Author Topic: recommended router?  (Read 6289 times)

Daley

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #50 on: June 23, 2020, 06:26:41 PM »
Thank you.

One more question out of curiosity (I dont expect to do this as it will likely be very complex and expensive)...

Is it at all feasible to make my router a true network switch connecting to multiple nrtwork providers?

In my case, I have the option of optimum and frontier. Do I need to get separate static ip from both of them?

Ideally, Iíd like tcp/ip level packet switching across both networks (not just backup/failover etc). Of course backup/failover is automatic when you are load balancing at the tcp/ip packet level.

Do dd-wrt/tomato have features like this?

DD-WRT and OpenWRT have this feature, but all their instructions require you to drop down to console to set up and configure, and potentially install additional packages. If you're wanting something a bit more GUI-user-friendly and capable out of the box, ROOter (custom OpenWRT/LEDE hybrid build targeted at handling multiple WAN connections and USB devices, including USB GSM modems that gets updated about once a year) would be your best option. Config instructions here. The current Archer A7 and C7 should be identical hardware given the OpenWRT documentation, but for some reason both OpenWRT and DD-WRT have discrete builds for both, even though they appear to have the same file sizes (I'm too lazy to check to see if they're 100% identical, YMMV). ROOter only has a build for the C7v5, and mentions nothing about it working with the A7, but in theory, it should.

B&H Photo has the refurb A7 available currently for $28 through the 25th... just in case you're curious.

I use ROOter myself, because I like the general idea and setup of OpenWRT's flexibility over DD-WRT (especially adblocking) which gets really fiddly with this sort of stuff, but dislike the additional effort needed to enable printer support with the vanilla build of OpenWRT. Stuff mostly just works and is easy to set up in ROOter, like USB devices should be. However, I've yet to go a single update without encountering a whole new default UI theme applied to the web interface. Everything's still ordered identically in the menu hierarchy, but visually and muscle memory-y between updates can be jarring. It's fairly straight forward, but it's not a firmware build I'd suggest as a default consumer firmware replacement, just certain usage cases like this. So in theory, you can actually do this fairly easily with a $30 router and the right firmware build.

Hope that answers your question, @ctuser1
« Last Edit: June 23, 2020, 06:29:50 PM by Daley »

ctuser1

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #51 on: June 23, 2020, 06:44:27 PM »
Thank you.

One more question out of curiosity (I dont expect to do this as it will likely be very complex and expensive)...

Is it at all feasible to make my router a true network switch connecting to multiple nrtwork providers?

In my case, I have the option of optimum and frontier. Do I need to get separate static ip from both of them?

Ideally, Iíd like tcp/ip level packet switching across both networks (not just backup/failover etc). Of course backup/failover is automatic when you are load balancing at the tcp/ip packet level.

Do dd-wrt/tomato have features like this?

DD-WRT and OpenWRT have this feature, but all their instructions require you to drop down to console to set up and configure, and potentially install additional packages. If you're wanting something a bit more GUI-user-friendly and capable out of the box, ROOter (custom OpenWRT/LEDE hybrid build targeted at handling multiple WAN connections and USB devices, including USB GSM modems that gets updated about once a year) would be your best option. Config instructions here. The current Archer A7 and C7 should be identical hardware given the OpenWRT documentation, but for some reason both OpenWRT and DD-WRT have discrete builds for both, even though they appear to have the same file sizes (I'm too lazy to check to see if they're 100% identical, YMMV). ROOter only has a build for the C7v5, and mentions nothing about it working with the A7, but in theory, it should.

B&H Photo has the refurb A7 available currently for $28 through the 25th... just in case you're curious.

I use ROOter myself, because I like the general idea and setup of OpenWRT's flexibility over DD-WRT (especially adblocking) which gets really fiddly with this sort of stuff, but dislike the additional effort needed to enable printer support with the vanilla build of OpenWRT. Stuff mostly just works and is easy to set up in ROOter, like USB devices should be. However, I've yet to go a single update without encountering a whole new default UI theme applied to the web interface. Everything's still ordered identically in the menu hierarchy, but visually and muscle memory-y between updates can be jarring. It's fairly straight forward, but it's not a firmware build I'd suggest as a default consumer firmware replacement, just certain usage cases like this. So in theory, you can actually do this fairly easily with a $30 router and the right firmware build.

Hope that answers your question, @ctuser1

Yes. Thank you.

Once I finish with my carpentry projects, I need to get fiddling with this.

I used to enjoy building rigs for myself and tinkering with hardware, but lost some interest in the last 10-15 years. 2008 was when I last purchased components, assembled a machine, and tinkered with stuff. I'm hoping I won't be too rusty for it now.

Daley

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #52 on: June 23, 2020, 06:56:44 PM »
Yes. Thank you.

Once I finish with my carpentry projects, I need to get fiddling with this.

I used to enjoy building rigs for myself and tinkering with hardware, but lost some interest in the last 10-15 years. 2008 was when I last purchased components, assembled a machine, and tinkered with stuff. I'm hoping I won't be too rusty for it now.

If it helps, I used to do this nonsense for a living, and have decidedly started to sound too much like Roger Murtaugh when dealing with any technology these days. I may still be using my Windows Phone, I may have stopped using Ubuntu Linux and went back to Windows 10, I may have specifically bought an LG smart TV just so I can flip to XUMO streaming channels with the remote channel clicker and not deal with another streaming app and interface, I'll admit that my memory is fading faster than my eyesight, and I may have even accepted that I can no longer replace my own hot water heater... but I'm still running ROOter on a cheap router.

