Firmware and Web-Interface
As you’ve learned from the previous section, the new router is almost the same as the WL-500g Premium on the hardware level. So, you can suppose that the firmware may be identical as well. That’s almost 100% true. Running a little ahead, I can tell you that the new model’s firmware is different in its Wi-Fi related section and has a new page for simpler traffic prioritization setup. Otherwise its functionality hasn’t changed.
Oleg, whose works can be found at the wl500g.info site, released an alternative firmware version soon after the WL-500W had been released. Currently, the pre9 version is available on the website. It is free from the bugs found in the earlier versions and is downloadable from the address http://oleg.wl500g.info/500w/WL500W-126.96.36.199-8-pre9.trx. The main drawback of this firmware is that the router hangs up under a high and continuous load on the Wi-Fi interface. Oleg has promised to correct the problem as soon as posible using the source code of the latest official firmware from ASUS that comes with an updated Wi-Fi driver.
Such a large project as OpenWRT that provides support for many ASUS routers hasn’t yet released full-featured firmware for the WL-500W. The available Kamikaze version doesn’t support Draft N mode.
And finally, I found another version of alternative firmware at the Russian-language ASUS forum. It was assembled by Krey and can be downloaded from http://get.freesoft.ru/?id=4129. This firmware improves the router’s support of DHCP and packet masquerading and adds support for the ext3 file system on external HDDs. This firmware had been developed before Oleg’s firmware and its author seems to have given up developing new versions now.
The latest official firmware of the WL-500W as of the time of my writing this is version 188.8.131.52. I’ll discuss it in this section. So, it has an updated Wi-Fi driver and supports the Windows Connect Now feature. The official firmware cannot match Oleg’s version in functionality and its only advantage is the Download Manager, which is disabled in the alternative firmware.
The router’s web-interface for configuring its parameters is the same as the interface of the WL-500g Premium. Its window consists of three parts. The header of the page you see in your web-browser contains nothing interesting save for a drop-down menu for choosing the language. The rest of the window is divided into two parts. The left part shows the menu with all the router’s settings and the right part displays the currently selected page. Settings are shown on each page as a list with subcategories without links to hidden pages. This visual representation helps quickly find the option you are interested in. When you’ve changed something, you should confirm the changes by pressing the Apply button that is located at the bottom of each page. There are two more buttons here: Finish saves the settings in the router’s memory and Restore cancels your actions that have taken place before saving. At the top of each page there is a brief description of it. Most items on the page have a floating tip that explains it. This Help system is not exhaustive, yet it’s better than nothing.
The menu structure is crystal-clear because the groups and subgroups of settings are marked differently, with a folder and a page icon, respectively. The items of each group are also shifted a little rightward relative to its name. The router’s menu offers a total of 11 items, 8 of which have sub-items and three are individual pages. On your entering a correct login/password combination, you arrive at the Home page that provides quick links to basic setup pages.