Category: Network Management

NETGEAR have fixed security exploits in some of their newer routers

Netgear DG834G ADSL2 wireless router

If you are running a recent NETGEAR router, make sure its firmware is up to date

Article

Netgear Patches Its Router’s Security Holes, Download Your Updated Firmware Today | Lifehacker

From the horse’s mouth

NETGEAR

Original Security Advisory

Models affected
Smart Wi-Fi Router AC1600 R6250
AC1750 Smart Wi-Fi Router – 802.11ac Dual Band Gigabit R6400
Nighthawk AC1900 Smart Wi-Fi Router R7000
Nighthawk X6 – AC3200 Tri-Band Wi-Fi Gigabit Router R8000
Nighthawk AC1750 Smart Wi-Fi Router – Dual Band Gigabit R6700 Beta firmware
Nighthawk AC1900 Smart Wi-Fi Router R6900 Beta firmware
Nighthawk 4G LTE Modem Router R7100LG Beta firmware
Nighthawk DST – AC1900 DST router
HomeNetworking01.info coverage
R7300DST Beta firmware
Nighthawk X6 – AC3000 Tri-Band Wi-Fi Gigabit Router R7900 Beta firmware
Wi-Fi VDSL2+/ADSL2+ Modem Router D6220 Beta firmware
AC1600 WiFi VDSL/ADSL Modem Router – 802.11ac Dual Band Gigabit D6400 Beta firmware

My Comments

NETGEAR had faced a serious problem with some of its recent-model routers due to a security exploit in the firmware that drives these network-Internet “edge” devices. Previous coverage about this issue had required you to use another router for your home network to stay secure.

This has had NETGEAR rush out firmware updates for each of these affected routers in order to mitigate the recently-discovered security exploit.

A problem that besets most of the commonly-available home-network bardware is that firmware updating requires you to visit the manufacturer’s site, download the firmware as a special file package for your device, then upload that package to your device via its Web-based management interface. This can daunt some computer users who haven’t much experience with these kind of hardware maintenance tasks.

Personally, I would like to see steps taken to support automatic firmware upgrades such as what AVM are doing with their Fritz!Box devices, or at least the ability to click on a button in the management interface to start the download and update process for the device’s firmware. This is a practice that is being implemented in most of the European-made modem routers, along with most consumer-electronics devices like Smart TVs and set-top video peripherals.

There is also the issue of protecting the update files so that you aren’t installing malware on your device and it may involve processes like authenticity checks for software delivered as part of a firmware update or functionality add-on.

The update procedure

The update procedure will require you to download the updated firmware package using your regular desktop or laptop computer. Here, they recommend that you connect your regular computer directly to the router using an Ethernet cable if you can do so for the download and update process to be sure that this process works reliably.

Follow the link listed in this article to the NETGEAR-hosted support page for your router’s model. You will see the link for the firmware package you need to download. Here, you download that firmware package to your “downloads” folder.

Then, once you have downloaded the firmware from the NETGEAR site, you log in to your router’s management page from that same computer using your favourite Web browser. For these routers, the URL is http://www.routerlogin.net. Subsequently, you have to visit the ADVANCED tab, then the Administration option, then the Firmware Upgrade option.

In that screen, you click the Browse button, which will pop up a file-system dialog box where you have to find the firmware file that you downloaded in your “downloads” folder. Once you have selected the firmware file, click the Upload button to transfer the firmware to your router, whereupon it will commence the updating process. Leave the router alone during this process so as not to interrupt this critical process. You will see a progress bar to indicate how the upgrade is progressing.

Once this update procedure is done, a good practice would be to regularly visit NETGEAR’s support pages for your particular router and check for newer firmware on a regular basis. Then, if there is newer firmware available for your device, update it following the instructions on their Website or the general instructions listed in this article.

Conclusion

The increased awareness by industry and computer media regarding software quality and data security for dedicated-purpose devices connected to the Internet along with consumer / small-business network-infrastructure devices is going to make companies who design these devices or the software that runs them wake up regarding these issues.

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Passive Wi-Fi–a new trend for battery-operated Wi-Fi network devices

Articles

‘Passive Wi-Fi’ researchers promise to cut Wi-Fi power by 10,000x | PC World (IDG)

New “Passive Wi-Fi” Could Drastically Cut Power Needs For Connected Devices | Fortune

Passive WiFi – 10,000 times less power consumption than trad WiFi | Telecom TV

US engineers unveil Passive Wi-Fi, which consumes 10,000 times less power | Android Authority

Video (Click / Tap to play)

My Comments

A new direction that is being looked at for the Wi-Fi wireless-network ecosystem is the use of “passive Wi-Fi”. This is where Wi-Fi endpoints will not be needing the use of analogue RF amplification circuitry and can simply reflect these wireless signals back to access points or routers.

Traditional active Wi-Fi setups work analogously to a torch (flashlight) that is being used where it is actively putting out the light thanks to its batteries. But passive Wi-Fi works in a similar vein to a mirror that simply reflects the light without using any energy.

The advantage here with passive Wi-Fi is that devices implementing that technology don’t need to draw lots of current for them to operate on the network. This is so appealing towards mobile devices implementing it as a battery-saving measure.

