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Pfsense Hardware Lifespan and Advice


#1

Hi,

I currently live in a 1200 sq. ft. apartment, and our wifi sucks. I’m using a couple of older Apple Airport Extremes (the flat ones, not the modern tall ones). One is connected directly to the modem, and the other is connected via powerline, which comes out the back of the first Airport Extreme.

For such a small apartment, it’s crazy how bad the coverage is. I was amazed we even needed to try and boost the signal in the bedroom, but it still isn’t great. I guess some of it will be to do with interference from other apartments underneath and around us, but I have tried my best with the knowledge and equipment I had soon after we first moved in to get it setup as best as I could.

After building a new PC a couple of months back (and unfortunately selling the previous one, so no spare hardware besides maybe a hard drive if it still works), I’ve come to the conclusion that investing in networking would be better than buying cheap and sealed boxes that usually suck when compared to something custom for the same price, or a little more. I’d also be planning on buying a single Ubiquiti Unifi AP AC Pro, and trying to mount it somewhere on the ceiling with double sided sticky tape (note: the apartment is a RENTAL, so no feeding cables through walls or drills or screws etc…)

Now, my main question is this: how often would the average home user, who wants a little more out of their router, need to upgrade said router? If I were to build something custom, is it something that would need additional RAM a couple of years down the line? Would I ever need to upgrade the CPU?

I ask, only because there are some NUC style boxes on Amazon which people have had a lot of success with. Ideally, I would want to custom build something just because I like a project, or at least have it so that all or most parts can be retired/upgraded individually at a later date. Another prebuilt has caught my eye on ebay - it’s a 1U rack with a Xeon E3-1260L (v1, i believe), 4 ethernet ports plus IPMI, and it has space for an additional PCIe card if I ever decide to add more ports, or even a 10gb NIC (my desktop actually uses the ASRock board which has 10gb built in, although it’s unused at the time of writing this).

I’m sure this is overkill, but I’m looking for something low power (the 1U’s CPU is only 45W, as opposed to a Craigslist PC which could be more) and I already have a rack for my audio gear, so I could easily house it.

If I could build a rack from scratch and use a really low power Intel Celeron J or N series, I think that’d be great, but I can’t actually find any of these. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong place? I could then put it in an ITX or other board that would also have at least 3-4 ethernet ports built in, and then also have the option of adding more later.

Anyway, I feel like i’m rambling now trying to get all of this out. Hopefully it’s readable, if you need anything more just ask me!

Thanks!

Edit: I should also note that our current speeds are about 150 down, 20 up. This unlikely to change when we move to a new apartment at the end of our lease, unless we decide to pay more for a better speed


#2

Your WiFi problems won’t go away because you replaced hardware.
WiFi problems, especially in apartments where the spectrum is probably crowded by neighbors, are usually solved by doing a site survey, identifying which WiFi channels are being used, and switching to a channel that is not being used.

Have you already done a site survey?


#3

Sort of. I’m aware the problems won’t disappear just by buying new hardware, but better hardware will improve our range and also get us on wireless AC (currently our router is limited to N, i think).

What do you recommend as the best tool/app to use for a site survey? We don’t have anything Android in the house unfortunately. We use iOS, Macbooks and a Windows Desktop (ethernet). Not ideal, i imagine?


#4

https://www.kali.org/
+
https://www.aircrack-ng.org/doku.php?id=airodump-ng

Boots live and has the aircrack suite already installed. Should work on your macbook. Being able to walk around is a must.

Of course there might be an OSX friendly alternative, but this is my preferred method, and im not very versed in utilities available on OSX.

Alternatively you could try to make due with what you have by running ddwrt on your current setup and boosting tx.

EDIT: check this out instead of the kali option, its basically the same exact thing I was telling you to do.

https://dave.cheney.net/2011/08/08/os-x-has-a-built-in-wifi-scanner


#5

So, would no one recommend building a pfsense router and investing in some better technology? I know that throwing more money at this isn’t the way to fix it, and that i have to (and will) run a site survey in order to configure everything to the best of my abilities, but is it being suggested that I don’t perform any hardware upgrades?


