Archive for Linksys

Review: Linksys MAX-STREAM AC4000 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi Tri-Band Router

Posted in Products with tags on June 29, 2017 by itnerd

In the age of the Internet of things, the average home has at least 10 devices connected to the Internet. And all of those devices want access to the Internet at top speed. Thus your router is going to be the bottleneck, or the best friend to those devices. And if you want a router that is more of the latter, you need to look at the Linksys MAX-STREAM AC4000 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi Tri-Band Router. Here’s what you get in the box:

  • 1 Gigabit Ethernet connection for your Internet access
  • 4 Gigabit Ethernet connections for your wired devices
  • Two USB 3 ports for printers and storage
  • 802.11ac with MU-MIMO
  • A 1.8 GHz quad core CPU and three peripherial processors
  • Airtime Fairness which allows faster devices to have more airtime than slower devices
  • Amazon Alexa support
  • Seamless Roaming when paired with a range extender like the Linksys RE7000

Physically this router takes up a lot of real estate. Thus you might have issues finding a place to put it. It’s also very heavy as it weighs in at a hefty 3 pounds and has a lot of ventilation which is needed as it does get hot. That’s a sign that the router well built.

I’m going to highlight a few things that make this router faster than most. The first is MU-MIMO which allows a Wi-Fi router to communicate with multiple devices simultaneously. This decreases the time each device has to wait for a signal and dramatically speeds up your network. That means that gamers and Netflix users will remain happy while they do their thing. The second is the fact that it has a 1.8 GHz quad core CPU and three peripheral processors which combine to push the theoretical 4 Gbps that this router is capable of. Not that any single user will see that speed as that figure is an aggregate of the two 5 GHz bands, each capable of 1625 Mbps and single 2.4 GHz band which is capable of 750 Mbps. Third is the fact that the router supports beam forming. Meaning that the antennas (six of them) surrounding the router are all directional, but between them they cover a full 360 degree range and the router can utilize the antenna or antennas to deliver the best signal to a device. Thus wherever the device accessing the router happens to be, it is guaranteed to get a good connection.

So…. How well does this work in the real world? Very well in fact. Using my Rogers Ignite Gigabit connection, I was able to get an average of 680 Mbps downstream and 44 Mbps upstream over 802.11ac WiFi when I was close to the router which is very quick and very close to my current speed champion which is the Linksys MAX-STREAM AC5400 Router. However I noted that the speed of this router is better than MAX-STREAM AC5400 router in every area of my condo. Particularly in areas where I had problems getting a good quality signal. Thus if you have a large home, this router will ensure that all parts of it get speedy WiFi.

Setup was trivially easy using Linksys Smart WiFi as I had it setup and fully up to date from a firmware perspective in minutes. Linksys Smart WiFi also allows you to fully configure aspects such as parental controls, media priority, and block HTTPS sites which is a unique feature. You can do all of this over a webpage, or over apps for the iOS and Android platforms. Keep in mind that the router will be connected to the Linksys servers at all times for you to fully leverage Linksys Smart WiFi. By the way, future functionality is going to appear in this router such as VPN support, DUAL WAN support to take two Internet connections and combine them, link aggregation to give you faster file transfers on your home network, and dynamic frequency selection which will provide up to four times the wireless channels available on the 5GHz frequency band among other things that Linksys has on their roadmap.

Downsides? Two that I can think of. The first is that if you want to plug in a lot of wired devices, you need to get a Gigabit switch or look to the MAX-STREAM AC5400 router which has 8 Ethernet ports. It is also not cheap at $379.99 CDN. But those who want the best wireless performance possible will willingly hand over their cash to get their hands on the Linksys MAX-STREAM AC4000 as it is a router that is very balanced in terms of performance when it comes to overall speed and range. Consider this router if you stream 4K video or you frequently want to pwn your friends in your favorite online game.

 

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Browser Based Interface Added To Velop Via Firmware Update

Posted in Commentary with tags on June 23, 2017 by itnerd

Linksys today announced it has added a browser-based user interface for Velop users.  Similar to the browser-based user interface available with Linksys WRT and Max-Stream routers, the user interface is now available for Velop users to access advanced features as well as manage their home network from a Mac or Windows computer in addition to an iOS or Android device. Velop was built for performance, design and ease of use in setting up and managing the home network with the Linksys App; but now with the browser-based setup, there are even more ways to control the home network for a better Wi-Fi experience. The new user interface is available globally to all Velop users now with the latest firmware update. 

