GL-B1300 New User Questions

Ordinarily I would buy a new router and flash the requisite alternative firmware[1] and just get on with it. However I'm a little thrown in this case because this router already comes with OpenWrt. So:

  1. Is there any point in using vanilla OpenWrt? I'm not that interested in cosmetic things like the GL web UI, but I read here that the OFW can provide for other HW specific features like NAND support. OTOH I just upgraded to the latest OWF and it's still on Chaos Calmer 15.05.1 which seems a little... old vs the 19.07.4 that's currently marked as latest. TL;DR: Will I be losing anything with a flash to latest OpenWrt (for example better binary wifi drivers or something)?

  2. In the "software" section I noticed that Free space: 95% (9.71 MB). That sounds a little paltry, but I presume my understanding is incorrect about what that actually means. I would have thought even though 32GB flash is on the low end of what routers offer, that there would be ample space for additional software. Is that something that's not done? I plan to use the only USB socket available for UPS control.

[1]since originally using OpenWrt a decade or so ago I've been stuck in Tomato land due to obtaining a cheap Asus that has served me well. But I'm back now!

@spammy, welcome to the community!

I'm confused at what this means, as you clearly acknowledged that 19.07.4 is the latest version.

I've never heard of a consumer router having that much flash. Actually 8 MB is quite common. It's a router, not a computer to save files and run software.

Perhaps you're confusing MB and GB?

For those not aware, GL.inet ship this router with their own compiled version of openwrt. They seem to update this build relatively often, with their latest official firmware (OFW) having been released a couple of months ago. However as new as it is (some packages are dated 2020) the openwrt build its based on is still 15.05.1.

However the router does also support official openwrt builds, and so I can switch to 19.07.4. My question is asking why I wouldn't want to do that (perhaps there's a technical reason why the manufacturer is sticking to such an old version with their own backporting).

Whoops. Yes I did mistake MB for GB. Although my aim wasn't to host files but additional applications.

My Asus running Tomato had 128mb flash but I still used a usb stick to install entware packages and the like. What's typically used in the openwrt world?

So to answer some of my own questions:

I've flashed vanilla OpenWrt (using method 2, uboot) and it appears to have taken easily enough. Wifi still works and seems as performant as it was before. I don't immediately notice anything missing aside from the GLinet interface, although I have learned here that the reason OFW is stuck on such an old version of OpenWrt is to use the binary Qualcomm drivers.

Also as the FW is smaller, I now have 24MB free for software, which may be enough without having to think about expanding the storage.

@spammy, many thanks for sharing your thoughts. I've recently purchased a B1300 and I'd be keen to know more about your experience with wifi performance.

After extensive testing with multiple devices, it appears that 5Ghz wifi speeds with OpenWrt are about half of those I can get with the newest version of the stock firmware. The thread you linked seems to confirm that this might be the case and explain why.

I would obviously prefer to use OpenWrt but the performance hit seems quite significant. Have you seen the same?

My own assessment hasn't been as rigorous as yours, and most of my concern has been with range and not speed. I also didn't have the OFW installed for long so don't have much of a comparison with that. And I've been using it as an AP as I've been too lazy to deprecate my Asus running Tomato (which did let me isolate the WiFi performance). Finally, we're not huge WiFi users and most observable behaviour will be via our phones.

All that said:

  1. I've been "fine" with speeds and not noticed it being any slower.
  2. Range was lower /at the start/ but is now even better on 2.4 than it was on the Asus, so I'm wondering if there's some sort of auto "tuning" going on.
  3. I have noticed cut outs but might be imagining them.

Overall I'm happy enough with how it is to commit to Real OpenWrt, even if the WiFi performance would be better with binary blobs. But as I've indicated above "good enough" is good enough for us, and if our WiFi needs change I'll probably add another AP rather than flash this down.

Thanks, @spammy, that's understandable.

Unfortunately, for me wifi speed is more of a concern, so I'd like to see if anyone can answer your original question. Any obvious downside to using the stock firmware on this device that runs on 15.05.1? I've seen security concerns mentioned elsewhere but haven't been able to find out what they relate to, specifically.

One of the reasons I've moved from Tomato is because it's stuck on an old kernel, for pretty much the same reason as here (binary blobs). That meant that I was unable to run software that needed modern kernel features.

I would hope that security fixes are backported but you'll be relying on glnet for that.

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So after a couple of months of "real world" use, I've now disabled the WiFi on the gl-b1300 and set up my previous Asus router running Tomato as a WiFi access point. The issues varied but all seemed related to extremely poor range, sometimes less than 2m. Especially irritating was how clients claimed to have a good signal, but "didn't work" anyway.

I'm not sure if there was any further configuration I could have made to fix this on the b1300, but after switching out for the WAP with default settings the difference really is like night and day.

The binary drivers on the OFW may improve performance, but as demonstrated by the recent dnsmasq flaw, keeping up to date with the latest openwrt may be worth more to some.

Otherwise I'm more than happy with the new set up. It's a shame that I need another device in my closet but separating the router and wap is probably the technically correct set up anyway (I look forward to not losing WiFi on router reboots!).

And since my neither of my alternate choices of an edgerouter X or mikrotik hex had WiFi anyway, this isn't really a net loss for me. The main driver for this change was to switch to Openwrt, which has already brought dividends.

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