Category Archives: Wireless Networking

7signal’s Mobile Eye Demystifies the Client End of Wi-Fi

Given the widespread Work-From-Home reality that many of us are wrapped up in given COVID, network life has absolutely changed for both WLAN users and those who support them. Rather than everyone connecting to the workplace wireless network, we’re in a new age of VPN and a thousand different workers connecting through a thousand different home Wi-Fi connections. No big news here, right? But it needs to be pointed out in the context of support.

As a WLAN architect, engineer, and administrator, I have easy views into all network building blocks in the typical enterprise setting when it’s time to solve end-user problems. But think about how that paradigm changes when all the workers go home, still need to do their work, but now connect to “living room networks” built on who-knows-what network equipment and ISP connections of every range of speed and capacity.

Mobile Eye Bridges the Gap

Among those home-bound employees using Wi-Fi, problems are inevitable. And just like when we’re all at the office, connectivity issues mean lost productivity. While we in the support role aren’t going to drive from house to house doing mobile support (you might, but I’m not), we might want to consider the likes of Mobile Eye, a software-based monitoring tool from 7signal.

From a single cloud-hosted Mobile EyeQ dashboard, those of us doing support have pretty deep views into those far-flung home environments (it’s just as effective in central environments where we don’t have rigid control over client devices) and can “roll the tape” on WLAN factors that may be mucking with the experience of remote users.

How Might You Leverage Mobile Eye?

After running Mobile Eye in test for a few weeks on half a dozen devices on multiple Wi-Fi networks in a couple of different locations, I can say that I would love to have it on all mobile workers’ devices. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing by any stretch… maybe only key people who simply cannot be down for very long get a Mobile Eye agent so when trouble hits, we can have the contributing factors already recorded. Or perhaps you deploy it to users short-term for diagnostics and troubleshooting as users need help- all data is good and you’ll get deep live and reportable trended insight regardless of how you employ it.

Learn More

After a long gap of not following 7signal’s evolution very closely (we all get busy), I caught one of their almost-zero-salesfluff Friday product intros, and it was time well spent. I had gotten to know the company fairly well back in 2013 when they presented at Wireless Field Day, but so much has changed since then that the Friday tour was an excellent catch up.


Other: There are a lot of resources and WLAN knowledge aggregated at the 7signal web site. They have been in the WLAN performance game for quite a while. I have been fortunate to present for a few of their webinars over the past several months.

Linksys Leverages Tanaza for Cost-Conscious Cloud-Managed Wi-Fi

You’ve heard of Linksys, everybody has. But Tanaza? Is that an energy drink? No, but it is what fuels Linksys’ latest go at cloud-managed Wi-Fi. Let’s get the Tanaza thing out of the way first, then we’ll talk about what Linksys is up to (if you’ve had with expensive vendor license paradigms, you’ll want to read on).

Tanaza Explained

Tanaza – Logos Download

Tanaza is a cloud-managed networking platform based in Italy, I’ve been tire-kicking and following the evolution of the Tanaza system for a while now, Here’s a blog I wrote on Tanaza, to get you started. I like the company, their people, and the UI. As an enterprise WLAN guy myself, I sometime have to stretch my mind to get the appeal of a company that (so far) only manages Wi-Fi and not “the full network stack”, but once you get that it’s easy to appreciate Tanaza’s effectiveness. Recognizing a company’s Wi-Fi as the thing that many SMB customers interact with the most with, Tanaza makes providing well-managed and feature-rich WLAN environments easy for single sites or distributed locations likely served by MSP types or savvy in-house staff that need the most for their precious network budget dollars.

Linksys Cloud-Managed Wi-Fi 2.0

As a reminder, Linksys is part of Belkin, which is part of Foxconn. You of a certain age may be pre-disposed to think of Linksys as a home router vendor, but the company has long since evolved to having business-grade products in several spaces. With its latest strategy for cloud-managed WLAN, Linksys replaces it’s old in-house magic with Tenaza’s very polished dashboard and management framework and pairs it with a so-far modest handful of decent indoor 802.11ac wireless access points.

