UXG Pro exited Early Access

Well, guess I lost a bet on that one. At 21 months since announcement, that has been one incredibly long EA cycle. Still $499 — because why shouldn’t you pay a premium to get lower-spec hardware that runs less software?

Speaking of long EA cycles, I’m still very happy with my UISP Console / UISP-R Pro. Still plenty of functionality to wish for but as a basic router they’ve been rock solid.

UISP Routers

Ubiquiti first teased the UNMS Router Pro back in August of 2020, with the first Early Access sales in October. This is an exciting device, basically the UDM Pro hardware platform shrunk down to a desktop form-factor, minus the drive bay, priced at $299. I bought one and played with it for a minute but at that time it was hamstrung by UNMS/UISP just not providing enough control over routing functionality to be useful in any way.

Last month they released a revised version called the UISP Console. An internal 128GB SSD was added to support running UISP directly and the price dropped to $199.

I imagine the price drop is to incentivize more people to test a router that has been known to be in development for over a year and the price will go up at release. But right now, $199 for a 10Gb router is an incredible deal. And a year of development has brought UISP routing to the point where it’s serviceable.

At the core software level, the UISP routers run UbiOS and really are “the same” as the UDM line, minus everything that happens in the unifi-os container. It’s running the ubios-udapi-server and udapi-bridge and the /config/ubios-udapi-server/ubios-udapi-server.state looks just like what you’d see on a UDM. It’s the same on the (presumably discontinued) Router Pro and the UNMS/UISP Router Lite UISP Router (based on the same MediaTek platform of the ER-X and its many variants).

All of them are initially configured via Bluetooth on a smartphone running the UISP app. With the UISP Console, it will join to your existing UISP installation if you are currently signed in. Otherwise, it will go through the process of setting up the onboard UISP instance with cloud-based proxying via an *.r.uisp.com domain.

The “router functionality” is still pretty minimal. You can assign IPs to interfaces, add static routes, configure OSPF, and set Source and Destination NAT rules both pre- and post- routing. Aside from routing, it has Firewalling on par with what an EdgeRouter can do and a DHCP server.

And that’s it.

Still no DNS, PPPoE, DHCP Relay, VPN, Load Balancing / Failover, BGP, VRRP, and a host of other functionality that is common and expected to be found on a router. The latest theorizing is that these products are targeted to ISPs with low technical expertise, so I maybe wouldn’t hold my breath on some of those more advanced features ever arriving, but even with that narrowed scope there are many glaring omissions.

That said, I’ve deployed my UISP Console to proper Home Production use. I recently had fiber Internet installed at my home with an add-on static IP allocation, and the UISP routing platform is perfectly sufficient for dividing that up. Ironically, UniFi 6.5.51 just went GA and finally has the functionality to make multiple WAN IPs useful for most common scenarios, but I have some services I’d like to expose to the Internet directly without any NAT and that’s much simpler to do if I route those IPs directly to a non-UniFi router.

UniFi Disappointment Router?

The UniFi fanbois were aflutter when Ubiquiti released this video promoting an upcoming UniFi Dream Router:

It sounded like a substantial upgrade to the UniFi Dream Machine: WiFi 6, two ports of PoE, 128GB SSD, an SD slot for storage expansion, and the ability to run Protect and other Ubiquiti controllers that haven’t been available to UDM users due to the lack of storage.

Then it hit the Early Access store for $79. Huh?

Turns out it’s based on MediaTek’s MT7622 platform. Two slow ARM A53 cores vs four fast ARM A57 cores on the UDM. It’s not a Better UDM, it seems more like a move to bring the “UniFi Dream” vision to the entry-level consumer browsing the shelves at Best Buy.

At the software level, like the UDM Pro SE and UXG Pro that still remain trapped in Early Access, the UDR runs on Debian 9 and ditches the mutant Debian unifi-os container. Hopefully that brings a significant reduction in CPU utilization, because my own UDM Pro typically sits at 30-40% just running Talk and Network without IPS/IDS, and I’d expect that to translate to 75-100% on the UDR’s CPU.

Early reports are that the boot process takes upwards of four minutes, LAN to WAN routing is maxing out around 800Mb/s unidirectional and enabling IPS/IDS drops to around 500Mb/s. I don’t think the routing performance is a significant concern for people who’d buy this product at $79 (or $159) but hopefully there’s more optimization that can be achieved because line-rate ought to be table stakes in 2021.

Where I do think Ubiquiti has missed the mark is on the storage and promoting the UDR as running the full suite of UniFi controllers.

SD cards have a well-deserved bad reputation for reliability. These days there are many cards rated for continuous usage in NVRs but the Average Joe is going to buy the cheapest card on the shelves and there’s the longstanding problem of avoiding counterfeit cards.

