Networking

Wi-Fi routers, home servers, virtual private networks, and more.

Can I install open source firmware on my router?

DD-WRT

Episode 1633

Karen from Olympia, WA

Karen wants to know if she should flash her firmware on her router to get it to work better. Leo says that in a way, you flash that firmware almost every time you update. But if you're talking about using third-party firmware, they can be very good, but they are limited in the routers they support. Check out DD-WRT.com and look in the router database to see if it's compatible. Most routers don't support it, sadly. What Leo recommends is ASUS routers, because they use their own flavor of DD-WRT. 

What is an alternative to wifi?

Powerline Networking

Episode 1631

Jeff from San Diego, CA

Jeff is having issues with his WiFi coverage at his studio. Leo says that congestion is a major problem with WiFi because of the Internet of Things, phones, tablets, the works. What Leo recommends is Powerline Networking. It's gotten a lot better the last few years and being wired will always be better than WiFi. So check it out. TPLink makes some great PLN devices.

Are Mesh routers secure?

eero Mesh Router

Episode 1631

Paul from Columbus, OH

Paul wants to know more about Mesh Routers and Internet of Things, but is concerned about security. Leo says that if you stick to main brands like Eero and Netgear, they will keep their firmware updated for security purposes. Leo recommends the Eero. But you may have to pay a monthly security subscription, which Leo hates.

How can I measure bandwidth?

Ubiquity Edge Router X

Episode 1631

Travis from Norman, OK

Travis wants to know how he can measure his bandwidth to see if he's getting what he's paying for. Leo says that Windows 10 has a bandwidth monitor built-in, but that will only measure what your machine is using. Modern routers also have bandwidth monitors, but if you've been given a router by your ISP, it likely won't. That's why Leo always recommends buying your own router. He recommends the Ubiquity Edge Router X. And you won't be paying a rental fee on that gear either.

What are the Best Current WiFi Routers?

Eero

Episode 1630

Seth from Long Beach, CA

Seth wants to know what the best consumer-grade WiFi routers are. Leo says it's constantly changing. And now, WiFi 6 (aka 802.11AX) is here. Designed to make IoT devices more efficient, WiFi 6 will certainly change up the game. Leo recommends the new MESH routers. They are more expensive, but they are much better for homes, especially those with spotty WiFi coverage. Leo also says that the older Eero Beacons can be used with Ethernet, so if users have their home wired for Ethernet, they can plug in for even better performance. The other alternative is Powerline networking.

Can I Use a Mac Mini as a Media Server?

 Mac Mini

Episode 1628

Mini Cooper Mike from Spokane, WA

Mike bought a used 2012 Mac Mini that he wants to turn into a media server. Will he be able to manage it locally, or does he have to do window sharing? Leo says that a Mac is kinda expensive for a media server, but it will do the job great with Apple's macOS Server software, which is $20 from the app store. He can also use PLEX for free. If he wants to access from the internet, he'll need to set up port forwarding. But if it's just from the network, it'll work as is. But there's a heat issue, so Leo says that he can use external hard drives to bring the heat down.

Can I use my own router for my WISP internet service?

Brainstorm Internet

Episode 1625

Tim from Oxford, CO

Tim's internet is terrible because he lives in a rural area. His router managed to give him decent speed, but it went bad. So his wireless ISP gave him another one and it's terrible. Leo says that Brainstorm is a WISP, or wireless internet service provider, and you're most likely required to use their dedicated hardware. But you may be able to use your own router. But Leo suspects the problem is on their end. Routers to look at are TPLINK. Asus. NetGear. Check out  thewirecutter.com for their recommendations.

How far does my WiFi go?

Netgear Orbi

Episode 1623

Jerry from La Habra Heights, California

Jerry wants to get his WiFi signal out to his backyard garage, about 300 feet away. Leo says that WiFi is meant to travel 150 feet or less. You'll probably need a directional wifi transmitter/receiver. Check out radiolabs.com to learn more.

But to your backyard patio, a mesh router would work. Leo recommends the NetGear Orbi, and you can get an outdoor island receiver, and that could possibly get to your garage. 

Can Jerry get his own and save on the rental fee from his ISP? Leo says absolutely. Save the money: it'll pay for itself in a year.

Why can't I navigate to my own IP in my VPN?

ExpressVPN

Episode 1620

Brett from Fort Worth, Texas

Brett has moved to ExpressVPN, but he's having issues surfing to his own IP. It worked fine with his old VPN, but not ExpressVPN (who is a sponsor of the TWiT Network). What can he do? Leo says to check your router settings. It may be that in your devices, there could be a security issue that's blocking it. Leo does that with his network for his NAS. Leo also says that Brett's problem may be due to his previous VPN being less secure. 

Is the Asus Mesh Router a good option?

Eero Mesh Router

Episode 1617

David from Los Angeles, CA

David is moving to a three-story house and he's looking to get an ASUS Mesh router and wants to know how it is. Leo says he's used most of the Mesh routers out there, but not ASUS. They do make good wifi extenders though. Mesh Routers are better though because it doesn't slow down like an extender does since it spends half its time talking to the router. Mesh has a backchannel for router communication. The eero Mesh router has an automatic quality of service that does a better job managing bandwidth as it's needed, and it gets smarter as time goes by. It also has parental control features.