So what is the actual news here?

Tanaza has the cloud-management thing down pretty well. The case can be made that Foxconn/Belkin/Linksys using Tanaza’s framework validates Tanaza’s suitability for the SMB/MSP masses. The Linksys empire includes manufacturing, support, various channel relationships, and the ability to capitalize on Tanaza’s native cloud goodness to offer a decent SMB solution at compelling prices. And what makes those prices compelling? Probably the biggest selling point is that no licenses are required when you compare to other cloud-managed solutions. In my opinion, many of the bigger guys have gotten so license-happy they have priced themselves out of the SMB market.

Good Stuff, But Is It Enough?

Linksys Cloud Management 2.0 promises unlimited scaling (again, think MSP), easy pre-configurations and new access point adds (think Meraki-style), and has a good road map for options that will help customers to either directly or indirectly monetize their guest WLAN environments. All that sounds good when you can get it for cheap with no licenses, and I will say that the Tanaza access point I’ve been running works well. But I also can’t help but think that sooner or later “cloud managed Wi-Fi only” is going to be an issue for some potential customers. Even Open Mesh, before they were acquired by Datto, had a pretty effective cloud managed switch and edge router offering to go with their wireless APs, as does Ubiquiti- who is always the elephant in the room in this space. An outdoor AP option with external antenna capabilities would also be nice.

Linksys Cloud Manager 2.0 web page

Synology NAS Ramblings

A few years back, I got turned on to the world of Synology by networking pals who employ these impressive devices in their home setups (though Synology has it’s share of devices out there in business settings as well). I’m far from a “power user” in NASland, but I continue to learn more about Synology’s NAS capabilities as I go. Let me share a bit on my recent goings on.

One Big, One Small

I’m currently using two NAS devices. One is the low-end two-bay DS218j, and the other is the more beefy DS1618+. I’ve set mine up as 4 TB and 10 TB with decent disk resiliency, but you van go much bigger on either.

Why two? The little guy is primarily a repository for decades of family pictures, videos and such. I went this path after some frustration with online repositories. It’s easy to add to the drive whether on the LAN or out on the Internet, with multiple user accounts and home spaces. The larger unit is an important part of Wirednot, LLC, where endless drone footage, documents, proposals, white papers, software etc are stored and frequently accessed.

Each is a “private cloud”, if you buy into that notion.

Wake on LAN is a Must

Every now and then our local power company causes us some grief during a thunderstorm or some such. When power comes back, it’s nice to leverage Wake on LAN to not have to remember to go downstairs to the Command Center to power up these units. I highly recommend it

It’s Not Just Storage Here… Let’s Whip Up Some CCTV

Though “NAS” is network attached storage, there are so many cool features you *could* do with Synology. There are dozens upon dozens of “packages” that can be installed, making this NAS morph into a many different servers and appliances all at the same time. I haven’t leveraged much beyond storage and file services, until recently.

I bought a low-end IP camera for a specific purpose (weather station companion camera) that it failed miserably at. I can’t tell you all the ways that JideTech cameras are cheap Chinese junk with horribly built software sides, but I was able to turn disappointment into a productive experiment using my Synology NAS and it’s Surveillance Station application.

I have installed, used, and continue to support a handful of different CCTV systems. Synology’s free surveillance system kicks ass versus the likes of Hikevision, accommodates a decent variety of cameras (including generic configs like I used to get El Cheapo to work) so has that advantage over closed systems like Ubiquiti’s Protect (which I love), and has a powerful range of features on par with upper-end enterprise systems like Genetec. You get two camera licenses included out of the box, then need to pay as you grow. But it’s really a nice feature you can simply enable on your NAS, and it makes my Chinese shitcam look good. Retrieving past recordings is a snap, and the UI is just shweet.

Add Some RAM- If You Can

I read somewhere that added RAM can make your Synology more snappy, and have felt some lag on occasion when interacting with both of my drives… little things like slow-feeling logins and population of file menus kinda stuff. So, for the first time in years and years I found myself adding RAM cards to a computing device- but in the case only the 1618+ was eligible.