Needless to say, I just want stuff to work these days without much fiddling. If I can still do it without ripping out my hair, I'm sure you'll be able to get back on the horse yourself.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2020, 07:08:47 PM by Daley »

AccidentialMustache

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #53 on: June 24, 2020, 12:03:07 AM »
I'm surprised that for prosumer the Ubiquity AmpliFi gear didn't come up. The original AmpliFi is old enough you might be able to find it used/discounted. Reviews at the time tended to positive, simpler than the UniFi gear and not as flexible as UniFi, but good enough in general.

I'm still running the UniFi gear I got after the DIY atom board linux router didn't survive the move (refused to post after being powered off and transported gently to the new house). The Edgerouter was cheaper than a new atom board.

I've strongly considered going AmpliFi to have one less thing to mess with but have been too lazy to actually spend the $. Mostly I'm hoping the local fiber-to-the-home folks get to me and then I'll probably "have to" upgrade. Unless I'm flubbing my math, my edgerouter is only advertised as good for about a half-gigabit. Presumably less in the real world given their metric.

The dream machine though is interesting. Especially since it looks like I could still use the UAP with it. Not quite gigabit capable either (850 mbps it claims) but practically speaking that's probably "close enough."

dragoncar

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #54 on: June 24, 2020, 01:30:08 AM »
Ever since I posted here my router has stopped acting up.  IT KNOWS.  I mean I did a factory reset and it had one reset but nothing since then.  Thanks for the advice I'll definitely check the power supply and consider open firmware.  I've never done it before because... why fix what's not broken?  Probably need to blow out some dust from the case too.

Amplifi Alien looks dope but it's too expensive for my use.  I agree a $60 router is more my speed these days... I've still got a few hundred extra feet of old CAT6 with crimpers in the garage so worst case I can set up another AP across the house.

Interesting that people don't like the TP-LINK GUI... I've always thought Netgear was bottom of the barrel.  I've only owned about 3 wifi routers (g/n/ac) in my life so I really don't have much experience comparing the manufacturers. 

B&H currently has a refurb Archer A7 AC1750  for $28
« Last Edit: June 24, 2020, 01:39:35 AM by dragoncar »

jafr1284

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #55 on: June 24, 2020, 09:02:19 AM »
I have a TP link archer C7. Its great.

 If you want something really good, get these. It runs dd-wrt, open-wrt. Up to you if its worth the price.

Ubiquiti EdgeRouter X Advanced Gigabit Ethernet Routers ER-X 256MB Storage 5 Gigabit RJ45 ports

-Ubiquiti Networks UniFi AP AC Lite, Dual-Band 24V passive PoE, UAP-AC-LITE (24V passive PoE Indoor, 2.4GHz/5GHz, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 1x 10/100/1000)

Daley

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #56 on: June 24, 2020, 09:08:42 AM »
I'm surprised that for prosumer the Ubiquity AmpliFi gear didn't come up. The original AmpliFi is old enough you might be able to find it used/discounted. Reviews at the time tended to positive, simpler than the UniFi gear and not as flexible as UniFi, but good enough in general.

There's multiple cons to AmpliFi, despite the Ubiquiti "credentials". UBNT is milking the same overpriced prosumer network cash cow that everyone else is, cashing in on the blinky light, funky angle, clueless gamer who's impressed with big useless numbers and has more money than sense market.

One, you already mentioned, is that it's severely feature hobbled. Yes, most people don't need to mess with 90% of the features on most routers, but hide the advanced features away in the UI instead of disabling them entirely. When you're spending $400 on networking equipment, you shouldn't have to spend another $400 on replacement network equipment just to get basic features for the price like PoE, advanced routing and DMZ, and the potential for central device management which is a draw if you're seriously having to deploy more than one wireless device for coverage in your home.

Worse, the equipment is locked down firmware wise (despite the GPL violations - yes UBNT did it again *sigh*), which means that when they abandon updates (and updates are always abandoned on the planned obsolescence train ride of consumer goods where it's not so tolerated in business), there's no third party out to keep still perfectly good hardware secure. An exploit opens up, compromising your shiny but abandoned overpriced router? Either enjoy your new overpriced doorstop, or enjoy having your entire network security compromised... and given the price of this stuff, most people will want to run it well past the safe point just to "get their money's worth" out of it.

And the biggest death knell? You can get UBNT's actual business equipment, their SOHO pro equipment that has longer firmware service life, has all the features that AmpliFi doesn't (and more), and is open enough to load third party firmware on most of it at around the same price point or cheaper than some of their AmpliFi equipment.

So, there you go. That's the nutshell of why nobody else has brought AmpliFi up.

Daley

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #57 on: June 24, 2020, 09:27:13 AM »
Interesting that people don't like the TP-LINK GUI... I've always thought Netgear was bottom of the barrel.  I've only owned about 3 wifi routers (g/n/ac) in my life so I really don't have much experience comparing the manufacturers.

It's not about the GUI itself, dude. It's about TP-Link's security track record and consistently flaky network stability. All consumer firmware is honestly awful, and TP-Link gives Netgear a run for its money.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2020, 09:29:37 AM by Daley »

dragoncar

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #58 on: June 24, 2020, 02:16:14 PM »
Interesting that people don't like the TP-LINK GUI... I've always thought Netgear was bottom of the barrel.  I've only owned about 3 wifi routers (g/n/ac) in my life so I really don't have much experience comparing the manufacturers.

It's not about the GUI itself, dude. It's about TP-Link's security track record and consistently flaky network stability. All consumer firmware is honestly awful, and TP-Link gives Netgear a run for its money.

Oh ok I didnít know

So any chance my issues are due to the router being hacked and running a bitcoin miner or DDOS bot in the background?

Daley

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #59 on: June 24, 2020, 04:18:42 PM »
Interesting that people don't like the TP-LINK GUI... I've always thought Netgear was bottom of the barrel.  I've only owned about 3 wifi routers (g/n/ac) in my life so I really don't have much experience comparing the manufacturers.

