7 votes

[SOLVED] Looking to debug a wifi issue, or possibly for a new wifi router

EDIT: Crisis averted! The problem was with the modem and not the devices connecting to it. I'm not sure why the first person I called at the ISP couldn't help me. In reality, the second person I called also didn't help, but something magically started working after talking with them a second time and rebooting the modem about 5 more times, so it turns out I don't need a new WiFi router at this time. That said, I will take these suggestions to heart, as I may be buying one anyway as a backup for when this inevitably happens again.

TL;DR: I probably need a new wifi router and want one that isn't malware and will work even if the company I bought it from goes under or stops making it.

Long version:
So today my wifi stopped working. I use an Apple Airport Extreme (the tower one that has a Time Machine backup in it). I've had it for 5 or 10 years and it's worked fine during that time, other than replacing the hard drive it backs up to. My spouse and I were sitting on the couch after lunch surfing the web on our phones, when we suddenly couldn't reach anything. The router itself appears fine. We can connect to it and see other devices that are connected to it, but for some reason, it's no longer communicating with the cable modem via the WAN port. It still backs up the computers in our house, though. I have tested the cable that was connecting it to the cable modem, and it appears fine. I can connect my computer directly to the cable modem without issue using the same cable. So my guess is that the WAN port is hosed.

However, I'm suspicious that something else is going on for 2 reasons. #1, the cable company (Spectrum) made me replace my cable modem last week. I did that, got my Airport connected to it, and after a call to tech support got it up and running. It's been working for the past week. I suspect the modem may have updated or changed configuration without me knowing it and that's the real cause here. They sent me a Wifi router with the modem, but will charge me $5.00/month if I keep it. I'd rather own the hardware. #2, I have an older Airport Express that was working the last time I used it. I replaced it with the newer model about 5 years ago so I could do backups. It fails to work in the same way. It seems like the WAN port isn't communicating with the cable modem. So, if there's some way to verify that the WAN ports on my Airports are or aren't working, I'd be interested to hear about it.

I am able to connect a wired ethernet switch to the cable modem and all devices on the switch can see the Internet just fine. I tried connecting both Airports to the switch via their WAN ports while the switch was connected to the cable modem, but that did not work. (Or at least, I couldn't connect to the internet via either Airport.)

So, on the off-chance that both my Airports have a similar failure, I need to replace them. I have gotten suggestions from others, but have been pretty unhappy with them. I have the following requirements:

  • Absolutely must not store any information about me in the cloud (for example as Ubiquiti apparently does)
  • Absolutely must not rely on any sort of connection to the manufacturer to work properly and must not phone home without my permission
  • Preferably not a poorly made device that will die in 3 years
  • Must work properly and at full speed with Apple devices
  • Must not require a phone app to configure
  • Must have ~3 ethernet ports so I can hardwire in my TV devices (AppleTV, TiVo, etc.)

Things I don't need, but aren't a deal-breaker if it has it:

  • The ability to configure every little setting. I prefer to set it and forget it.
  • Mesh networking. My house is not huge, the cable modem is in the middle of the house and my single Airport base station has good coverage of the entire house.

If you know of any device like this, please share!

10 comments

  1. [4]
    vord
    (edited )
    Link
    Look on OpenWRT's supported devices page. Anything there you can flash with your own firmware, and thus be freed of any manufacturer reliance. I've had good luck with Linksys, bad with Netgear,...

    Look on OpenWRT's supported devices page. Anything there you can flash with your own firmware, and thus be freed of any manufacturer reliance. I've had good luck with Linksys, bad with Netgear, TP-Link (although that was super low end), and Buffalo. It might require a touch of fiddling out of the gate to get things going smoothly...tis the price of better security defaults.

    For the super-techy crowd, you can turn any computer with two ethernet ports into a very powerful router (real good for symettrical gig internet) and just connect dumb AP units via ethernet.

    OPNSense, an older pc, two 4-port gigabit ethernet cards (old server cards sell on ebay for < $20) and 1-2 access points or another wifi card will give you a far better experience than a $200 router. Is bulkier, and harder setup/manage though.

    5 votes
    1. [2]
      joplin
      Link Parent
      OK, maybe I'll look into Linksys, then. As mentioned I prefer to "set it and forget it," so all the setup of an OpenWRT device sounds like a hassle. But I may change my mind in the future, so I...

