Thrift stores -an Internet and computer goldmine

Thrift stores and yard/garage sales can become a goldmine for computer geeks.  You have to know your technology and how to upgrade the device – and you have to truly know the value of a device/computer you stumble on.  Here’s an example -

The D-Link Dir-601 is a home router that lacks many features of other Wireless N routers.   This $60 router lacks MIMO antennas and has a throughput of about 65 -150 mbps.  However, the router can be upgraded to DD-WRT and dozens of features are added to this little router including power settings, virtual wireless, IPv6, QoS and more.


Amanda picked one up for the class for $1.99.   A real bargain for anyone.  So what can you get for $20 ?

D-Link, Belkin, Hawking, Linksys (WRT-54g), Cisco 150  – Most of which can take alternate firmware.

2310 Belkin Hawking wrt54g WRT120N

How about a cool project with a Pegatron motherboard so you can make a hardware firewall (Picked up for $0) -it included a quad core AMD processor and fan and 2 Gb of Ram.  Add a laptop hard drive, a 220 watt power supply and Smoothwall firewall to create a tiny firewall that protect you from malicious activity.   Total investment – $22.  I have a hard drive from Amanda’s old computer and ordered the power supply from Amazon.


Speaking of Firewalls – How about a Netgear FVS328 VPN firewall for the home.  Although it has reached EOL, $1.99 and uploading the latest firmware will still add extra protection to your home.


Increase your router’s power and purchase a better antenna for better performance

Increasing your router’s power or purchasing an antenna will improve the signal to noise ratio at the receiver.  You may have given up on laptops or desktops but you probably still have wireless for your tablet, smartTV and other devices.  Although you may be surfing the web and thinking you are getting an excellent download speed, you may be able to increase the speed by using a third party firmware such as DD-WRT or Tomato.   Traditional factory firmware usually doesn’t allow increasing your power.

First off you need to download Xirrus, NetSurveyor, inSSIDer or Vistumbler.  Each of these free software packages allow you to measure your signal strength, quality and view the channel to make sure you are using a free channel.

Next relocate your router to other areas in your home or business.






Netsurveyor 3d


Netsurvey heatmap


Netsurveyor timecourse







Xirrus History


Firmware such as Tomato or DD-WRT offer a power setting (below).



Note:  It is important to make sure your router has adequate cooling and to only increase Transmit Power when necessary and in small increments.  Always research your router and see what settings have been used to tweak your connection.

Other articles:

Hacking your wireless router

Increase your wireless speed

Guard your wireless network

Tweak your wireless router

Resolve wireless problems


Cannot connect to Cisco E1000



A good wireless home router, the Cisco E1000 sometimes cannot be managed by Internet Explorer, Chrome or other common browsers.  You can connect to it using Apple’s Safari.   You can download and use Safari for the connection.    Managing a router can be things such as MAC address filtering, Wireless Security or other settings including the upgrading firmware.   Firmware should be updated on routers for security, stability or connectivity including added features.

The common ip address for the router is  Open Safari and type in or   You may receive a warning (certificate error).  Click on continue (you are logging into your router and not a website – this is safe).

Find your routers

How many devices do you pass through before surfing the web?

Detect Multiple Routers over at PCWinTech is an excellent program to find your routers.

In the scenario below, our home computers go through a wireless router and on to a router
(non-wireless) supplied by the ISP.  (Two Gateways)

PCWinTech Detect Router


In our home, I have multiple routers setup and as you can see on the pic below, I am going thru three wireless routers and then the ISPs router.   (Reconnected to another wireless router).

Four Routers