But it also appeals towards how devices related to the smart home or Internet-Of-Things will be designed. This is because these devices can be designed to work for a long time on up to three AA or AAA Duracells or a coin battery, or could use energy-harvesting technologies like solar power or kinetic energy but work with a Wi-Fi network rather than the Bluetooth LE, Zigbee or Z-Wave networks that are optimised for low energy.

Here, it may be feasible to directly connect these devices to your home network and the Internet without the need to use bridge devices to achieve this goal. This is although it can be feasible to integrate Bluetooth LE, Zigbee and/or Z-Wave bridging functionality in to a Wi-Fi-capable router or access point, especially if there is a market expectation to have these devices also serve as “smart-home” or “IoT” hubs.

At the moment, passive Wi-Fi can work between 30-100 feet on a line-of-sight or through walls while passing a bandwidth of up to 11Mbps. The prototypes have been demonstrated with traditional Wi-Fi network equipment including a router and smartphone and this has proven that they can work in a standard Wi-Fi network. But there have been issues raised about requiring routers and access points to broadcast a “wake-up” call for these devices to report their presence and status.

A question that can be asked as this technology is designed is whether it could be feasible to design a Wi-FI front-end to switch between active and passive mode. Here, it could appeal to devices that enter passive mode simply to save energy but “go active” while in use with obvious use cases being mobile devices or Wi-Fi-based handheld controllers.

What it could lead to is that the goal to optimise all of the building-wide wireless-data technologies for low-power use has been nearly completed with the ability to have devices that exploit these technologies able to run for a long time on ordinary batteries.

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Advanced business Wi-Fi–what needs to be done

OpenMesh managed access point product picture courtesy of OpenMesh

OpenMesh managed wireless access point

A class of Wi-Fi network setup that is appearing in the business networking market is what I would describe at best, “advanced” Wi-Fi. This typically is positioned as “managed Wi-Fi” or “virtualised Wi-Fi” due to the way these systems can be managed to suit business requirements or set up to serve multiple networks.

What does advanced Wi-Fi offer

But what does it offer? These networks are dependent on a Wi-Fi network controller that connects to compatible Wi-Fi access points using a Cat5 Ethernet wired backbone which also links them back to the Internet and other business network resources. Some of these systems may provide this kind of management through a cloud-hosted controller rather than a controller appliance installed on the premises.

The IT department can control these systems using a single dashboard, whether this is in the form of a Web-based front-end or a native client program.

The tricks that these systems have up the sleeve include:

  • the ability to adjust the operating channel, transmit power and other parameters of the access points to achieve the desired network coverage and bandwidth for the whole network;
  • to implement a combination of VLAN (virtual local area network), multiple ESSIDs (wireless network names) and related technologies to allow the same group of Wi-Fi access points to serve multiple networks thus creating a “neutral-host” or “multiple-host” Wi-Fi network; and
  • to work as Wi-Fi intrusion-detection/prevention systems to protect the network’s users against rogue wireless-network activity.

What are the current limitations

But there are limitations that need to be looked at to make this technology viable across all business types.

Lack of vendor independence

One is the lack of vendor independence and interoperability. Here, most of these systems are dependent on hardware and software offered by the same vendor which can be very limiting when a business wants to expand their Wi-Fi network’s footprint or replace end-of-life equipment in their system. It can be especially very frustrating for situations where their vendor doesn’t have an access point that ticks the necessary boxes for a particular application such as, for example, a weatherproof outdoor design that supports dual-band 802.11ac or the software doesn’t support the functionality that a customer is so after.

The same situation can be very frustrating whenever a vendor declares end-of-life for a particular managed-wireless-network platform, ceases to trade or is taken over by someone else. This can raise various support issues whenever you need to replace older equipment or improve on your existing system.

Here, you could end up dumping all of the access points that you bought for an advanced-WiFi setup if you had to change to a new platform or vendor, rather than allowing for a gradual changeover where you can keep existing equipment going.

Systems placing small business out of the equation

As well, not many systems are designed to cater to small-business users who want to effectively “start small” and “grow up”. A classic situation that may occur is for the business to use a single access point or router but as they grow, they add another access point to obtain an increased footprint such as to cover the neighbouring shop they just leased.

Typically, most of the managed Wi-Fi systems require the use of an access-point controller and the compatible access points for them to work. But this could be facilitated through the use of software-based enablement of this functionality for business-grade access points and routers where you only need to download particular software to these devices to add on this functionality.

Such a concept can be facilitated through network-hardware vendors adopting an “app-store” approach where they can offer additional software that a user can download to their network hardware, similar to what happens for smartphones and tablets.

Lack of secure inter-network data exchange abilities

Small businesses - Belgrave shopping strip

Shopping strips and similar developments could benefit from open-frame advanced Wi-Fi setups

Another missing feature is the ability to exchange data between multiple managed wireless networks to permit cohesive operation amongst the multiple networks. What could this feature offer?

Such a feature would benefit building-wide or development-wide wireless-network optimisation for multiple-occupancy developments including to create a “ring of protection” around the building for the occupants’ wireless networks. But it would require that the individual occupants can be able to have control of their networks.

