Fixing My Asus AiMesh Node Drops

I’ve been generally happy with my AiMesh system, even extending it to my mother’s house on our property.  However, we’ve had the occasional node drop from the system and it has become more and more frequent, requiring a reboot of the node to bring it back.

Oddly, the IP address of the off-line node could still be pinged and ssh’d into, but the clients connected would drop and it would show off-line in the router administration page.

After a lot of internet searching with only clues and no real solutions, I started looking at the logs and how they nodes were connecting to each-other.  Some things were readily apparent and helped resolve this:

  1. Location! Location! Location! I downloaded the Asus app which actually showed me how the nodes connected to each other. For some reason the web page for the router does not include this valuable information. In the picture below, you can see how the nodes are connected currently. The node in the middle is in the garage connected via Ethernet and feeding the two “below” which are over at mom’s house wirelessly. The node with the chair on it is in our living room and geographically next closest to the garage node. What was happening was the signal strength between the living room and garage was in the threshold of “good enough” causing the two wireless nodes to “hop” back and forth continuously between the two. I assume eventually, they’d get dropped by a confused system. I moved the living room node just a bit further away and the situation improved.
  2. Roaming Assistant. In the router’s web-app, under Wireless and Professional tab is this setting. I changed this value from the default settings of both 2.4GHz and 5GHz to 62dBm. This forces clients and nodes to connect to access points offering what we see is “about 3 bars” on our devices, if available. This caused the hopping nodes to zero-in on the better node and stay connected. I’ve had no drops since this change.
  3. Airtime Fairness. Also in the same section above, I’ve read that Disabling this feature can fix some issues. I have set that initially and noticed maybe some difference, but for me I consider this a minor contributing factor of the improvement.

So, the AiMesh system can be very robust and stable, but it isn’t quite the out-of-the-box set-and-forget-system they claim. Perhaps I, and the others with nodes dropping, are edge cases with a lot of wifi traffic and heavy use. If you’ve stumbled across this, hopefully this helps!

Asus AiMesh Node Auto-Reboot

I have several Asus routers running their AiMesh networking. AiMesh was perfect for me because when it came out, I already had a couple of routers that supported it and I wanted to expand my network and use MESH anyhow. The expense was only one additional router.

It has worked very well, except on rare occasion, my MESH node that is furthest out in the garage will lose its association and require a reboot to reconnect. It is really on the edge of signal range that I’d consider reliable.  Since these Asus routers are unix-based, a little scripting magic will save me a run out to power-cycle it.

We’ll create a script that pings an address on my LAN every 15 minutes. If unable to ping that address, it will wait 4 minutes longer and then reboot the node. Why 4 minutes? If the nearest node it is speaking to is getting a firmware upgrade or reboot, it will have time to complete and return a ping.

Log-in to your router, switch to the jffs directory, make a scripts folder and go into it as shown below:

Create the following scripts:

You will want to change the IP address above to something on your LAN. Save it, I called mine pingcheck.sh.

Make a script called services-start that will include a cron job to run this script at 15 minute intervals:

Then, make sure both are executable.

Asus routers do not retain cron tasks when rebooted, to do this we add our services-start script to run at boot which adds the task. Technically, when the jffs directory is mounted this nvram variable runs the script. Add it by issuing the following commands:

You can test it right away by just issuing a reboot, waiting for it to come back on line, when it does, log back in and check the cron. You would see something like this with the following command:

Of note, the jffs directory is a semi-permanent user storage on the router. It is a good place to put these scripts. However, it is possible that a firmware update or a factory reset of your router will wipe them. It is a good idea to backup these scripts so that they can easily be re-added.

Optional thought: I have a drawer full of old USB flash drives of fairly useless sizes given the progress of technology. As mentioned above, the jffs directory and the scripts could be removed during a firmware update/reset. It should be possible to put these scripts onto one of those small drives and use the script_usbmount= nvram setting to run the services-start and pingcheck.sh scripts from the flash drive utilizing the USB port on the routers.

I will have to weigh how often Asus publishes firmware that wipe that directory to see if the extra time is worth it. Copy/pasting from even this blog post to recreate the scripts isn’t that difficult or time consuming.

