Firmware and Web-Interface
Like most of modern network devices, the Linksys WRT350N uses embedded Linux in its firmware. This makes the device cheaper and also provides third-party developers the opportunity to write their own, alternative, firmware that may prove to be much better than the official version in functionality or usability. Today, there are a lot of individual developers and communities that are writing firmware for a wide range of home network devices on a regular basis. OpenWRT (openwrt.org) and DD-WRT (dd-wrt.com) are the most prominent projects when it comes to alternative firmware for Linksys products. At the time of our writing this review, the people at OpenWRT were still working on their firmware for the WRT350N while DD-WRT had already published a release. Alas, the differences in the hardware versions of the router must be taken into account here. The released firmware is compatible with the American version of the router (v1) which uses a Broadcom processor. The European version (v2) comes with a Marvell processor whereas DD-WRT specialize in processors from Atheros and Broadcom. Thus, until OpenWRT comes up with their alternative, there is only one firmware version you can use – the official one.
The latest official firmware is version 2.00.19 and we loaded into the router before the tests. We will now describe the setup options available when you access the router via your web-browser.
The web-interface is quite original for the SOHO class, but you can get used to it after a while.
The menu is organized as a horizontal row of tabs between the header and the main area. Each open page contains a list of options divided into groups whose names are located on the left of the list and opposite the corresponding group. A short description of the current page is given on the right. To get detailed help on the necessary page in a new browser page, you should click the appropriate button below the brief description. The Save Settings button in the bottom right corner of each page does what its name suggests. An Abort button is placed next to it. You don’t have to open up a special page to learn the firmware version of the router: it can be seen in the top right corner of each page.
The integrated Help system is far from perfect. Although you can get a notion of the purpose of a particular setup option, some descriptions are too succinct and there are no examples. The interface of the Help system looks like a draft rather than final version, too.
So, the router’s menu consists of eight groups listed in the top line. Each group offers a few pages with settings – the pages are listed in the bottom line. The menu structure is logical, so you can easily find the option you need. Perhaps some settings might be combined into one rather than multiple pages, but that’s our only gripe about the menu.
The first group of settings is called Setup. It contains four pages of parameters you should specify to make the router ready to work. The first and most important page is Basic Setup. You can set up the router’s WAN and LAN interfaces and system time here.
The DDNS page is where you can enter your DDNS account parameters. The list of DDNS providers is short – two names only.
This page might be combined with the Basic Setup page. It is called MAC Address Clone and you can enter any MAC address for the router’s WAN port here.
You can turn NAT off or edit the routing table on the Advanced Routing page. There is a maximum of ten static routes only, though.