My ambitions to deploy UK Ultras to the exterior walls of the cabin were quickly dashed at realizing the cable runs would be challenging for the limited time available — cold weather prep was the priority — so I shoved one in the attic, replaced the nanoHD in the kitchen, and chucked that nanoHD into the “attic” space over the covered front deck.

Every other time I’ve been an early adopter of a new Ubiquiti AP, I’ve been burned by firmware bugs and had to set them aside for a while, so I definitely consider it a plus that the UK Ultra is just a repackaging of the UAP-AC-M. They’re working great! And my fixed WiFi devices that were struggling now aren’t.

On the Home Assistant front, I arrived at the cabin to find problems with both of my reflashed Switchbot plugs. One was running ESPHome’s BLE scanner and seemed to be stuck in a reboot loop, clicking the relay rapidly. There’s no way to open up the plug without ruining the case so it’s impractical to rescue with a direct serial reflash.

The other ran BLErry on Tasmota but somehow the startup rule got turned off. That took me a while to figure out so in the mean time I deployed a fresh T-Dongle-S3 with ESPHome and flipped the rest of my LYWSD03MMC sensors running PVVX firmware to BTHome broadcasts.

I’d rather stick with Tasmota — in my opinion, it’s much better for the casual tinkerer, and I appreciate that they say “If it ain’t broke, don’t upgrade the firmware,” compared to Home Assistant constantly nagging to update ESPHome devices — but BLErry overwhelms an ESP32 C3 CPU at a relatively small number of BLE devices. And it’s nice to just be able to set up the sensor and have Home Assistant find it automatically via the ESPHome proxy.

Today I discovered that Home Assistant added support for tracking iPhone BLE broadcasts through the Private BLE Device in release 2023.10. I’d previously experimented with ESPresense for this and thought it was great… but needing to double up on ESP-based BLE scanners stopped me from putting it to real use. Unfortunately, this native HA device type doesn’t provide an Entity for the area / room of the tracked device — instead it sets an Attribute to the MAC of the Bluetooth device that saw it — so it’s not as straightforward as ESPresense to use for more granular presence.

I also discovered that ESPresense pulls in BLE sensor data, if it broadcasts in ATC441 format, but it doesn’t populate the MQTT topics for Home Assistant discovery. Someone came up with a NodeRed flow to work the magic, so I’m giving that a try at home, but I don’t love the added dependency.

So now I’ve found two solutions that can address both of my BLE use cases… and each are kinda sucky at one of them.

Maybe I should be converting the sensors to Zigbee firmware. I’d previously used a few Zigbee sensors and was happy enough with them, but I went all-in on these BLE sensors for the display.

Well that was unexpected

Over my holiday break I freed up a US-8-60W in my office, that I’m going to use to replace a larger under-utilized switch in my garage, to bring back to my office to free up the other US-8-60W, which I’ll probably take up to the cabin, trying to avoid feeding more money into the Ubiquiti beast as much as I can… So imagine my surprise to be reaching for my wallet this morning to order a brand-new product, a unicorn of an AP called the Swiss Army Knife Ultra1:

It’s an IPX6-rated, connectorized, upright, low-profile AP. Pole mount, wall mount, and possibly “desktop” mount — the marketing photos on the store show a desktop holder but nothing has been announced — so extremely versatile in terms of usage and placement. Launched on the US store yesterday for $109 but when I looked again this morning it was reduced by $20, making it ten bucks cheaper than the ancient-and-not-IP-rated UAP-AC-M, hereto their only connectorized WiFi AP of the AC era.

The Reddit spec nerds immediately complained that it’s WiFi-5, which is a somewhat puzzling choice given that this exact product with WiFi-6 would be incredibly disruptive and could command a much higher price, but I’m gonna assume that Ubiquiti knows what they’re doing here. I’d bet that the UAP-AC line is nearing the end of being viable to manufacture — those chipsets are from 2012! — and they needed something that could slot right in for the UAP-AC-M.

Personally, I’d been hesitating to add outdoor APs to the cabin because they’re all so unsightly, and I hadn’t wanted to deal with overhead mounting in the soffits or deck ceilings, where they’d still be unsightly if less overtly visible. I was giving serious thought to buying used upmarket APs, maybe Aruba IAP or Instant On, to get some less obnoxious wall-mount options.

So this product arrived at exactly the right moment with exactly the right features and I’m in for two to start.

  1. Who comes up with these names, anyways, and what are the odds they won’t change it ala the UXG-PRO going through several names in rapid succession? ↩︎