The feature can also support secure authenticated access to private wireless networks via other trusted wireless networks. Such a setup could cover a multiple-occupancy building’s communal areas like lobbies, food courts or garden areas; or for extending private Wi-Fi coverage to business partners’ offices or local “watering holes” like hotels, bars and cafés. The concept here is about creation of a “neutral-host” or “multiple-host” Wi-Fi network in the communal areas or “watering holes” where all of the occupants have access to their networks in the same manner as what would happen when they discover and log in to the Wi-Fi network on their premises.  This situation is becoming increasing real as an increasing number of multiple-occupancy developments are heading towards the “mixed-use” direction where there is office, shopping, entertainment, residential, hotel and/or other space within the same development.

This functionality would require the use of tag-based or port-based VLANs (virtual local-area networks) as a way to link private LANs to the access points, and this may be already in place with multi-occupancy buildings where a business may occupy office and/or retail space across differing floors. Or it can be facilitated on a WAN-based effort through the use of box-to-box VPNs, typically used to link business locations across the world.  There could be the opportunity to have this kind of private-network-access enabled on a long-term basis such as through one’s tenancy or business partnership; or on an “ad-hoc” basis where it is enabled as required such as for a conference.

Less relevance to home-network users

Yarra's Edge apartment blocks

Apartment blocks and other residential developments can benefit from advanced Wi-Fi setups

At the moment, advanced Wi-Fi network technology is not being perceived or pitched as being relevant to home network users even though there is a use case for this technology amongst this user class.

This technology can be made relevant for home networks established in high-density or multiple-dwelling environments including the “mixed-use” development reality that I have outlined above. This is because these kind of environments involve many home and other Wi-Fi networks operated close together through that development.

Such networks can be set up for automatic channel and signal-strength optimisation across a block or street while these networks can be integrated with access points installed in common areas that can provide access to the development’s occupants’ networks on an ad-hoc basis. As well, if a development has one or more businesses or facilities of benefit to all the occupants like a food court, café or bar, the households could “extend” their Wi-Fi network to the meeting place for the duration they are in that location.

What needs to happen

Standardised secure data exchange within and between networks

The main requirements that would improve advanced business Wi-Fi would be the network to exchange configuration and instrumentation data in XML files that are defined by the industry for this application.

Rydges Melbourne

Hotels can also benefit from an open-frame managed wireless network so that it is easier for businesses to securely “extend” their networks to these places when they organise events or lodge employees at these facilities

As well, the established secure-data-interchange standards need to come in to play for exchanging data between the devices in a managed Wi-Fi network and between managed Wi-FI networks. For inter-network access, the ability to implement VLAN connections via Ethernet, xDSL or fibre-optic setups using the same physical link as an Internet service link can be investigated for intra-building setups while manufacturers need to research simple-yet-secure VPN setup procedures for setups that traverse multiple buildings and logical networks. This also can appeal to convention / exhibition facilities and hotels which businesses make use of very frequently to host their events or lodge employees who are attending business events.

The secure-data interchange could be based on SSL standards for data-in-transit encryption while a set of XML data schemas and filetypes can be used for defining the data that is transferred.

Similarly, a system of trust needs to be established to permit exchange of data between networks especially where inter-network instrumentation is involved. It also includes determining an effective “range of influence” for managing Wi-Fi networks from outside the logical network. This could be based on a “hop-count” or similar mechanism for inter-network data exchange and may require that a high-density or multiple-occupancy development be equipped with its own network electronics that covers all services in that development.

Shared network discovery

In the case of high-density or multiple-occupancy developments which have common areas, there needs to be a way to discover the existence of configurable common-area wireless networks that cover these areas. Once such a network is discovered by a building occupant’s network, it could then be feasible for the occupant to establish or configure an extension network to cover the communal area.

This would primarily be about a “publish-and-subscribe” arrangement where the building’s management or businesses who want to offer fellow occupants use of their Wi-Fi networks can share the data about these networks on a development-wide basis while the occupants can discover the communal networks they can benefit from when they configure their network equipment.

To make it work effectively as far as the end-user is concerned, it may involve knowledge of a particular Internet-based URL which may carry the data for a particular communal network or a particular development with many communal networks. A “hop-count” discovery protocol may also have to be investigated for automatic development-wide discovery of these networks.

Conclusion

So it seems like that there needs to be a lot of work to make the advanced Wi-Fi wireless network earn its keep amongst a large user base rather than just a sole-occupied corporate office.

Update (1 December 2016): A reference to “neutral-host” Wi-Fi networks which are a single Wi-Fi infrastructure set up at the order of a venue, but is set up to provide a logical-network link to other networks like business-partners’ / occupants’ own networks or public-access Wi-Fi networks.

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Assistance Journal–Dealing with a laptop’s Wi-Fi that failed after a Windows 10 upgrade

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro convertible notebook at Phamish St Kilda

If you find that your computer doesn’t work as it should after an operating-system upgrade, check for newer device drivers from the system’s manufacturer

I had become part of a “men’s shed” community which encourages men to get together and engage in meaningful activities while being a chance for them to open up to each other easily. Here, it became a point where I could “put my skills on the table” and one of the men came to me about an underperforming laptop.

After I had gone through and removed some bloatware and updated the display-card driver on that laptop, the man approached me about this same notebook not connecting to his home network’s Wi-Fi segment since he upgraded it to Windows 10 as part of Microsoft’s free-upgrade program. I had noticed that it could connect to other Wi-Fi networks including the community’s own Wi-Fi network but he mentioned that it wouldn’t list his home network’s ESSID at all.

