Category Archives: Wireless Networking

Hey Everyone- Matt McDarby Is Now Head of Sales!

Let’s give it up for Matt McDarby… (round of applause!)

Wait- you don’t KNOW Matt McDarby? Have you been living under a rock? He’s Matt Freakin’ McDarby, you idiots. He’s only the goddam Head of Sales for Fidelus.

OK… what’s Fidelus? Yeah… I don’t know either. But I do know that they GO THE EXTRA MILE because this email tells me so:

extra mile

They went the EXTRA MILE to put spam in my inbox… I have no previous relationship or contact with the Fidelus company, but GOING THE EXTRA MILE must mean sending out shitloads of unwanted email when someone like Matt Freakin’ McDarby becomes Head of Sales. Thanks for keeping me in the loop, Fidelus. Thanks for GOING THE EXTRA MILE.

I’m guessing that Matt himself is unaware that the company that he is Head of Sales for happens to be sending out spam email in his name. He looks like a nice fellow, and he wrote a book.

Matt McDarby

Cheers, Matt- congrats on the new gig.

But for all you HR/Marketers/Social Media types out there, I hate to break two truths to you…but:

  • The rest of the working world has absolute zero interest in who is your Head of Sales, or any other exec. Sorry…
  • Spraying us with Ego-Stroking spam may or may not endear you to Matt McDarby, but it just pisses us off. You really aren’t going THE EXTRA MILE. These actions make you no better than spam callers trying to extend the warranty on my vehicle.

Yes,  I can UPDATE MY SUBSCRIPTION-

fidelus

Except I never subscribed to begin with. Piss off, Fidelus Spam Team.

And good luck to you. Matt McDarby.

Some Advice for Ubiquiti Forum Posters

Having just migrated Wirednot HQ to Ubiquiti (LAN, WLAN, CCTV, and a P-P link), I find myself in the Ubiquiti forums more than I have been in the past. The community discussions are the main means of support on this ever-evolving (and expanding) product set, and you’ll find both fellow Ubiquiti customers and company employees engaged in discussions. It’s an interesting framework, and like any discussion forum where lots of people participate, you get good advice, odd advice, and exposure to a lot of different personalities (we’ll come back to this point).

I have noticed a few trends that I want to call out for the benefit of both those in the Ubiquiti forums, but also for anyone dealing with general networking issues that may benefit from some basic network troubleshooting advice.

  • The Physical Layer matters- bigtime. I notice a lot of “my network performance isn’t what I expect- something has to be wrong with my Ubiquiti gear” kind of laments in the forum. And the discussions that follow often NEVER get into the physical layer. Chances are, many of the same folks that use UniFi gear are also buying offshore-sourced (which is polite-talk for cheap) cable products, or terminating it themselves without having a certification tester to prove wiring and performance are up to snuff. So be it, remember that the physical layer is where troubleshooting should start. Do SOMETHING to verify your cable is not the problem, if nothing else than swapping out to another cable to see if the problem follows. And when you engage in the forums looking for help, tell us how you’ve verified the cabling is OK as part of your troubleshooting so far.
  • Network switches have stories to tell, but you have to listen. Just like we can’t assume that cabling is good when trouble hits, we also can’t assume that network connections between devices are behaving as they should. Check for speed and duplex status for the ports in the path of your trouble– like so:
    ubntspeedduplex
    and check for RX and TX errors (receive and transmit) that could indicate bad cable, bad jack, bad NIC, or misbehaving SFP module:
    ubnterrors
    If you find errors, I suggest you clear the counters and then watch to see if the errors continue to increment. If they do, you have at least part of your problem figured out.
  • What Access Point is your client device connecting to? I see plenty of “my Wi-Fi is slow” postings, and many of these are in environments where multiple access points are in use. Not only do you need to know what the output power of the access points are and what channels are in use so interference is minimized, you also need to know what access point your “slow” client is connecting to, and how good that connection is. Client devices do not always connect to the nearest or strongest AP, or to the radio (5 GHz or 2.4 GHz) you might assume they should.
    ubntclient
    There are other views that will tell you more, but “slowness” may be normal, based on the connection properties in play. Often the “fix” is to update the client device drivers or firmware.
  • Speedtest to the Internet isn’t the end-all. Understand what is actually being tested. To state the obvious, your Internet speedtest results can’t exceed your ISP connection capacity. If you have a 25 Mbps down/5 Mbps up connection, you won’t see any more than those numbers on Internet speedtests. And… if other devices are using the Internet while you are speedtesting, your results will be less because you are sharing “the pipe”.
    When you run the Internet speedtest, you are exercising one discreet path- the connectivity between your specific device and the server out on the Internet. If it feels slow and you are on WIRELESS, you need to verify that your wireless connection is healthy as described above.
    If speedtest feels slow and you are on WIRED, check the specific port behavior for your connected device, also as described above. If speedtesting from multiple devices feels slow, try to move as close to the edge router as you can and retest. If it suddenly perks up, you may have to “divide and conquer” to find what part of the network is slow versus what is behaving normally.
    Also know that some Internet speedtest sites can be fairly erratic, based on a number of factors. Try a couple of different ones, and never come to conclusions based on a single test.
  • Consider learning iPerf, possibly getting an internal testing device. Just like Internet speedtests can be fairly ambiguous, there are tools that can be pretty damn accurate in characterizing exactly how a network is behaving between Point A and Point B. Consider iPerf as an excellent freebie, or something like WLAN Pi that can be built for well under $100 (WLAN Pi also gives a slew more functionality than just throughput testing). However you get there, it’s empowering to be able to test between different points on the local network as you try to isolate perceived problems. This is where you make sure that switch to switch connections are actually delivering Gigabit, for example.

