[Remember that even though I work for IBM I am an individual with my own thoughts and ideas. Anything I write here may not necessarily represent the views of the IBM Corporation or its partners... though I'm hoping that's only a matter of time before they catch up.]
Well, it's been about two weeks or so and everything seems to be working OK. What? I replaced the existing firmware on my home/office Linksys router with DD-WRT. It's essentially a Linux distribution designed for consumer-grade routers to provide full access to the equipment's capabilities. So far it's working great!
WARNING: Doing anything to the firmware on your router can turn it into a brick. Do not do this to any router that you are not willing to cheerfully dump in the garbage.
So, what did I get for my trouble?
I got a software base that is still being developed. It's likely that if your router is older that they have ceased doing any development, except to patch embarrassing security holes. If your router has been working just fine and doesn't need to be replaced, then you're stuck with old interfaces and techniques, even if the technology has evolved.
I removed limitations. For example, my old router interface only allowed me to do a limited number of port redirections. With the DD-WRT, it is an open-ended table so I can do as much as my router can handle.
I get VPN... or at least I will when I get all of the certificate foo figured out. VPN is a software function. If your router has sufficient memory, you can activate openvpn. If you don't want to go the full-on VPN route, you can always use the router as an SSH hub, doing point-to-point SSH connections without having to leave a workstation running.
I get remote Wake On LAN. I've wanted to look at using Wake on Lan for a PC that we rarely use directly since we have laptops. I'd like to put it to sleep and wake it up when I need it. DD-WRT would let me activate this so I would not need to leave any systems active... yet, I could connect to the router remotely and wake up the machine that I wanted to work with. Technically, I could set up the router to do time-activated waking of systems. It's not powerful enough to be a boot server, but it could wake up the boot server, which could then wake up other devices.
DD-WRT is not the only open firmware project out there. There are others which work with varying hardware and vary on their functionality. Based on my poking around, DD-WRT is probably the geekiest. (Oh, well!) There are also openfirmware projects for other kinds of devices, I'm sure. Has anyone played with anything else?
I'll let you know when I get the VPN working.