Smart Home: Ubiquiti Unifi AP AC LR in Mesh mode

For those following along, I am trying to find a good wireless router solution to connect all the devices in my smart home, reliably. I find that many devices are advertised as supporting hundreds of devices, but, I can’t seem to connect more than about 15 devices reliably. If I add another device, it can see the SSID, but can not connect. Or it connects, can’t transmit data. Or it connects and one of the other devices falls off the network.

A part of the issue is the technology used in the Wifi routers. Another part is all my devices must be on the same network and all are 2.4 ghz. I simply have too high a concentration of devices in one area.

Then I need to administer the network from a device on the same network. It is a pain if the device I administer from is the 15th device as I can’t connect and can’t even turn a light on.

Thus, my journey. results so far –

 

  • HUAWEI Home Gateway HG659 – 14 devices and reliable at this number
  • SonicWall tz100 Wireless – Falls apart after 12. Unreliable.
  • SonicPoint NI standalone AP – Alexa Echo’s fail to function correctly
  • BR-6478AC V2 – EDIMAX – Not as fast or as many devices as the HUAWEI
  • Ubiquiti Unifi AP AC Pro – The most devices so far but still not all devices. It seems the more devices I attach, the more the range of this unit drops. The devices furthest from the AP noticeably start having issues.

Now, I would like to use the Ubiquiti Unifi AP AC Pro as the main access point and mesh this (uplink) to a Ubiquiti Unifi AP AC LR unit. I selected the LR unit as it is what I had on hand. I would have equally liked to try a second Ubiquiti Unifi AP AC Pro.

I am glad to say it is all working well. I now have great coverage.

This was the end result but the journey getting there, was a hard road to travel. If you are a novice, these things can get frustrating. Especially when there was a firmware update and it changed all the settings and hid a number of them.

Firstly, the marketing suggests a lot more connections are possible on these units. In fact, I read 200+

That was marketing….. real life with all these devices pumping through the air, the number is much less.

So lets walk through what I did, the mistakes I made and my experience.

I plugged the AP AC LR into the POE and it was wifi only (other cat 5 lead from the POE was not plugged into anything)

The unit appeared in controller software on my laptop.  I made my first mistake by doing an update for both units as the original AP AC Pro rebooted. It did not warn me. That means whilst it was rebooting, my laptop joined to my other wireless SSID (Private home network) and without thinking, I accidently provisioned on the different network
and the unit then came up as “managed by other”. I had to do a factory reset.

I should have provisioned and updated on an ethernet cable.
Then I noted that the AP AC LR only has one network input connection. The AP AC Pro has 2.

Now I have the AP AC Pro listed as “Updating” and after a factory reset I could not adopt the new AP AC LR unit.
(This is even though the Light on the AP AC LR was white saying it was ready for adoption).

I restarted the controller software. Now I can see the AP AC Pro “Provisioning” and the AP AC LR, pending adoption.
I selected adopt and upgrade.

I set the main unit (AP AC Pro) with a static IP. The AP AC LR I will be using MESH so i left the IP as  assigned by dhcp. The MESH will allow these two units to communicate over  5 ghz using uplink / downlink. This leaves their link off my 2.4 ghz network and also means I can locate the second unit where I have no direct cable link.

In the end, I want the same SSID on each Unifi unit, my aim is to add more devices and more coverage. I don’t want to reconfigure my devices (They all have their own Smart Phone Apps).

I opened the Controller software – settings – site – and selected “enable wireless uplink”.

I then went to the main device (AP AC Pro)- properties – config – radios
I have an option for auto or manual meshing. I selected manual.
I told the main unit to be a downlink (other AP’s connect to this one)

I then selected the other device (AP AC LR) – properties – config – radios
I went to the auto or manual meshing, selected manual.
I told it to uplink (connect to other AP)

This was complete and I told it to upload the configuration changes.
None of my devices would connect to the new Unifi unit. I figured that they were already associated with the other unit and it would be fastest to simply reboot the main unit.