There are more basics to talk about (like being on the right FW versions), but these are a good start. I encourage using these tips every time BEFORE you reach out for help, as they will lead to better resolution faster, and you will also become more self-sufficient in solving your own problems (or in helping others to overcome as you better your basic troubleshooting skills.)

Now… back to the personalities thing I mentioned up front in this blog. For whatever reason, any forum you join from restoring classic campers to Ram pickup trucks to networking, you’ll find people that simply want to help, and others that see the world through blinders, and it’s their way or no way. That being said… don’t be GodComplex5.

A Little PCAP Reader for iOS+ Meraki Remote Capture = Handy

I had been pecking away at a problem at a remote site, where phantom ringing was driving staff nuts on their Ring Central VoIP phones. I’ll spare you all the nasty things I want to say about the frailty of Ring Central phones and try to stay on topic… These devices are clients on a Meraki network, which means that you can capture their packets remotely, while doing analysis locally.

image0

It’s a nice feature, as it really helps you to exercise a common network troubleshooting task that traditionally requires you to be within the network environment to carry out. I had left the office, and my Wireshark-equipped workstation behind for the day, but found myself with free time, my iPad, and the phantom ringing problem on my mind.

Hmmm. I wonder if there are any PCAP-related apps for iOS? I doubt it, but what the hell… Let’s take a look and see if there is anything I can break down those remote capture files with… If I had my PC with Wireshark on it I wouldn’t need this… But all I have is my iPad… Let’s see.. 

Whoa- what’s this?

It’s an app for iOS called Telluric, and it reads (to a certain extent) packet capture files. It doesn’t do 802.11 radio header stuff. It doesn’t actually CAPTURE packets. You can’t really do display filtering or fancy stuff like Wireshark can. But it does do a decent job when no other tools are available, provided you have access to remote packet capture and local download (or can have someone send you a pcap file).

Sure, it’s a niche app of limited value. But it helped me find the source of my problem when I had no other real options:

image1

It’s time for a firewall rule. Sorry, Mr. Vicious.

(I do know that there are online resources for dumping and analyzing packet capture files. Don’t ruin the mood.)

 

 

NetAlly Drops Major Update for EtherScope nXG

It’s curious how we get accustomed to change, and how that which has changed suddenly feels normal. Remember back to the beloved original yellow AirCheck from Fluke Networks? For awhile it was the handheld tester of choice for WLAN professionals, and it built on Fluke Networks’ strength in putting huge amounts of testing and characterization capabilities in palm-friendly devices. Pair that with the original yellow LinkRunner for wired networks and you were equipped for just about anything you needed to do for daily support of LAN/WLAN environments.

Ch-ch-changes…

But yellow became green, and that part of Fluke Networks became Netscout. The old favorites were superseded by G2 versions of both the LinkRunner and the AirCheck with updated capabilities, and we all also got used to that paradigm. Daily use, occasional system updates, lots of problems solved… life simply went on- for a while.

But more change is inevitable, and a few months ago it hit again for these handy hand-helds. This time the color survived the corporate metamorphosis, but a new logo would end up on our tools as NetAlly was born as a spin-off from NetScout. I trust you all remember the big news at Mobility Field Day 4… That was in August, and as I write this it’s December of 2019- only a few months into NetAlly’s existence. As I bang this blog out, I’m looking at the AirCheck and Link Runner G2s on my desk, along with the NetAlly flagship EtherScope nXG. (I wrote about the new tester here, and my fellow Field Day delegate Haydn Andrews provided some thoughts as well).

NetAlly- Already Feeling Less “New”

It’s only been around 100 days or so since NetAlly has been a company, and I’ve barely had the EtherScope nXG in hand for maybe 65 of those days. Yet that old insidious change effect has already settled in. NetAlly doesn’t feel so new to the tongue anymore, and the EtherScopenXG has already become a trusted friend… a go-to force multiplier for my initial wired and wireless network issues and questions. It’s still impressive, but no longer feels exotic.

Now, NetAlly has announced version 1.1 code for the EtherScope nXG.

And so the cycle we got used to with Fluke Networks and then NETSCOUT continues- where good products get better with frequent updates and nice adds/enhancements.

Grass has never grown under this family of testers, and now NetAlly brings us a bag o’ new capabilities in 1.1 as detailed here: EtherScope nXG v1.1 Release Notes – Final.

I have no doubt that the enhancements are only just beginning on NetAlly’s flagship tester.