The new browser-based user interface now includes the following features:

  • Access to advanced settings:
    • DHCP server access for automatically assigning IP addresses to devices that come onto the network. This provides easy connectivity for mobile devices that often leave the network and return later.
    • DNS configuration for linking host names, such as a web address to a specific IP address.
    • Troubleshooting: device table, router report, ping/trace route, logs.  These features provide additional insights into network performance.
    • Security: firewall, VPN passthrough, DMZ settings.  Users can access these settings to manage their network security.
  • Browser access for users with a Mac or Windows PC.

Users can continue to enjoy the features found exclusively on the Linksys App, including:

  • Velop Setup
  • SpeedTest​
  • Channel Finder​
  • Notifications ​

Velop networks with Automatic Firmware Update enabled will automatically receive the new firmware overnight. If Automatic Firmware Updates is disabed, the new firmware can be downloaded and installed manually.  Please check the Linksys support page for more details. Users can visit the Linksys support site to learn more about Automatic Firmware updates.

 

Linksys Announces New AC4000 Wireless Router

Posted in Commentary with tags on June 8, 2017 by itnerd

Linksys has announced, it is shipping its new 802.11ac Tri-Band MU-MIMO Router. The Linksys Max-Stream EA9300 is an AC4000 MU-MIMO Tri-Band router delivering wireless speeds up to 4Gbps for simultaneous downloading, streaming, gaming and surfing. Offering MU-MIMO (Multi-User, Multiple-Input, Multiple Output), the next generation Wi-Fi 802.11ac Wave 2 technology, helps improve overall performance and efficiency of a Wi-Fi network while providing dedicated bandwidth to MU-MIMO capable client devices as if they have their own dedicated router.

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Linksys Max-Stream AC4000 MU-MIMO Tri-Band Router (EA9300)

The Linksys Max-Stream AC4000 MU-MIMO Tri-Band Router is outfitted with Next Gen AC Wi-Fi technologies such as Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO) and Tri-Band that work in concert to deliver powerful Wi-Fi at the same time and same speed to multiple connected devices including TVs, gaming consoles, wireless printers, laptops plus others at combined speeds up to 4 Gbps. The Linksys Max-Stream AC4000 provides easy setup options to get a home office up and running quickly along with the exclusive Linksys app that provides added control of the EA9300 Wi-Fi Router from anywhere at any time using a mobile device. The Max-Stream EA9300 Wi-Fi Router also features a robust set of advanced offerings:

  • Tri-Band AC4000 (3x3x3) – Up to 4 Gbps Max combined – 2x 1625 Gbps (5GHz) + 750 Mbps (2.4GHz)
  • MU-MIMO 802.11AC Wave 2 technology for simultaneous 4K Streaming on multiple devices at the same time
  • Quad-Core 1.8GHz CPU with three offload processors provide the fastest processing speed
  • Airtime Fairness – Allows faster devices to have more airtime than slower devices
  • Auto Firmware Updates – Linksys automatically pushes the software update to the router overnight and seamlessly brings the latest features and security to a home network
  • Amazon Alexa support – Three new skills including turning guest access on and off, obtaining guest Wi-Fi credentials, as well as getting main network credentials read back to the user.
  • Linksys App lets users monitor and control their home Wi-Fi from anywhere on their mobile device
  • SmartConnect Band Steering – Band steering balances your 5GHz Wi-Fi connections and intelligently choose the best radio band for your devices for the best Wi-Fi performance on your network
  • Seamless Roaming± – Technology provides Room-to-Room Wi-Fi with one network name when paired with a Max-Stream Range Extender (RE7000)
  • Active Antennas – Six active high performance antennas with 9x High Power Amplifiers help to provide optimal coverage and maximum signal strength
  • Gigabit Ports – Five Gigabit Ethernet ports (4 LAN + 1 WAN)
  • USB 3.0 Port – Connect shared network storage devices and printers
  • Network Security – SPI Firewall and DoS Protection provide the best in class network security

Upcoming features (via automatic firmware update)

  • Dual WAN – Dual WAN can aggregate the bandwidths of two WAN connections to achieve a higher Internet bandwidth greater than 1Gbps
  • Link Aggregation – Supports up to 2Gbps for file transfer
  • Advanced Band Steering – Auto select the most appropriate band between 2.4 and 5Ghz for client devices to achieve the best Wi-Fi performance
  • DFS Channels Support – DFS (Dynamic Frequency Selection) will provide up to four times more channels within the 5GHz band helping to improve the internet speed with less traffic congestion. This feature can help users  achieve true lag free 4K content streaming
  • OpenVPN Server– VPN feature allows users too remotely and securely access resources shared within their home local area network

The Linksys AC4000 MU-MIMO Tri-Band Router (EA9300) is available immediately at select retailers nationwide for an MSRP of $379.99 CAD.