      OK, maybe I'll look into Linksys, then. As mentioned I prefer to "set it and forget it," so all the setup of an OpenWRT device sounds like a hassle. But I may change my mind in the future, so I will keep it in mind.

      1 vote
      1. helloworld
        Link Parent
        Openwrt is pretty much set and forget, its just that the set part is slightly more involved than other routers. But once set, you forget it, even set on auto-update and it will keep chugging along...

        Openwrt is pretty much set and forget, its just that the set part is slightly more involved than other routers. But once set, you forget it, even set on auto-update and it will keep chugging along for years.

        3 votes
    2. spit-evil-olive-tips
      Link Parent
      fwiw, I've had decent experiences with TP-Link as an "inexpensive but not cheap" option. I don't have any wifi routers from them, but the few Internet of Shit devices I have are TP-Link's "Kasa"...

      fwiw, I've had decent experiences with TP-Link as an "inexpensive but not cheap" option. I don't have any wifi routers from them, but the few Internet of Shit devices I have are TP-Link's "Kasa" series of smart lightbulbs, and they've worked better than I expected. All my unmanaged Ethernet switches are from them, too.

      1 vote
  2. [4]
    Weldawadyathink
    Link
    Ubiquiti devices actually do fit your requirements. You just have to host your own controller (or run it on your computer when you want to change anything). The link you posted is about Ubiquiti...

    Ubiquiti devices actually do fit your requirements. You just have to host your own controller (or run it on your computer when you want to change anything). The link you posted is about Ubiquiti accounts and controllers connected through their cloud. All you have to do is simply not create a Ubiquiti account.

    You can also use Ubiquiti’s edge router series for your router. Those don’t even have the cloud features that you are worried about.

    2 votes
    1. [3]
      joplin
      Link Parent
      Oh, OK, that's good to know. I know one of the router manufacturers recently forced users to start having an account on already-purchased hardware they already owned, so I'm always a little leery...

      Oh, OK, that's good to know. I know one of the router manufacturers recently forced users to start having an account on already-purchased hardware they already owned, so I'm always a little leery when a company offers it that they'll make it mandatory in the future. (I think it was NetGear who did this, but not positive.)

      1 vote
      1. [2]
        Weldawadyathink
        Link Parent
        Ubiquiti also allows you to upgrade, downgrade, and side grade firmware’s and versions. If they ever did something like that, you could simply not upgrade. In fact, auto updates are off by...

        Ubiquiti also allows you to upgrade, downgrade, and side grade firmware’s and versions. If they ever did something like that, you could simply not upgrade. In fact, auto updates are off by default, and I think it warns you that it does not recommend turning them on.

        Actually, I have a USG and UAP-AC-PRO that I am not going to use again. If you are interested, I would be willing to send them to you for just the shipping costs. I have since moved to eero, and I have no plans to switch back (I would recommend eero to you, but it goes against most of your requests).

        2 votes
        1. vord
          Link Parent
          OpenWRT's wiki suggests that might not be entirely true going forward. https://openwrt.org/toh/ubiquiti/unifi Custom firmwares are almost always the first to go, but downgrading (esp to avoid...

          Ubiquiti also allows you to upgrade, downgrade, and side grade firmware’s and versions

          OpenWRT's wiki suggests that might not be entirely true going forward. https://openwrt.org/toh/ubiquiti/unifi

          Custom firmwares are almost always the first to go, but downgrading (esp to avoid custom firmware downgrade/install path) tends to be next in line.

  3. streblo
    Link
    I would get an Archer C7. It's a good router that's pretty affordable and you can put openWRT on it if you want. I don't think that's necessary though. OpenWRT is fun and powerful if you are a...

    I would get an Archer C7. It's a good router that's pretty affordable and you can put openWRT on it if you want. I don't think that's necessary though. OpenWRT is fun and powerful if you are a linux power user or like to tinker but otherwise tp-link is a trusted brand and I don't think you're doing yourself a disservice by using their firmware.

    2 votes
  4. cancycou
    Link
    Gl.inet routers use OpenWRT. Could be an option.

    Gl.inet routers use OpenWRT. Could be an option.

    2 votes