 

There’s Math, Then There is Amazon Math

OK, so this is not so much about wireless, but lots of us use Amazon. Last night I came across a little peculiarity on the website that bothered me greatly (for whatever reason), so I thought I’d share in case anyone else finds themselves in the same spot.

Let’s talk about math just a bit.

There is traditional math that us geezers use, where individual numbers simply “add up”. Like 3+1=4 and 5+12=17.

Then there’s new-tangled Common Core-style bullshit math with it’s gratuitous, mind-numbing complexity:

08066E73-456F-489D-9D78-86FE34B19261Finally, there is Amazon math… look at the number of stars here and the math that goes with them. What’s odd?

F7F27BE3-8001-4299-9D3E-32C62A4AF138

I’m gonna use a little Geezer math to state my case- where I come from, when 5 (the one 5-star rating for this product) is averaged with 1 (the single 1 star rating), the maths generally play out thusly:

5 + 1 = 6.
Then, 6 divided by 2 (because there were 2 values) = 3

So… we are looking at a 3-star product, based on the available data- yes? But look again… Amazon says this product get’s a bonus half-star on top of what simple geezerology would award it.

Hmmm. So Amazon is using some other method to assign ⭐️ values in it’s reviews, and what we may think is the factual black-and-white result of individual reviews being aggregated is not the case.

So what gives? The answer is even more complex than Bob the Orange Triangle- let me refer you to Wired Magazine’s detailed explanation.

Live and learn…

New Wireless Certification Coming From a Familiar Name

If you have been in the business of wireless networking for any amount of time, you’ve likely heard of Devin Akin. Perhaps you’ve bumped into him at any one of several leading wireless network vendors where he has worked through the years.  Maybe you sat in one of the many courses he teaches- if you did, you certainly came away smarter. Or maybe you’ve debated him on religion or politics on Twitter… Devin is a passionate guy, and he is as outgoing as they come. I personally have not agreed with him on everything we’ve ever talked about, but that  falls under the heading of The Spice of Life in my opinion.

When it come to sheer depth of wireless knowledge, Devin is a Titan.

I mentioned Devin in the context of training. He’s certainly done a lot of training through the years, and he’s been teasing out something new for those in the market for wireless training that’s coming in early 2020.

wireless adjuster

Intriguing, no?

I’ve been chatting with Devin on the side a bit, and will be covering his new course more in-depth when he’s ready to turn it loose (I may even contribute a bit to it, if I can remember to send him my input), but in the meantime I wanted to share what he is saying about it publicly so far:

adjuster2

Interesting- a practical lab-based approach built on excellent but inexpensive tools. As for “no lecture”… You get Devin talking about wireless and there is guaranteed to be in-depth discussion along the way. Let’s say that I expect “informal lecture” of a high quality!

Anyhow, now you know what I know, and I’ll share more as it comes out. Course frequency, cost, duration and locations are going to be questions on everyone’s minds, along with a deeper understanding of course goals and objectives.

Standby by for more, and best of luck to Devin as he gets Wireless Adjuster off the ground.

A Cute Little Router

So I’m down by the docks eating a chicken tartar sammich and this lady walks by… She’s acting all aloof, but then I see her pause about twenty steps past me. Here it comes- I’ve been through this at least a hundred times (even after the judge told me to knoock it off). I take another swig of my tuna colada and try to act like I don’t notice her sidling back towards me.

Psst. Uh.. sir? Buddy- I’m looking for-

Yeah, I KNOW what you’re looking for, Little Mamma. It’s what everyone down here in this crap neighborhood is looking for. A cute little wireless router.

I says to her “Don’t worry, Chiquita. I got what you need… It’ll be about $21.” I could tell she was nervous. “Relax” says I, “there ain’t no cops around. And if there were, they wouldn’t care. They only bust SD-WAN pushers these days”. Then she asked to see it.

Mango1

She liked the USB power, and rightfully speculated that whatever this thing is, it was probably only 2.4 GHz. And it was small enough to hide easy. Anywhere. Anywhere.

I told her it was the Mango Mini Smart Router from GL.iNET. They got other routers, but this one is freakin’ MANGO, and that shit matters in this part of town.

She was interested, but I didn’t see cash in her hand yet. I’m like “what’s the deal? You want it or not? I’m trying to eat my lunch here.” She wanted screenshots of the UI. “Are you freakin kidding me?”

Sigh. Whatever.

I could see her wheels turning… she was digging that it ran Open-WRT under the hood. And Open VPN. She went for it, and pulled out the money- but not before asking one last question: I can connect this to another WLAN instead of Ethernet on the Internet side, right?

This gal had plans. “Yeah, you can do that. Or hook it up to a 4G modem. Plug a goddam USB stick into it for ghetto NAS- I don’t much care what you do with it.”

Before she hustled off, she asked me where I found out out about this cute little router. Funny story, that. But this is a funny business at times.

I was working uptown, for The Man. I found a rogue wireless signal on a big ol business wireless network and needed to collar it. It had this funky GL.iNETblahblah SSID, so I put on my Google shoes and got wise.

The rest is history. She got Mango, and I got enough coin for more chicken tartar.

Livin’ the dream.