Subsequently I came around to his home to see the problem for myself and noticed that my Android phone could see the home network’s SSID but not this laptop. I used Windows Device Manager, part of the Windows operating system, to identify what kind of Wi-Fi adaptor was being used in that laptop and had previously researched this problem as something that could be driver-related.

Windows 10 Device Manager

Device Manager – a catalogue of all of the hardware in your computer

After that, I had hunted down a newer device driver for the Wi-Fi adaptor from the computer manufacturer’s Website and downloaded it to the computer. Then I ran the updated driver’s installation program and, after this update was performed and the computer restarted, Windows 10 properly listed the home network’s Wi-FI ESSID. I selected that SSID then used the WPS “push-to-connect” function to fully connect the laptop to the home network and it worked properly.

I even completed an Internet-connection “acid test” of having the client load a social-network session and check that it reflected the latest activity. By loading a site that is frequently updated with changing information, it avoids the Web browser loading material held in its cache which can be common with a site that doesn’t change frequently which makes me think that the Internet connection is working properly.

If you find that something like your computer’s Wi-Fi functionality misbehaves after an operating system upgrade, identify the kind of device performing the function using Windows Device Manager or a similar tool. Then track down the latest driver software from the computer’s, adaptor’s or chipset’s manufacturer and install that software. Typically this can fix the problem once and for all or make the hardware work better with the operating system.

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How to effectively establish that Wi-Fi-based mobile network

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 Wireless Mobile Thermal Printer

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 Wi-Fi mobile printer – one of the mobile peripheral devices pitched to smartphone and tablet users

A major trend that has become strong over the last few years is the arrival of mobile network devices that connect to each other and to client computer devices via Wi-Fi wireless networking technology.

These are represented in the form of:

  • mobile network-attached-storage devices
  • mobile printers
  • wireless speakers, and
  • mobile broadcast-LAN tuners that work with terrestrial or satellite broadcast systems,
Network setup for mobile NAS and smartphone

Network setup for Wi-Fi-based mobile peripheral devices

What is common about all of these devices, and is treated as a key marketing feature by their vendors, is that they can be set up to be their own access point with their own DHCP server as well as being client devices to existing wireless networks. Some of these devices like most mobile NAS devices are able to work effectively as bridges or routers between an existing wireless network and the network that they create.

This may work well if you are just using the one mobile peripheral device with your mobile client devices but may not work well when you intend to run two or more mobile peripheral devices. Here, you will end up switching between different wireless networks just to benefit from the different mobile peripheral devices.

Mobile NAS as bridge setup

Wireless NAS as a bridge between mobile client devices and another Internet-providing network

But you may want to run one or more of these wireless mobile devices together to serve multiple laptops, tablets or smartphones. Situations that may come about that will call for these setups would be where you are using a mobile NAS and, perhaps, a camera that has Wi-Fi functionality or one of the new Wi-Fi-capable mobile printers. This will call for you to create a proper mobile wireless network for all of these devices.

Use a router-class device as the main device

Here, you would have to run one wireless network device as a DHCP server and “master” access point and this function can be best served by a router-class device.

"Mi-Fi" portable wireless router

A typical “Mi-Fi” portable wireless router for a mobile-broadband service

The most common examples of devices of this class that apply to “on-the-road” use are the “Mi-Fi” mobile routers that work with a mobile broadband service or one of the travel routers pitched to work with a hotel’s wired Internet service. Some mobile NAS devices may also do this wireless-bridging functionality in an adept manner and could be the hub of your “travel network”. Similarly, one of the mobile-broadband wireless routers being integrated in to some new cars by the likes of BMW and Chrysler may also answer these needs.

You may think of using your smartphone’s Wi-Fi mobile-broadband-router functionality but this may encumber your smartphone for what you want to really use it for.

Some highly-sophisticated “Mi-Fi” and travel-router devices may also expose an Ethernet connection for LAN use, perhaps through an optional extended-functionality dock. This can come in handy if you want to increase your coverage area with another wireless access point or want to use devices like games consoles with your mobile network.

You may find that you don’t need to run the Internet connection on the Mi-Fi or travel router if you are simply establishing a link between multiple mobile peripheral devices and client devices and aren’t reliant on Internet functionality for their operation. Similarly, by having your mobile devices working this way, you avoid the need to authenticate with a Wi-Fi hotspot that implements Web-based authentication to do something like gain access to your mobile NAS’s data from your iPad.

Set up known wireless network parameters

Mobile network wiht "Mi-Fi" router and 2 Wi-Fi-capable mobile peripheral devices

Mobile wireless network for two or more mobile devices and mobile client devices – uses a router-class device like a “Mi-Fi” router

When you set up your “Mi-Fi” or travel router, you make this device the hub of your mobile network and have every device “point” to this device’s local-network by associating with its SSID (wireless network name) and security parameters.

Most of the mobile network devices that work on an “open-frame” approach can be quickly associated to this “mobile hub” thanks to WPS-based push-button setup. For devices that don’t support this quick setup mode like most Apple devices, you will need to note down the “mobile hub’s” SSID and security passphrase. Some “Mi-Fi” devices that have a display may be able to show these details on their display, perhaps at the request of the user.

For that matter, a good practice would be to assign a unique SSID for your “mobile hub” device i.e. your Mi-Fi or travel router. This is important when you use these setups in campgrounds, caravan parks or hotels where many of these devices will be used at once.