It's not about the GUI itself, dude. It's about TP-Link's security track record and consistently flaky network stability. All consumer firmware is honestly awful, and TP-Link gives Netgear a run for its money.

Oh ok I didnít know

So any chance my issues are due to the router being hacked and running a bitcoin miner or DDOS bot in the background?

Theoretically not outside the realm of possibility, or worse:
https://www.tomsguide.com/news/netgear-security-firmware-patches
https://www.netgear.com/about/security/

This is why us knuckleheads harp on keeping the firmware current, and why I always talk such a big game on going third party firmware and disabling a lot of needless features.

AccidentialMustache

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #60 on: June 24, 2020, 08:49:14 PM »
One, you already mentioned, is that it's severely feature hobbled. Yes, most people don't need to mess with 90% of the features on most routers, but hide the advanced features away in the UI instead of disabling them entirely. When you're spending $400 on networking equipment, you shouldn't have to spend another $400 on replacement network equipment just to get basic features for the price like PoE, advanced routing and DMZ, and the potential for central device management which is a draw if you're seriously having to deploy more than one wireless device for coverage in your home.

Worse, the equipment is locked down firmware wise (despite the GPL violations - yes UBNT did it again *sigh*), which means that when they abandon updates (and updates are always abandoned on the planned obsolescence train ride of consumer goods where it's not so tolerated in business), there's no third party out to keep still perfectly good hardware secure. An exploit opens up, compromising your shiny but abandoned overpriced router? Either enjoy your new overpriced doorstop, or enjoy having your entire network security compromised... and given the price of this stuff, most people will want to run it well past the safe point just to "get their money's worth" out of it.

And the biggest death knell? You can get UBNT's actual business equipment, their SOHO pro equipment that has longer firmware service life, has all the features that AmpliFi doesn't (and more), and is open enough to load third party firmware on most of it at around the same price point or cheaper than some of their AmpliFi equipment.

So, there you go. That's the nutshell of why nobody else has brought AmpliFi up.

Feature hobbled isn't strictly a problem if you don't have a use case for said feature. My car doesn't have towing capacity or an 8' bed, but I don't (generally) need those things so it isn't a loss. My parents or in-laws aren't going to (ever) need PoE. None of them should be hosting anything that requires a DMZ.

The locked down firmware is kinda garbage. When I was last looking at it that didn't come up in reviews (not a big surprise really -- for one thing it was brand new back then before folks who'd load random firmware on it had their hands on it). That's disappointing from Ubiquiti, I'd expected better from them.

The price thing is really a rub. I'd certainly grab the dream machine before an alien, but I'm an ex-sysadmin so I can go in and configure linux on it at the command line, although wanting to mess with that after a day of work is another matter.

Daley

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #61 on: June 25, 2020, 08:55:51 AM »
One, you already mentioned, is that it's severely feature hobbled. Yes, most people don't need to mess with 90% of the features on most routers, but hide the advanced features away in the UI instead of disabling them entirely. When you're spending $400 on networking equipment, you shouldn't have to spend another $400 on replacement network equipment just to get basic features for the price like PoE, advanced routing and DMZ, and the potential for central device management which is a draw if you're seriously having to deploy more than one wireless device for coverage in your home.

Feature hobbled isn't strictly a problem if you don't have a use case for said feature. My car doesn't have towing capacity or an 8' bed, but I don't (generally) need those things so it isn't a loss. My parents or in-laws aren't going to (ever) need PoE. None of them should be hosting anything that requires a DMZ.

Note the bolded and highlighted qualifier in my statement on that point. Use cases change over time with technology, and it's surprising how low threshold these days some of those features are for the average user, even and especially for something like DMZ (whether they should be doing it or not doesn't matter to them). For example, simply adding a networked security camera might create a situation where you actually need to network isolate and DMZ the thing so you can access it remotely, or your kid wants to set up a Pi box as a private Minecraft server for them and their friends, or you just need to be able to prioritize routing for an ATA device or SIP phone to ensure call quality doesn't suck, or, or, or... Sorry AmpliFi owner, your several hundred dollar setup can never do that while your neighbor's $30 TP-Link can... and to rub salt in the wound? The price you paid for your fancy equipment was literally the same price as equipment from the same manufacturer that could, and that equipment's setup and maintenance isn't much more complicated.

When you can get a tow package for a $60k Mercedes sport coupe... even if most people don't actually need it, when you're spending $400 for a fargin' router and even the refurb $30 consumer models have most of those features? The potential had better be there.

The price thing is really a rub.

Exactly my point. I expect needlessly artificial feature limitations for real world useful settings on $30 routers, not $400 ones. That's Apple logic.

FINate

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #62 on: June 25, 2020, 10:57:13 AM »
I'm enjoying this thread, learning a lot. I have a Nighthawk laying around somewhere (R7000?), think I'll flash it with new firmware and put it into service at my parents' house.

DMZ has come up as a tangential example on this thread. IMO, there's almost never a case for DMZ. If you must, use port forwarding instead. If you don't know what ports need forwarding, well, you probably don't know enough about the risk you're taking.

I'll sheepishly out myself as having purchased an AmpliFi mesh system for my in-laws. They live in a ridiculously large house that a single AP cannot adequately cover. For reasons I won't go into here, running cables was not a viable option. They are entirely non-technical.

Between crappy consumer routers (which, after reading this thread, is probably crappy firmware), even crappier consumer WiFi "extenders," and their inability to diagnose even minor problems, I had my fill of dealing with it. This was before the Dream Machine came out, otherwise I would have just gone with it + 1-2 cheaper UniFi APs. But this wasn't an option at the time.

