Recently, the power brick for my home Internet router PC failed. It had worked flawlessly for six years. To get something working as soon as possible, I bought a cheap consumer router from a local store. I’d managed to forget how awful they are.

I have a number of computers at home, both physical hardware and virtual machines. They act as servers,. and I need to access them. By name. My undead router PC runs dnsmasq, which provides both DNS and DHCP server, and populates DNS using host names from DHCP requests. This is quite comfortable.

I’ve never had a consumer router do that. I’ve never understood why. They all seem to require manually maintaining that kind of MAC/IP/name mapping, if they provide it at all. Some of the ones then forget them after a week or two.

I know it’s possible to install something like OpenWRT on some consumer routers, and that’s great, when it’s possible. But I don’t like OpenWRT either. For me, it makes too many compromises to fit into minuscule hardware resources.

There’s many router software distributions out there. pfSense is perhaps the best known one. For myself, I tend to just use the Debian Linux distribution, which I know much better than the FreeBSD pfSense uses. I administer it via Ansible, which is how I like it.

After a week of swearing at the consumer router, I replaced it with an old laptop and a USB Ethernet adapter. Installing my Debian based router distribution (Puomi) took a few minutes: I’ve made my own installer that’s fully automated and fast. I then configured the installed system with Ansible to have the exact same setup as on my normal router PC. Keeping configurations in version control and automating installations and deployments feels like a super power.

I’ve demoted the cheap router to a wifi access point and placed it in the part of our home where wifi is most useful. We’d meant to do that anyway.

Now I just need to get a replacement power brick for my six-year-old little fanless PC. It’s surprisingly difficult, even from a store that claims to have over 200 of them in stock.