Left the Discord, Permanently

I checked out of the Ubiquiti Discord for months around the time of my move, and when I came back everything had changed. More Channels. More Rules. More Mods holding everyone else to higher standards than themselves. And… the same old cliquish behind-the-scenes behaviors.

Basically a shitty sub-Reddit in chat form.

I tried to focus on the good and ignore the parts I didn’t like, but… ultimately I realized that I wasn’t getting anything out of my participation in the community beyond frustration.

So I said Adios.

USG-XG-8 is Dead

Ubiquiti has finally admitted that the USG-XG-8 is dead. The big problem with the USG-XG-8, aside from UBNT taking a solid year to product decent firmware, is that UniFi just doesn’t play in that league. It’s forgivable that the USG and USG Pro sacrifice features for simplicity because they’re cheap and UniFi is awesome. The USG-XG-8 is not cheap and that makes it harder to ignore all the things it couldn’t do. Especially when the EdgeRouter version can do those things at a much lower price.

Good riddance!

My Favorite Black Friday Deal

I always get myself the best “Christmas” presents. I know me so well. This year, it’s a couple of Arcade1up cabinets from Walmart for $249/ea.

img_0423

In my early 20s I got into collecting arcade cabinets for a minute. A 29″ Neo-Geo MVS 4-slot and mint 4-player Gauntlet were the highlights of my collection, but of course, what I really wanted was a Pac-Man cabinet. I was just never willing to pay the price for one that was in presentable condition.

Eventually I had to give up the collection. I’ve always wanted to get back into it, but… they’re just so big, and heavy, and difficult to move up and down stairs without several helpers.

Spotting the Pac-Man cabinet at Walmart literally made my Christmas. Even tho it was only Black Friday.

These Arcade1up cabinets are just 4′ tall and a mere 65lbs. Easy to shuffle around and I can man-handle them up and down the stairs all by myself. Assembly takes about 40 minutes with just a screwdriver. All the bags of parts are labelled so there’s no guesswork as to which type of screw gets used where and it comes with a bag of spares.

Obviously it’s not as solid as a 300lb cabinet made of 3/4-inch birch or MDF, but the construction is good enough for home use. I’ve no concerns that they’re going to fall apart.

I’ll be keeping the Pac-Man cabinet as-is for now, but I’ve already ordered the parts to convert the Street Fighter cab to a RetroPie MAME setup — basically it just needs an LCD controller board and a USB encoder for the controls.

And I suspect I might pick up another one or two…

Our Homestead

Before I start posting about all of my home networking projects, I should probably describe the home and property. This is it:

Satellite view of my property showing the main house, pool, and detached garage / apartment.

The lot is 1.5 acres, roughly 180×400 if it were perfectly rectangular, with the front of the house about 120′ from the road. The house itself is the standard 40×30 box on a crawl space, with another 25×30 of garage / utility room and bonus room above. An addition off the garage provides a larger living room with a high vaulted ceiling. There’s attic access in the main part of the house, knee wall access on either side of the bonus room, and from the back side I can reach the living room’s attic space. There’s also some attic above the bonus room but the a/c ducts leave no room to get in there.

There’s a detached garage that was converted to a 2-bedroom apartment and came with tenants who pay half my mortgage. It also has attic access.

There’s a pool house that is basically a glorified shed. There’s an open area in the middle with small rooms to either side. One had been a proper bathroom but at some point in the past vandals ripped out the copper pipes.

So that’s what I’m working with. I have plans to bring Ethernet and in-wall access points to several rooms, blast WiFi across as much of the outdoors as I can reasonably manage, use 60GHz PtMP gear as wireless backhaul links for all three structures, give my tenants their own access point in the apartment, and much more.

My next post will be about deploying the PtMP gear.

UniFi Protect moves away from self-installs

Much online rage has been spilled this weekend over UniFi Protect not being made available for self-installation. If you’ve not been paying attention, UniFi Protect is a new NVR platform from Ubiquiti. Presently Ubiquiti says that UniFi Video will continue to be developed and supported… but nobody expects this to continue for very long. Protect is the new hotness, and since Ubiquiti doesn’t charge for their software, it is unimaginable that they will continue putting resources towards two separate products that do the same thing.