For my use case it was exactly what I was looking for. Most important, it's stable and reliable, no need to periodically restart, and the wireless uplinks are solid. Anecdotally, it's significantly more reliable than other consumer mesh systems friends are running. And in this case the minimal feature set is a feature not a bug.

All their WiFi issues have been resolved and I never have to deal with it.

ctuser1

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #63 on: June 25, 2020, 03:44:23 PM »
Huh, this is funny..

I ordered the reconditioned A7 yesterday from the link Daley posted above. It shipped remarkably fast and arrived at my home today morning.

And when I open it - it seems to be a new C8. ???

That's fine. I will take it.

Daley

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #64 on: June 25, 2020, 05:18:37 PM »
And when I open it - it seems to be a new C8. ???

That's fine. I will take it.

Huh. OpenWRT doesn't support the C8, but DD-WRT does. Well, if you're happy... hooray!

ctuser1

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #65 on: June 25, 2020, 06:35:54 PM »
And when I open it - it seems to be a new C8. ???

That's fine. I will take it.

Huh. OpenWRT doesn't support the C8, but DD-WRT does. Well, if you're happy... hooray!

:-( that is a pain. I was hoping to do rooter on it.

In case I don't want to do multi-WAN stuff, would you recommend any different firmware for the C8?

<edited to add>
It's going back tomorrow. Looks like open firmwares don't like the C8 due to lack of opensource support for broadcom.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2020, 06:47:33 PM by ctuser1 »

FiveSigmas

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #66 on: June 25, 2020, 08:48:35 PM »


DD-WRT and OpenWRT have this feature, but all their instructions require you to drop down to console to set up and configure, and potentially install additional packages. If you're wanting something a bit more GUI-user-friendly and capable out of the box, ROOter (custom OpenWRT/LEDE hybrid build targeted at handling multiple WAN connections and USB devices, including USB GSM modems that gets updated about once a year) would be your best option. Config instructions here. The current Archer A7 and C7 should be identical hardware given the OpenWRT documentation, but for some reason both OpenWRT and DD-WRT have discrete builds for both, even though they appear to have the same file sizes (I'm too lazy to check to see if they're 100% identical, YMMV). ROOter only has a build for the C7v5, and mentions nothing about it working with the A7, but in theory, it should.


FWIW, although OpenWRT has supported the C7 for ages, support for the A7 is a relatively recent addition (19.07 is the first stable version to support it).

Rumor has it that the very latest revision to the A7 may need more tinkering to install.

Daley

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #67 on: June 25, 2020, 08:55:43 PM »
FWIW, although OpenWRT has supported the C7 for ages, support for the A7 is a relatively recent addition (19.07 is the first stable version to support it).

Rumor has it that the very latest revision to the A7 may need more tinkering to install.

Why does this not surprise me. Well kids, YMMV as always. Should rarely ever is when Amazon gets their fingers in a manufacturer's device firmware.

Thanks for posting this.

AccidentialMustache

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #68 on: June 25, 2020, 09:05:48 PM »
I'm enjoying this thread, learning a lot. I have a Nighthawk laying around somewhere (R7000?), think I'll flash it with new firmware and put it into service at my parents' house.

DMZ has come up as a tangential example on this thread. IMO, there's almost never a case for DMZ. If you must, use port forwarding instead. If you don't know what ports need forwarding, well, you probably don't know enough about the risk you're taking.

I'll sheepishly out myself as having purchased an AmpliFi mesh system for my in-laws. They live in a ridiculously large house that a single AP cannot adequately cover. For reasons I won't go into here, running cables was not a viable option. They are entirely non-technical.

Between crappy consumer routers (which, after reading this thread, is probably crappy firmware), even crappier consumer WiFi "extenders," and their inability to diagnose even minor problems, I had my fill of dealing with it. This was before the Dream Machine came out, otherwise I would have just gone with it + 1-2 cheaper UniFi APs. But this wasn't an option at the time.

For my use case it was exactly what I was looking for. Most important, it's stable and reliable, no need to periodically restart, and the wireless uplinks are solid. Anecdotally, it's significantly more reliable than other consumer mesh systems friends are running. And in this case the minimal feature set is a feature not a bug.

All their WiFi issues have been resolved and I never have to deal with it.

The UniFi APs need ethernet runs, so if running wires isn't an option they aren't going to help. That's one of those business things -- you're assumed to be able to run cables in-building even if you have to pay someone (eg, the landlord's maintenance folks) exorbitant amounts of money to do it.

Honestly, for sufficiently non-technical folks, lack of features is a feature. AmpliFi might actually be a better solution for your parents. If it is working and there aren't known security issues you want to close, I certainly wouldn't mess with it. If you have to drive over two hours each way to visit your folks, federal mileage rate will be more than the cost of the AmpliFi was after a trip or two.

Daley

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #69 on: June 25, 2020, 09:19:55 PM »
The UniFi APs need ethernet runs, so if running wires isn't an option they aren't going to help. That's one of those business things -- you're assumed to be able to run cables in-building even if you have to pay someone (eg, the landlord's maintenance folks) exorbitant amounts of money to do it.

Actually, not true after the release of firmware v.3.9.1 from back in late 2017, and the only legacy device that isn't supported at all is the UAP-AC, and there are way more models that support multi-hop than only uplink. Only the Base AP needs to be hardwired. The worst wiring the downlink APs need is a PoE power brick, and that's assuming you bought the giant frisbee models, and nothing says you have to poke holes and feed the ethernet inside the walls to do it.

https://help.ui.com/hc/en-us/articles/115002262328-UniFi-Configuring-Wireless-Uplink

UniFi can mesh, and there's models that just plug into an outlet.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2020, 09:29:54 PM by Daley »

AccidentialMustache

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #70 on: June 25, 2020, 11:58:41 PM »
Huh. The dream machine just got way more interesting then -- at least, I'm assuming it qualifies as base station since it is built in?