All wireless devices to link with router-class device

It will also mean that the mobile NAS, mobile printer or other similar device has to work as a client device rather than as its own access point. This also applies to your computing devices like laptops, tablets and smartphones which also associate with the “mobile hub” device.

When positioning your mobile-network devices, make sure that they are in the range of your “mobile network hub” device i.e. the Mi-Fi or the travel router. All the wireless traffic that goes between these devices will pass through the “mobile network hub” device rather than between the devices themselves.

You may find that if you want to avoid draining your “Mi-Fi” router’s battery too quickly, it may be a good idea to have it run from a USB charger that runs from house current or your vehicle’s cigar-lighter socket. Similarly, a high-capacity USB power-pack can also earn its keep with these devices if you are away from power.

What I stand for when reviewing or researching mobile devices

When I review any device for this Website that is capable of being its own wireless network such as a mobile NAS or mobile printer, I test the device with my home network’s Wi-Fi wireless segment as if it is a client device. This is so I am sure they can work in this kind of setup as well as the highly-promoted “own access point” setup. As well, as part of researching a mobile device that uses Wi-Fi wireless technology as part of its link with client computer devices, I verify that it can work as part of an existing wireless-network segment as well as being its own segment.

Similarly, when I research a mobile router-class device like a Mi-Fi or travel router, I would expect the device to support WPS single-push connectivity along with other essential Wi-Fi connectivity and security standards. Similarly, such a device would have to be easy to configure including setting up the SSID and passphrase. As well, the Mi-FI device can’t be very thirsty with its battery if the goal is to have it as a “hub” device.

Conclusion

Once you are able to set up a mobile multi-device network, you can then be able to use it to store or print data while you are “on the road” without needing to constantly switch networks for each different task.

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Infographic: Different methods to connect multiple buildings to your network

Previous Coverage

Feature Article: Multi-Building Home Networks

I have covered the issue of bringing your home network and Internet service to other buildings on your property, whether they be a garage, barn or granny flat (mother-in-law apartment).

You may consider this as being of value to, for example, achieve a quieter house by having your teenagers playing their video games in the converted garage; bringing Netflix and similar services to the man-cave or just simply allowing whoever is sleeping in the guest-house to have access to the Internet.

Europeans will benefit from the fact that one right-sized satellite dish could cover your property’s satellite-TV needs including the ability to watch from that granny flat thanks to SAT>IP technology that exploits your home network as a satellite-antenna link.

This will provide what I have been talking about as a single diagram that you can understand.

Methods to link buildings in a multiple-building home network

Methods to link buildings in a multiple-building home network

 

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Another router answers the needs for a secure home network

Article

eero: A Mesh WiFi Router Built for Security (Product Review) | Krebs On Security

My Comments

A common issue raised in relation to home-network routers is that they aren’t really designed for security. It applies more to the equipment that is sold through the popular retail locations like the electronics chains.

This is due to issues like firmware that isn’t always kept up to date along with an insecure “out-of-box” management-console login experience. The latter situation manifests typically in the form of a default username and password that is common across a product range rather than unique to each device.

The eero router which is effectively a Wi-Fi mesh system has answered these issues courtesy of the following: firmware that is updated automatically and a secure-setup routine based around an enabling code sent to your phone. The former method has been practised by AVM with their latest firmware for the Fritz!Box routers with these devices automatically updating. The latter method has been practised through the use of a mobile-platform app where you enter your name, email address and mobile phone number. This requires you to receive a one-time password from your smartphone by SMS. You enter this to the mobile app before you determine your home network’s ESSID and passphrase.

This kind of login experience for the management Web page could be very similar to a well-bred two-factor authentication routine that comes in to play for some online services whenever you add another device or, in some cases, as you log in. Here, the FIDO U2F standard or support for Google Authenticator could be implemented in a router to permit secure login to the management page.

As for Wi-FI implementation, this router implements a proprietary mesh technology with each extender implementing separate radio transceivers for both the backhaul link and the client-side link. This allows for full bandwidth to be served to the Wi-Fi client devices. Each router device also has two Ethernet ports with one of those being configured for WAN (Internet) connection. Personally, I would like to see both ports switch to LAN mode on an eero router if it is serving as a repeater. This would earn its place with video peripherals, printers or desktop computers.

What I see of this is a step in the right direction for improved security for small networks and other manufacturers could learn from eero and AVM in working on a secure setup routine along with automatically-updated firmware.

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HomePlug AV500–earns its place in connecting that man-cave to the house

Cable TV in the man-cave

He has his cable TV and download-to-view in the man-cave!

Most of you may have seen me incite the use of HomePlug powerline-network technologies as a viable option for multiple-building home network situations like linking that granny-flat, garage or barn to the Internet service coming in to the main house but may have doubts about whether I have seen it work for myself. Now I have set up such a network and seen it work for myself.

Last Sunday, I had visited some friends of mine who had just moved to a new house. This outer-suburban house had come with a detached garage where some of the space was purposed as a “man-cave” by the man of the house and he even had cable TV installed out to this location.

