So i broke down and got myself a new router (ASUS Dual-Band Wireless-N 600 Router RT-N56U
The main motivation was to fix the issue with my laptop losing it's connection, and to improve wireless connection strength at far corners of my house.
So I'm using stock firmware on this for now; i *MIGHT* put tomato on this router, i might not.
And the laptop losing connection i will have to report on later.
The wireless strength in the kitchen is a little better but not hugely -- that's a disapointment but maybe due to me not getting a router model with external antennas and me not experimenting with positioning the router (anyone know what kind of difference this kind of thing makes?)
However, I got a huge surprise after connecting the new router, which is that my internet download speed almost doubled, from 35MBPs to 57MBPs(!). I had assumed that the older netgear 54GL router would not have had a problem getting this kind of bandwidth so it never occurred to me that it could be the bottleneck. Very cool surprise.
If you're using an old router and not getting the bandwidth that your ISP says you should get, you might want to consider upgrading router..
Special thanks to dc member Swkire for help with router issues and advice in choosing a router.