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #71 on: June 26, 2020, 12:12:08 AM »
Huh. The dream machine just got way more interesting then -- at least, I'm assuming it qualifies as base station since it is built in?

Correct.

Daley

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #72 on: June 26, 2020, 06:25:44 AM »
Huh. The dream machine just got way more interesting then -- at least, I'm assuming it qualifies as base station since it is built in?

See? That's what I'm talking about! ;)

If you're in a position to actually need to drop half a grand on networking equipment, get the version from the manufacturer that actually lets you do more than just the artificially limited feature set done for "usability". I don't disagree that less can be more to keep from overwhelming the non-technical... but when you're dropping that kind of cash as an end user? You either are smart enough to know what you actually need and how to configure it, or you're probably already paying someone smarter than you to set it up anyway. Hide or separate out the advanced features, don't artificially disable them entirely and pretend you're doing the customer a favor.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2020, 06:35:18 AM by Daley »

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #73 on: June 30, 2020, 08:54:31 AM »
I'm a "tech" kind of guy, but when I explore DD-WRT and OpenWRT, I get a little lost. First, there's paradox of choice. I have No Idea why  I would choose one or the other. Then, say I want to do DD-WRT... do I need to do Kong, who apparently is an individual who stopped doing updates last summer? Do I use Voxel's custom firmware since it's newer? Is dd-wrt.com the best source? Can I trust "MyOpenRouter.com"? I have no idea! I'm not sure how I can figure that out, either. I also don't know if the odds of bricking your router are high or actually really low, or if it's easy to undo the damage or just fall back to the factory firmware if you hit problems you cannot solve. The instructions are often written for people that already have custom firmware rather than someone new to doing this sort of thing, and the downloads don't seem to match. They point to a .bin but say install the .img. Wait, what?

Personal scenario that's only relevant to me... I was having issues with congestion when I'd have StarCraft 2 LAN parties, and shelled out the big bucks ($130) for a Netgear R7800. I'm largely happy with it, but given that there's a lot of criticism about the firmware being unreliable, poorly written, being updated with improper QA, maybe sending all my network traffic to a sleeper cell, etc. I'd like to consider open source alternatives. For the most part, I don't touch a lot of settings... beef up the admin password, set up 2.4 and 5 Ghz networks, shut off guest wifi, and point a few ports to my web server, and maybe forward a port or two if games are behaving badly.

dragoncar

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #74 on: June 30, 2020, 11:00:04 AM »
They point to a .bin but say install the .img. Wait, what?


This kind of stuff makes me a bit skeptical of the open source concept.  Sure in theory you can view the source yourself and people can audit for security.  But is that really happening?  If nobody can even be assed to put the right file name in the instructions, are they really paying that much attention to every line of code?  I admit that I donít work on these projects so I donít know how they work from a security standpoint (who is allowed to change the repository and why).  Do people actually compile the code themselves?  If not then you have to also trust whoever is providing the binary

Iím not saying netgear will be safer.  But I find it less likely that you will have actually malicious firmware vs simply incompetent security

Paul der Krake

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #75 on: June 30, 2020, 02:31:38 PM »
Ain't no glory in keeping docs up to date. We can barely get devs to do it when they draw a paycheck, now imagine when it's just some guy who writes software for fun in his spare time.

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #76 on: June 30, 2020, 02:47:54 PM »
They point to a .bin but say install the .img. Wait, what?


This kind of stuff makes me a bit skeptical of the open source concept.  Sure in theory you can view the source yourself and people can audit for security.  But is that really happening?  If nobody can even be assed to put the right file name in the instructions, are they really paying that much attention to every line of code?

This is very much par for the course in software, even enterprise software.

You just get used to trying different things, develop heuristics around what hacks to try, and accept the risk.



katsiki

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #77 on: July 01, 2020, 07:16:57 AM »
Ain't no glory in keeping docs up to date. We can barely get devs to do it when they draw a paycheck, now imagine when it's just some guy who writes software for fun in his spare time.

Agreed!  Have not seen much documentation on custom-built or in-house software in my experience either.

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #78 on: July 01, 2020, 07:57:59 AM »
Indeed, to be sure I appreciate all that open source contributors do. The double edged sword of buying an expensive router is that you're more afraid to get under the hood.

I donated my old router to my dad so he can use the super low cost internet via wifi for his cell phone instead of using cellular data. Otherwise I think I'd experiment on that one. And since I have a web server, I don't want to accidentally mess up things and not have my server available for a while until I figure it out.


Daley

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #79 on: July 01, 2020, 11:01:04 AM »
Ain't no glory in keeping docs up to date. We can barely get devs to do it when they draw a paycheck, now imagine when it's just some guy who writes software for fun in his spare time.

Agreed!  Have not seen much documentation on custom-built or in-house software in my experience either.

This is very much par for the course in software, even enterprise software.

For that matter, even Microsoft's own documentation on Windows and Office 365 is rarely accurate, with settings and instructions subtly shifting and moving from release to release. The general gist is there, but the details you usually have to work out for yourself or a whole new method's been introduced. A great example is Microsoft Stream and their closed captioning editing instructions that involves downloading the auto-generated file to edit in notepad and re-uploading it, yet Stream's interface now has a caption/transcript editor built into the web interface right next to the video itself.



The thing to remember is that the initial firmware flash from factory to third party is either complicated or easy, depending on the manufacturer, and the initial flash instructions will tell you early on how complicated it is. Like initially switching over Asus firmware? Friggin' command line diagnostics mode voodoo to bypass the firmware signature check. TP-Link provided it's not Amazon firmware? Upload and install like a regular firmware update. If they recommend a specific build version for initial flash, do so before updating to the latest stable build.

