Less beaten by wifi – Drop that consumer junk

gluten free wifi

Our wifi was just unreliable

A while back I got tired of the bad wifi performance in my home. Reception was spotty and slow and different areas in our house we dead-zones. We have a ~2000 square foot, two-story house. You’d think our wifi signal would be good enough to cover it, but I’d finally had enough of the complaints of the slow printing on our wifi printer and other performance issues. I started looking for a solution.

Tackling the router first

I’d been through many different wifi routers and I’ve just been continually let down by the price and performance of most off the shelf devices. To get the really good routers, you’re looking at several hundred dollars. Then, they typically only have firmware updates for a year or two. I wanted something different and had started to look around when I went to a friend’s house. He showed me his setup. He had a mini-computer, about the size of a paperback book, that worked as his router and for his wireless access point, he was using an enterprise access point from Ubiquiti Networks. It was a cool, white, flying saucer shaped device with a glowing ring in the center.

This idea immediately appealed to me. I’d built my own pc-based router before using m0n0wall and pfsense. I started out with pfsense again but experienced some performance issues and crashing, so I switched to OPNsense. The great thing about all these packages is that they’re free, open-source projects. The computer I picked is pictured to the left, a ZOTAC ZBOX CI323. I opted for a fanless model that had two network interfaces on it (a must for a router).

Let’s get this wifi started!

My router was sorted, now to conquer the wifi. Ubiquiti has several access point options available. Since range was my biggest concern, I selected their UAP-AC-LR model. They have a lite version, a pro version which is focused on massive throughput, I went for the LR which still had massive throughput, but favored distance over maximum speed.

I couldn’t wait for that Amazon Prime shipment to arrive. Finally it did. The router supports Power over Ethernet (PoE). In the case your hardware doesn’t support that (mine doesn’t), they include a PoE adapter in the box. I plugged it in, grabbed the optional controller software to run on my computer and then I ran around testing the signal. It was great (180 Mbps down on my iPhone and 120 Mbps up), I even had wifi signal outside my house and across the cul-de-sac I live in.

Recently the number of wifi-enabled devices in my house had grown and performance started to suffer, so I grabbed another one of these access points. That’s the beauty of this system, they’re designed to work together and they’re enterprise-class. No more cruddy, consumer-level wifi signal at my house. The second access point is in a closet downstairs and my house is now overflowing with Internet.

Sure I could’ve got the normal route and just dumped a few hundred dollars and bought some consumer junk. That’s not my way. I’m a tinkerer and a technology fiend. I wanted something different and better and I got it. How about you? How do you solve your wifi woes?