I rebooted it and now the AP AC LR appears as isolated. It was not talking. I had to adopt it again.
Whilst this was happening. I looked for a way to make this unit have the same SSID. I could not find a way to make it have same SSID or set the SSID but in the description it says the correct SSID name. It looks like I create SSID at the “Network’ configuration level.

I sat and waited, suddenly all came up ok and some end points moved to new unit. Suddenly those devices with a poor experience and flagged on the Unifi interface as an issue, were all happy. The one with the lowest quality moved from 5% to 90%. This looks really good. I started adding more and devices. I got up to 19 and things are now balancing across the two units.

Whilst this is not a single AP solution, this seems to work and everything is now more reliable.

 

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Smart Home: Ubiquiti Unifi AP AC Pro

In my quest to get the perfect wifi unit running with my smart home, I have turned to the Ubiquiti Unifi AP AC Pro, in standalone mode, non meshed.

I must say I am impressed. It still tops out at about 20 devices, but, I think with mesh this could do the job.

It has a wide range of diagnostic tools and things you can tweak. The Mimo technology makes a huge difference.

As this device is a test device, it comes from another network. That means I needed to factory reset it.

The wifi unit needs to be controlled with an ethernet device called a cloud key (It runs a local instance of the UniFi Controller software) or install the Controller software to a computer.

My biggest issue, I could not adopt the unit. Adopt simply means “Claim” the unit for my network.  As the unit has been used on another network, it was not configured for my network and it was joined to someone else’s controller software.

I held the reset button for 10 seconds etc and the software could see the key. It gave it an IP and listed it’s mac address. All looked great but it would not adopt it and failed to provision. After many factory resets later and restarting the controller software many times, it worked. It provisioned. I gave it a static IP address, an SSID and password and let my devices connect.

That could have gone better. Half the devices would not connect. I have been cheating with my wifi router testing. I simply attach my test router to my Internet router and give it the same security, SSID and key as the previous test router and let the devices attach. As I have already used all the apps on my mobile to setup all my devices to a specific SSID then this method has been working up until now. I have been using the DHCP server in my internet router and allowing the Wireless unit to just be a wireless unit.

As the Unifi unit has extra smarts and controls, trying to share bandwidth amongst devices and all devices to connect with various speeds and signal strengths, it has been dropping some of my devices. They would not connect. I could find the Mac address of the disconnected device in the Unifi web interface and click reconnect and they then seem to be ok. I spotted in the Unifi log some devices had trouble getting an IP address.

I rebooted the Internet router and now .. it all seems ok ?

I think that this has so far been the most stable test router I have had.

Currently connected are

  • 2 x Amazon Echo Dots 3rd gen
  • 1 x Amazon Echo 4th gen
  • 1 x Amazon Show 8
  • 1 x Zigbee Phillips Hue (connected to the Amazon Echo 4th gen Zigbee hub)
  • 1 x power switch
  • 1 x light strip
  • 1 x door sensor
  • 7 x Wifi globes (various brands)
  • 1 x Amazon Firestick
  • 1 x iPhone
  • 1 x Laptop

The iPhone and Laptop are normally on my other wireless (The test one is just for IOT devices).

They are on the same network at the moment to configure the Unifi on the same network.

So, time to test. I still find I can only connect about 17 – 18 devices but now think I need to mesh with a second unit.

 

 

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Smart Home: Moving all my devices to a BR-6478AC V2 – EDIMAX

This journey I am on is getting really interesting. I am trying consumer and Business Wifi AP’s and trying to get stability in my Smart Home devices.

Time to try the Edimax.

The interface is the least detailed compared to the others I have used to date.

I again removed my SSID from the current Wifi and added it to the Edimax.

I let all the Smart Home devices come across.

I am using a Double NAT via my home Internet router. This Wifi shows it. Things are working but responses lag.

It seems I can get to about 15 devices before they start to mis behave. Not as good as the HUAWEI  but better than the Sonicwall products.

