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#233885 7-May-2018 23:18
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Hi all,

 

I'm helping to improve wifi coverage for a local charitable organisation. They currently have a Fritz!Box as their router/AP in the office, but it doesn't cover very far. My plan is to run cable to another part of the building, and install another AP there.

 

Based on what I can get relatively cheaply, and because I prefer the ability to install alternative OS images (eg OpenWRT), I'm suggesting this: https://cdlnz.com/BR-6478ACV2 - is Edimax considered an ok brand? I saw another thread that seemed to be recommending not using a router as an AP, but I didn't see any reasoning - is it just because the routers tend to be too 'consumer grade'? Is it likely to cause me/them problems?

 

I haven't actually done a huge amount of WiFi stuff; I use cable wherever I can and generally get away with a single AP at home. All I need to do to allow roaming is to use the same SSID/password on both, right?

 

Thanks,

 

Richard

 

 


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  #2009654 7-May-2018 23:33
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Routers have gotten to the point you don't really need to worry about loading a custom OS on them. My recommendation however is to go the Grandstream option with a Grandstream GWN7000 router + a Grandstream GWN7610 wireless access point. More can be added at a later date if required but is by far one of the cheapest, and tidiest solutions if you're wanting decent WiFi and a router that can quite literally do it all. If you much prefer to use the Fritz!Box then disable WiFi on the Fritz! and use the Grandstream access point(s) only as they'll auto-roam. Another option is the Ubiquiti UniFi gear but this can be quite expensive (it is however awesome if you get the Ubiquiti USG, UniFi Switch and a UniFi AP or many as you get a full insight to the network).

 

I would never go with consumer grade gear for this sort of task. Do it properly the first time with a decent router like the one I've quoted and a decent ceiling mounted access point and from there be blessed with awesome WiFi and the ability to even do proper guest networks etc. Yes, I understand it is a little more expensive but if you go the option you're suggesting you'll just have problems and end up spending more to replace it anyway. Using both a Grandstream router and access points enables you to log into the router itself to manage everything including the wireless and see client stats.

 

Also, with the Grandstream access points ensure you buy a PoE injector - one is not included in the box and you'll need it to power the access point :) - I've also got a review of the Grandstream gear here: https://www.geekzone.co.nz/content.asp?contentid=21647 

 

I've got a router guide in my signature - it needs updating, but may give you some more information.







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  #2009658 8-May-2018 00:36
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michaelmurfy:

 

Routers have gotten to the point you don't really need to worry about loading a custom OS on them.

 

 

I'm very much a fan of Free Software, and especially the freedom to use it. So even if I don't end up using it, the ability to do so is important. And eventually, I suspect any brand will stop getting updates from the manufacturer.

 

 

My recommendation however is to go the Grandstream option with a Grandstream GWN7000 router + a Grandstream GWN7610 wireless access point. More can be added at a later date if required but is by far one of the cheapest, and tidiest solutions if you're wanting decent WiFi and a router that can quite literally do it all. If you much prefer to use the Fritz!Box then disable WiFi on the Fritz! and use the Grandstream access point(s) only as they'll auto-roam. Another option is the Ubiquiti UniFi gear but this can be quite expensive (it is however awesome if you get the Ubiquiti USG, UniFi Switch and a UniFi AP or many as you get a full insight to the network).

 

 

Hmm. I've seen good comments elsewhere on here re Grandstream. I guess they've come a long way since the generally derided BudgeTone SIP phones?

 

And Ubiquiti - I've heard lots of good stuff about them, and it looks like good quality stuff - but they do seem to play a bit loose with the GPL for my taste. Again, ethical questions are important to me.

 

 

I would never go with consumer grade gear for this sort of task. Do it properly the first time with a decent router like the one I've quoted and a decent ceiling mounted access point and from there be blessed with awesome WiFi and the ability to even do proper guest networks etc. Yes, I understand it is a little more expensive but if you go the option you're suggesting you'll just have problems and end up spending more to replace it anyway. Using both a Grandstream router and access points enables you to log into the router itself to manage everything including the wireless and see client stats.

 

Also, with the Grandstream access points ensure you buy a PoE injector - one is not included in the box and you'll need it to power the access point :) - I've also got a review of the Grandstream gear here: https://www.geekzone.co.nz/content.asp?contentid=21647 

 

I've got a router guide in my signature - it needs updating, but may give you some more information.

 

 

'A little more expensive' meaning about double, or even more :-)

 

Unfortunately openwrt.org seems to be inaccessible at the moment - do you know if the Grandstream devices support it? Or does anything else you'd call 'enterprise grade'?

 

I'm also reluctant to go to the effort of installing a ceiling mounted AP, as their lease runs out in the not-too-distant future, and the cabling is also being done relatively cheaply. I'm actually not even sure there is a suitable (horizontal) ceiling in the room I'm thinking of; if there is it's very high.