Linksys SEEMS To Be Rolling Out Updated Router Firmware To Stop Routers From Getting Pwned

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 16, 2017 by itnerd

You might recall that I recently told you about vulnerabilities in numerous Linksys routers that were found by a security researcher which if exploited could end up in the router becoming part of a botnet among other things. Linksys was apparently working on updated firmware and it SEEMS that updated firmware is rolling out. I use the word seems for reasons that will become clear momentarily.

If I do a search of the Linksys download site for the latest firmware for the EA9500 which is one of the affected models, I see this:

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Please note the highlighted section. A new firmware dated May 8th has been posted. I also verified that the previous firmware on this page was from early March of this year. I went to the release notes and saw this:

Firmware version:   1.1.7.180968
Release date:       May 8, 2017

- Update for compliance of the latest CE requirements (European models)
- Resolved intermittent issue of MAC filtering on wireless network not working properly
- Resolved issue of IPv6 incompatibility when prefix is not 64-bit (e.g. British Telecom)
- Resolved issue of DHCP reservation feature not working properly if user changes local network configuration
- Enhanced system stability
- Various security fixes

So it has “various security fixes”, but it isn’t clear if they are the fixes for this issue that was so widely reported. And if you search the Linksys website, there isn’t any additional info. So you have to assume that this is the updated firmware that affected Linksys router owners should install without delay. It would be nice if Linksys could clarify this and reinforce the urgency of installing this new firmware so that they ensure as many owners of their routers as possible get this fix. Plus it would close the loop on this issue.

More info as it comes as I have reached out to Linksys and IOActive (the group that found these issues) for comment.

UPDATE: I got this from Linksys late today (May 18th):

UPDATE #2: The release notes have been modified:

Firmware version:   1.1.7.180968
Release date:       May 8, 2017

- Update for compliance of the latest CE requirements (European models)
- Resolved intermittent issue of MAC filtering on wireless network not working properly
- Resolved issue of IPv6 incompatibility when prefix is not 64-bit (e.g. British Telecom)
- Resolved issue of DHCP reservation feature not working properly if user changes local network configuration
- Enhanced system stability
- Addressed IOActive security issues
- Additional security fix

Flaw In Linksys Routers Can Be Used To Create Botnet

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 20, 2017 by itnerd

Security researchers and Linksys are warning that multiples models of Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Routers have vulnerabilities that might be exploited to create a botnet. Here’s a list of the affected routers:

WRT Series
WRT1200AC
WRT1900AC
WRT1900ACS
WRT3200ACM

EAxxxx Series
EA2700
EA2750
EA3500
EA4500 v3
EA6100
EA6200
EA6300
EA6350 v2
EA6350 v3
EA6400
EA6500
EA6700
EA6900
EA7300
EA7400
EA7500
EA8300
EA8500
EA9200
EA9400
EA9500

A security advisory was issued by Linksys today which includes a workaround for customers until final firmware updates are posted in the coming weeks….. Though I would classify some of what they are recommending as common sense, but here’s the workaround:

  1. Enable automatic updates: I don’t like to do that as updates sometimes cause issues. Thus I like to wait a day or two to see if anything is reported on the Internet before I update.
  2. Disable WiFi Guest Network: This is something that I recommend that you do as a matter of course as guest networks can be used as an attack vector.
  3. Change the default Administrator password: This falls under the category marked “duh” as there is no reason on God’s green earth why you should be using the default administrator password for any device ever.

If you want an idea of what the issue is that is prompting this reaction from Linksys, IOActive who are the researchers who found this issue have a great write up that you can read right here.

UPDATE: This has now been fixed. See this link for details.

Linksys Ships Max Stream EA8300 Router

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 6, 2017 by itnerd

Linksys is now shipping its new 802.11ac Tri-Band MU-MIMO Router. The Linksys Max Stream EA8300 is an AC2200 Tri-Band MU-MIMO router priced at $249 CAD, giving users MU-MIMO (Multi-User, Multiple-Input, Multiple Output) technology and up to double the performance of a dual-band router for even faster speeds and efficiency for downloading, streaming, gaming and surfing.