#6

Heres the thing though. You could throw a bunch of money on nice transmitters and antennae, build a beast of a box, and it would perform just as shit. You could also maybe analyze why your current performance is shit and find that just tweaking locations of your APs and swapping channels is the answer.

It sounds to me like you just want an excuse to upgrade to an overkill setup and by all means dont let us talk you out of doing it because god knows were all guilty of reasoning ourselves into buying shit we dont need because of reasons we made up in our own heads. I just bought a 32" 1440p 144hz monitor because ive been playing more shooters lately, totally not because I just wanted an excuse to buy something big and fancy. My motorcycle is also practical because it gets good gas around town, even though im WOT everywhere I go and basically get the same mileage as my civic.

Dont let dreams be dreams.


#7

Wireless routers that have ‘N’ NICs in them IIRC are 2.4 GHz only.

2.4GHz bands have only 3 channels that are not overlapping; 1,6 &, 11. If there is literally anything else on other bands it will cause interference.

2.4 GHz are get interference from microwave ovens; large metal objects, concrete, and other large heavy obstructions.

Do a site survey, try moving some shit around, and if push comes to shove, install metal wire mesh on the walls were your neighbors routers are fucking with your signal. It will look like shit but the connection will improve.


#8

They can be both 2.4 and 5.


#9

Huh, tbh never found a N router that wasn’t 2.4 only. And I’ve seen a lot. I guess that it was only in the higher end stuff at the time.


#10

AFAIK N300 is 2.4 anything above that is 5.


#11

Is the metal wire mesh to prevent outside signals from coming in or to allow your wifi signal something to bounce off of? Or both?


#12

It’s like insulation. Being a mesh it will scramble the signal of those trying to cross it; both ways.


#13

you could try surveying with the free version of this: https://www.netspotapp.com/

… 3m command should work for the unit, but cabling would be ugly, just put it on a shelf or on a picture hook if you’re really trying to raise it above the furniture.

maybe you want to look into Mikrotik wAP ac, it’s less money, different form factor, but very similar silicon.

maybe something like this: https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157728 coupled with a 4 port nic: https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA6CC53D6197

tell that to my 1043nd


#14

Thats using MIMO at 2.4… You cant just cheat like that! Multiple transmitters is cheating!


#15

i have a pfsense router and a crappy wireless-N 300 router repurposed as an AP in my apartment in a somewhat congested area and its good on only 2.4 BUT i may just be lucky…if you want to go with pfsense dont do it for wifi coverage but rather do it for all of the other benefits…for wifi coverage you could checkout that google mesh network or one of the other newer mesh networks coming out…also look into 802.11ax gear as that appears to be the future…furthermore at LEAST save your money and go with ac for now as it is backward compatible with n but offers better speeds and the same frequencies so your range and congestion wont improve for 2.4 but wont degrade either, AND you will have 5ghz…also ps yea n has 2.4 and 5ghz available, just depends on the model and yea i am pretty sure 2.4 only supposrts up to 300 (though a lot of routers will only throughput 144 on n even though theyre advertised as 300 for wahtever reason) but 5 can go higher…lastly, be careful about marketing as the wifi folks will call something like AC1900 and yea, that SORTA true, but it will in fact be say 450mbps on the n band and 1550 on the ac band or some shit like that, as if you can connect ONE computer to both and GET that speed (you cant, its basically a lie)…research research research


#16

If you live in a crowded urban area the 2.4Ghz channels are likely completely saturated. As other posters mentioned, there are only 3 non-overlapping 2.4Ghz channels. The answer to your problem is most likely to force 5Ghz. If you can set a separate 5Ghz SSID on the Apple router, do that and give it a shot. If not buy another router. I like the Wirecutter’s recommendations for things like this.

Don’t feel like you need the highest-end choice either, read the article and make an informed choice.

As for mesh routing, in a 1200 sq ft apartment? Unless it’s a really weird elongated layout with thick concrete walls, that’s unlikely to be the most appropriate fix.