Flatmates busting your ADSL cap? Remedy...

By tonyhughes Hughes, in , posted: 8-Jan-2011 14:30

A multipart story following my adventure from being a unhappy guy with a boarder who keeps busting the internet cap here, to being a happy camper with a LAN where if you bust your cap, you can't drag your housemate down the throttled tubes with you.

Lets give an overview of the current situation (names not changed, no one is innocent, and no protection is offered):

The house is mine, everything is under my name.
ADSL plan is 20GB a month.
I have a couple of computers (own, kids), and a WiFi smartphone.
Jim (boarder of bandwidth-busting doom) has a couple of computers.
I manage my bandwidth use well. I count what I download, and go easy on Youtube etc.
Jim doesn't. And downloads lots of "linux distributions".

My bandwidth cycle starts around the 27th of the month, and today I discovered it has been busted already (its only the 8th), and we are throttle to dialup type speeds. The bandwidth was mostly used on days I wasn't here and had no computers running.

I am at the end of my tether, and though 6 months ago, a search for solutions didn't yield a lot of success, a call out to the forums right here on Geekzone has produced results.

Gargoyle Router seems to fit the bill perfectly. It has hard quota limits, can pool some IPs for each user which all count towards that single users defined cap, and when cap is busted, that user is blocked. It looks like the experimental (beta) branch of Gargoyle also supports throttling instead of blocking.

List of supported hardware for Gargoyle Router.

Gargoyle is free and open source, and ultimately while the fact that it runs on a router is awesome, you need the right make/model of router. Would love to see Gargoyle as a PC based Linux distribution too.

Join me in my journey, as we go from unmanaged bandwidth badlands, to a situation where Jim will shit kittens when he finds out that his inability to be considerate with bandwidth will affect him, and only him.

I will update on technological progress as well as the human aspects of this.

Step one, obtain a router. Mauricio Freitas has kindly provided a Linksys WRT54GL for this project. It's on it's way to me now, and the next step will be flashing the Gargoyle Router software over the top of DD-WRT that it is loaded with now.

More guides, blogs, and geek stuff at http://www.geek101.co.nz/

Other related posts:
Hawkes Bay Today (newspaper) scraping Trademe for telemarketing
Smart Connect - a free alternative to Psiloc Connect for S60 Nokia Smartphones (E71 etc)
Telecom New Zealand release XT Network Pricing Plans

Comment by antoniosk, on 9-Jan-2011 20:20

If you find you need a WRT54G permanently, I have my old one going on trademe right now....

Comment by richms, on 9-Jan-2011 20:23

Just dont share internet IMO. If they are dicks, they can get their own. If they complain about the speed or performance, they can choose another ISP etc.

Comment by kinsten, on 10-Jan-2011 15:09

Yea, I was a boarder (a long time ago), and requested an additional line put into my room for internet usage.  The house owners said they would NOT allow me to tap onto their line (which would only have cost me $80 to install a line) + plus small extra line cost for additional service. So I had to fork out an additional $300 to get a technician to install a seperate line into my room.  I guess I was lucky I was able to do that.  The monthly fees were more as well, as they were not an addon option.

If I was you, I would say the internet is off-limits and no longer part of the boarding agreement.  And he should pay to get his own line installed with his own account etc.

I have a linksys router, which I think allows me to limit internet usage on certain computers, either by times/days &/or bandwidth/month.
Otherwise, its just a generic setting, but its in there somewhere.  lol

good luck with your project.

Comment by Gigs, on 11-Jan-2011 10:47

So the part we don't know here is...

Are you offering him internet as part of his boarding arrangement?
If so have you disclosed a level of your service he's allowed access to?

If not is it just a goodwill gesture?

If it's just a goodwill gesture then I have to agree with RMS on this, have them get their own installed, that is if you're not disagreeable to that. Then you can just remove any cabling that enables them to connect to your own network and won't have to worry.

Comment by Skolink, on 11-Jan-2011 14:59

I hope this works! I have been searching for just such a solution. At the moment I use a software PC based router (Mikrotik) but quota management doesn't seem to be possible (without a RADIUS server also). It would be great if it could also summarise what the data was used for (wouldn't be particularly accurate I know).

Comment by adresdendoll, on 14-Jan-2011 07:49

I like this.

Thanks for bringing it to my attention! 

Comment by Foo, on 20-Jan-2011 07:45

Will you offer your boarder the opportunity to increase his data limit? For arguments sake, lets say you split the 20GB between both of you 50/50, but your boarder actually uses 90% of this. Once you have Gargoyle in place and can clearly monitor (and limit) his usage, would you give him the option to increase his data limit assuming he pays the additional cost? Once Gargoyle is in place and if he complains, at least then you can say you have given him the option. I am assuming you have factored a portion of internet cost into the board that Jim pays? I guess that is neither here nor there as he is being inconsiderate with his usage and it sounds like you have tried to discuss with him but with no effect. Good luck and look forward to further posts...any update yet? :-)

Comment by Skolink, on 20-Jan-2011 11:39

In my case I am sharing my BB with my neighbour (wirelessly) as when we moved in three years ago I was horrified to discover that she was still paying a significant amount for dialup. She only uses it for email and web browsing, so had no noticible impact on our quota. When she got a macbook it seemed to jump up to a noticible amount, but I think that was mainly because she was then able to use video Skype.
The main problem came when she had a Japanese student who watched streaming TV, then recently her nephew came to stay. The problem is I can't be sure where it is acutally going, or do anything to limit it. We are on Telstra cable and 'for our convenience' the internet is not throttled once the quota is used up. We had $60 overage a couple of months ago. I am bidding on some routers, assuming Gargoyle will be as good as it looks. I'd like to hear if you have installed it yet.