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Linksys Max-Stream AC2200 Tri-Band MU-MIMO ROUTER (EA8300)

The Linksys Max-Stream AC2200 is outfitted with Next Gen AC Wi-Fi technologies such as Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO) and Tri-Band that work in concert to deliver powerful Wi-Fi at the same time and same speed to multiple connected devices including TVs, gaming consoles, wireless printers, laptops plus others at combined speeds up to 2.2 Gbps. The Linksys Max-Stream AC2200 provides easy setup options to get a home office up and running quickly along with the exclusive Linksys app that provides added control of the EA8300 Wi-Fi Router from anywhere at any time using a mobile device. The Max-Stream EA8300 Wi-Fi Router also features a robust set of advanced offerings:

  • Tri-Band AC2200 – Up to 2.2Gbps (867 Mbps 5Ghz + 867 Mbps 5GHz + 400 Mbps 2.4 GHz)
  • MU-MIMO Wave 2 for simultaneous 4K Streaming on multiple devices at the same time
  • Memory: 256MB DDR3 RAM, plus 256MB flash memory
  • Four active high performance antennas with six high power amplifiers to provide the best performance and coverage
  • Five Gigabit Ethernet Ports (4 LAN + 1 WAN)
  • USB 3.0 Port: connecting shared network storage devices as well as a range of other peripherals.
  • Linksys Advanced Beamforming technology: Maximizes Wi-Fi coverage for both 2.4 and 5GHz radios while enhancing the performance and coverage
  • Airtime Fairness enables faster devices to transmit at faster speeds while the slower device will not impede the speed of Wi-Fi network
  • “Smart Connect” band steering: balances your 5GHz Wi-Fi connections and intelligently chooses the best radio band for your devices and the best Wi-Fi performance of your network
  • Seamless Roaming with Max Stream range extenders provide room-to-room Wi-Fi with one network name
  • Linksys App: Remote manage, monitor, and control your Wi-Fi from anywhere, anytime
  • Linksys Auto Firmware update: Linksys automatically pushes the software update to your router overnight and seamlessly bring the latest features and security to your home network
  • Amazon Alexa support: Three new skills including turning guest access on and off, obtaining guest Wi-Fi credentials, as well as getting main network credentials read back to the user.
  • SPI Firewall and DoS Protection provide the best in class network security

Availability

The Linksys AC2200 Tri-Band MU-MIMO Router (EA8300) is available immediately on Linksys.com and at stores across Canada for $249.99 CAD ($199.99 US).

Review: Linksys Velop

Posted in Products with tags on January 3, 2017 by itnerd

Let’s say you have a large home and need to have WiFi accessible everywhere. You likely need to either cover your home in WiFi range extenders, which may or may not help you get WiFi where you need it, or accept that you will have dead spots in your home. Or let’s say that you have my use case which is a condo with thick concrete walls. They play havoc with WiFi as I get amazing speeds in my bedroom and den, but significantly lower speeds in my living room and on my balcony. In either case, getting top notch speeds via WiFi is a problem. Linksys now has a solution for you called Velop.

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Here’s a Velop node. It doesn’t look like WiFi gear does it? You could actually put it on a shelf and nobody would have a clue what it is.

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Here’s the back side of the Velop unit. There’s a lot of holes for ventilation which no doubt will help to keep it cool.

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Underneath you get a pair of gigabit Ethernet ports. You can plug in your wired gear into them, or plug in your cable and DSL modem into one of them. If you look at the bottom right corner, you can route your cables through there to keep things neat and tidy.

Here’s the deal. Linksys calls this “Whole Home WiFi”. By that they mean that this isn’t a router or a range extender. It’s basically a new category of networking gear that combines both into one product. I got three of these which I was able to create what is called a “mesh network.” In short, the Velop nodes can connect to each other over wired or wireless links, and will choose the best path to route data between a client and the internet. If a node loses connection to another node, the remaining nodes will self-heal and re-establish internet connection through other nodes in the network. Besides that, no matter where you are in your home, you can move freely between each node’s coverage area and maintain a stable, uninterrupted connection. And you don’t have to worry about managing them individually as they all communicate with each other to ensure that all settings are synced.

Inside each Velop node, you get the following:

  • Quad Core ARM Cortex A7 CPU
  • 4GB of flash storage and 512 GB of DDR-3 RAM
  • Three 802.11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi radios (one 2.4 GHz and two 5 GHz) to
    balance the wireless workload.
  • MU-MIMO: For devices that support this standard, they will operate with greater efficiency.
  • Beamforming support.  This precisely adjusts, steers and monitors the direction and shape of Wi-Fi signals for better performance with any wireless device. Client devices that support explicit beamforming will see even greater speed and range.
  • Six internal antennas
  • Bluetooth 4.0 LE. We’ll get to why that’s there in a second.