The basics are pretty consistent, though. There'll typically be two versions of firmware for a router - the version built for initial flash from factory, and the official regular update build, and the naming convention between the two is usually pretty obvious.

What you want to do is hard reset the router to default before changing the firmware (usually using the 30-30-30 peacock method - hold reset button for 90 seconds, first 30 seconds with the router plugged in, second 30 unplugged, last 30 plugged in again), load the aftermarket or different third party firmware, hard reset again using the same method, flash to the current build if necessary after it's finished, do one last soft reset after it's rebooted and configure. Updates after that are no more difficult than the factory firmware updates. Upload and restart, settings should carry over as normal.

As for trusting build versions, what variant, etc. Up to you. Experiment until you find what you like. DD-WRT is fine. OpenWRT is fine. ROOter is fine. Gargoyle is fine. FreshTomato is fine.

And honestly, after dusting myself off a bit on this subject... FreshTomato might be the better, simpler, default for new users to go to provided their router supports it (Broadcom based routers only - that includes most of the Netgear Nighthawks). Stable releases are actively tagged, there's active development, and the UI looks clean and simple enough. And it looks like the Tomato community finally rallied together under a single build, about dang time. Hopefully they'll keep it going...
« Last Edit: July 01, 2020, 11:08:09 AM by Daley »

dragoncar

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #80 on: July 01, 2020, 01:51:55 PM »
What is the purpose of holding the reset button for 30 seconds while the router is unplugged? 

Paul der Krake

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #81 on: July 01, 2020, 02:55:41 PM »
What is the purpose of holding the reset button for 30 seconds while the router is unplugged?
It lets the firmware's soul out of the device so it can go to firmware heaven.

Daley

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #82 on: July 01, 2020, 02:58:01 PM »
What is the purpose of holding the reset button for 30 seconds while the router is unplugged?

Not 100% certain, to be honest, but an educated guess would be for capacitor drain for any residual power on the board to make sure and certain the NVRAM is cleared and reset to factory to prevent any squirrely data carrying over and causing problems during the initial flashing process. EDIT: it does nothing but power cycle.

Do it the first time to make sure there's nothing oddball and unexpected settings-wise in the NVRAM with the initial flashing to bork the new firmware on boot, and do it again after the initial new firmware flash to make sure the NVRAM's only populated with your new firmware's default values. Basically, it's considered part of the standard order of things switching between any major firmware build, be it factory to *WRT, *WRT to Tomato, or even *WRT to factory. Different firmware builds store configuration values in different addresses in the NVRAM, and you never know where a random 0 or 1 in an unexpected address might cause problems.

I didn't do a proper peacock reset the first time I flashed the old WRT54G a decade and a half ago, and I nearly bricked it. Wouldn't boot up and go stable, just hung with all the lights on. Fortunately, properly doing the peacock reset after the fact recovered it enough that I was able to get it to boot and reflashed without doing open-heart surgery on the mainboard. The 90 second solid reset switch hold and 30 seconds each state is basically designed overkill on the hard reset to ensure things go smoothly and minimize problems.

But I like Paul's answer better.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2020, 03:47:54 PM by Daley »

dragoncar

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #83 on: July 01, 2020, 03:17:23 PM »
I wonder if thatís specific to the WRT54G and just propagated as a protocol to other hardware.  Because itís extremely surprising to me that the reset button would actually be a pull down for RAM capacitor.

Daley

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #84 on: July 01, 2020, 03:42:33 PM »
I wonder if thatís specific to the WRT54G and just propagated as a protocol to other hardware.  Because itís extremely surprising to me that the reset button would actually be a pull down for RAM capacitor.

*shrugs* At this point, it's just habit for me, and it's even reset troublesome routers that a regular reset wouldn't. This said, I decided to look it up. After all, the 30-30-30 peacock reset is something that was drummed nearly two decades ago into my head without much explanation, and at worst, it does nothing but waste 90 seconds.

But, you're right, kinda. It's apparently Broadcom hardware specific (which, honestly, is a majority of routers that support third party firmware). Found a detailed peacock write-up over at the DD-WRT forums, something that I may have read a decade ago and since forgotten. A wiser man than me posted this:
Quote from: LOM
A long reset is an emergency reset which makes the Broadcom CFE wipe out the nvram settings and initialise nvram with a few important router defaults.
You will lose any factory defaults that the routers stock firmware has stored in nvram.

The 1st 30 second of pushing the resetbutton when ddwrt runs is just not needed, a short push will do the same which is reboot the router. You can achieve the same by pushing the gui reboot button.

The 2nd 30, ie turn off router and wait 30 seconds before turning it on is just bogus, has no effect other than a placebo effect.
30-1-30 would do the same.

The 3rd 30 is what does something but should only be used when nothing else helps. It does not work in the u-boot boot loader (atheros, ralink, marvell) only in Broadcom.

The gui function for Factory defaults will wipe out any ddwrt setting but will keep defaults from CFE and from stock firmware.
Reset to factory defaults keeps variables which are needed for router type detection so it is the only nvram reset you should ever use before an upgrade.
You may need to do a reset to factory defaults if an nvram variables function changes between firmware version something which is extremely rare.


Finally, don't listen to users telling you to do "erase nvram" on a telnet cmd line.
This wipes out the complete nvram area (nvram variables and the nvram header) together with anything else residing in the mtd partition named nvram.

Even if 2/3rds of the 30-30-30 is mostly pointless techno-hoodoo, that 30-30-30 stuck in my head as memorable for a decade and a half without context, and not properly clearing the NVRAM on Broadcom chipsets when flashing new firmware can lead to a really bad time. I got lucky that one time, most people don't.

