Eero – Features

Speed test

The IOS app has a built-in speed test that seems to use Internet connected servers under the control of Eero.  This appears to be a speed test from your gateway Eero to servers managed by Eero.  It doesn’t let you test your raw WiFi speed, which would be nice, so you can see exactly how good your coverage is from a given device at a given location.  So far, I’ve not been terribly impressed with their implementation of a speed test.  From my IOS device, connected to the Eero wifi network, I can run the Ookla speed test app, and get pretty much max speed from my Internet connection, but the results shown in the Eero IOS app are routinely much lower than my ISP actually provides.  I believe they are working to improve this.

Connected Devices

The IOS app gives you a nice list of Connected Devices, along with devices that were recently on your network.  You can see a nickname you’ve manually assigned for each device, or the hostname for some (such as Macs and IOS devices), along with a guess at who makes the device based upon the MAC address.  A downside here is that some devices use “Private” MAC addresses, which they aren’t supposed to do, making it harder to identify them.  It is nice that you can give them a Nickname once you figure out what they are, though.

Guest Network

I had the opportunity to try out the Guest Network feature this weekend.  The IOS app has a “Guest access” section.  Pop over there, hit a toggle switch to enable it, and you have a second SSID up and running, which is segmented from your normal network.  This is perfect for sharing network access with people who aren’t often at your home, and who you don’t want to have access to devices on your network – Just the Internet.  When you hit the “Share guest network” button, it brings up the familiar IOS interface so you can send it in an iMessage or an email.  In my case, I just looked at the pre-generated password and typed it in.  If you want to share your main network, there’s a button for that too.

Family Profiles

This is a feature I like, but it doesn’t do as much as I expected…  You can create a family profile for each of your kids and add their devices to their profile.  There’s a pause button next to each of them, allowing you to pause the Internet for each profile with a tap.  You can also set a schedule… The initial one defaults to the name “Bedtime”, which is 10 PM for my girls on school nights.  When a device is paused, if they attempt to browse to a website, they get a message indicating it’s paused, so they aren’t just left staring at a spinning icon, wondering why the website isn’t loading.  That probably only works for HTTP sites, but it’s a good start.

Another good use for this feature is to help identify devices.  Create a profile called “Unknown”, and place a single device that you’ve been unable to identify into that profile, then pause it.  At that point, look around and figure out what can’t access the Internet.

I really did hope for more with this feature, however.  When I read that Eero added “Family Profiles”, I think I expected content filtering.  The ability to set a content filter for each profile, so you can block your little ones (and yourself!) from bad things on the Internet.  Ideally, you’d be able to create your own customized list of categories to block with some sensible defaults, assign each Family Profile with a content filter profile, and have some way to see what is being blocked and by which profile.

I do understand that some companies don’t want to do content filtering.  No method is perfect, but having some method to guard against little Suzie ending up accidentally reaching a porn site would be a good thing.   A few years ago, if you went to show your kids the White House web page and, out of habit, went to “.com” instead of “.gov”, you might be surprised at the kind of site you reached.  Some level of content filtering would stop some accidents like that.

Why not get a dedicated content filtering device, like a Circle?

An Eero engineer on the reddit Eero forum basically warns against using a Circle with the Eero, due to the fact that it uses ARP poisoning to intercept traffic.  It sounds a bit on the messy side, and like it may not always catch everything.  I did read one customer who seemed to indicate it was working well for him, but I’m skeptical.

Perhaps they could partner with Circle?  Update their hardware to work something like Circle does…  The Eero would be the perfect place to control it.

Other Alternatives to Circle?

I do believe there are a few other devices that could be your Internet router, then run Eero in bridge mode, allowing the router to do all the filtering.  One that looks pretty good is the torch router, but at $249, it’s pricey, especially considering the money spent on the Eero system.  And the torch router includes Wifi, which we don’t really need with the Eero.

August 16, 2016 at 8:43 pm 1 comment

Eero – A few weeks in

I’ve been running with the Eero Wifi system in my home for a few weeks now.  I did have an issue where the IOS app stopped seeing devices as they connected and disconnected from my network.  Ultimately, I seemed to have fixed it, though I’m not entirely sure how.

My troubleshooting basically consisted of disconnecting the switches from each other and the power from all the Eeros, booting up my main Eero and waiting until it was online, then attaching each switch, one at a time, finally adding back the other Eeros.  That’s the basic idea at least.  I ended up taking a few switches out, as I didn’t need them with the improved WiFi coverage.

My network consisted of daisy-chained Ethernet switches…  Not the best design – It would have been better to have a central switch and home-run a CAT5 from each of the rooms to the central switch.

Anyhow, my network was basically like so:

Living Room: Two switches
Bed Room: Two switches
Den: Two switches

LR was linked to BR with a CAT5 cable, and BR was linked to the Den with a CAT5 cable.

Since each room now has a wire attached Eero access point, I took the step of removing a switch from the Bed Room and Den, giving me fewer overall hops.