This isn’t low end hardware by any means.

I managed to set up a three node Velop system in my condo in under 30 minutes. Here’s what I had to do:

  1. I plugged in my cable modem into the first Velop node via Ethernet and plugged it into AC Power.
  2. I installed the Linkys Smart WiFi app on my iPhone.
  3. The Linkys Smart WiFi app was able to find it via Bluetooth 4.0 LE and walk me through the setup which included naming my network and making sure my Internet worked. It then asked me where the Velop node was physically located. In my case, it was in my living room.
  4. It then offered to add a second Velop node. I did so and upon finding it, the Velop note automatically setup onto my network. It then asked me where this node was located. In this case, it was in my den. I then plugged in my NAS box into the Ethernet port.
  5. I repeated step 4 with the third Velop node which was in my bedroom. I then plugged in my VoIP phone into the Ethernet port.
  6. Done. Declare victory and have a beer.

You can only set up the Velop system via the Linkys Smart WiFi iOS or Android apps. If you want to use the Linkys Smart WiFi website, you’re out of luck. I must admit that I prefer the website to the app as from my experience, I can do a lot more via the website in terms of tweaking the configuration of a Linksys router to the way I want it, plus rebooting it if you have to. But other than that gripe, I really had no issues with the setup process as it was easy.

Now the next question is how fast is the Velop. Fortunately the Linkys Smart WiFi app has a built in speed test that uses OOKLA’s speed test technology that tests the Velop from the Velop itself. That in theory should give you a very accurate speed test result. This is what I got via my gigabit connection to the Internet:

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Now, this isn’t as fast as I have gotten in the past as my Linksys AC5400 WiFi router consistently got into the low 900 Mbps range for a downstream connection. But it is a result that I will not complain about. In terms of the quality of the WiFi, I was able to get excellent coverage across my condo thanks to the fact that I was able place each node in places where they could do the most good. Thus I was able to get full signal strength in places that never had anything close to that before. On that front, the Velop is an #EpicWin.

There is one thing that I noted. None of the MacBook Pros that I used for testing never connected to the Velop above 867 Mbps as per this:

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I was able to replicate this result on a PC with an 802.11ac card as well. By contrast, the Linksys AC5400 was able to hit a Tx rate of 1300 Mbps as long as you were in the same room as the router or near enough to it. I believe that this is likely caused by a combination of having to work in an environment where the Velop nodes had to compete for channel space with other WiFi gear, not to mention cordless phones and baby monitors. Such as my condo development which may have dozens of these things in a small space. I confirmed this by using the Linksys Smart WiFi app Channel Finder function to optimize the performance of the Velop to get this result. Thus a less crowded environment may yield better results. Handoffs between each node was seamless. And general usage of the Internet seemed fine. The only thing that I noticed in the way of abnormalities was that when I played Team Fortress 2 where lag was present. The lag only lasted a few seconds, but it was enough to affect my ability to pwn the competition. In fact, when the lag disappeared, I was typically pwned by the competition. Again, I attribute this to the crowded wireless environment that the Velop has to operate in as I have seen the same behavior with the Linksys AC5400 router. One of the things that I am planning on doing is doing a test in a environment that has less wireless gear for it to compete against to see how well the Velop does. Watch for that in the coming weeks.

Velop also supports Amazon Alexa. While I did not test this as I do not have an Amazon Alexa, this sounds intriguing as it would allow you to do things like enable guest WiFi on the fly without having to open the Linksys Smart WiFi app to do it. That’s not only a time saver, but it lowers the complexity of managing Velop.

Gripes? Only one. The Velop nodes have a light at the top of them that can fill a room because it is so bright. That means if you drop one of these nodes in a bedroom, you’ll get a blue glow that will make it difficult to sleep. Now other Linksys hardware has the ability to disable the lights on their routers to avoid this. But you can’t seem to do this with the Velop. Hopefully Linksys adds that functionality in the form of a software or firmware update.

The Velop comes in one, two and three node units. That allows you to buy the number of nodes that fit your use case. For example, three units will cover 6000 square feet of real estate. Conversely, you could get away with a single node for an apartment. Maybe two if you have my use case. A three pack will go for $520 USD. A two pack will go for $370 USD. Finally a single Velop node will go for $199. If you need to cover your entire home with WiFi in a way that is easy to set up and gives you good performance, the Linksys Velop is very much worth looking at as it covers all of these bases with ease.