i have a server in my garage. It’s not a super beefy machine, but i use it as a NAS, postgres/http server and a few other things. i’ve had it for a while and while i wouldn’t say it’s a key element of my home network, it’s damn handy to keep around. Still, it’s not quite worth fishing a 30m of cat6 line through a 60 year old house, so i use wifi to connect to it.
Because i tend to be a fairly cheap bastard, i’ll get a sub $100 access point in whatever the fastest flavor of 802.11 happens to be at the time. The problem with doing that is sometimes, say, when you’re on vacation in LA for a week, the crappy access point dies on you and your wife can’t peek at the out the front window while she’s away. So after coming home and turning the access point on and off again, i decided i’d fix the problem for realz and get an Unifi AP AC Lite. Several colleagues have Unifi setups for their homes and swear that they’re the bees knees. (i’ll get into that a bit more later.)
Yeah, i’m not so sure about that anymore.
Now, let me make a brief aside to discuss my home network.
i consider the modem provided to me to be hostile. It’s from AT&T, so that’s probably all you need to know. Since it runs a network on 192.168.1.0/24, i keep my protected network on 192.168.2.0/24 behind a second router. Further more, i keep two “private” wifi nets and one “guest” net that gets no access to the private network. i also run a Pi-Hole as my local network DNS. ABSOLUTELY NONE OF THAT SHOULD MATTER TO ANY GOOD ACCESS POINT
Normally, when i get a new access point, i simply plug it into the protected net’s hub, open up the admin access HTTP page, do a bit of local configuration for the device, and we’re good to go, super easy-peasy.
This is not the case with Unifi.
Unifi first wants… no, let me clarify… demands you download their java based controller app. This sets up a local connection running on port “8443” (Oh, hey, that’s the HTTPS port! Better hope you don’t run a secure server on whatever machine you’re running this app on because otherwise you’re going to be very sad.). Of course, the Controller app doesn’t provide any config options to change the port or really do anything other than open a browser to connect, which i guess is fine.
Ok, so let me connect up the access point. i grab a few extra cat5 cables (because none were in the box), and pass the connection through the PoE connector running on a 12″ power cord. i was told that as a device comes online it would appear in the Controller listing. This, appears not to be true.
i unplug, and replug, checking connections. Nope.
i open my protected router’s config panel and see the new Unifi device’s IP4 address. Still nothing in the controller.
i ping the access point, Nothing in the controller.
i port scan the access point, oh, port 22 is open. Google says the user and password is “ubnt” (yay! Security!) and yep, that works just fine. Still nothing in the controller app, though.
i use the “device discovery” tool, which eventually finds the device and lets me locate it. Absolutely zilch in the controller app.
Out of pure curiosity and a bit of needling from a colleague, i connect my computer directly to the AP. Hey! There it is! Only i can’t adopt it because who the hell knows why?
Ok, this is just stupid. Screw you, “controller” app that’s probably doing some UDP polling crap to be clever, let me just ssh back onto the device and… oh, swell. It’s running some weird deviant of Unix. No /etc/network, no /etc/wpa_supplicant,…
There is a /var/log/message that i can cat, and see that it’s constantly trying to connect to “http://unifi:8080/inform”. Well, that’s less than helpful, since i don’t have a “unifi” on my net. Let me force it to connect to my host box that’s running the Connector app… Yay! It connected! and failed to adopt and is back looking for “http://unifi:8080/inform”…
Yeah, ok, i’m done.
i have no doubt that these are amazing in enterprise configurations. i’m sure that if you buy enough Unifi gear, that things “just work” kind of like how you need to buy all of Apple’s stuff for all of Apple’s stuff to work together magically. (i consider this “tech tautology”.) i’m also reminded of one colleague noting that he was able to “adopt” unifi gear that was being installed into neighbor’s houses, so guessing that things work REALLY WELL if you’re doing your initial setup in a Faraday cage, or with no questionable parties sitting within 230 feet of you.
But for me? yeah, no. This thing’s going back.
As for my crappy current access point that drops on occasion? i can solve that for about $25.