Synology models ending in “j”, like my little 218j, are out of luck when it comes to RAM expansion. Here’s where you have to be careful, as Synology has a 218+ and a 218j. Plus models can do RAM upgrades, J models cannot and so I will live with 512 MB of DDR3 on my small drive. I expanded the 4 GB that came on the 1618+ to 16 GB, and the result was impressive. EVERYTHING I do on bigger drive is peppier.

That’s it for now. Nothing remarkable going on here, but if you are contemplating buying a NAS, Synology has served me well so far and has a lot to offer. Definitely spend a bit more and get yourself a + model.

If you are doing anything cool with your Synology, I’d love to hear about it. These things are so versatile, it can be hard to know what to do with them beyond storage/file stuff.

A Very Robust, Funky Power Outlet Tower

The product is called the T1, the company is Eshldty (I’m not even going to attempt to pronounce). It’s a power outlet tower… big deal, right? Lots of those on the market. But this one has some unique features in a compact package that I can see being welcomed at home and in a number of business settings.

With 9 outlets, 3 USB ports, one USB-C, you get a lot of charging capability in a well laid-out form factor that takes up little table or shelf space. But… it’s still just a power strip, no?

Let’s get to what made me want to look at this thing.

No, the T1 didn’t work up a sweat here pushing volts- it’s made to be used in wet environments. It’s marketed as both splash-proof, and waterproof, and if you dig in to the companies videos you’ll see them heaving buckets of water at it and even sticking metal tweezers in the outlet to show it protects itself against short-circuits… I can’t promote those experiments as my history and training with electricity won’t let me participate in potentially enabling bad habits. But I did play around a bit with “how night this be beneficial in the real world?” scenarios.

Being a husband and a father, sometimes I’m astounded at how many electrical gadgets make their way into the bathroom. I’ve camped and done outdoor activities where rain and such is inevitable. And I’ve been in restaurants and airports where those cleaning tables and floors frequently push a fair amount of soapy water fairly close to outlet strips on tables, kiosks, and other public areas. All of these might be good fits for the T1’s weatherproofing, and it also is touted as flame-resistant.

Now for the fun stuff: The T1 has a cool embedded LED lighting array that will either react to sound with random multi-color patterns, or you can put it in any one of several night-light or idle patterns. I had more fun with this than I should have in testing.

The unit is built well, and I have come to generally prefer the tower approach to power outlets over strips in general. The USB ports on this seal the deal for me, and I can see it being perfect in hotel rooms as well.

Here’s the official specs from Eshldty :

– IPX6 waterproof
– Built-in RGB Music Rhythm Light, 9 special color effects
– 9 &12 fully protected outlets (model-dependent) can be used simultaneously without interfering with each other
– Support Fast Charging, Includes 3 USB outlets that support 2.4A fast charging and a Type-C port with 20W PD fast charging (Type-C port is designed to charge the new iPhone 12)
– ETL Listed and FCC Certificated

The T1 is brand-spanking new to the market. Here’s where you can find out more. I don’t tend to get all that excited about consumer-grade products like this, but the T1 really does have the potential to fill other niche scenarios as well.

Celona Tees Up Bigtime on CBRS

Private 5G networking has been discussed a lot over the last year. Engineers and installers are getting trained on design, installation, and support. Though it’s not exactly a new topic, it is still fairly exotic. It’s like we’re all kind of waiting for CBRS to take some big, meaningful step forward that signals “OK, it’s really finally here. Really, like for real.” With Celona’s latest news, that big step has arguably just been taken.

Back in February of this year, I pondered on the past and short future of CBRS in this blog. I’ve gotten to know Celona (the private mobile network company) up close and personal at Mobility Field Day events last year and in 2020 and through a number of private briefings. From where I sit, the entire CBRS and Celona thing has been kind of a slow simmer- waiting for things to break open and get real.

We’re there now.