Today, the only way to get Protect is on the UCK-G2-PLUS — which has just launched for $199 with an 8-core ARM SoC w/ 3GB RAM and an easily upgradeable 1TB 2.5″ hard drive. Support for the UAS-XG — an attractive but otherwise bog standard 1U server with a $1,999 MSRP — is coming soon.

People are miffed for a variety of reasons. The G2+ offers very limited storage options. The UAS-XG is a fair value compared to buying an equivalent server from an Enterprise vendor, but it’s incredibly expensive relative to DIY or other thrifty options. There’s presently no middle ground.

And with the UAS-XG being a standard Intel server running Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, there’s no technical reason that Protect can’t be offered for self-installs. Using Docker — as they’ve done with UNMS, and had alluded to providing for Protect during the Beta cycle — would greatly reduce the support challenges of providing self-installable software for Linux.


I’m not sure how I feel about this. I have 5 UVC-G3-Flex cameras that I have been planning to deploy on the G2+ w/ Protect, with the expectation that if I was happy with the platform over time I would replace 6 Ring Spotlights, 4 Amazon CloudCams, and probably add a couple more.

That’s all within the advertised capabilities of the G2+, but with its limitation of a single 2.5″ drive it won’t be able to meet my continuous recording retention targets. I happen to have a 2nd G2+ already so maybe this isn’t a total deal-breaker for me, if it turns out that I really love Protect, but right now I’m questioning if Ubiquiti’s camera platforms are worth the lock-in and premium pricing.

I already have an NVR server that is substantially more powerful than the UAS-XG, an unlimited camera license for Sighthound, and a bunch of Reolink cameras from my old house which are comparable in quality to the G3 Flex.

Automating the Home

Last Christmas the girlfriend asked for an Echo Dot. At the time I thought the regular Echo was ridiculously over-priced and the Dot just plain dumb — why can’t any of them act as a Bluetooth speakerphone?! — but I got her one anyways because who am I to judge spending money on silly gadgets.

At first she used it for reminders, timers, music, and audible books in the kitchen. Then she steadily expanded with another Dot in her bedroom, a Wink hub, some TP-Link outlets, and assorted smart bulbs to about a half-dozen lamps / fixtures in her home.

Now, for practically my whole adult life I’ve used a couple of cheap GE remote-controlled outlets for the lamps in my bedroom so that I’m not getting into bed in the dark or fumbling around for a lamp’s on / off switch. Every time I’ve looked into changing over to something more advanced I’ve felt it wasn’t worth the expense nor the hassle…

But the girlfriend’s setup has grown on me. HA products keep getting simpler and cheaper and Alexa’s capabilities keep expanding. The tipping point for me was Alexa Smart Home Device Groups and discovering the 8-pack of Sengled ZHA bulbs. The Sengled’s have had coupons for 15-30% off for the holidays, bringing them as low as $6.50/ea — making it cheaper to upgrade my fixtures with smart bulbs than smart switches, plus saving me the the hassle of messing with electrical wiring in a home that I’m not planning to live in much longer.

My hardware assemblage so far:

Originally I wanted SmartThings + Echo Plus figuring I wouldn’t be able to cover my house and detached garage / office / theater from one hub, but ST is doing the job just fine despite not being in the best position. I’ve deployed one of the Hue Color kits in the master bedroom and several Sengled bulbs in the office, with Echos for each plus another in the kitchen. Over my holiday stay-catation I’ll be deploying the rest — an Echo for each living space and bulbs in the most used fixtures / lamps.

I may still decide to wire in a few smart relays for my outdoor lights — getting them on a schedule is highly appealing, and they really demand local control that preserves automation. Best as I can tell, nobody makes outdoor-rated smart bulbs yet.

And maybe some motion sensors to activate the stairway and upstairs hallway lights.