They could have made the M.2 socket easily accessible for upgrades, though it’s understandable that they wouldn’t. For the target audience, external USB storage would be the best option and the MT7622 does provide a USB 3.0 host.

On the controller front, given the relatively low-performance CPU and 2GB RAM, promoting this device as running every UniFi controller just seems unwise. The Access and Connect markets shouldn’t be bothered by needing a $379 UDM Pro or $199 CloudKey Gen2 Plus, and while Talk on the UDR potentially has an interesting use case as a teleworker gateway, especially with the direction UID appears t be headed, at the moment Talk is a long way from being suitable for that purpose.

Longer-term, Ubiquiti needs to free these devices from the constraint of being locked to their on-board Network controller. The entry-level buyer whose needs eventually push them to a higher-level “UniFi Dream” router will be left with an attractive piece of e-waste because the onboard AP and switch can’t be adopted to their new UniFi Network controller.

Unpopular Opinion: Don’t use a Raspberry Pi for that!

A Raspberry Pi is great if you have a need for which it excels. GPIO, extremely low power requirements, tight space constraints. But the Pi should not be the first thing you reach for when “Unobtrusive and Inexpensive Linux Host” are the only requirements.

Years ago I migrated my Pi-hole from an actual RPi to a NUC-sized system based on the AMD GX-415GA that I paid $5 for bare bones, roughly $45 all-in with PSU, 4GB RAM, and SATA SSD. It’s not screaming fast but it’s still overkill for something like Pi-hole. More importantly, it boots faster than a Pi and the storage is WAY more reliable than micro-SD cards and those things are kind of a big deal when DNS being down effectively means the Internet is down. At about 7w in use the difference in power consumption is about a penny per day.

More recently I wanted to build a stack of Docker servers to run a couple Frigate instances and consolidate my sprawl of containers running within VMs. I bought this stack of HP Prodesk 600 G4 micro desktops for an average of $260/ea. Two came as i5-8500T / 16GB RAM, one i5-8600T / 8GB RAM, all with 256GB NVMe drives. That’s a lot of compute in a tiny package and I’ll be upgrading them all to 32GB / 1TB NVMe.

A complete Raspberry Pi 4 Model B 8GB kit is admittedly cheaper — typically $150 these days — but you can find complete i5-6500T systems in that ballpark with 8GB RAM and a hard drive or small SSD. Lower specs, or i3-6100T systems, can get down to $100. Again, for the money a 6th-gen Intel CPU is a ton more compute than a Pi, provides faster and more reliable storage, and you don’t have to put up with the quirks of Raspian or running an alternative distro that has zero community.

Granted, these are systems that will idle at 10-15w and can hit 55-60w at 100% load. There are situations where that may be unacceptable but that’s probably not the situation when you’re building a tiny Linux server at home.

Once you start down the rabbit holes of Pi-hole and Home Assistant, you’ll probably acquire a bunch of other things to run — I’m at 10 distinct Docker-ized stacks and have a few more things to migrate — and you’ll be happier having starting with one system that’s overkill for everything you’ll want to throw at it than accumulating a bunch of limited-purpose RPis that you’ll eventually want to consolidate on something more powerful anyways.

If you’d like to learn more about tiny PC options, check out ServeTheHome’s TinyMiniMicro series. I specifically looked for HP G4 systems from the MP9 / ProDesk 600 / EliteDesk 800 lines because they have dual M.2 M key sockets plus an A+E key, which provides maximum flexibility for NVMe storage and Coral TPUs.

Repeating Old Mistakes

Early last month, my 20-month old UNVR stopped working. I pulled the drives, tried the Reset button, and thanked the Deities that I live in an area where a UNVR is something that I can buy. In a store. On a Sunday.

At the time I’d seen hints that wearing out the internal storage was not uncommon. What I hadn’t learned, yet, was that the internal storage is a USB stick. My discovery of this was accidental — I was mucking around on my new UNVR and decided to run lsbusb -tv and there it was.

With a quick search of the Googles I found fresh knowledge that it is, in fact, a generic USB stick, and that replacing it is as simple as putting in a blank drive and holding the Reset button on boot. I guess they learned some lessons from the EdgeRouter Lite USB failure debacle. Just. Not the lesson that they should never put a USB stick in a device!

Old and Busted. Blast it with a heat gun or your girlfriend’s blow dryer for a moment to release the glue.
New Hotness, Samsung Fit 32GB.

I’m tempted to hack this “extra” UNVR into a NAS, though I have concerns about what could go wrong if the USB fails again. I’ve had great luck with Samsung Fit drives but maybe an M.2 SATA SSD in a USB adapter would be a better option.


This site has been running from my home Internet connection from Day 1 but my determination to get control over my Docker disasters finally overcame my inherent don’t fix shit that ain’t broke laziness. Now coming at you live from colo in 55 Marietta Street.

