011-11-26, 04:43 PM
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file isn't kidding. This hardware running the correctly configured .f firmware rocks! The statements about improvements are greatly understated. Channel changing is now instantaneous. On-demand features are much more responsive. Even functional items like surfing through the guide, menu items or skipping ahead and backward during live play seem to work better. The last one may be subjective?

Great work file and thank you for sharing!
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post #15 of 1744 (permalink) Old 2011-11-26, 07:24 PM Thread Starter
 
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I'd also like to add that if people have feature requests for things they would like to see in the firmware don't hesitate to ask, I'm going to continuing tweaking things in my spare time.
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