So so far

  • HUAWEI Home Gateway HG659 – 14 devices and reliable at this number
  • Sonicwall tz100 Wireless – Falls apart after 12. Unreliable.
  • Sonicpoint NI standalone AP – Alexa Echos fail to function correctly
  • BR-6478AC V2 – EDIMAX – Not as fast or as many devices as the HUAWEI

My future test wish list

  • A Ruckus unit
  • Ubiquiti UniFi AC Pro
  • Netgear Nighwawk

Smart Home: Moving all my devices to a SonicPoint NI – standalone mode (AP)

After my failure to get all devices working on the Sonicwall TZ100, I thought to move to a more impressive unit by Sonicwall called a Sonicpoint. Boasting support for 128 devices per wireless band.

This looks the ticket. I can configure this with my Sonicwall or as an unmanaged Standalone AP.

I did the same trick as previously. I turned off the SSID on the SonicWALL and moved it all across to the Sonicpoint.

Initially it all looked great. Then I noticed music playback via Alexa Echos was breaking up. It sounded awful. I then tried multiroom music. Nope. It was horrible. Then after Alexa said a few hundred times “Some thing went wrong” I decided to back off the number of connected devices.

Even with all my lights and smartswitches off, only the Exchos on it, it was awful. It also appears I could not get all my devices on at once. 14 devices is far less than 128. Hmmm

I tried turning Sonicpoint secirty features on and off. I left the units wattage/power at maximum.

I tried changing channels. No. It was not going to work.

So so far

  • HUAWEI Home Gateway HG659 – 14 devices and reliable at this number
  • Sonicwall tz100 Wireless – Falls apart after 12. Unreliable.
  • Sonicpoint NI standalone AP – Alexa Echos fail to function correctly

Smart Home: I moved all my smart devices to a Sonicwall tz100

After my love hate relationship with Wifi devices and the Huawei router, I moved to something more business like and more expensive. A smart router / firewall. The Sonicwall tz100 with Wireless N.

I simply turned off the SSID on my Huawei router and recreated it with the same WPA2-PSK password on the Sonicwall and let all my preconfigured smart devices move over.

They all appeared on the network but access to them was horribly delayed.

I originally put it down to all the firewall protections, gateway antivirus and more.

The problem I found was that 12 devices was about the max I could easily control. The others dropped on and off the network, Much worse than the Huawei router. It seems it too has a real world upper limit.

I was playing with this over a few days but, the router needed a reboot every few hours. It was unreliable.

Using just my home laptops (4 or 5) on the Sonicwall works fine. Adding my Qnap to it and Amazon firesticks was all fine. Now, it is dodgy.

I don’t think it can handle this so my search for a good Wifi router for smart home devices continues.

BTW, my Zigbee devices connected to the Echo 4 are working fine in all of this !

So so far

  • HUAWEI Home Gateway HG659 – 14 devices and reliable at this number
  • Sonicwall tz100 Wireless – Falls apart after 12. Unreliable.

Smart Home: Reolink Argus Pro not detecting for Alexa / Google

I have a Reolink Argus Pro to setup. It sets up and works flawlessly in the iPhone App. It detects and does everything it is meant to. When I try to connect it as a Smart Home device, it says “No Devices support for the smart home function”.

Reolink have a great list of things to try, but nothing worked for me.

https://support.reolink.com/hc/en-us/articles/900002155306-Fail-to-Enable-Smart-Home-Skill-for-Cameras-on-Reolink-App

I see in the forums, others having the same issue. If you can’t connect it in the Reolink App as a smart device, it does not add to your account as a smart device. Then Google/Alexa devices can’t add it and can’t see it.

I reached out to Reolink whom replied almost instantly. They need the account name and the UUID from the device and can push custom firmware to the unit the next time it tries to update. They will be making this available to me in the next day or so. This means, if you have this issue, go to support. You can’t fix it under your own power. You need Reolink.

I will post back when I have a solution (I hope!)