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Archive for September, 2009

RouterTech Firmware v2.91

September 14th, 2009 by Kieran in Announcements

RouterTech Firmware v2.91 has been released. While only a minor version number increase since our last release, we’ve included over 20 different changes to fix issues and generally make the firmware better.

1. Bug fix: the “Restart Access Point” button in 4-port non-wireless firmwares removed.

2. Busybox upgraded to v1.14.3.

3. Utilities: “insmod” is now a shell to modprobe; use “insmod-bin” for the “real” insmod (this is a result of the busybox upgrade to v1.14.x and higher).

4. Some security improvements.

5. The “RT configurations” feature has been updated to be able to specify Led file and DSP driver. The available ones are shown in brackets. The desired Led or DSP file should be specified as it
appears in the brackets – and their file extensions must NOT be specified.

6. A new shell script: (for routers with the Adam2 bootloader only). It will defragment the Adam2 bootloader environment. The script has to be run from a telnet/ssh login session. Normally, you should not run this command directly. Instead, use setenv DEFRAG DEFRAG (see below).

7. New command for defragmenting the environment – setenv DEFRAG DEFRAG (note the capitals!) – must be run from a telnet/ssh login session (never from the web interface).
NOTE: This command must only be used as a last resort. As with any low-level operation that writes to the router’s flash chip, things can go badly wrong. The recommended way to defragment the Adam2 bootloader environment is to run “fixenv” from the bootloader command prompt. The recommended way to defragment the PSP bootloader environment is to run “defragenv” from the bootloader command prompt. You will need a serial console to run commands from the bootloader command prompt.

8. A new shell script: – allows you to throttle the bandwidths of those who have exceeded a specified transfer bandwidth (default 500mb) to a very very low speed (default 128 bytes-per-sec), and to display current bandwidth usage data. Requires IP Account to be enabled (example: 250 1024 reset – will throttle any client that has exceeded 250mb bandwidth to 1024 bytes per second; the “reset” parameter is optional; if used, then it will first reset the IPAccount statistics – this is useful if your router is not rebooted everyday). Run the command with no parameter to see the syntax.

9. New support for wireless Adam2-based routers with just one ethernet port (e.g., the Actiontec GT701WG).

10. pppd upgraded to v2.4.4.

11. New support for siproxd (wireless routers only) (courtesy of Richard Antony Burton).

12. New environment variable (“siproxd_enable” (wireless routers only)). If set to 1, this will trigger automatic execution of siproxd each time the router boots up, using a default configuration file (/etc/siproxd.conf).

13. Enhancements to the “RT Configurations” page in the “Tools” menu. You can now a) enable/disable Siproxd from this page, and b) select/de-select DSP drivers and Led conf files.

14. DSP/tiatim v6.x has been restored to the AnnexA firmwares.

15. The default DSP driver (other than the 1350A wireless routers) has been changed to DSP/tiatm v6.x. This should free up some memory on low memory routers, and should also be less demanding on the hardware. In the firmwares that allowed for changing the DSP/tiatm drivers, the facility to change the drivers still remains.

16. New DDNS support for dnsomatic (courtesy of Richard Antony Burton).

17. New command: wol_forward (courtesy of Richard Antony Burton). This command is to wake a machine on the LAN from outside the network, via settings in the new wol_forward environment variable. Example: setenv wol_forward “ppp0 br0 7”.

18. Following a poll on the forum, Tinyproxy has been removed from all our firmwares and is no longer a feature of the RouterTech firmwares.

19. A new shell script – – resets the configuration to defaults. Use this command only as a last resort – when everything else fails (e.g., when reset from the web interface fails, or when you are unable to access the web interface).

20. New tool – mtd3_app – this is a low level helper program for some firmware scripts. Do NOT attempt to run it manually!

21. Change in the syntax of – the “size” parameter should now be in kilobytes (multiples of 64) and not in bytes – e.g. mtd5 192 auto_minix. The valid sizes are: 64; 128; 192; 256; 320; 384; 448; 512; 576; 640; 704; 768; 832; or 896. If an invalid/unsupported size parameter is given, the script will simply print an error message and will stop. Be sure to not try to create a new partition that is bigger than the available flash space, or you will trash your router.

22. A new shell script – – returns the number of lines in a text file (or “-1” on error). Empty lines and comment lines (beginning with a “#”) will be ignored. If you want comment lines to be counted as well, then supply the switch: “–with-comments”.

23. A new shell script – check_env – this is a rough-and-ready check for bootloader environment fragmentation (Adam2 routers only). It returns 1 if the bootloader appears to be fragmented, and 0 if it does not appear to be fragmented.

Thanks to all who worked hard developing and testing this release!

Xilo Broadband

September 6th, 2009 by Kieran in Articles

So this is my first proper article on the new RouterTech blog and I want to post about my ADSL provider, Xilo Communications. From the outset let me clarify that I’m not being paid to write this but am doing so because I use the service myself and am more than a bit impressed with it. As you will see in the coming paragraphs the features on offer are numerous and are in amazing positive contrast to other ISPs currently available to home internet users.

Range of Accounts

The range of accounts on offer should provide something for every kind of user but for best value check out the Pro accounts. While sounding grand these are just simple LLU accounts that offer un-metered bandwidth, a rock solid reliable connection and a low monthly cost, which to be honest is all you really need with an ADSL connection. Contention rates are lower on Pro Office than you’ll find on most competing ISPs (25:1) but Pro Home (50:1) will most likely be more than adequate, even for heavy users.

Lead time and Migration

You should expect a lead time of 7 working days. I migrated from my old ISP and provided my MAC when I signed up. When my migration day came around (I was informed what it would be at point of ordering and again by e-mail) my old connection ceased working and my Xilo connection started. This happened in a very short space of time with minimal downtime.