Platform, Products

Celona is ready to rock and roll the CBRS-hungry enterprise crowd with all the makings of a build-it-yourself 5G networking solution. The details are here, but the short version goes like this- product components of Celona’s integrated solution architecture include:

Celona RAN: Indoor and outdoor CBRS LTE access points built for Enterprise environments. They provide up to 25K indoor sqft and 1M outdoor sqft of coverage. Radio functions are fully automated via Celona software with their power level and frequency channel assignments in the CBRS spectrum, no manual configurations required.

Celona Edge: Private LTE/5G core Enterprise appliance that’s designed to integrate with any existing network environment. Deployable on-premises for strict SLA enforcement for local applications, within private / public / edge clouds for service scalability, or both.

Celona Orchestrator: The AIOps platform that enables remote installation of Celona’s access points and Edge software, across multiple enterprise sites. Orchestrator provisions Celona SIM cards against required device level access control policies within the enterprise network. Providing more than monitoring of infrastructure components, Orchestrator also keeps track of application and device KPIs for Celona MicroSlicing™ (think QoS on steroids, but there’s more to it than just that).

Everything you need to build your own private 5G environment.

Aruba Networks Partnership

Celona has also formed a partnership with Aruba networks, who will sell Celona gear where a given customer is looking for not just Wi-Fi but also private mobile networking. Given Aruba’s lofty position in the WLAN space, this is a good thing for Celona as they set out to conquer this new market.

A Fat Wad of Series B Funding Never Hurts

Not that further validation that Celona is doing things right is needed, but one could argue that the cash the company has just secured is another indicator that industry is taking both Celona and their new tech solution seriously.

There are some decent folks at Celona that I’ve known in different roles at other companies, and it’s exciting to see them move their collective vision forward. I’m looking forward to seeing how this unfolds for Celona, the fledging CBRS industry, and for the customers about to go down this road.

See the new Celona Platform.

Wyebot Brings Wi-Fi 6, More to Its WLAN Monitoring Platform

I’ve been using and evaluating Wyebot in different wireless environments for the last 18 months or so. One of the things that I most like about the company behind the sensor product and their Wireless Intelligence Platform (WIP) is their willingness to listen to what tech-savvy customers want, versus just adopting the mindset of “we’ll tell YOU what you need in a dashboard” that comes with competing products. My own requests have helped to shape the product, and I’ve listened in on calls where other wireless processionals have described what they feel is important. Wyebot listens, and iterates where it makes sense while not necessarily duplicating what everyone else is doing, or diluting their core strengths by trying to be all things to all people. This strikes me as a small, smart, agile company with a good product (and some good competition). My past coverage:

Now, we have a new 802.11ax sensor and version 3.1 code to improve Wyebot’s already impressive capabilities of WLAN/LAN characterization, troubleshooting, and alerting.

Continuous Improvement

Here’s the latest incarnation of the main page in the Wyebot dashboard, to get the juices flowing:

Whether you install Wyebot sensors for long-term monitoring, or use them more in a tactical role for point-in-time troubleshooting, there is a lot to appreciate. I love that with three radios, you get the flexibility of using wireless backhaul from the sensor when no network wiring is available. But what about the new magic in 3.1?

Unfortunately, you have to be logged in to see the details of each feature, but most of these are probably fairly intuitive to those in the business of Wi-Fi. Let’s talk about a couple.

Access Point Classification Feature

The Wyebot sensor does a fantastic job of characterizing a given WLAN environment. You may see a list of SSIDs on your phone or PC, but Wyebot will distill it all down to how many APs are in each SSID (within it’s receive range, of course) along with all of the 802.11-related particulars you’d ever need to know. From there, you can add your own classification- is it a friendly? A threat? an unknown? Sounds simple, perhaps, but this on-the-fly graphical note-taking with security overtones helps keep busy environments straight as you pick them apart.

Available Test Profiles

At the bottom of the list of test profiles, we see a new option- Link Doctor. With this, you exercise core network services and device-to-destination connectivity to get a sense of network health. Run it on demand, or at regular intervals for trending.

Hopefully you get a taste for Wyebot’s look, feel, and general aspirations as a test and monitoring platform. For a more analytical look at the entire platform, check out this presentation from Bryan Daugherty.

