Routers can do a lot of things besides broadcasting the Internet signal. It can allocate the right kind of bandwidth for certain activities, limit the number of users (especially of the guests), and keep track of your bandwidth or overall Internet use. But most of these routers have very limited features.
Fortunately there are plenty of choices when it comes to alternative firmware. One of these is the Tomato. We aren’t really sure why it’s called as such, but the only thing that we can say is that it’s as good as many people’s favorite fruit.
What is Tomato?
Tomato is a fun name for a firmware you can install in your router, allowing it to have more features that you can never imagine. This is open-source too that is based on Linux, so it’s very easy to customize, and you can expect more developments soon. It doesn’t work in all routers, but its official website gives you a full list of supported devices. More will also be added in the future.
Tomato has undergone a lot of version changes over the years, the latest of which is before August 2012. The stable release version came around during 2010.
Why should you use it? As mentioned, it gives you more features; thus, you can maximize the use of the router. You can also provide more security to your router by installing protective options. Unlike other alternative firmware, Tomato is well-known for its easy-to-understand graphical user interface, so you can easily keep track of your wireless network use and traffic.
What can you expect with Tomato? As mentioned, it uses a graphical user interface that is based on Ajax. Thus, the images and graphs are customizable and more presentable. This becomes handy if you’re acting as a network or systems administrator in a small company. You can also use the data just in case you need some proof to create your case against Internet service providers.
It also includes the following:
Static IP Address Allocation: Normally Internet service providers give you dynamic IP addresses. This means the digits change regularly. This is also preferred by many since it’s a lot cheaper. The problem is, it’s difficult to determine if you have a suspicious IP address (perhaps from someone who’s trying to access your network illegally). Hence, a static IP address makes sense if you want to have better security. Tomato, meanwhile, gives you space to acknowledge a static IP address.
Wake-on LAN: Computers go to sleep too, especially if they are not in use. This is how they’re able to conserve their power. However, because they are asleep, you cannot access anything from them. You need to wake them up. What if you’re located in another room or you’re using a completely different device. Of course, you can stand and turn the desired PCs, but that’s already time-consuming, particularly since Tomato has a wake-on LAN. This is a standard or protocol that allows you to remotely “wake up” a computer or a device that belongs to the same network as the one you’re using.
Quality of Service: Not all Internet users are the same. Some just love to download hundreds of files, movies, and songs online. This becomes a problem if there are other people using the same Internet connection. The mentioned activities will eat up most of the bandwidth, and the other Internet users cannot make the most of the connection.
Tomato is designed with quality of service (QoS). It lets you classify and manage traffic, determining how much bandwidth one class can have. You can also properly monitor the effectiveness of the setup through graphs that change in real time.
Bandwidth Monitoring: If you think that you can get unlimited bandwidth, then you’re definitely wrong. There’s nothing unlimited in the world, after all. But you can fully maximize and use the bandwidth if you correctly keep track of it.
How to Install the Tomato:
Unlike DD-WRT firmware, which has a more thorough list of instructions, the Tomato firmware seems to be scant. Nevertheless, various users of it have provided us a very good idea on how you can properly set it up.
The first thing you should do is to check if your device supports Tomato firmware. You can check out its official website to get the list. Don’t forget to compare the model number. It’s possible that the firmware doesn’t support some models in the router series.
Go to the main website of Tomato and use the latest firmware. Simply look at the date as well as the version number to find out which one is it. The installers and firmware are also zipped. So when you download them, you need to have the zipped file. This also means you should run a WinZip or Zip software in your PC. Otherwise, you won’t be able to extract the files. Anyway, after you’ve downloaded the zipped file – you should store it in a specific folder – extract the files.
Then you can now begin the upgrade. Keep in mind that the process may be different depending on the router you’re using, so you better refer and carefully follow the instructions outlined by Tomato developers. Either way, you should access your router’s admin panel to continue with the firmware upgrade. If it asks for a username and password, you should also enter them before you proceed.
The extracted file will include a Read_Me text, which you should open to know what version is ideal for your router to have from this point on. Run and wait for the upgrade to complete. Then perform the final steps, which include a hard reset to your router.
You must ask as many questions as you can and read plenty of references before you start using the Tomato firmware. One wrong move, and you can destroy your router, rendering it useless. You may also not get any support from the manufacturer as using a different firmware than what came with the router may be considered a breach in its warranty.