Upgrading to OpenWRT 10.03.1-rc3

I’ve run OpenWRT on my Buffalo WZR-HP-G300NH home router for a week now. So far there has been only one problem: wireless performance. The ath9k driver in OpenWRT Backfire 10.03 has a number of bugs, from poor latency jitter to occasionally dropping the connection. I’ve upgraded the router twice, first to 10.03.1-rc2 and then to 10.03.1-rc3. It appears that 10.03.1 final is only a few weeks away.

Upgrading

The upgrade process is amazingly simple:

  1. Download the new firmware image to your PC
  2. Use Luci, the OpenWRT web interface, to upload the image
  3. Reinstall any additional packages you previously had installed

The Luci upgrade process will preserve your configuration across upgrades, but you should always back up your configuration first. Luci makes this easy, via “System -> Backup/Restore”. The result is a tar.gz of various files, mostly in /etc. You can add custom entries to this list from “Administration”, then “Overview -> User Interface”.

However, the upgrade process doesn’t preserve installed packages or make a list of them. I suggest you keep a list of packages you want to install, or generate a list before upgrading:

For the latest upgrade, I downloaded openwrt-ar71xx-wzr-hp-g300nh-squashfs-sysupgrade.bin from the 10.03.1-rc3/ar71xx section of the Backfire repository.

To use Luci to flash the new firmware, go to “Administration”, then “System -> Flash Firmware”. Select “Browse” and select the firmware image you downloaded, then check “Keep configuration files”. Then select “Upload image”. After uploading, Luci will display the md5sum and size of the new firmware. Verify it, and then select “Proceed”.

The upgrade process goes through several steps, flashing the new firmware and importing the old configurations, and finally rebooting. This takes 5-10 minutes. I recommend doing this over wired Ethernet, although wireless works fine. New firmware images may not include the wireless driver for your hardware, so you may need to use Ethernet after the upgrade to install the needed packages.

After rebooting, edit the package list to point to the new repository and install the missing software. You can do this from the command line or with Luci.

If using the terminal, edit /etc/opkg.conf. If Luci, go to “Administration”, then “System -> Software”, and wait for the page to fully load. Then select “Edit package lists and installation targets”. Change the first line to point to the new repository:

I suspect this would not be necessary if the backup settings excluded /etc/opkg.conf, but it’s easy to work around.

Once that’s done, reload the package list and reinstall any software packages you had previously installed. See the package list in my last post for a handy summary to paste into the terminal.

Finally, enable the services you just installed. In Luci, use “Administration”, then “Services -> Initscripts”. I believe you could avoid this by adding /etc/rc.d to the backup settings before upgrading, but again, it’s easy to work around.

Finally, reboot. All services should start as normal, and everything should work as it did before the upgrade.

Issues with 10.03.1-rc3

As with 10.03, the ath9k driver still cannot support multiple wireless networks with different encryption settings. There are also known issues using PPPoE on the WAN link, but my Internet provider (Virgin Media cable) presents as regular Ethernet so this is not a problem for me.

The nmap package is missing libnl as a dependency.

Correct it with opkg install libnl. It is nice to see that OpenWRT has nmap version 5.35DC1, which is newer than the latest Debian/Ubuntu packages.

Comparison of wireless performance among 10.03 images

Each release in the 10.03 series has included a bugfix or improvement to the ath9k wireless driver. To compare them, I re-ran the same iperf/bwm-ng tests from my last post. There appears to have been a small drop in maximum throughput from 10.03 to the 10.03.1 release candidates:

32.5 mbit – Buffalo WZR-HP-G300NH running OpenWRT 10.03
27.8 mbit – Buffalo WZR-HP-G300NH running OpenWRT 10.03.1-rc2
27.2 mbit – Buffalo WZR-HP-G300NH running OpenWRT 10.03.1-rc3

However, there were also major improvements in wireless stability, latency and jitter between 10.03 and 10.03.1-rc2. Using fping -l from my laptop (on 802.11g wireless) to gozer (on gigabit Ethernet) and frances (another laptop on 802.11g wireless) produced:

Under both 10.03 and 10.03.1-rc2, I have experienced several drops in the wireless connection to two laptops. This usually happens overnight when our laptops are idle, and is accompanied by syslog errors on the router:

I haven’t seen this happen since upgrading to 10.03.1-rc3, but I won’t be surprised if it does.

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  1. Nicholas Robinson’s avatar

    Hi Tyler,

    Have you encountered the same wireless instability with 10.03.1-rc3 as with previous releases? I have been running 10.03.1-rc3 for the past few days (using 802.11n from three Airport clients) and I have experienced multiple dropouts of the disassociated -> deauthenticated ->authenticated variety. As a result I am temporarily using a standalone Belkin AP to provide wireless.

    I have experimented with WPA/WPA2 encryption and the stability issues persist. I have read that the trunk release r23198 resolves these issues (https://forum.openwrt.org/viewtopic.php?id=26362), so I may resort to this method.

    Nicholas

    Reply

    1. Tyler Wagner’s avatar

      Yes, I have experienced a few disassociated/deauthenticated problems since upgrading to 10.03.1-rc3. They were much worse under 10.03, then much less frequent on 10.03.1-rc2, and better on still 10.03.1-rc3. I hope the trunk release you refer to makes it into 10.03.1 final.

      This was all on 802.11g, however. I haven’t tested 802.11n.

      Reply

    2. Peter Payne’s avatar

      I’m very close to throwing up my two Buffalo WZR-HP-G300NH against a brick wall. I’m running the latest OpenWRT and have tried 802.11n and 802.11g. Both would just drop and refuse wi-fi connections for large periods of time (e.g. 10 minutes) or until I reboot the access-point router (I’m running a routed client to access point configuration with two Buffalo routers).

      In frustration I switched to 802.11b – and yet the issues persist. Sometimes the connection will run for hours, maybe even 24 hours. And then without warning the wi-fi will lock up and it is game over. The router is still running, I can connect fine using LAN cable. If I /etc/init.d/network restart then wi-fi will work again.

      Is it hostapd with MAJOR MAJOR issues?

      Reply

      1. Tyler Wagner’s avatar

        To be honest, I’ve stopped using this hardware as an AP. I’ve got an older WRT54GL acting as an AP, and this unit as the router (because I can install packages on it, and sniff). Shameful.

        Reply

      2. pigge’s avatar

        as a workaround you could try This fix but modified to the syslog message mentioned in this blog

        Reply

      3. Alex’s avatar

        Hi, I notice that the newest rc edition of backfire 10.03.1 is 4 now. Have you upgrade your openwrt on G300NH to this edition? I know you have switched back to use your wrt54gl as AP, but would you please do me a favor to make a test to clarify if this rc edition continually improve the wifi performance? Many thanks.

        Reply

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