Sometimes the mnemonic is more useful than the specifics.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2020, 03:56:45 PM by Daley »

Papa bear

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #85 on: November 22, 2020, 08:19:34 AM »
Figured it was easier to revive this thread rather than start new. 

I need some opinions:  I have an asus rt-ac68u router that I bought 4+ years ago.  Iíve never had any problems until recently.  I have some dead spots in my house that are causing problems with wfh with zoom/msteams calls.  My wife is having her calls dropped in different parts of the house including where I have built in work stations!  (Basement, sunroom)

This isnít a big place, less than 2000sf 2 story house with basement and the router is centrally located. I have cat 5e and cat6 cable run to various places in the house (when I open up walls for wiring, may as well run low voltage, right?) but Iíve got nothing hardwired.  Iíve been looking up info on access points and might go that route.   But, which ones?  Because reading through this thread and learning about the ubiquity products, they look pretty slick. But whoa $$$.

In my situation, should I just add asus routers as access points? Shell out $$ for their specific access point products? Switch over to a dream machine and their in wall access points? 

Is my router still good to work for a bunch more years if I do jump on the asus products? Or is it good money after bad adding on to this?

I have streaming TVís, Amazon devices for music, WiFi t/stat, ring security cameras and doorbell, video and audio conference call needs for wfh, and then basic phone / laptop needs, and a printer all run wifi.


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Daley

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #86 on: November 22, 2020, 09:53:29 AM »
I need some opinions:  I have an asus rt-ac68u router that I bought 4+ years ago.  Iíve never had any problems until recently.  I have some dead spots in my house that are causing problems with wfh with zoom/msteams calls.  My wife is having her calls dropped in different parts of the house including where I have built in work stations!  (Basement, sunroom)

First, if connectivity is that important, you need to finish wiring up the network cables. WiFi will never be that reliable, especially these days, especially in denser urban areas, especially as the spectrum gets further crowded and more and more ill-behaved routers from ISPs that take up massive chunks of spectrum to "support" broadband speeds, and the proliferation of additional access points on other channels and the multitude of wireless security devices and the IoT where none needs to be blasting out at far stronger broadcast wattage than actually is needed because people are brute-forcing their wireless connectivity issues, compounding the issue further for everyone... especially now that everyone who can is home now and telecommuting. My wife having to teach via Zoom finally lit a fire under my own butt to finally rip out the old telephone wiring in the house and finally run some good, annealed, UL certified, 24/4 CAT5e through the house and set up a little network closet after switching over to fiber internet. If the network connection is important, use wired.

Also, when you're ready to terminate those runs of cable at the wall jacks, pick a standard for your house (T568-A or T568-B) and stick to it at both ends so you don't accidentally make any crossover cables. Most of the US is wired T568-B, but T568-A is used by the rest of the world and is more consistent with the historical color codes per paired line of the old days of analog voice. I could talk for a while about the advantages and disadvantages of either spec and the history of telecomms wiring, but I'm already getting sidetracked. (Ignore this if I misunderstood and you're further along than I understood.)

What I'm saying, though, is... FINISH THE JOB. Make your wife understand that if the connection is important, she needs a wire dangling from her laptop to a wall.

In my situation, should I just add asus routers as access points? Shell out $$ for their specific access point products? Switch over to a dream machine and their in wall access points? 

Is my router still good to work for a bunch more years if I do jump on the asus products? Or is it good money after bad adding on to this?

One of two things is likely happening with the change in coverage footprint: there's new interference causing issues, which can possibly be fixed by changing channels on the router to less congested frequencies; or the router is potentially having hardware and/or firmware issues caused either by a buggy firmware update, a dying power supply causing undervoltage (not outside the realm of possibility given the age of the machine), old/failing capacitors (which is unlikely given they're solid polymer caps), or physical damage from a power surge or impact (and if you keep your router on a UPS or at least a decent surge strip with a low clamping voltage, or don't actively play hockey in the same room as the device, this is unlikely).

Before going any further, I fell like I should tell you that your existing router should in theory be amazing even now, and plenty for what you need, even now. It supports third party firmware like FreshTomato (how to install), and uses RP-SMA connectors for the antennas, which means you could theoretically replace, upgrade, and direct signal with said antennas to improve coverage... not that I think you need to in this instance.

To check for interference and coverage issues, you'll need a WiFi analyzer and possibly a heatmapper. If you're on Windows, a good free WiFi analyzer is actually WiFi Analyzer by Matt Hafner from the Microsoft Store. WiFi Analyzer will even recommend best alternative channels for existing connected to WiFi network based on competing signals and noise as you walk around the house with it. Ekahau Heatmapper is still the best tool for the job and only free option, but Ekahau is no longer offering it for download, you'll have to deal with some (potentially) sketchy software website to download it, like Softonic, scan it for anything unsavory using Virustotal before install, and grab a floorplan layout image from your county tax assessor to work with heatmapping. Sometimes, just changing which channel you're using will fix some dead-space. Sometimes, it can be fluorescent lights, twinkle (christmas) lights, Bluetooth devices, microwaves, refrigerators, cordless phones, satellite dishes, or other WiFi devices causing interference, too.

If the router is acting twitchy or unstable, troubleshoot. Make sure the firmware is current and up to date. If it is current and up to date, check to see if others are having problems with it. If there's a lot of dropped connections, it's possible the power supply could be getting dodgy. Replacing the power supply is a lot cheaper than replacing the network equipment. The factory ASUSWRT should be okay for the most part, but if you're concerned it's buggy or handicapping your device, you can always step up to enchantment with FreshTomato and give it a shot to see if it improves anything, and if it doesn't? You can always go back to the factory firmware.

