Extend your network on the cheap

by postbreak

So you’ve got Wi-Fi dead zones and you want to extend the range of your network? Are you on a very cheap budget? Then you’re in luck. With some patience, a Fon router, and some more patience, you can easily set up a mesh network to extend your Wi-Fi footprint. This guide requires you to flash a Fon router to a 3rd party firmware which carries certain risks. If you follow the guide correctly everything should go fine an you’ll unlock the real potential of the device. If something goes wrong you could be left with a bricked router. No lifeguards are on duty, swim at your own risk.

So the first thing you need is a Fon router. Do not connect it to the internet. These devices on their original firmware update automatically making it difficult to install your own firmware.

  • Step 1- Prep the Fon

Grab your reading glasses and head over to one of my favorite communities Hak5. Follow this guide up to Step 10. Stop, yes, Stop at step 10. This guide unlocks the Fon and preps it for flashing to your own firmware. You could theoretically keep going and just replace the squashfs and vmlinux.gz files with the ones in the next step.

  • Step 2- Install Gargoyle

Gargoyle is my new favorite newbie friendly firmware for Fons. Download this archive and then grab the flash utility for your particular OS here. The Mac flasher works like a charm! Select the files in your flash utility (.squashfs is the rootfs file), click Flash, and power the Fon up. Make sure you’re connected over ethernet when you flash.

So now I’m going to assume everything went ok and your router isn’t bricked. If it is bricked calm down. You can unbrick your Fon with a serial cable which Google can help you with. Remember I warned you about the life guards right?

Head over to the web interface at 192.168.1.1 and enter the default password which is ironically “password”. Change your password and sit back knowing the hard work is done. Look around the web interface and be wowed by the features this firmware offers.

  • Step 3- Configure the Fon

So now that Gargoyle is up and running you’ll have to change some settings to get the Fon to both connect as a client and broadcast its own access point. Take a look at this screenshot below to see how it’s done. The AP “dd-wrt” is the network I am extending and the Fon is broadcasting the “Open-wrt” network.

Click to see full size

Click to see full size

I’m actually in my back yard using my built-in wireless card to type this post. Before adding this Fon I wasn’t able to connect to any of my APs. After using this to stream video from my network I have yet to run into any problems with speed. From what I understand there can be a bit of latency problems because the Fon is running both as an AP and as a client but I haven’t seen it. I’m curious to see how far I could go with this if I had more than just one Fon. Maybe set up a large 5 node mesh network of Fons but that’s just crazy.

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