Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A 411 on LEDE router software

Replacing a router's firmware with Linux is now easier than ever.
There are innumerable reasons for installing the LEDE distribution on a router which replaces the manufacturer's firmware. If, for example, you have a router from other than Netgear that supports disk storage, it lacks a DLNA media server. LEDE allows you to install MiniDLNA which is the same software that Netgear embeds into its routers (Netgear made this available as open source). Since installing LEDE my Internet download speed has increased by about 20%. Upload has not changed.

There are many other packages one can install that serve a myriad of needs. You can browse the available packages.

A standard install includes a very capable firewall built on the LINUX Netfilter. You will also get a browser interface that is superior in usability to the manufacturer's version. In addition you can SSH into the router. If you don't know what that means, that's fine.


LEDE is now sufficiently mature that it pretty much works out of the box. However, once installed, reverting to the original OEM firmware is an adventure. Prior Linux experience is not required to get the most out of the installation which took me less than ten minutes.

In my case I have a Netgear router with an internal hard drive. Unlike a USB drive the only practical way to move music to the disk is over the network. This was done over an old version of Samba which was slow as hell. Over the Internet I could download a file at many times the speed of a local network transfer. That is FUBAR. Netgear provided me with some experimental firmware which did not improve things.

With LEDE installed I can mount the remote file system using the Linux NFS protocol (Samba is also supported). File transfers are now three to four times faster. I also have SFTP installed (you can install FTP) for additional transfer capability.

  • The project's introductory page is here.
  • The first step is to see if your device is supported. From there you can also investigate what router you should purchase if you are in the market. Each device provides a link to the LEDE software supporting that device (different versions are dependent upon the router's CPU). There are two links: One to an new installation marked Firmware LEDE Install URL and another is for an upgrade to existing installations.
  • The fresh install documentation is here. It seems more complex than it really is. If you are unsure of anything there is a forum in which developers lurk. If you are still stuck, send me an email. I will try to help.
The bottom line is that LEDE is installed through your existing browser interface. LEDE provides a new interface for maintenance and set-up.  Nevertheless, follow the doc.

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