How to: Convert a Wireless Router into a FON Spot

By Eric Geier

April 29, 2008

Learn how to convert a mundane wireless router into a FON Spot router, with a firmware upgrade.

So, you want to set up a FON Spot, but don’t want to purchase an official FON router, the La Fonera or La Fonera+? This tutorial will show you how to convert a mundane wireless router into a FON Spot router, with a firmware upgrade.

 

If you haven’t already, read through the previous tutorial, How to: Set Up a FON Spot. It will provide you with an introduction to becoming a FON Spot. After completing the first two steps you can refer back to this tutorial to create your FON Spot router. Then you need to return to the other tutorial and finish up the steps to install, configure, and personalize your FON Spot.

 

Step 1: Get a Supported Router

First you need to round up a wireless router that’s supported by the FON firmware, such as one of these:

 

  • Buffalo WZR-RS-G54
  • Buffalo WHR-G54S
  • Buffalo HP-G54
  • Linksys WRT-54G/GL
  • Linksys WRT-54GS (versions 1-4)

 

An updated list of supported routers can be found in the FON Related Materials section of the FON Web site, when viewing the firmware versions available for download.

 

Step 2: Get the FON Firmware

 

The firmware file can be downloaded from the FON Related Materials section of the FON Web site, based on the particular router that’s used. So the file can be easily accessible later when uploading via the Command Prompt, the file should be downloaded to the main user folder (i.e. C:Documents and SettingsEric Geier).

 

Step 3: Upload the FON Firmware to the Supported Router

 

First a word of caution: modifying a router’s firmware or loading it with firmware not released from its manufacturer (like FON’s firmware) usually voids the factory warranty and support.

 

Also, when upgrading any firmware, all directions and precautions should be followed exactly. One slip-up can brick a router¾or in other words make it unusable and very difficult to revive.

 

When performing firmware upgrades you should always do so over direct Ethernet connections to the device you’re upgrading, rather through a wireless connection. Plus the computer you’re using should only have one enabled network adapter (the one that’s connected to the device) when upgrading. This will help prevent errors in the firmware transfer.

 

The two basic methods to upload (flash) the firmware to a supported router are:

 

·        Web-Based Utility: This method is much easier and supported by most routers (except for Buffalo). This can be done by logging into the wireless router’s Web-based configuration utility using its IP address, finding the firmware upgrade page, selecting the FON firmware file, and hitting OK.

 

·        Trivial File Transfer Protocol (TFTP): A simple file transfer method using a command line interface (required for Buffalo routers):

 

1.      Disable firewall and anti-virus software.

 

So firewall or anti-virus software doesn’t prevent the firmware transfer, any active security software must be disabled during the upload.

 

2.      Connect the router to a computer.

 

An Ethernet cable should be connected between a LAN port on the router and the network adapter port of a computer.

 

3.      Assign a static IP address to the network adapter.

 

Even though the router has DHCP enabled, a static IP address (within the range of the IP address of your router) must be assigned to the network adapter.

 

If the router’s IP address is 192.168.11.1 (the default for most Buffalo routers), you could enter a static IP Address as 192.168.11.101 and Subnet Mask as 255.255.255.0.

 

Make sure you leave the Default Gateway and DNS server fields blank.

 

4.      Open the Command Prompt and go to the directory where the firmware is located.

 

This should be on the Start menu, under the Accessories section, of Windows. Alternatively, it can be opened by clicking Run from the Start menu, typing cmd, and clicking OK.

 

The Command Prompt needs to be in the same directory where the FON firmware file is located. It should automatically open to the main user folder for the Windows account currently logged in. This is also where the FON firmware file should be, if the recommendation given earlier was followed. If not, DOS commands can be used to navigate to the directory where the FON firmware file is located.

 

DOS commands that can be used to navigate and view files include the following:

 

·        cd..: This takes it a directory back. For example this would take it from C:Documents and SettingsEric Geier to C:Documents and Settings.

·        cd directoryname: Navigates to a sub-directory of the current directory. For example, to move to the Desktop folder, cd desktop could be entered, and the path would then be C:Documents and SettingsEric GeierDesktop

·        dir /p: This lists all the files and sub-directories within the current directory.

 

5.      Type this command (but don’t hit the Enter key, yet) into the Command Prompt:

 

tftp -i your_routers_IP_address PUT file_name_of_the_FON_firmware_file

 

For an example, you can see the figure shown for step 7.

 

6.      Open another Command Prompt and start pinging the router.

 

Type ping your_routers_IP_address -t -w 10

 

For an example, you can see the figure shown for step 7 (below).

 

This will ping the router continuously, letting you know when to start the firmware transfer.

 

The two Command Prompt windows should be placed so both can be seen at the same time.

 

7.      Start the transfer.

 

The trick is to start the transfer just as the router boots up. Before starting, make sure everything is ready:

 

·        The router’s power cord should be unplugged, but connected to your network adapter with an Ethernet cable.

·        The network adapter should be set to a static IP address.

·        Both Command Prompt windows should be seen on the screen. The one loaded with the transfer command should be on top or active, so you can quickly hit the Enter button when you see the pings are successful.

·        The power cord for the router should be held in one hand, and the other hand should be ready to hit the Enter key for the Command Prompt loaded with the command.

 

Plug the power cord into the router, and once the pings are successful (it says Reply from your_routers_IP_address), immediately hit the Enter key.

 

Figure - Geier E - 1030_sm.jpg

Click to enlarge.

 

It should say Transfer successful, and the router should reboot into the FON firmware. If it wasn’t successful, and you get the Timeout occurred message, the process can be repeated. It can take many times before you see success.

 

8.      Unplug the router and return the computer to normal.

 

Once the firmware transfer is successful and complete, the router can be unplugged from the computer and the network adapter can be changed back to use DHCP, the Obtain an IP address automatically option.

 

Now you’ve converted your mundane wireless router into a FON Spot! You can refer to the How to: Set Up a FON Spot tutorial for steps on setting up, configuring, and personalizing your FON Spot.

 

Eric Geier is an author of many wireless networking and computing books including Home Networking All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies (Wiley 2008) and Wi-Fi Hotspots: Setting up Public Wireless Internet Access (Cisco Press 2006).



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