Anyhow, I think this problem has been fixed now for a little over a week.

Other than that issue, which seems to be resolved now, it’s been pretty great in terms of WiFi coverage.

 

August 16, 2016 at 7:49 pm Leave a comment

Eero surprise

I just had a surprising discovery about my Eero.  I made a mistake!

On Thursday evening, I installed it in my home.  First, I attached it to my cablemodem, as instructed by the iPhone app, then I attached two more units to my network in other parts of my home.  Everything has been working well since.

I remembered a day or two ago thinking about that main Eero unit.  I didn’t seem to remember attaching it to my primary ethernet switch.  But I must have, right?  It’s been working fine.

Tonight, I was in the living room where the main Eero is, and I looked at it, only to find that it had a single ethernet cable attached, which runs to my cablemodem.  It was not physically connected to my network at all!

As it turned out, at least one of the other Eero units has been connected back to the main Eero using the wifi mesh.  And my network has been working very well.  We’ve been streaming Netflix, stream shows on the AppleTV from the cloud, playing an MMO game, etc.

So, congratulations Eero – the fact that my entire network was connected to the Internet across your wifi mesh, and I didn’t notice… Well, that’s great!

I did correct this issue this evening by adding a cable from the main Eero to my primary ethernet switch.  I understand that some lag was introduced in an MMO game for about 20 seconds or so when I attached it, but it seemed to adjust to the network topology change and keep right on going.

July 24, 2016 at 8:49 pm Leave a comment

Eero arrives – First look

My three pack of Eero devices arrived today.  I attached them each to a ethernet switches around my home, so I’m not using the wireless mesh capabilities of these units.

Installation went very smoothly.  I performed a quick series of speed tests (using the Ookla speed test app).  Virtually everywhere inside my home, I’m now getting speeds in excess of 40 Mbps down.  Close to an Eero?  Closer to 85-95 Mbps.  Out around the pool, I got around 30 Mbps for the most part, with one exception around 10 Mbps..

The parental controls features of the Eero aren’t quite what I had hoped.  When I think Parental Controls, I think internet filtering.  In the Eero, at least in the current form, it appears that this only covers grouping devices to a person, and having the ability to set schedules for when those devices have Internet access, pausing the Internet, and that sort of thing.   A similar feature advertised by Luma appeared to do things like this, plus filtering. I understand they have been putting out multiple updates each month, so hopefully a future update will include filtering based on family profile settings.

I’ve experimented with multiple access points in my home before, and those experiments always seemed to not work out quite as well as I had hoped.  If you give them different SSIDs, you have to switch networks from time to time, depending on where you are.  If you name the SSID the same on multiple APs, I’ve found issues with wireless devices “sticking” to a given AP.  Say you are in one part of the house, connected to AP1, and you move to another part of the house, near AP2.  It seems that as long as AP1 is somewhat within range, your wireless device will stay connected to it, even though there is a better signal available.

I have not really seen this problem with the Eero.  If I walk around my home, it seems like my iPhone moves to whichever Eero I’m closest to, judging by the number of bars my iPhone shows.  So far, I’m pretty impressed with the coverage.  I’ve generally wired most devices, but that may change with the Eero system in my home…

Hopefully, I’ll have more news to report in the next few weeks or so.

Update:  I removed part of this entry related tosomething  I thought was not in Eero yet, but I found it the next morning.

July 21, 2016 at 10:54 pm Leave a comment

Wifi woes

I switched a few months ago to an AC router that’s sort of pro-sumer grade.  It was actually one I got on kickstarter that I was really excited about, as it dealt with home automation as well.  When I got it, I tried to use it, but it did not work very well.  After perhaps a year, I found that it was fairly usable.  I get decent coverage almost everywhere in the house.  Almost.  Also, sometimes my wife’s iPad has trouble (while I, a few feet away with my iPhone, don’t)…  The other day I ended up rebooted the router to get everything to recover, as my iPhone wasn’t working on wifi either.

Anyhow, a few months ago, I pre-ordered a Luma system to resolve my Wifi woes.  Around mid-May I believe, I got an email from Amazon saying my Luma would arrive by 7-20.  I’ve been watching the last few weeks with interest, but was very unhappy to find that it still had not shipped on Monday… Or Tuesday.  Today, I got an email from Amazon basically saying they don’t know when it will ship.  The word on Luma’s Facebook page is that Amazon pre-orders should be delivered by 8-26.

I’m guessing someone at Luma messed up, or perhaps the problem is Best Buy.  Back in June, I think, Luma announced that Best Buy would be selling their product in-store.   So, they are diverting some stock (they say 5%) which would otherwise be going to fulfill pre-orders to Best Buy.  I’m not so sure I believe them.

Today, I decided to vote with my wallet.  I cancelled my Luma pre-order, and ordered an Eero instead.  Yes, I’m paying a significant premium over the Luma, but it will be here tomorrow.  I know, I could have ordered a Luma from Best Buy, or possibly walked into a store and found one.  But…

From some reading I’ve done, the Luma doesn’t quite live up to their advertising.  It seems like the features aren’t all there as shown in their introductory video.  Will it get there?