 

What issues would you anticipate with the Edimax?

 

(I had read your guide; it raised some of my questions :-)

 

Richard


 
 
 
 


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  #2009660 8-May-2018 01:15
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Yes sure you can use opensource software - if you wanted to go this route then the Ubiquiti Edgerouter or Ubiquiti USG are good choices since they're based on Debian Linux with full GPL sources (apart from the CPU blobs). Personally however I find OpenWRT lacking on the "decent" wireless front - there is a reason why companies like Grandstream, Ubiquiti and Cambium do well with their wireless gear and that is there is a tonne of research that goes into the software side of things that opensource firmware can't really match to the same degree (take it as you want - this is based on experience from my point of view).

 

As I am also somebody who runs Linux as an only operating system and uses a Chromebook for everything else (and, an iPhone but that is another story) I do know where you're coming from. I don't think it is much of a concern if you went with Ubiquiti gear as they've been known to support their gear for a very long time and have gotten quite a lot better with GPL sources. It is however a hell of a lot better than your standard "off the shelf" consumer grade access point.

 

I've seen multiple times now companies running cheap routers running OpenWRT, DD-WRT or Tomato for wireless and every one of them has wireless problems - they simply can't match a dedicated wireless access point. With these access points they don't have to be ceiling mounted either. I've installed them sitting on things like shelves, on a wall above an Ethernet wall jack or even at the end of a long Ethernet cable (again, sitting on something) but performance is great.

 

Something else to consider is perhaps a mesh type solution if the office space is small. There is a mesh kit coming out shortly by a company that may interest you (I'll post details once it is official) else there is also the Ubiquiti Amplifi which is a serious bit of kit (You can request the GPL sources if needed also).

 

One of the big draw cards for you with the Grandstream kit is the fact:
1) It is Linux based however very locked down for security reasons.
2) GPL sources are available, but you won't be able to do much with them. There is an official GPL page hosted on both the routers and access points.
3) The routers and access points are largely based on opensource software - nginx for the web interface, dnsmasq for the DNS side of things and good ole iptables for routing and firewalling wrapped around a form of homebrew Linux.
4) The routers act as a controller for the access points meaning you've got a central place to control them, do software upgrades etc. Software upgrades happen frequently.

 

Personally, without hacking around quite a bit you can't match this with OpenWRT. There are actually many great features built into their firmware.

 

You'll never be able to match the wireless performance and coverage using a consumer grade access point like the Edimax even flashed with OpenWRT. It'll cause headaches for you supporting it. Instead, going with an enterprise grade option means you can install it, enable automatic updates and leave it alone from that point and know it'll stay working. This is why they're slightly more expensive and this is why I've even gone this route at many businesses, charities and also my parents house.







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  #2009661 8-May-2018 01:27
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Thanks Michael,

 

You've given me lots to ponder - and discuss with the client, who I've already told about the Edimax ...

 

Cheers,

 

Richard




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  #2013518 10-May-2018 17:33
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Ok, I've got the go-ahead for the Grandstream AP - though I see it's not listed on the OpenWRT site. Oh well.

 

To confirm - to let users use either that or the existing Fritz!Box seamlessly, I only need to set them both to the same SSID/password, right? And presumably a different channel, to avoid them interfering.

 

And for mounting the ceiling-mount AP - I assume they're supposed to be mounted properly horizontal for best coverage - the pattern is presumably more or less a disk?

 

Thanks,

 

Richard

 

 


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  #2013520 10-May-2018 17:40
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The idea of taking a non consumer based device and loading a open-source firmware onto it is simply not a great idea.

Do it right once, this is a charity not a home. Repurposing cheap devices may "work" but soon as an event is on and you need it on multiple devices things will struggle, fall over or simply not work idealy.




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  #2013529 10-May-2018 18:01
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hio77: The idea of taking a non consumer based device and loading a open-source firmware onto it is simply not a great idea.

Do it right once, this is a charity not a home. Repurposing cheap devices may "work" but soon as an event is on and you need it on multiple devices things will struggle, fall over or simply not work idealy.

 

Why not? I don't consider Free Software a second-class option. I load Debian onto non-consumer servers all the time. Well, I don't, because I'm quite a small player, but I use them. And as I think I mentioned earlier, the point is the ability to do it, not necessarily that I will. I like to know that it will work, and that it's not relying on proprietary kernel patches or whatever, and breaching/abusing the free code they're using.

 

Richard

 

 


 
 
 
 


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  #2013530 10-May-2018 18:04
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why do you need openwrt over what it comes with? what would it offer that isnt already offered?




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  #2013534 10-May-2018 18:13
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I probably don't. And I probably won't. Unless they stop supporting it, or fail to fix critical bugs, or whatever.