Obviously I can’t speak for everyone’s situation but I would be more than a bit surprised if your experience of getting connected wasn’t smooth and trouble free.


I’m not going to go off on one about how great my connection is, the simple reason is that for everyone this is going to be different and very much dependent on their line quality and distance from the exchange.

My advice here is to check your exchange distance and expected speed on Sam Knows and then be assured that you will get at least this speed with Xilo. My actual speed is higher than indicated and the drop-outs I get are infrequent, brief and cause little to no impact on my network.


So you’ve chosen your package, signed up and been sent your login details by e-mail and have a nice stable connection running. This is where Xilo broadband really starts to come into it’s own – the tools they provide to manage your connection. Below is a screen shot from the broadband control panel. Rather than offer company news and other info upon login (this is available elsewhere if you want it) the panel keeps it simple and to the point – all the broadband tools in one place with no hunting around required.


The first thing you notice about this panel is you’ve got features you wouldn’t get with other ISPs; fault logs, IP settings, notification settings. I’ll get to these later but I point them out as they’re sure to delight any discerning techie who likes to keep an eye on things.

Usage Statistics

Even with unmetered access it can be useful to know how much bandwidth you are using and when, especially if your router doesn’t support stats or if you use more than one machine and want to keep all your stats in the one place. Below are a few screen shots of the various statistics screens. All the graphics are animated (although obviously not on this page) and are updated daily.


If you run home servers this graph allows you to see when remote access peaks during any given 24 hour period and also when the quiet periods are – great for planning essential upgrades and other maintenance.


Current usage is probably of a lot more use to those who have chosen a metered package but it is still nice to see a pie chart breakdown of your upload and download use. I find it useful to indicate if I might have a problem with my home servers; I would for instance expect to have a considerable upload footprint due to remote users requesting files but I can see from this graph that while I was away on holiday my file server may well have fallen over as download use far exceeds upload.


The historic usage graph is without a doubt my favourite as it will let me track over time how my usage habits are changing and act accordingly. For example, if my download usage is going up by only 10Gb per month then I can probably afford to delay the expansion of my hard drive array for a while. If however I notice usage starting to increase by 50Gb or so then I might want to continue with my hardware upgrade plans after all.

Tracking Line Drops

Now onto some of the really juicy bits, after all, plenty of other ISPs provide at least a few stats. Few however will acknowledge to you how often your connection drops and those trying to track it themselves are often faced with lost logs after router restarts and log wrap-arounds on routers with a low memory capacity. With Xilo your monthly session history is logged and you can use this to determine trends in when your connection drops to diagnose interference at home or, if you have a really good connection you can prove to yourself how long it really can stay connected! In addition to simply tracking when drops occur the logs will also provide the reason so you can decide if the issue is line based or if your router may be about to croak.


Before someone points to my stats and exclaims that I seem to have a few drop outs listed, this is my take on ADSL disconnections. In an ideal world we wouldn’t have drop outs but copper wires are fallible and subject to all manner of interference. This means we simply cannot expect to have connections that stay up indefinitely.

My stats in the screen shot reflect a common situation with ADSL. The connection stays up for a good chunk of time, 10 days say, then some interference causes a drop. The connection will be re-established but because the interference is still there the rate at which it re-connects may be too high. This rate is re-negotiated on the next connect and this process continues until the rate at which you are connected is low enough to stop the interference dropping the connection and so another period of good stability resumes.

The better your line the fewer drop outs you will invariably have but you will always have some. Also note that you should not change ISP simply to escape drop outs. Your line isn’t going to change and as such the reason for the drops isn’t going to be banished just because the provider at the other end of the copper has changed.

If you do have issues with you line, drop logs like the ones Xilo provide should serve to both highlight the problem to you and also help you or an engineer to pinpoint the cause.

Proper IP Blocks

Static IPs are an unknown area for many home users and if this is you then you can ignore this option when signing up with Xilo and just have a single IP, but if you have many devices at home and know what you are doing with networking you may very well want a block of IPs for your use.


If you do go for the block, Xilo help you to manage them. You can see a list in the broadband control panel (screen shot above) and see clearly the reserved addresses that you should not assign to equipment. The IP page also provides the option to assign reverse DNS to each IP address although be aware that you must first ensure the host name has an A record for the IP. These features combined with a good home router and a little networking knowledge can help you build up a proper LAN with fully addressable host names for each device on your network and a gateway address through which all your traffic will pass.

Many ISPs, naming no names, make a really rather bad job of this as well as charging an eye watering sum for the privilege so if you are wanting to setup a home network in this way think very carefully before deciding against Xilo!

If the worst should happen

So the unthinkable has happened, you wake up one morning and find your broadband is down. Usually this means a call to your ISP, a patronising conversation with 1st level support and then a ticket raised behind the scenes on your behalf with no way to track it’s progress except when you get tired of waiting and call again or your connection comes back. You are of course rarely told what the actual problem was.

Sound familiar? Well that’s why the Xilo fault log is so useful. Firstly you won’t be patronised by support. Secondly the ticket raised on your behalf is placed in a system with API access which allows it to be presented to you in the broadband control panel – see the screen shot below.


From here you can see as the fault is passed between Xilo and other parties, the names of people dealing with the issue, the time taken for Xilo to receive a response from other parties and most importantly, what the actual problem was and what the resolution was when everything gets sorted.

Obviously you hope you’ll never have an issue and you probably won’t but knowing this kind of transparency is on offer if you do is a great comfort.


If you want a reliable ADSL connection at a reasonable price and with a great customer facing feature set then Xilo Communications is certainly well worth a look. While no ISP will be perfect I’ve used enough of them to know a cut above the rest when I see it.

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