But the cable-TV service was augmented with a “download-to-view” movie-rental service which depended on the set-top box, which was a PVR, being connected to the Internet. The main set-top box in the house was already connected to the Internet and the home network via a HomePlug AV500 powerline-network segment using HomePlug adaptors supplied by the cable-TV provider. But the man of the house, who is IT-savvy, had a pair of “homeplugs” compliant to the same HomePlug AV500 standard as the existing segment.

HomePlug link between house and garage

What this is all about

Here, I integrated one of the “homeplugs” in to this segment using SimpleConnect push-button pairing to make sure it works as part of the segment. Then I took this adaptor to the “man-cave” garage and connected it to the set-top box there. This setup worked reliably and promptly with the pay-TV provider’s “download-to-view” movie-rental service by permitting the download of two standard episodes of an American TV series.

This setup underscored the idea of the HomePlug technologies working as part of a multi-building home network. The requirement for this to work properly is that both main building and the outbuilding have to be on the same electrical service i.e. behind the same electric meter. As well, they will work properly where the buildings are located relatively close which may be around 150 metres (164 yards), typically represented by a suburban block or a cluster of buildings on a country property located close together.

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Consumer Electronics Show 2016–Part 2 Accessories, Peripherals and the Home Network

I am continuing to write up about the trends that have been presented at the Consumer Electronics Show 2016 in Las Vegas, USA.

 

Just before, I had covered the trends affecting desktop and mobile computing with such things as 4K and OLED screens, narrow bezels, Intel Skylake internals, business computers appearing at a consumer-focused show, and gaming computers that are rated for Oculus Rift.

Now I will be covering various peripherals, accessories and how your home network will evolve.

Display Monitors

The display monitors for your computer are following a similar trend to what is happening for TV. This includes 4K ultra-high-resolution screens and curved displays. But a few manufacturers are rolling out OLED screens in their product lineup. This will mean that you could see the benefit of increased contrast and colour definition on your computer’s display whether it serves as a secondary or “desktop” monitor for your laptop or primary or secondary monitor for your desktop.

Expect the USB Type-C connector to be common on this year's computers

Expect the USB Type-C connector to be common on this year’s monitors and peripherals

One of tbe trends starting to appear is for a display monitor to have a USB Type-C connector, more so with DisplayPort over USB-C connectivity. This capitalises on the fact that the monitor will be connected to a suitably-equipped laptop, tablet or 2-in-1 and will be this cable is the one cable that will provide power to charge or run the portable along with a physical link for data and video. Most of these monitors will have a self-powered USB hub along with an integrated Webcam and speaker system. On the other hand, there are the 15”-19” portable monitors with USB-C connection and powered by the host computer which will serve as portable “extra-screens” to use with these computers.

ASUS has presented the latter type of these displays with their MB169C which is a 15” portable monitor that features a 15.6” Full HD LCD screen and connects to the host computer via a USB Type-C connector. They also launched the MX27UQ which is a 27” 4K UHDTV screen with Bang & Olufsen ICEPower amplification for the sound and can stream sound from your computer or smartphone via Bluetooth. This is available in an Icicle Gold finish. They also launched a 34” curved monitor with a UQWHD (3440×1440) resolution that has a Qi wireless charging base and has its sound amplified using B&O ICEPower technology.

Lenovo ThinkVision X1 4K monitor

Lenovo ThinkVision X1 4K monitor

Lenovo has added the ThinkVision X1 monitor to their premium “X1” computing product lineup with this one being equipped with a 27” 4K IPS screen set against a very narrow bezel. It is intended to be an “at-base” companion to the latest crop of laptops thanks to a USB Type-C connection that provides power to the laptop that it is connected to as well as being a USB hub. It also comes with a 1080p Webcam that has a microphone array, LED lighting and mechanical privacy filter; along with a stereo pair of 3W speakers. It can also be connected to other devices thanks to an HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.2 connector.

The Lenovo ThinkVision X24 Pro adds on an Intel RealSense camera and the option for a WiGIg connection bar for wireless connectivity with suitable laptops and tablets. Gamers will relish in the fact that Lenovo has catered for them with the Y27g Razer Edition curved gaming monitor which has a 27” Full HD display and RGB lighting on the back to providing interesting effects. This also can work tightly wiht G-Sync-capable display cards.

LG advanced the 27UD88 27” 4K gaming monitor that optimises itself to work with the latest AMD graphics subsystems.

Dell has not been quiet on the display monitor front with them offering a range of 21” and 23.8” wireless monitors that can work with Windows and Android devices. These also have a Qi / PMA wireless charging base with the smaller variant having 2 three-watt speakers and the larger variant having a narrow bezel and improved colour accuracy.

They alos premiered the UltraSharp 30 which is a 30” 4K OLED monitor that also uses a USB Type-C connector as a way to connect to the host device.

Computer Peripherals and Accessories

With the computer manufacturers releasing more devices that are equipped with USB Type-C connectors, especially as a way to power these devices, the peripherals and accessories scene has responded with a range of devices that have USB Type-C connections.

Lenovo will be fielding the WriteIT 2.0 which adds pen capabilities to any Windows-based tablet or 2-in-1 that implements a touchscreen. This could then allow you to benefit from pen-based operation without paying dearly for that function. Wacom are also selling this same stylus as the Bamboo Smart and thsi works with “active electrostatic” or capacitive touch screens.