Now to work on finding some motivation to create some fresh content…

UniFi OS Hacking

With the UDM / UDM Pro I’ve been regularly expressing disappointment that Ubiquiti is transitioning to a custom Linux distro that doesn’t have a package manager and doesn’t really have any provisions for persisting anything useful across reboots — particularly configuration changes and mechanisms to launch your own scripts.

With the second-stage transition to “UniFi OS” they’ve been moving more things into containers and it has now spread from the UDM Pro to the UNVR-4, which was previously running straight Debian with no containers.

Yesterday it was pointed out to me that “UniFi OS” isn’t merely a re-branding of the “UbiOS” the UDM debuted with. The unfi-os container is a full Debian environment. A quick investigation on my UDM Pro showed that I could enter the unifi-os container, apt install software packages, and make changes which persist across reboots. It would appear that all changes within the container are persistent via an overlay for / which goes to persistent storage on the host.

This is not at all how Containers are supposed to be used, it is a gross violation of best practices… but it’s a foot in the door to using these devices in ways that Ubiquiti didn’t bless.

I’m super-disappointed that nobody seems to be exploring the unifi-os container in public. Google turns up nothing, there hasn’t been anything meaningful on /r/UniFi or ubntwiki.com. Probably all hidden on the Discord.

I don’t love UniFi Threat Management and neither should you

When Ubiquiti put out the first Beta releases of IDS / IPS, I was surprised by the overall excitement of the enthusiast community. People were snatching up $2,000+ USG-XG-8s just to be able to use this feature without slowing down their WAN. Cheaper line-rate IDS / IPS has been a major force behind the UDM / UDM Pro hype train.

I am far less enthused, about IDS / IPS specifically and UniFi Threat Management in general.

My core issue: It’s Free.

Free is not inherently bad. I use lots of things that are free. Ubiquiti is built on lots of things that are free — VyOS, Linux, OpenWRT, hostapd. But security is different. Security is a process, not a deliverable.

Look at how Ubiquiti is offering security. Did they produce an IDS / IPS product? No, it’s just Suricata. Are they employing an army of security professionals to discover new threats, analyze alerts from their customers, produce new signatures? No, they’re just passing along the free rulesets that any Suricata user has the ability to use. Is Ubiquiti adding any value to Suricata alerts, such as making them easier to interpret or correlate? Heck no.

There’s a saying that If you’re not the customer, you’re the product. Does that apply here? Also, no. Enabling UniFi’s IDS/IPS isn’t passing any value back to the Open Information Security Foundation, the Suricata project, or any of their sponsoring organizations.

My other issue: What Ubiquiti is providing isn’t particularly good.

IDS / IPS: Suricata is purely signature based, like an antivirus program from 30 years ago… only worse. Most signatures are simplistic, prone to false positives, and the alerts they generate do not provide much context to decide whether they warrant further investigation or can be ignored. I’m not positive about this, due to the minimal information provided, but I think many of the alerts I’ve received are for traffic that the firewall was going to drop anyways.

There are many things Ubiquiti could be doing to add value to Suricata alerts — pruning rulesets and providing more context would be a great start — but that would require substantial investment.

Zeek (Bro) is generally considered better than Suricata, in that it’s focussed on flagging anomalous traffic instead of depending on signatures, but turning that into a user-friendly solution also requires significant investment.

DNS Filtering: I’ve previously written about this. In short, they’ve delivered an extremely simplistic filtering solution that depends on redirecting DNS traffic to an undisclosed 3rd-party. The manner in which they’ve implement filtering is unsuitable for a broad range of common DNS scenarios and they’ve provided zero control beyond choosing from the 3rd-party’s three filtering options.

It’s not worth using. Use PiHole and / or OpenDNS at home. Subscribe to Cisco Umbrella for business filtering.

Network Scanners: The Endpoint Scanner is basically a point-in-time nmap. No history, no correlation with UniFi’s Client History data. The Internal Honeypot is also extremely simplistic — it seems to alert simply on connection attempts to particular ports.

GeoIP Filtering: Hey, it does exactly what’s expected! I wish it did more tho. In particular, I might like to drop traffic from some countries to particular ports (VPN-related) but not others (HTTP / HTTPS).

IP Reputation: Tor blocking and Restrict Access to Malicious IP Addresses do what they say, tho again, it’s unclear what the information source is and if 3rd-party disclosures are involved.

Missing Features: Competing Unified Threat Management solutions generally have features that Ubiquiti isn’t (yet) providing: A/V scanning, HTTP / HTTPS interception, email filtering, data loss (PII / PHI exfiltration) protection, integration with Network Access Protection / Network Access Control systems, and more.


At some level it’s great that Ubiquiti is making security tooling available to users with less technical expertise or budget. What’s not great is those are the demographics who will read the marketing and believe they’re getting much more than is actually being provided.