Probably, eventually.  I imagine it will be months of growing pains, waiting for new firmware and such to be released to get everything fixed, and the missing features in place.  I’ve grown tired of that (with the other unnamed router I talk about in paragraph 3, above).

I was giving them a chance, waiting since the end of April for this product.  But the shipping date was missed, and Amazon isn’t saying when it would ship…   Social media says it’s over a month away.

I’m moving on to a more mature product, one that probably won’t give me trouble right out of the box.

 

July 20, 2016 at 7:14 pm Leave a comment

SageTV is now open source

SageTV is a great product that I used years ago as my DVR.  What made it such a great system was that they also sold network connected set-top boxes to place around your house to watch the content.  It had a great plug-in system and lots of developers making custom interfaces and all sorts of extensions.  Then Google bought them in 2011 and they stopped selling the hardware and software.

I’ve been using MythTV for a year and a half, perhaps longer.  For the front-end of MythTV, I’ve been using Kodi on a FireTV, or (more recently) MrMC (a Kodi fork) on an AppleTV.

It’s still not as good of an experience as we had with SageTV.  SageTV had commercial detection that worked very well.  It tracked the history of the shows you have watched, could automatically convert your recordings to other video formats to save space, and had a great interface (that is actively being developed further).  It has a web interface that lets you do tons of stuff.  You can do batch jobs with a plug-in.  There’s a plug-in if you like recording sporting events that will automatically extend the recordings if your events run over.  And tons more.  It was a product way ahead of it’s time.

Years went by, and while there were advances in other products, there’s still nothing as good as SageTV, in my opinion.

You might then be able to imagine my excitement then when late last year (2015), Google open-sourced SageTV.

 

Of course, they aren’t bringing the hardware back, but that’s where the community comes in.  One developer has created an Android application that effectively emulates the original set-top box hardware.  The SageTV server does all the interface work, so you get the advantage of this working with all the plug-ins that work with the set-top boxes too…

I’ve been testing with the Android app on a 1st Gen FireTV and it looks very good.  I do sometimes run into issues with it not wanting to play content, until I restart the application.  But if little issues like this can be worked out, this will be a great solution.  Forget the dedicated SageTV-only hardware, just run it on whatever android-based hardware you can find…

I imagine that, given a bit more time, this will be the direction I move back to.

May 1, 2016 at 9:18 pm Leave a comment

new YNAB – Availability issues and making production DNS changes

Earlier this week, nYNAB had some availability issues.  Being the up-front guys they are, which I highly respect, they admitted to having a DNS issue.  They cleared up the problem on their end, but some ISPs had bad data cached for quite a while.  I think it’s all been corrected by now.

Not being privy to exactly what problem the YNAB team had, I’m guessing it was a bad DNS record.

I don’t work at YNAB, but here’s a good method to make public DNS changes, based on my past experience managing publicly facing DNS servers for a large retail chain.

Normally, you have a long TTL (time-to-live) for your DNS records.  Having a TTL of 1 day is pretty common.  Having this value set so high means that the DNS servers at ISPs around the world will only have to update their cache (by querying your DNS servers) once a day.  This reduces traffic to your DNS servers, and allows your end customers to get faster service, since their ISP won’t have to make a round trip to query your DNS servers to figure out how to get to your web site.  If your service is used by that ISPs customers, they will most likely have your DNS records cached.

Whenever you get ready to change your DNS records, instead of just making the change, prep for it by setting your TTL to a very low value, say 5 – 15 minutes.  The important part here is once you’ve made that TTL change, you wait for your original TTL to pass.  So, in our 1 Day example, you wait 24 hours, then make the DNS change you want to.

Waiting until your original TTL expires means that all the ISPs in the world will now have your new, lower TTL.  So, they will be querying your DNS servers much more frequently.  Your change will happen all around the world much faster this way.  That’s good, even if you put bad DNS data in by accident.

After making the change to your DNS records, monitor things for the next several hours.  If you have a reasonably popular service, you should know very quickly if your DNS changes were correct or not.  Once you are sure that everything is operating as intended, you simply raise your TTL value back up to 1 day again.  Within 15 minutes or so, all the ISPs in the world should be caching your info for a full day again.

If you detect a problem during your “monitor phase”, just switch your DNS records back to the previous configuration (but leaving the TTL set to your short value).  Monitor again to ensure that everything is back to normal.  Once satisfied, you can set your TTL back to the 1 day level.  (Or, figure out what went wrong, and try the move again.)

If you want to be more flexible on your DNS changes, you might consider permanently having a mid-level TTL, like 8 hours.  By setting the permanent value to something in this realm, you can ensure that you can make changes more quickly (since you won’t have to wait 24 hours from the time you lower your TTL to the 5 – 15 minute level, only 8 hours).

March 30, 2016 at 5:50 am Leave a comment

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