What Do I Like Best?

From the first time I experienced Wyebot, I fell in love with a few aspects of the sensor and it’s cloud framework, That affinity continues, and here’s what keeps me smitten:

  • As a permanently-mounted sensor, Wyebot would be welcome in any WLAN environment. But to me it has as much value as a pop-it-in short-term analysis tool, almost like a NetAlly hand-held product. Even if you don’t buy into sensor overlays, a Wyebot sensor two on hand could bring unique troubleshooting value.
  • You just don’t get as many false alarms with Wyebot as you do with certain competitors.
  • It’s awesome to take wireless packet captures gathered elsewhere and to load them into Wyebot, and have them displayed as if Wyebot did the capture. Pretty slick.

Shedding COVID Boredom Through Tech

When I say “shedding”, I mean, as in using an actual shed. And getting techno-freaky with it in the name of staying sane. It’s just a 12×20 nothing-special storage shed. But to me, it has become an operational platform, I tellya. When I need more to do than self-train or read up on new stuff, I gotta have some hands-on challenges.

Opportunity Recognized

One day I was pouring through some high-res aerial shots my tight homie Elon sent me from his satellites, and I came across one that sparked my interest. Ignore the numbers for now, but we’ll need them in a minute.

In the lower left, under the swimming pool is where you’ll find what has become one of my COVID-inspired manias… It happens to be strategically placed for all kinds of geek fun.

Foundational Stuff

Given where the shed sits in relation to the pool, I was able to leverage the extra electrical circuit I ran like 20 years ago when I did the pool back in the day. A little bit of poor-man’s direct burial, and we got juice. Now, take your eyes to the top end of the house, where you’ll find the blue number 1.

The house had an old-style TV antenna mounting pole that was well-attached when we bought it. Being a ham radio operator, I was able to lengthen it a bit, and it has been the middle-point for countless wire dipole antennas through the years. It also happens to be the root side of a decent Ubiquiti 5 GHz mesh connection that uses the red line to connect to number 2, which is how we feed network to the shed- using an old flagpole that happens to be wonderfully placed for it’s current tower duties. The far end Ubiquiti AP connects to a small PoE switch, and the whole link is managed as part of my bigger Ubiquiti environment.

The shed now has power, it’s got network. IT’S TIME FOR THIS SHED TO UNDERGO IT’S DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION.

It’s no Shed, Its a Freakin Technology Nexus!

Now let’s consider numbers 3 and 7… IP CCTV cameras (Ethernet). I live in one of the safest crime-free areas on the planet. But remember, this is about DOING as much as it is using. Here’s #7 on the picture- El Gato cam.

Occasionally, a neighbor’s cat transits our yard behind the pool in a daring feat of trespass. These movements are strictly unauthorized, and if I take that cat to court someday I will have mountains of video evidence. Sometimes we see deer, too. The cameras are recorded in the house on a Ubiquiti Cloud Key acting as a DVR. (I’ve thought about adding webcam capabilities, but we have an anemic upstream ISP connection.)

OK, so cameras are no big deal. Everyone’s doing cameras… but is everyone putting a Raspberry Pi transformed into an aircraft monitoring sensor out in their shed? I think not. Here’s what I’m getting RIGHT NOW (kinda quiet at the moment) out of number 4:

This is actually pretty cool. I live along the flight path for a couple of airports and military air routes, so I see some different entries to ooh and ah about. My sensor feeds its received data out to multiple aggregation sites for increased accuracy of the whole system. Yeah, buddy.

By now, I know you can’t wait to find out what number 5 is… and it’s gonna blow your mind. This one doesn’t use the network. We got a little legal FCC Part 15 low-power FM radio station filling the yard and house with music. My music.- and I’ve got great taste. Here we’re using an old Android phone with VLC player, and this little gem from C. Crane. If you go down this path, know that you can get in trouble real fast if you don’t abide by some pretty strict rules. Read the FCC’s rules, and don’t be stupid about blasting out pirate radio.

