Wi-Fi routers, home servers, virtual private networks, and more.
Gary bought the Wink Smart Home Hub, and recently it went offline. Leo says that's because the company ran out of money and converted to a monthly subscription for $5. But according to the website, there is a known issue that they are making a fix for. They say it'll work locally, as long as you don't unplug it.
Joe tries to stream Pandora to a wireless speaker, but it breaks up during every other song. His carrier replaced his modem/router with a newer model. While the solution made it better, the problem still persists.
Leo says he doesn't have to use the carrier's modem/router on the network. He can buy his own. Leo says that he can save money that way as well, as it pays for itself. Leo recommends getting a DOCSIS 3.1 modem. Leo's favorite is the Netgear CM1000.
JC's Asus router is no longer supported by the company. What router should he buy? Leo says he doesn't really have to buy a new router. He can install DDWRT's firmware on it and then keep that router up to date. The chatroom recommends going to asus-wrtmerlin.net for a custom firmware for the Asus router.
But if he wants a new one, Leo recommends getting a mesh router, especially for a house as large as JC's (2500 sq ft). A base station and a beacon would be good. Leo's favorite is Eero.
Peter gets a Gig up and down with Fiber. Leo says he probably doesn't get that all the time. Would he get that with WiFi and a mesh router? Leo says if all devices are WiFi 6, maybe. But everything has to be wifi compatible. The thing is, WiFi 6e is right around the corner, so it's probably a good idea to wait. Leo had the Orbi with WiFi 6 and it was only 10% faster. Not really worth the extra expense.
Frank has a security camera that he's got connected to his WiFi. And his network is really slow now. Leo says that may be due to constantly uploading videos. When he couples that with the congestion of multiple devices sharing the network, it can slow things down. Leo recommends going with a mesh router so that the congestion is much better managed. What about an extender? Leo says that extenders essentially cut bandwidth in half, so it'll make it worse. Go with the mesh router. Leo recommends Eero and Netgear Orbi.
Peter wants to know if he can roll his own VPN using a NAS. Leo says he can create a VPN using any computer. It just needs a VPN server. OpenVPN is one such. WireGuard is the best choice. It's part of Linux already. But if he's thinking of doing it to work, make sure he has permission to do so.
Chuck wants to know if he can connect a USB drive to his router. Leo says the router has to support it. It's not really "plug and play." And if it does support it, it may be pretty slow. But it can be accessed from any computer on the network, so it's kinda like a cheap NAS. If the router is open-source compatible, then Leo recommends going with DD-WRT or Tomato for the firmware. They have NAS features that could be most helpful.
Vernon is thinking about upgrading to the new M1 Macbook Pro. But he would really like a desktop. Leo says to wait until the new M1 iMacs come out. No need to get another Intel machine at this point. Leo suspects that next Spring will bring a bevy of new desktops coming with not only the M1 chip but an even more powerful model with more RAM.
What about a NAS? Leo says you can take that old Desktop and convert it into a homebrew NAS using FreeNAS and multiple drives, but Leo says a five-bay Synology NAS is a better option.
Frederick wants to create a central location to house all the photos and videos for everyone in the family. Leo says if he wants to be responsible for it all, then Apple Photos can handle it. But everyone may want to keep their own accounts. Google Photos has similar features to Apple Photos, but it's cloud-based. And he can share unlimited free storage up until June 1st. Then each person can upload to a family album from their own account. Then everyone can upload and see the album. It's a great way to do it without having the burden just on the creator.
Jeff wants to know what's the best affordable Network Attached Storage (NAS). Leo says the cheapest is to take an old computer and run NAS software on it. But that requires a lot of work to maintain. Leo uses a Synology multi-bay NAS with several spinning drives in a RAID configuration. And Synology lets users mix and match, so they can mix several larger and smaller drives. Should he use SSD drives instead? Leo says no. That would cost more than it's worth.