GARGOYLE- [gahr-goil] NOUN – a grotesquely carved figure of a human or animal
Gargoyle Router is an alternative firmware for a number of different routers that allows you to monitor bandwidth usage by user and set and enforce bandwidth quotas on particular users.
Let me preface this review with a warning. I’m an alternate firmware junkie. Any device I’ve got that has an alternative firmware available has been flashed. My HTC Desire was flashed straight out of the box, my Samsung Galaxy Tab 7″ the same. My various routers have had multiple firmwares installed on them over the years. Note that flashing an alternate firmware WILL void your warranty, and a bad flash has the potential to brick your device and make it unuseable and unrecoverable. If you are not comfortable with the whole procedure and risk of flashing an alternative firmware then please don’t.
In Australia, almost all ISPs have set download/upload limited plans with some form of shaping if you exceed the limit. So how do you stop that one ( selfish? ) family member or flatmate from chewing up all your available bandwidth and getting you shaped in the first week of your plan or even tell who’s been downloading the most youtube, bit torrent or other stuff ?? This is the issue I had at home with my three boys. Of course I had my suspicions which of them it was but no firm evidence*. So my search to find a router that would allow me to gather and maintain some control over bandwidth consumption began.
Garygoyle router is a derivation of OpenWRT that runs on a variety of different routers, everything from the very old and reliable Linksys WRT54G to much newer hardware. I’m currently running it on a TP-Link WR1043ND, a cheap sub $80 router.
As you’d expect from a router it does all you standard routery stuff….sets up your connection with your ISP, controls your Wireless and security ,QOS, dishes out DHCP addresses, gives you control over what time’s wifi or internet is enabled or disabled etc. I’m going to skip over all these “standard” functions and just concentrate on what’s special about this firmware.
It seems these days that any device is capable of connecting to the internet, whether it’s your notebook, your phone, your ipod, your DS……..so the first thing I needed to do is to setup some static DHCP addresses. Rather than having to deal with lots of multiple devices ad hoc, using Static IPs I’ve setup up all my kids into a particular IP Range so:
Kid 1 ( T ) = 192.168.1.60-69
Kid 2 ( R ) = 192.168.1.70-79
Kid 3 ( H ) = 192.168.1.80-89
Other known devices ( that I don’t want to quota ) are 192.168.1.90-110 and non specified DHCP 192.168.1.110-120
Using this scheme I can put rules and controls easily around any of the kids without having to delve into individual devices. This allows 9 devices per child and lord help me if they start exceeding that number.
I get 50GB per month and decided that each child should get 7.5GB of that bandwidth each. All my kids have different usage patterns. Two of them mostly use their Notebooks while the youngest tends to use his Ipod most of the time. By grouping the IP addresses I can then give them 7.5GB across all their devices . So it doesn’t matter if they only use their notebook or their ipod or a combination of both, it all gets recorded against their usage. So I end up with 3 rules for the kids. The last one means that anything that attaches without a static IP only get 1024KB before I shape them. Stops intruders and also visitors from excessive downloading.
Above is the individual rule for 192.168.1.60-69 ( Kid 1 ) , they get 7.5GB from each cycle and if they exceed that then they get throttled to VOIP speed ( max 200 kbit/s ). If I wanted to I could throttle them even further or even stop their internet access entirely for the rest of the cycle.
Group quotas can be checked easily by the administrator
Or by going to the router address , users can check their own
The other big differentiation with this firmware is that it also displays some really handy, easy to read status graphs that can help you out with monitoring your bandwidth over various time frames ( minute, 15 minutes, hour, days, month,year ). Makes it very easy to work out what’s happening during any time period. The data can also be exported out for analysis via Excel or similar ( Click on the pics below to see bigger/clearer versions )
As mentioned above it is a third party firmware and as such support comes from the development community. I had some issues installing originally, then some issues with functionality such as the wifi and had to wait for some patches to be released but that can be the nature of third party firmwares. It’s all good and stable now and I haven’t bothered loading the latest updates.
If you’re not comfortable with flashing a third party firmware Gargoyle does offer a router preloaded with the firmware.
You don’t need to have any linux skills to install or setup, it’s all configurable via the web interface.
I highly recommend this firmware if you really do need to know who’s using your bandwidth, and require the ability to be able to set hard download/upload quotas for certain users. Coupled with the ability to enable or disable wifi at particular times for a particular user or web filter certain sites based on keyword ( some applications/sites don’t work well with this ) I get a nice level of granular control.
Ideally I’d love the ability to be able to time quota the kids as well , say 3 hours per day during school days and 6 hours on weekends ( as compared with giving them access between certain times ) . The other shortcomings are that the monthly bandwidth distribution graph/chart shown above only covers calendar month and can’t be sync with an ISP monthly cycle and the graph status pages are a little bit picky about what browser they’ll display properly in ( Firefox seems to be the most compatible ) .
In summary Gargoyle gives me the ability to easily monitor and manage my usage and comes with functions that you’d expect from much higher end and more expensive routers.
*BTW after yelling and screaming at Kid 2 for month after month accusing him of exceeding our allotted bandwidth because of his gaming and skyping , after installing I actually found it’s Kid 3 that’s the biggest “offender”. Even though he knew he’s being monitored and had an enforced quota he’d used up 37% of his 7.5GB quota in the first 3 days last cycle on youtube and downloading games.
My first real review for The Gadgeteer and scary to think it’s still getting comments 4 years down the track. I think that just goes to show that it’s such a cheap and easy solution to such a common problem. These days with two sons no longer living with me and about 20x the download limits I had then it’s not as important to me however I still use it in between my Wireless Access Point and “modem” to allow me to control and monitor my connection. I still haven’t found a solution that’s so simple and cheap to implement.