Washing Machine Filter Upgrade

Something that always bugged me are the inset washing machine filters. You know, unhook the hoses in the back and you have archaeological dig in the machine with needle-nose pliers to unscrew them all the while contorting into various positions around or on top of the machine? This also assumes they don’t crumble and disintegrate due to cheap material in the process, thus starting a quest to find the correct one at an outrageous price.

That was me, but no longer. A little research showed that the pictured filters, often used with power washers, has the same screen micron size that the washing machine specification listed for OEM filters. Upgrade time!

A couple of hoses and fittings later, we now have an easily accessible filter with a simple screw off base, and should be easy to clean under a little hot water many times before it needs to be replaced. Plus, a lot more surface area means cleaning will be less often, on the order of a decade in our case.

Goodbye macOS Server, Hello Synology!

Warning, this will be more of a rant rather than a helpful trinket; perhaps a cautionary tale. I’ve written several times over the years about how Apple was slowly ruining what was once one of the best server suites available. Between cutting out features, to continual quality control problems, to just plain (it seems) complete disinterest.

Server was a small to medium business web, email, calendar, directory, blog, dhcp, dns, and netboot server that many people used and relied upon. At it’s peak it was flawless and powerful, yet easy to manage. This is the very product this Blog ran on up until about February 1st, 2018.

Apple announced at the beginning of 2018 that it would be deprecating just about all of the remaining features for hosting your own services, instead focusing on making it a tool to manage their devices as part of their Device Enrollment Program. The thing is, it did this already with Profile Manager and there was no reason to remove the other features which were all open source and relatively easy, I assume, to implement for a billion dollar company. Little ‘ol me implemented many of them for production environments at work, and I certainly don’t have billions backing me.

I suppose it’s hard for Apple to concentrate on anything else when you’re more concerned with iPhones and iPads, both of which are being outpaced by better products in that space.

I’ve moved on to a Synology 1718+ NAS device which will be preforming the following functions for our household:

  • Audio Station + iTunes Server
  • Blog Server (WordPress)
  • Client Mac/Windows back up (replacing Apple’s Time Machine for the Macs)
  • DNS
  • Email Server
  • File Server
  • Photo Station (replacing Apple’s Photos app) which also includes a WordPress plugin to integrate with this blog)
  • Web Hosting
  • Wiki

All with multi-drive redundancy with a SSD cache and simple to manage all via a web browser.

This is the device that Apple could have been making for years now with their own design flare. It could have been the evolution of macOS Server and the Airport had Apple been paying attention to the demand and that computers (and devices they attach to like these on a network) are still relevant, wanted, and needed.

I’m delighted with this device and strongly urge those with Apple proprietary products to move away from them. Even if some of your services/applications are still supported, Apple could take those toys out of the sandbox too. They are no longer a company that allows people to create, develop and evolve. They are a company only for people to consume what others have done, and consume that content in a very restrictive sandbox that they control.

TV Category Introduction & Pluto TV – Free TV!

For those that know me, you know that I’ve operated my own media centers for years based on Kodi. Kodi is a nice platform, but they have always been lacking in standard channel support like Hulu or Netflix. Plus the upkeep of dedicated Linux boxes for the immediate family has chewed into too much of my time.

So, I’ve recently changed to using Emby for my local media to replace the Kodi functionality, using Mi Boxes (AndroidTV) on the primary TVs and cheap refurbished Roku’s on the smaller TVs in the house along with the Emby channel.  The upkeep demands are minimized and now I have channel options I did not before.

I figured I’d start a TV category here to share interesting things I’ve found that others may enjoy.  It might be an interesting YouTube channel, or a channel/app I found for my Roku and/or AndroidTV box.

To start with, Pluto TV! I’m a cord-cutter and don’t miss cable TV and it’s cost one little bit. Pluto TV gives you a number of interesting channels for free, and it is totally legitimate. They have a scrolling guide that presents their 100+ channels nicely.

There are a number that are my particular favorites, from the movie channels that span various genres, old TV shows, to even a dedicated Mystery Science Theater 3000 channel – you can definitely find something of interest!

While you do have to watch the occasional commercial (hey, they have to pay the bills somehow!) that is a small thing to put up with for quality streaming channels to your device.

It streams perfectly with my Android TV and Roku and it available for many Smart TVs and never your regular computer.  Be sure to create an account to sign in so their viewer membership goes up! The more viewers, the more attractive they become to sponsors, which will make more channels available. Gee, it’s like the way TV worked in the 80s!