Let’s round out the current set of shed capabilities with number 6. my personal weather station that feeds it’s data to several weather networks. Have a look at one of my feeds.

So What Comes Next As I “Shed” My Boredom?

It looks like we may be in for a long, stay-at-home winter. The ingredients in this geek soup will keep me going for a while. Now that it’s all out there, optimizing comes next. ANYTHING with an antenna can be made more effective by better placement, antenna tuning, adding a ground plane, removing obstacles, etc. The network itself in the shed is horribly cobbed together at the physical layer, I need a shelf and some serious wire management. A UPS is absolutely in order. I’ll be iterating…

Also- with all the data being monitored, I got a lot of graphs, statistics, and such to digest and ponder in the days to come. Brain food.

I’m also looking for other value adds for my humble shed- probably get some sort of ham radio beacon going as well, minimally.

Frequencies in Use So Far

-5 GHz, the wireless mesh from house to shed, and WLAN at the shed itself
-2.4 GHz, WLAN at shed and weather station console (in house) to Wi-Fi for outbound data feeds
-1090 MHz, used by aircraft positioning transmitters (ADS-B)
-900 MHz, used between weather station and in-house console
-FM Broadcast Band

What about you? What are you doing to shed your boredom and stay sane?

WWII Vet Grave Marker Travesty

This is NOT a technical blog, but one of my occasional detours into a subject that interests or bothers me. If you have no interest in veterans’ affairs, please excuse my diversion and stay tuned for my next article. Otherwise, read on about this very odd situation I have discovered in regards to WWII vet grave markers. I’m publishing it to help others who may be researching WWII vets.

Howard Badman- where it all starts

Let me start by showing you my grandfather’s grave marker, located in Moravia, NY.

I never knew my dad’s dad, as he passed away when I was a baby. Thankfully, I had many good years to enjoy and appreciate my grandmother and the extended Badman clan. I heard enough stories through the years about the man I was middle-named for that naturally I’d be curious about his service time. He shared very little of it with my father and the aunts and uncles, evidently. I hear that a lot about WWII vets- they did what they had to do, came home and got on with their lives and didn’t say a lot about their experiences.

I do know that Howard was a Prisoner of War, and figured out what camp he was held in. I found some details about his service timeline in various federal archives. But that grave marker doesn’t square with what I found.

And his marker is just one example of the bigger story of WWII vets having their service experiences reduced to a governmental convenience that, to me, borders on being a sham.

About the 9201 Technical Service Unit

Given that PFC Badman’s government-provided marker says he served with the 9201 Technical Service Unit (often referred to as 9201 TSU), and that his service started at Fort Dix, New Jersey for training and then was exclusively spent in Europe during the thick of the fighting, I assumed that the 9201 Technical Service Unit was the organization he was assigned to in the field. Like this would be the unit fighting, with men being injured and killed, taken POW, or living to see another normal US Army day all under the banner of the 9201 TSU. That’s what’s on his grave marker, yes?

The 9201 Technical Service Unit is shown on thousands of similar markers for other vets. Those markers tell the world “This soldier was assigned to that unit, now you have a sense of their service”.

Not even close. It’s BS, and really kind of strange.

The 9201 Tech Service Unit was real, but it was simply an administrative unit at the New York Point of Embarkation– the place where Howard and huge numbers of other vets filtered through on their way home from Europe. SOME soldiers were certainly assigned to the 9201 Tech Service Unit, but if you dig into the actual details relating to those whose grave markers say “9201 Tech Service Unit”, you’ll find that they had a much different story.

One Example of Truth

PFC Howard Badman actually served with Company C of the 134th Infantry Regiment, which was part of the 35th Infantry Division. At the time of his capture, he was involved in fighting near Habkirchen in Germany.

Here’s the original Battle Casualty Report that reported him Missing in Action on December 12, 1944 (eventually found to be POW). With just these bits of information, you can see the organizational patches that he wore on his uniform. You learn that his unit’s battle cry was “All hell can’t stop us” and wonder how many times he heard or read that along the way. You get a sense of what his ACTUAL unit did in the war. You can feel the emotion of whoever had to type up those grim Battle Casualty reports. And you get more context to this veteran’s service than just “he passed through NYC coming home” as conveyed by his grave marker.