Author's note by tonyhughes, on 20-Jan-2011 14:13

Thanks for all the comments. I have installed Gargoyle, and things are going well. I am slowly writing the followup to this post.

Jim pays 50% of the fixed phone/dsl costs.

Once he busts his 50%, thats it, as I will nearly always want to bust my cap at the end of the month (download latest iterations of my fav distros etc).

There seems to be no option with Xtra to add data blocks, so no, once his 50% of our jointly-paid-for plan is gone, thats it.

Gargoyle has some good options around setting a quota for the DHCP pool that can reset daily/weekly/monthly etc. More in my write up.

Comment by Starplay, on 24-Jan-2011 15:22

This solution sounds great for our household... I was just wanting to know what happens if a new device conects to the network? Does the router have a list of "allowed" devices that you add and if a new device connects it simply gets no data access or can it suck up the rest of the quota unnoticed?

Comment by Skolink, on 27-Jan-2011 11:01

Just installed Gargoyle to a TP-Link WR741ND last night. I was surprised how easy it was after looking at the installation instructions for other routers. Simply just use the factory 'upgrade firmware' function on the web interface, and point it to the Gargoyle .bin file.

Very impressed so far, with usage measurement, quota managment, throttling etc.
To answer Starplay's question, you can set a quota for all, or 'all other' or 'each other' IP addresses to make sure a new device doesn't suck up all your quota. You can even prevent people from using a different IP address if you have assigned them a static DHCP entry (to manage their specific usage).

It has heaps of other features that were probably missing from factory firmware, like various dyndns clients, wireless transmit power, QoS, website monitoring / blocking.

The only thing I don't like so far is that the totals seem to reset if the router is restarted. Also I didn't see any VPN server functionality.

As I understand it, Gargoyle is a GUI for DD-WRT router OS, so there may be extra functions hidden in behind.

I like the TP-Link WR741ND hardware too, with a single high gain antenna with RP-SMA connector, and plently of memory, and cheap (esp 2nd hand).

Looking forward to Tony's review. Thanks for bringing this software to my attention!

Comment by Skolink, on 27-Jan-2011 11:04

PS I think this list of tested hardware is more useful if you are looking to buy a router, and want to get setup quick.

Comment by Skolink, on 28-Jan-2011 10:45

The totals do not reset when the router is restarted, it was just that the default view is usage in the last 15 minutes.

Comment by kirjava, on 2-Feb-2011 20:54

I have been in this situation before in both the "victim" and "perpetrator" (for want of better terms) roles. When I was living in Auckland we had a flat of about 7 people sharing an ADSL2+ connection (in my name). We ended up chipping in $20/mo each and this enabled us to buy a plan of around 70GB which was enough for our needs (bulk downloading was done off-peak where the ISP offered un-metered downloads). Now I am boarding with a family in Rotorua. They have a Compass wimax connection. When I moved in I said I was going to use a lot of data and I would be happy to pay for whatever it cost, including if that meant upgrading the plan. We now have an 80GB plan for a family of 3 plus 2 boarders, and I pay the difference to what the existing plan was.

When I was in Auckland I considered using the WebGauge router system, but decided against it considering we had little argument and reached an agreement which mean the bill was paid and everyone got to use the Internet as much as they like.

I guess my point is that with a little conversation and perhaps some technical know-how, everyone can have their needs met and noone needs to miss out.

Comment by jevvv, on 15-Apr-2011 11:58

Thanks for sharing your story Tony... very helpful, as are the various comments made.
This whole idea is something I've been trying to find a solution to for the last 2 years - we have secondary school age boarders from overseas who live with us from 6 months to a year... all of them seem to think that full unlimited broadband access is a right not a priviledge ;)

Comment by jevvv, on 24-Jul-2011 17:23

Hi Tony - so how is the setup going these days?

Did Jim spit the dummy the first time his access dropped?

Tell us the gory details!!!


Comment by Tyrael, on 24-Jun-2012 18:58

Does this work with wireless modem/routers?

Add a comment

Please note: comments that are inappropriate or promotional in nature will be deleted. E-mail addresses are not displayed, but you must enter a valid e-mail address to confirm your comments.

Are you a registered Geekzone user? Login to have the fields below automatically filled in for you and to enable links in comments. If you have (or qualify to have) a Geekzone Blog then your comment will be automatically confirmed and shown in this blog post.

Your name:

Your e-mail:

Your webpage:

Subscribe To My RSS Feed