Going through all of this, I find myself wishing that Ubiquiti hadn’t screwed the pooch on mFi. The vision was there… but they basically made every wrong decision possible when it came to execution. I hope they’ll take another crack at it some day while embracing open standards and connectivity.

Chromebooks May be Habit-forming

I’ve recently discovered Chromebooks:

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Ok, it’s not like I just heard about them, but it was over the past few weeks that I realized they can serve a useful purpose.

  1. I needed a cheap portal serial terminal. Beagle Term and a cheap USB -> RJ45 serial cable fit the bill perfectly.
  2. I wanted a device to leave at my girlfriend’s for casual use. Never cared to Android tablets, didn’t want to spend real money on an iPad or a Windows tablet with a decent CPU. The Chromebook works nicely for this.
  3. The girlfriend’s kids have started 3rd grade and need access to a computer for school assignments. Was going to give them one of these Chromebooks… but she’d prefer they use something not portable and eventually I snagged a good eBay deal on an LG Chromebase instead.
  4. My mother needs access to a computer. For both her and the kids, giving them a computing environment that’s real difficult to screw up is high on the priority list. ChromeOS is perfect for this.

My Chromebook of choice is the Asus C300SA — 3lbs, 13.3″ screen, 4GB RAM, and a legit 10+ hours of battery life. The best part is that Amazon regularly offers reboxed returns at a low price, I’ve picked up four for $100-$115/ea.

Weak points are the sub-1080p display, non-backlit keyboard, and of course, the N3060 dual-core CPU (~989 CPU Mark score). Not gonna sugar-coat it, this thing strains under the load of 10-20 browser tabs I routinely have open… but it does far better than those cheap Windows tablets on Z-series Atom quad-cores.

Apps are also a weakness. For the kids and mom, the browser is all they really need. For myself… I need more, and I’m not real impressed with the selection and quality of what’s available in the Chrome Store in the categories I care about. I don’t want to go the Crouton / Linux route either, as that disables many of the security features of ChromeOS. I think I’d be happiest using the Chromebooks as thin clients to Windows. Guacamole and the various Chrome RDP clients haven’t been appealing to me from a UX perspective, so I’ll be digging into Horizon next.

Regardless, for $100-ish the Pros far outweigh the Cons. They’re not good enough to be my only PC, but they are good enough to be the only PC that I take with me.

ER-X vs ER-X-SFP Performance

See Preliminary Observations of the ER-X for the story leading up to now. I retrieved the ER-X-SFP but after giving it some more thought I concluded that the SFP port shouldn’t provide better throughput because it has to be hanging off the switch.

But I decided to test away anyways. Here’s a baseline iperf run of my test setup:

iperf-laptop-no-router

About what I’d expect from the hardware I’m using: 908 Mb/s uni-directional, 1,465 Mb/s aggregate bi-directional.

Here is the ER-X, with eth0 WAN and switch0 / eth1LAN:

iperf-er-x

The bi-directional result of 765 Mb/s is one of its better runs, high 600s to low 700s was its general range.

Now, here’s the ER-X-SFP in the same config:

iperf-er-x-sfp-eth0-eth1.png

It takes a hit, tho it’s results were consistently in the high 700s — a tiny bit better than the ER-X.

Now let’s try it again using an RJ45 SFP in eth5 as WAN:

iperf-er-x-sfp

929Mb/s bi-directional! And consistent! So it performs better… and I’ve no idea why… but clearly the platform is limited to 1Gb/s aggregate throughput.

As a sanity check I ran the same test against an ERLite-3 and was able to get > 1,700 Mb/s using multiple threads. Using multiple threads against the ER-X did not affect the results.

Both ER-X and ER-X-SFP on v1.9.1.1, configured using the Basic Setup Wizard for single LAN, with set system offload hwnat enable and port forwards for 5001, 5201, and 5202 TCP & UDP (iperf / iperf3​).

Welcome

This is where I’ll be blogging about my experiences with Ubiquiti’s networking products. My collection of Ubiquiti hardware includes:

More to come…