So Why Is it This Way?

I researched at least a dozen other vets that all have the same “9201 Technical Services Unit” on their markers, foolishly thinking that maybe some of these gents were in battle with my grandfather. It’s a reasonable assumption if you didn’t know better. But in each case the veteran, like PFC Howard Badman, had their own ACTUAL organizational and battle history, but their grave marker doesn’t come close to telling any of it- only that these men all came back through a common entry point to the states.

I’m a veteran. Over my 10 years and multiple units served in around the world, I get that the military does odd things. I’m assuming that the 9201 Tech Service Unit is the last organization shown in all of these soldiers’ records as they processed away from the military, and so that’s all that the VA cared about when putting out these markers despite the fact that it distorts each person’s actual military history. I’m guessing that Howard got off the boat from Europe, spent HOURS doing paperwork at the 9201 TSU, then boarded a bus for home. It’s far more convenient to grab the last, meaningless line in a military record and say “this sums that person up” than to actually put anything personally significant on each grave marker, evidently.

The travesty is that there is very little history on the 9201 Tech Service Unit itself, and nothing of real value as a launching off point to look into the history of any of the men and women who have that unit mentioned on their grave markers. If you are researching a WWII vet: know that that if the 9201 Tech Service Unit is mentioned on their grave marker, it is an absolute dead end and provides no real information on the veteran’s service.

Emblems of the 134th Infantry Regiment and 35th Infantry Division.

Dipping Toes in the Consumer Gear Pool- Netgear AC2300 Wireless Router

I don’t frequently kick tires on consumer grade gear, but occasionally it is good for us Enterprise folks to go that path. Certainly, this space continues to advance- as measured by features offered, complexity under the hood, and promises made that often can’t be kept.

This is an interesting router, and I’ll try to approach my narrative from the consumer-centric focus. That being said, even the consumer wireless space needs to be handled by vendors with common sense. That is lacking in spots with this router, but likely no more so than with it’s competitors who also fixate on grand performance claims over substance. Sigh… the data sheet for the AC2300 is ambitious, to say the least.

Why so Many Model Numbers?

I have NEVER understood this about Netgear (and others in this space). On the box, it’s the AC2300. On the vendor product page, it’s the R7000P, as well. Then when you access the admin pages on the router itself, it becomes the RS400. Just kick me in the groin.

Getting Started, Choices
I’m old and stodgy. I just want to connect to the router, and start poking around. But Netgear would prefer that you download the Nighthawk app, which I did. But to run said app, you need a Netgear account, and in my opinion they want too much personal information. Nyet says I despite the fact that the app might be somewhat handy. Negatory on that. Also, the same account is needed to activate NETGEAR Armor which is a subscription-based security suite (Netgear gives you three years free with the router purchase). Given that I don’t plan on making this eval unit my daily driver, I’m going to pass on Armor- but here’s some interesting chatter among IT folks about it.

I opted to simply connect to the device over Wi-Fi, using the password provided on the router, and head for good old admin page. I also opted not to bite on another subscription- Disney’s Circle parental controls, which were offered one click in . If I was at a different place in life (my kids are grown and live elsewhere), I may welcome something like Circle but would need to evaluate.

Netgear touts the AC2300 as a CYBERSECURITY router, which is OK. Even without the app, Armor, or Circle there are some decent security-oriented features available, as you’ll see in the screenshots.

As a Switch/Router, Looks Decent Enough

See the screenshot dump at the end- you’ll get a sense of the usual offerings that come in better model routers. VLAN support, firewall functionality for device access, URL blocking, protocol controls, etc are handy, and the switchports are 10/100/1000. Also USB3 connectivity to storage or whatever floats your boat. Nothing earth-shaking, but a well-rounded feature set.