The Lenovo Link 32Gb memory stick celebrates mobile and regular open-frame computing very finely by allowing you to connect your Windows and Android devices to each other. This allows you to mirror your Android phone’s display on your Windows computer and provides local file transfer between both platforms. It will work with Android 5.0, Windows 7 and newer versions of these operating systems and your smartphone will have to have a USB On-The-Go connection or USB Type-C connection.

Lenovo also added to the ThinkPad Stack an external battery pack and a pico projector.

Samsung 2Tb solid-state external storage device press picture courtesy of Samsung USA

Samsung 2Tb solid-state external storage device

Samsung used their expertise in developing solid-state flash storage to prepare a USB portable storage device that can hold up to 2Tb of data, the same quantity as a lot of USB hard disks. This connects to the host device using a USB 3.1 Type-C connection but you could connect it to existing devices using a USB Type-C adaptor cable.

Griffin are known for aftermarket accessories and peripherals that are typically pitched to the Apple ecosystem but, in a lot of cases, can work wiht omst computers. They have fronted up with the BreakSafe cable which gives USB Type-C connections the same “safe disconnect” abilities as Apple’s MagSafe connection, a boon to those of you who own the latest 12” Apple MacBook that uses this connection. They also launced an external battery pack that attaches to your keyring so you can charge up your Apple Watch when out and about. They also launched the Survivor Slim Case which is a ruggedised case for the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.

Seagate have launched one of the slimmest USB external hard disks around in the form of the Backup Plus Ultra Slim external hard disk. This device has a thickness of 9.6mm and is about more data in a slimmer package. As required for Seagate external hard disks, this unit has backup software with one-touch or scheduled host-system backup. Similarly, LaCie have launched an external hard disk that has Porsche design and connects to your host computer via USB Type-C. But this unit has another USB Type-C connection so you can charge your MacBook or other USB Type-C computer without forfeiting hte ability to use the external hard disk.

Scosche have also launched a lineup of USB Type-C cables, port hubs / chargers and adaptors. One of these is the StrikePort USB-A + HDMI + USB-C adaptor which has a USB Type-C connector for charging while another of these is the StrikeDrive USB-C car adaptor which plugs in to your vehicle’s cigar-lighter socket so you can charge your USB-C devices – this can charge or power 2 12-watt USB-C devices. There is also a range of StrikeLine charge-and-sync (data) cables with ones that connect a USB-C device to a USB-A device and another that connects a USB-C device to a MicroUSB device.

Panasonic have established the case for BluRay optical discs as a “cold-storage” medium for archived data and this is based on what Facebook is storing those selfie snaps, holiday pictures and other images that you tender to the social network. They have started with 100Gb disks bot are moving towards 1 Terabyte disks which they are calling “Freeze Ray”.

Braven have come forth with a slew of accessories for your smarpthone or tablet. One of these is the BRV-BANK Pro LE which is an ultra-rugged modular battery pack . This pack has a 300-lumen LED torch and is built in aircraft-grade alumium housing and can charge devices via a 1.4A USB port and a 2.1A USB port. The device has a waterproof rating for IPx7 and houses a 6000mAH battery.

Braven BRV-PRO LE modular rugged power bank press picture courtesy of Braven

Braven BRV-PRO LE modular rugged power bank

But it is part of a Braven accessory ecosystem with a solar charging panel, speaker, multi-tool, GoPro action mount and a stacking plate. A smartphone app which links to this battery pack via Bluetooth supports a “Find Me” function which causes the torch to flash SOS in Morse code. Campers will also appreciate the “Bear mode” that uses the smartphone’s motion sensors to alert the BRV-BANK Pro LE and cause it to flash the torch light and sound an alarm if the phone is disturbed. Here, the idea is to pack the phone with your food supply and be alerted if the local wildlife starts raiding your food supply and is a problem that faces North American campers because of bears being too dependent on campers’ food supplies.

Razer have even provided Intel RealSense technology in to an add-on Webcam in the form of the Stargazer 3D Webcam. This can give existing desktop computers that don’t necessarily come with integrated RealSense abilities this kind of sensing and could open them towards Windows Hello facial recognition along with 3D scanning.

In an out-of-the-ordinary move, Black & Decker, know for those power drills, have integrated USB device-charging functionality in to their power-tool batteries. They also implement an app to support a “find-me” functionality along with the ability to support a “check-in / check-out” function and the ability to control when the batteries are used.

Your Home Network

Yhere are a few trends that are affecting the home network and how it is set up. One of these is 802.11ac Wave-2 Wi-Fi with MU-MIMO operation. The MU-MIMO function effectively creates dedicated bandwidth for each MU-MIMO device that uses the network but also frees up more bandwidth for ordinary Wi-Fi devices. This function is moving down towards the mid-tier routers and starting to appear in wireless range extenders with this function being about optimised bandwidth on the backhaul link and the device-side link.

It was also the time that the IEEE and Wi-FI Assocations have cemented the 802.11ah 900mHz “HaLow” wireless-network specification. This uses a lower frequency than 2.0GHz 802.11b/g Wi-Fi thus having a longer range and lower power but it doesn’t have the same data bandwidth as the Wi-Fi standards that we currently use for the home network. This will be pitched towards the “Internet Of Things” application case where a lot of sensors and allied devices will rely on batteries expected to run for a long time.

As far as HomePlug AV2 is concerned, the concept of the HomePlug access point which supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi and HomePlug AV2 has finally hit American shores thanks to Netgear.

