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Configuring the B4RN Router

(Michael Bryant)

As installed, the B4RN router works just fine for most people, so why have a FAQ about changing its configuration? The fact that the configuration can be changed is the main reason. In its default state the configuration utility is protected by a generic password which is commonly known, so that anyone connected to your local B4RN network could access the utility and make their own changes to your system, including some which could compromise its security. For a domestic set-up this possibly poses little risk (as long as you trust all your users), but for any B4RN system being used in a quasi-public setting (café, pub, village hall, church etc.) where casual users are allowed Wi-Fi access, protecting the configuration utility is a must. We would say that, for the sake of the small amount of effort involved, changing the configuration password is probably sensible for every B4RN system.

Accessing the Configuration Utility and Changing the Password

The configuration utility is accessed through a web page (provided by the router itself) so you access the page using a web browser (Internet Explorer, Safari, Edge, Firefox, Google Chrome, etc.) from any suitable device connected to your network.

Go to the following address through your web browser:-

http://192.168.1.1

(N.B. Section 5 of the Quick Installation Guide which came with your router also deals with configuration but the web address they give you there is not correct).

You will be asked for a username and a password. The default entry for both these fields is admin (all lower-case). That will take you to the configuration landing page where the salient part will look something like this:-

Router config 1

Click on 'System' in the dark blue header section to get to the Password Configuration page:-

Router config 2

Now all you have to do is put admin in 'Current Password:' field and your new password in the ' New Password:' field, repeated in the confirmation field. Click 'Save Password' to make the change. If successful you'll be presented with a new authentication request to log back into the configuration page ('User Name: admin' along with your new password) and you're done.

Your new password has to comply with some basic rules. The password must be at least five characters long , not contain any spaces and use the letters A-Z,a-z and numerals 0-9 (passwords are case-sensitive). The router will give you an error message if your password is unacceptable or if the new password and confirmation fields do not match.

Make sure you remember your new password!


Other Changes

There are many router characteristics which can be changed through the configuration page, but we're not going to discuss them all. Some, such as 'port forwarding' and setting up a 'Demilitarised Zone' (DMZ) are advanced features which have potential impacts on the security of your network. If you understand why you might want to configure any of the more exotic aspects of the router you certainly don't need this guide!

However, there are one or two things which the more adventurous 'average' user might want to investigate.

First, though, a couple of important points.

If any of the changes you make have seriously deleterious results, you can always restore the router to its 'factory' default settings by using the reset button described in the Quick Installation Guide (located inside the small hole underneath the WPS button on the right side of the router). Press the reset button for more than 5 seconds for a complete factory reset (remember this will also restore the default login password).

Do not make any changes to the wireless configuration from a device connected by wireless as you are likely to lose connectivity in the process. Always adjust wireless settings from a computer connected directly to the router through one of the LAN ports.


Information

Some of the router configuration options simply provide information. Specifically, the 'Status' main menu option (second line in the dark blue header section) has several potentially interesting sub-sections. The 'Status' landing page is 'Interfaces' which shows statistics for the router's physical interfaces. Of the other options both 'CATV' and 'VoIP' have no meaning in the B4RN environment but 'DHCP Clients' and 'WLAN Survey' can be useful.

DHCP Clients - shows details about the devices connected to the router (called DHCP Leases in router-speak).

Router config 3

In this case there is just one device, my own computer carrying out these tests called Blackbird. A useful piece of information from this screen is the 'MAC Address' which uniquely identifies the relevant device. MAC addresses are often used when making configuration changes specific to particular devices.

WLAN Survey - This option scans for wireless networks within range and shows information about them.

Router config 4

The B4RN router is shown at the bottom with other visible networks (or technically the access points to those networks) listed above - just one in this case. This list is potentially useful if you believe there might be potential conflicts between your B4RN router's Wi-Fi settings and networks close to you. It should show you which channel numbers to avoid.


Network

The 'Network' main menu option contains the bulk of the configuration choices. Many of these imply technical knowledge, so do not change anything unless you know what you're doing! The following options might be of interest to average users with some technical awareness.

Wireless - This is configures the 2.4GHz (standard Wi-Fi) interface.

Router config 5

Useful choices here are likely to be disabling the interface (e.g. if you are using an alternative Wi-Fi access point), changing the SSID (if you prefer something less cryptic than the default), changing the channel (if you suspect conflicts with other networks), changing the Encryption Key (if you want something more memorable than the key given on the router label), turning off WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) if it's not needed.

When you've finished making changes click on 'Save WLAN Settings'.

NB - Many of these changes will require all Wi-Fi connected devices to be reconnected. Do not make changes lightly!

Wireless 5GHz - Similar to the previous entry, but for the more advanced Wi-Fi interface.

WLAN Access - Allows you to restrict or deny device access to Wi-Fi by means of a list of MAC addresses. This could be useful in a setting (such as a club) where a large pool of potential users exists but where you don't want to accommodate allcomers.

UPnP - If you know that some part of your system requires UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) at the router this is where you can turn it on, but it represents a security risk so is off by default.


Parental Controls

The router has some (fairly crude) ways of controlling use by time of day. There are two sections, 'Timed Access' and 'WLAN Control'

Timed Access - Allows you define days of the week and times of day when a particular device is blocked from using the internet. This is done by creating rules called 'sessions' which define the restriction parameters. These 'sessions' are stored by the router and can be activated or deactivated as desired. Setting up a 'session' requires that the target device is currently connected. The device can then be selected from a drop-down list. You could use this kind of approach to prevent a child's smartphone or tablet from accessing the internet during the night, for example.

WLAN Control - This lets you set up blocks of time (once again called 'sessions') when Wi-Fi is completely disabled. This could be useful in public settings (such as a church or club) where it might be desirable to prohibit Wi-Fi access 'out of hours'.


Further Reading

Although not specified exactly for the current B4RN router version, you can get a detailed manual here.

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