Wireless Performance Good- But the Approach is Maddening

It’s funny that the data sheet mentions “interference avoidance” in at least one spot, but your neighbors might not agree given that the AC2300 comes up blasting away on 80 MHz wide channels in 5 GHz (gotta be so to bring the jigabits!) and squatting on channel 9 in 2.4 GHz. How about the power level? Out of box it’s 100% on both channels. 100% of… well, something. but mere mortals aren’t privy to such details. I am not a mere mortal hover, and so I know where to find the power output levels for this router – if you know what the values mean, you’ll agree that this router is quite the flamethrower. Depending on where it’s used, you may not be able to get the power LOW enough.

For some reason, Netgear also decided to expose a couple of settings you can ruin your own day by manipulating wrongly…

Some things are better left hidden, says I. But it is nice that you can schedule the radios for on/off as desired.

I’d Buy It, and Then I’d Get Wise About Configuring It

If I was shopping for a normal consumer router, the AC2300 would be a good candidate based on booming radios and decent features, with or without the subscription stuff and Nighthawk app. It’s a nice enough looking router. The wireless defaults are ugly, though and  can do more harm than good. At the same time, consumer grade stuff is set up out of the box to THEORETICALLY meet the bold promises made in marketing (good luck getting 1625 Mbps in 5 GHz out of this or any 802.11ac 3×3 router) on the assumption that all consumers operate in their own little vacuums.  




5G: Welcome to Crazy Town

It’s sooooooooo fast. Latency is sooooooooo low. Capacity is sooooooooo high. It’s all that, and a big fat multi-billion dollar bag of chips. WOO HOO, GET YA SOME!

However, all is not what it seems. As with many wireless technologies (AHEM-COUGH… Wi-FI… COUGH…LIES AND HYPE… COUGH), much of 5G’s marketing relies on what might come to be, and what the 5G future may look like if the planets align. Meanwhile, the truth can be hard to find.

Today’s Truth

Of late, I’ve had professional reasons to dig in more on 5G, to understand it’s building blocks and implementation challenges and benefits. Though I’m not poo-pooing the impressiveness of the technology’s promise, I can’t help but observe how speculative and fraught with caveats it all feels at this point. Here’s a dose of reality: this article published on September 11, 2020 by PC gets to the meat of it:

Our annual Fastest Mobile Networks report came out this month, and it had some shocking results for the race to 5G. We discovered that AT&T’s 5G network is actually slower than its 4G network in almost all of the 26 cities we tested, and that T-Mobile’s low-band 5G network, while faster than 4G, isn’t very fast at all. Verizon’s network, meanwhile, is compellingly fast but its 5G was only available in a single-digit percentage of our test locations.

I encourage you to read the whole article, as it bubbles up a lot of nuance that both clarifies and clouds any current discussion about 5G.

Will Some Areas Get Left Out in the Cold?

Last year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation made a rather grim prediction in their “Enough of the 5G Hype” post about one possible aspect of our collective 5G future- one of those little potential bummers that the carriers themselves won’t offer up:

A recent FCC report on competition found that the future of high-speed broadband for most Americans will be a cable monopoly. Without a plan to promote fiber to the home, that’s not likely to change. In fact, because the 5G upgrade relies on fiber infrastructure, even 5G will be possibly limited to areas that already have FTTH – meaning, they already have a competitive landscape and, therefore, better service. The rest of us get monopolistic slow lanes.

I don’t know enough about the various regulatory and larger network intricacies afoot to sanction the prediction, but it is minimally thought-provoking.

Do Your Own Digging

At the risk of going hyperlink-happy, let me share one more with you from Security Boulevard. This piece does a decent job of providing both skepticism and hope for what 5G might do for us in the years to come.

To me, it’s a safe bet that when and where it reaches maturity, 5G will be generally impressive. Beyond that, I really can’t tell yet what the overall paradigm will ACTUALLY amount to. For that matter, their may not end up being “an overall paradigm” when it comes to 5G, We may be looking at local or regional winners and losers when it comes to the question of “How 5 will my G really be?”. There’s just a lot left to play out.

Hopefully it will be as glorious as the hype, but meanwhile the hype needs to be scrutinized.