Linksys have released their EA9500 4×4 802.11ac MU-MIMO router with Gigabit WAN and 4 x switched Gigabit LAN. This uses eight antennas to provide the MU-MIMO function. There is also the EA7500 3×3 802.11ac MU-MIMO router which is similar to the EA9500 but has reduced MU-MIMO abilities.

The Linksys RE7000 4×4 MU-MIMO range extender optimises the bandwidth used for the downstream devices whin it is linked to a MU-MIMO access point. As well, this multifunction range extemder has a Gigabit Ethernet port and can be set up to serve as a wired client bridge for a wireless network or as a MU-MIMO wireless access point – the latter being a way to upgrade your wireless netowrk to MU-MIMO abilities without throwing out your existing router. They also offer a MU-MIMO USB wireless network adaptor so you can join MU-MIMO wireless netowrk segments using your existing laptop.

Linksys have released DOCSIS 3.0 cable-modem hardware including a cable modem-router. They also exhibited the X6200 which is an ADSL2/VDSL2 modem router works on the 802.11ac standard.

D-Link have sold the AC4300 MU-MIMO wireless router and AC1300 MU-MIMO range extender as a kit in order to appeal to those of us who have larger houses.

Netgear have released the R7800 Nighthawk X4S Smart Wi-Fi Router whcih handles MU-MIMO with four streams and a processor improved on the previous model. This device also has the ability to work on 160Mhz channel bandwidth.

They also released the C7000 which is an AC1900 cable modem router that is part of the Nighthawk router lineup.  For that matter, new firmware that will be available for the Nighthawk router lineup will offer native support for Netgear’s Arlos lineup of network cameras.

As for range extenders, the EX7300 Nighthawk X4 is a wall-plugged AC2200 unit with MU-MIMO for both the upstream and downstream paths. There is the EX6400 range extender which is the first wall-plug AC1900 range extender. Both these range extenders  can also serve as access points to work wiht Ethernet or HomePlug wired backbones or as client bridges to serve wired network devices like smart TVs.

The PLW1000 HomePlug AV2 wireless access point can establish an 802.11ac wireless segment and can provide a HomePlug AV2 SISO (two-wire) backbone to the router. This functionality was offered by Devolo and was available only within Europe. But now, the Netgear device is the first device of its kind that is offered by a major home-network name to offer this kind of functionality to the North American market.

TP-Link have demonstrated a router that may have ordinary capabilities but be a “smart home” hub. The SR20 offers a throughput of 1300Mbps on 5Ghz 802.11ac and 600Mbps on 2.4GHz 802.11n and implements beamforming along Gigabit Ethernet for WAN and LAN. But it can be a “smart home” hub for Z-Wave and Zigbee devices and works alongside the Kasa mobile-platform dashboard app. This is similar to the Securifi Almond series of routers which have this kind of functionality and is the first of such devices to be released by a major home-network name.

Conclusion

After seeing a USB-C-driven direction for peripherals, OLED starting to light up computer display monitors, along wiht MU-MIMO increasing the throughput on Wi-Fi home networks,  I will be covering in the next article about photography, audio and video trends from CES 2016.

Next, I will be covering the trends affecting digital photography and videography along with audio and video recording and reproduction technology.

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Devolo releases a highly-compact HomePlug AV500 wireless access point

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Devolo

dLAN 550 WiFi

Press Release (German Language – Deutsche Sprache / English language)

Product Page (German Language – Deutsche Sprache / English Language)

My Comments

Devolo have released a highly-compact HomePlug AV500 wireless access point that only takes up the space needed to plug in an ordinary appliance in to that power outlet.

The dLAN 550 WiFi works with HomePlug AV500 powerline network segments and is a Wi-Fi access point for 802.11g/n N300 two-stream wireless networks along with having a single Ethernet socket.

But the dLAN 550 WiFi is a small cube which has the same effective volume as a typical AC plug-head on the end of an appliance’s cord or a small plug-in nightlight in Europe or Australia, something I have observed with the situational photos that Devolo has published on their Website. This means that it only occupies the power-outlet space needed to plug in an appliance, thus avoiding problems that can occur with most HomePlug devices where you can’t plug in other devices in to a neighbouring socket on a double outlet when one of the sockets is occupied by a HomePlug device. There isn’t the temptation to unplug the Devolo dLAN 550 WiFi from that power socket (then leave it unplugged) because you couldn’t plug the hoover in to the neighbouring power socket .

It also answers situations where there isn’t much space around a power outlet, typically due to furniture being located nearby or a power outlet that is near shelving where you crowd out that shelving with books and other objects. As well, the Devolo dLAN 550 WiFi looks more discreet this pleasing whoever is in charge of the house’s aesthetics.

The Wi-Fi access point has a specified radio range of 300 metres which would make it good enough for improving coverage in that Wi-Fi dark spot in your home and it supports a simplified “push-to-setup” routine when you want to extend a WPS-capable router’s coverage. Let’s not forget that this unit supports WPS device enrollment for setting up “open-frame” computers and devices that implement this function – press the WPS button on the nearest access point to have that Windows laptop or Android smartphone on your network in a snap.

What I see of the Devolo dLAN 550 is that it could be a step in the right direction towards making HomePlug access points effectively become less obtrusive yet are able to extend the coverage.

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