When discussing routers, the term firmware comes up quite often today. It can be understood as an umbrella term. In the context of routers, specific software (even non-manufactured ones) that improves the performance of a manufactured router is called firmware. There is a need for such programs; router companies make more money by putting out new models of the same product that perhaps have slight improvements, but are fixed in terms of software. Firmware exists to create a much more user and purse-friendly alternative (it’s free) to default router software. This ranges from better performance in general to using the router it was perhaps not meant for initially, such as VPN connections. Next to DD-WRT , we find Tomato as a popular firmware for routers, especially to be used with VPN connections.
About Tomato Firmware
Tomato is a more popular kind of firmware. Launched in 2008, it remains an open-source project to this day. Tomato was mainly optimized for wireless routers and Linksys devices at first. Today, many Broadcom-based devices are also compatible with this firmware, and it’s probably still the go-to solution for Linksys machines. Overall though, as we’ll see in the comparison with DD-WRT, its device support is not that excellent.
Tomato has a good number of features and mods to be affected by. The main areas of usage are encryption, general P2P activity, VLAN, IPv6 support and many more. What Tomato really excels at is improving the general performance of a router, or just enabling it to work at its full capacity. Manufactured software often has restrictions in this regard – this is the most effective aspect of Tomato in our opinion.
VPN on Tomato Routers
By default, routers do not support VPN activity (even though it is legal ). As an important part of an internet connection, routers are more tied to ISPs than other affiliations, and thus they usually put out products that work better in localized, restricted internet usage. VPN companies bypass the blocks of countries , enabling users to access information online almost globally (no, your everyday internet connection does not make this possible in the context of the act of accessing). However, different VPN organizations work with different parameters during their setup. Below we are going to present a general guideline to VPN router setup.
In general, a router setup for VPN usage depends on the type of encryption you want to use. PPTP and OpenVPN are the two which are almost always supported. However, we do not recommend the former, as it might produce faster results than the latter, but it is highly unsafe. Therefore, we are mainly going to concentrate on OpenVPN-based router instructions. What you are about to read below should be done after you installed the Tomato firmware.
Tomato is a Linux-based firmware, and as such, it requires some basic commands to be typed in inside your router setup screen. To access this, you need to start any browser and type in 192.168.1.0 (or 1.1, 0.1 etc). If none of these work, contact your ISP; chances are you have a personalized address for your local router setup. We advise you not to tell them that you want to conduct VPN activities, though.
Once you accessed the setup, you have to enter personal info in the administration screen, and set the type of VPN you are about to enable. You also have to indicate the type of protocol (TCP or UDP), along with the server address or the type of authorization you will use on the VPN-enhanced router. Some companies might also require you to change the settings of your firewall. You will probably also have to input Linux commands in the Custom Configuration section. Do not be discouraged; Tomato is very user-friendly and so are the guides of the VPN companies that support this type of firmware. Make sure to closely follow instructions at all times.
Speaking of which, the term “flashing” or “flashed router” is also working its way into the everyday vocabulary of these devices. A flashed router refers to a machine that is a recent product and is upgraded by firmware to become a high performance device.
Tomato vs DD-WRT
Tomato is usually mentioned as a bit of an underdog compared to DD-WRT. This shouldn’t be the case, however; both have their respective advantages and disadvantages. Tomato is a great choice for those who are just starting out with routers and seek better control over their device. DD-WRT has more features and thus it is suitable for more adept users. Even though both are free to download and use, there is generally no “final” version for either of them. They change with the innovations in router technology, and so you are most likely to meet Tomato and DD-WRT in the form of beta software. While Tomato is quite reliable with each output, DD-WRT is not always the steadiest ride from version to version.
When talking about VPN and routers, a kill switch is a security tool. Much like in other uses of the expression, here too it refers to a fail-safe device. It is usually present in the form of a button inside VPN client software. It will automatically cut off any type of internet connection to preserve your safety in case your VPN connection gets disrupted. A kill switch is necessary because even though a VPN encryption is strong and among the best safety tools today, it is not perfect. There is no true 100% failsafe protection online, and thus additional tools like the kill switch are needed for instances encryption does not protect against.