 

But if openwrt works, it implies that the hardware is open enough to make it work, and that they're not abusing the free software they're already using. If it doesn't, it suggests they're doing something dodgy. I really don't like lock-in.

 

Richard


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  #2013552 10-May-2018 18:54
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OpenWRT support is something I looked for when I was buying consumer grade - with Business / Enterprise grade stuff I don't even consider it. It is a much different playing field.

 

Much of the equipment comes with proprietary hardware and therefore needs the software to go with it. Grandstream is not a new player, nor is Ubiquiti, Cisco etc. You don't buy them for their opensource support, you buy them because it is a product that is proven to work well for business with features out of the box they need.

 

When buying either Small Business or Enterprise Grade gear you're buying the support and peace of mind that comes with it. That is why, off the bat I recommended what is considered an enterprise grade option because you're dealing with a charity who just needs something that works. I know you've got morals but this doesn't always work - trust me, I've been there and done that.

 

Just because OpenWRT works on a product it doesn't necessary mean it works well or be supported going forward. You could install Linux on a Nintendo Switch for example but you take away the reason of why you bought the Switch in the first place (to play games) - same goes for networking products. Many are very specialized these days with custom silicon that the manufacturer has to tie into their operating system. With going for an enterprise grade solution just enable automatic updates and forget about it, it'll still be working as good as it did on day one later down the line.

 

For example - I've owned and tested many many routers - I switched to the Ubiquiti Edgerouter 7 years ago (the Ubiquiti Edgerouter Lite). This router is still getting firmware and security updates and is routing Gigabit internet totally fine. I personally upgraded to the Ubiquiti Edgerouter 4 not because I had to but because I wanted to. If I had another router from this time (The Linksys 1900ac for example which isn't even as old) it is not supported by Linksys themselves and isn't even maintained by the OpenWRT project anymore. The firmware lifecycle is often far better on business / enterprise grade products.

 

Also: Please don't use both the Fritz!Box WiFi and the Grandstream WiFi together as you'll cause problems with clients roaming. Depending on the size of the site the Grandstream should be all you're needing as they're far more powerful than the WiFi on the Fritz. I'd recommend disabling the WiFi on the Fritz and using the Grandstream(s) only for this task. Also, make sure you buy a PoE injector. Like I said, do it properly once and consider 2 Grandstreams if you have doubts a single one will cover it.





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  #2013676 10-May-2018 23:11
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michaelmurfy:

 

If I had another router from this time (The Linksys 1900ac for example which isn't even as old) it is not supported by Linksys themselves and isn't even maintained by the OpenWRT project anymore.

 

 

There was a problem with the OpenWRT community - I was not following exactly what - and pretty well all support on the OpenWRT site stopped.  But the project was forked to the lede-project.org site and support for the Linksys WRT1900AC continued there just fine.  I got a KRACK fix for my WRT1900AC v1 from there two days after the announcement of the problem.  The projects have now merged back on the openwrt.org site and new WRT1900AC versions are available from there.


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  #2013714 11-May-2018 06:09
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Seems like a lot of trouble to go to when you could just buy an off the shelf mesh kit for $500-$600 and have seamless handover between AP's. Sometimes I think us geeks can go down rabbit holes of complexity just because we can. keep it simple, this stuff just works these days. I've installed Google Mesh wifi for 2 small business networks lately as well as my own home and it just works.

 

At the price point, if the manufacturer stops releasing updates in years to come just buy something else.





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  #2019430 20-May-2018 18:06
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The beauty of having hardware that supports the loading of an opensource os/firmware is that you can get patches, and new features long after the vendor decided to bring out a new product and only support that going forward.

 

It also allows you to re-use your Linux skills on this new device without learning some vendors proprietary interface.

 

 

 

Yes if you work for a corporation that has the money to buy professional gear and the annual maintenance to ensure update, and can replace working hardware just because the vendor informed you there is something new that replaces what you have, moving it to end of life for your hardware irrespective of it working for you then it is probably a good choice.  I will even agree that this would be a less time-consuming path it that is the goal.

 

 

 

There is also a forcing function from consumers picking hardware/products that can be used with opensource software, making it more viable for manufacturers to support this, even if they believe they(manufacturers) can add there own software as an additional option to simplify things for customers who require it.


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  #2020743 22-May-2018 21:27
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See my signature below for my guide - it may provide some info or ideas you havent thought of





Ray Taylor
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There is no place like localhost
For my general guide to extending your wireless network Click Here




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  #2022126 24-May-2018 20:52
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I'm an advocate for pfSense. Open source, bsd-based software firewall/router, runs on a wide range of x86 hardware (old PC, micropc etc) and is fully featured.

Run this into a decent switch and out to as many wireless APs as you need. Done.

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