The New Network UnFi’d (The pre story)

Ok, guys as per the previous posts, over here in Sunny Lincolnshire we have a new network, its actually been through a few iterations from the last x6 Airport devices and the Cisco SOHO switch but I thought I would share the new network as it has been asked about since I mentioned it.

To be fair to myself the network has been in a year now and should really have been blogged about before but I am still working on it as a true nerdy geek no job is truly ever done and is always in a state of being upgraded and/or replaced, so this blog will cover some of the hurdles I have gone through to get this to where we are today.

Why Change The network when it worked?

Ok, so yes it worked and it worked well and I enjoyed pushing the envelope that Apple had given us, however it was driving me nuts and taking up x6 power sockets (not that this matters) but also because Apple has gotten rid of its Network Division and is to not make any more Airport Devices and is stopping support for Airport in 2021 or before (its a bit of a weird message they put out), so I knew I had to do something before then and I wanted to try out some of the meshing features that were and are coming to the market. I also wanted to expand my networking knowledge using this new technology, not a lot of people know or understand I am not a network person but I do enjoy dabbling in the dark arts. By trade, I am a cryptologist and cryptanalyst (a posh way of saying good with maths), and as well as being a damn good windows, Linux and Unix Systems engineer/Consultant.

So knowing that Apple is ditching support for Airport and the inner geek I set out to create the perfect mesh network that would be in place for 3 years (oh how wrong I was).

So what’s the story of the Interim kit?

So I went on the quest (November 2017) of many a geek and trapped my iPhone and installed a wifi analyser, went around the property with said device and mapped out the hotspots and the not spots, once I had done this a couple of times I spoke with Sarah (casually mentioned a network upgrade) and noted the pinch points that she was having, one of the limitations was the range of the Airports and that they could not get to the top of the field (back garden) which is 400+ Yards from the nearest Access Point (and still is).

So, once I had all the information, I set about my research same old story, not wanting to trot out to the kennel block in my PJ’s at 22:00 in the snow to reset it, so had to be easy to use, I also wanted a single pane application again focusing on ease of use because Sarah would have to use it and once in I didn’t want to touch it much as I don’t get paid to fix my own gear so I looked at the following mesh kits

  • Google Home Mesh
  • Netgear Orb
  • TP link Deco
  • Draytek (not technically a mesh but I had the 2960 router and a 24 port switch)
  • LinkSys Velop
  • AmpLiFI from Ubiquiti (I need to check the spelling)

So after the research, I found that the engineers working at Ubiquiti were once apple engineers, and the device looks pretty sexy (even better in the flesh) they had the better meshing system and the nicer appearance to them and they fitted into my requirements. So AmpLiFi was the choice, I actually purchased the kit and installed it.

So all of that to tell us that you went with AmpLiFI consumer-grade kit?

Technically Yes as a mesh system I went with AmpLiFi but the love affair with that did not last long and as you will notice from the title I said UniFi’d not AmpLiFi’d, I actually bought the following kit at the end of Jan 2018.

  • x2 AmpLiFi HD Kits (£350 per kit cost)
    • Each kit has 1 Router and a set of 2 Antenna’s
  • x3 AmpLifi Routers (£150 each router)
They still are pretty sexy though (packed to sell on)

With a total spend of around £1150 this would give me x5 routers and x4 Mesh antenna’s this was enough to really stretch out the network range as per Sarah and my requirements meaning that I could theoretically get WiFi into the back of the kennel block and further up the field than before and it worked to a point the network kinda reached to the back of the kennels and we could get up around a third of the way up the field before losing signal, so it was better than the previous Airport network, each of the routers had an extra Wired Network jack over the Airports as well so that was a nice feature (especially when I have a customer computer in to fix).

Here comes the BUT! and its a big but one that I wish I didn’t have to point out or even mention because the kit is really easy to use and setup, its app-driven so it fits my bill, the issues arise in the application itself and the meshing of two AmpLiFI kits which many larger home buyers will choose as its cheaper than buying a router and two Antenna’s or 1 Kit, a Router and two more Antenna’s. the problem is that the kit Antennas are hardcoded to the router that is included in the box and you cannot add two Kit’s to the same mesh.

This was them being reset for sale (they don’t stay like this)

Solution to this is to set up one of the kits that will be the main network with the three extra routers and then set up the final kit as an extension network, but to manage either of the kits you have to log out of one and then back into the other and vice versa so not an elegant solution and it drove me mad having to do that (Ubiquiti that is a design fault and frustrated me no end please fix this for everyone else).

So what do you have now?

Well if you thought that the previous Apple network using the Airports was overkill and over the top then you are gonna think I have finally lost my mind, but I got everything that I wanted and Sarah got everything that she wanted out of the network as well 🙂 . In addition, we also upgraded the CCTV system for the kennels and home to an IP system instead of the old power-hungry Coax kit that we had before.

So without further ramblings of this Sys Admin the kits I went for was as follows

  • x 1 Cloud Key Gen 1
  • x1 UniFi USG 3 (think of it as a router and firewall)
  • x1 16 Port UniFi 150W POE Switch
  • x1 UniFi 60W 8 port Switch
  • x1 UniFi POE powered Switch
  • x1 24 port Unifi 250W POE Switch
  • x1 UniFi XG-16 10Gb Switch
  • x5 UnFI InWall AC Access Points
  • x5 UniFi Long Rang Access Points
  • x10 UniFi G3 POE CCTV Camera’s

The USG was replaced for the USG Pro 4 due to its rack-mountable nature, as I also re-ran all the network cables that used to enter into the Living Room and into its own rack with the Mac Pro Server into Sarah’s Office 🙂 .

So in the next post, I will go through the thinking behind this setup, why I eventually ditched the cloud key Gen 1 and actually a few funny stories of me installing this and a few pictures of the help I had to bring in to get this installed.
I will also show the actual range of the new kit as well and I really want Sarah’s view on the network as well as she generally uses it more than I 🙂 .

Just as a little teaser here is the console view of the network topology 🙂 .

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