If you're really desperate and need a wired connection without finishing the network wiring, TP-LINK has some affordable ethernet over powerline equipment that sometimes works beyond the same electrical circuit in the house. Don't get the WiFi enabled versions. Be minimalistic with WiFi devices. Hard line whenever possible and wherever possible, and disconnect the stupid/unnecessary IoT devices if you have any. Your refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, etc. doesn't need to talk to the world, and it's a network security vulnerability for the rest of your stuff. It's just adding more noise to the signal, impacting access for the stuff you actually need and value.

Odds are, you can fix this without replacing anything, maybe a power brick at the worst for around $25... just by making sure you're using the optimal wireless channels, your router is actually working as intended, and finishing wiring your house and using said network cables. You probably don't actually need more APs. If it worked reliably before, it can still work reliably now. Do what's necessary to make that happen.

UBNT equipment is nice, but you already have nice equipment... so learn to use and optimize what you have already.

EDIT: Alternatively, it could be your wife's devices that are failing. If other wireless equipment doesn't have dropped connectivity issues in the same locations? Yeah, nevermind the rest yet, check this first. Though, the wired connection point still stands.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2020, 10:05:07 AM by Daley »

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #87 on: November 22, 2020, 02:26:58 PM »
One thing to check w.r.t. your WiFi environment: 2G frequencies are less attenuated by walls/obstructions. This is a double-edge sword as it means you get better range with 2G, but also that your neighbor's 2G is more likely to invade your house. And the 2G spectrum is extremely overloaded and has a problem with overlap from neighboring channels that causes interference. Basically, everyone should use channels 1, 6, or 11, since all the other channels overlap. But some don't, perhaps as a misguided effort to find a less busy channel. It's actually better for two competing networks to share a channel instead of having one on 5 and the other on 6 since the wifi protocol has ways to negotiate the shared channel which doesn't work in the case of interference. It's very possible that someone is using one of the "bad" channels mucking it up for everyone else, and devices far enough from your router switched from 5G (way more channels without overlap) to 2G in an attempt to stay connected, which worked in the past until someone started trashing the spectrum.

I completely agree with finishing the wiring. You've already done the hardest most expensive part. Get it done then add a small unmanaged switch or two where you need reliable internet. And then, if you do decide to add more wireless access points, you should absolutely use wired backhauls instead of a wireless mesh that's usually slower and less robust.

If you're really desperate and need a wired connection without finishing the network wiring, TP-LINK has some affordable ethernet over powerline equipment that sometimes works beyond the same electrical circuit in the house. Don't get the WiFi enabled versions. Be minimalistic with WiFi devices. Hard line whenever possible and wherever possible, and disconnect the stupid/unnecessary IoT devices if you have any. Your refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, etc. doesn't need to talk to the world, and it's a network security vulnerability for the rest of your stuff. It's just adding more noise to the signal, impacting access for the stuff you actually need and value.

A word of caution about the bolded: Many WiFi enabled IoT devices will stupidly broadcast a setup SSID if the wireless is not configured. Not a high value target for international hackers, but the punk teen next door (I was that punk teen at one point) may think it's a fun "prank" to mess with your refrigerator (or whatever) without considering the implications of an entire fridge of food spoiling. If there's no way to entirely disable the WiFi then I would set it up to use the guest network where it's isolated from the rest of your network.

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #88 on: November 22, 2020, 03:23:37 PM »
Awesome, thank you for your help.  Iíll get on messing with the router channels, settings, etc. I just updated the firmware, so hopefully that helps too. 

As for the wires, yeah I know.  Iíll get to it.  Sometime. Ha


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Daley

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Re: recommended router?
« Reply #89 on: December 16, 2020, 09:17:53 AM »
Since it's been linked to this morning, I thought I'd give an update on my own end.

In the past month, I've since picked up a used Netgear R6400v1 with a couple broken antennas for dirt cheap. Although I'm still waiting on replacement antennas to arrive after the plastic welding failed to be strong enough to fix it before I push the thing into service, I did flash it over to FreshTomato relatively easily. Build quality is excellent (outside of the flimsy clips on the "non-user replaceable" antennas), and used prices for this era of router ($25-40) with the specs provided (802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2x800MHz ARM processor, 128kB NVRAM, 128MB Flash ROM, 256MB RAM, 1xUSB2 port, 1xUSB3 port, 12VDC 2.5A power) are nothing to sneeze at. If you buy it used online, though, make sure its shipping in its original box, or you'll likely have to deal with broken antennas yourself if they aren't already broken. My experience thus far has kinda sold me on FreshTomato as a more consistently friendly UI than the OpenWRT variety of builds or KONG, and literally has everything you could ever want baked into the AIO builds that you could ever want and need, and brought me around to used supported Netgear Nighthawks given many of the dual core 128kB NVRAM/128MB ROM/256MB RAM models are selling under $50 now and have pretty decent build quality. I was shocked I could even take screws out of the factory power brick on the R6400 and kind of inspect the physical state of the capacitors, and it's trivially easy to crack the R6400 open if you want to do any... *ahem* antenna repairs, though honestly, the factory 5dBi array should be plenty for anyone and still quite considerate towards your neighbors.

The most important hurdle is knowing right out of the gate after the post install NVRAM reset is to immediately go into the advanced wireless settings and properly change the country/region settings from the default Singapore settings to keep your nose clean with your local wireless communications authority, and then go into the basic network settings and switch the WiFi channel width on both the 2.4 and 5.8GHz bands back to 20MHz so as not to be a spectrum-hogging jerk with your neighbors. The rest should be downhill.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2020, 09:20:12 AM by Daley »