Sunday, December 11, 2016

Moving my Unifi Controller to my Synology Rackstation 814+ NAS

All my UniFi posts so far:

Ubiquiti UniFi AC Pro Wireless Access Point
Ubiquiti Unifi Security Gateway (USG)
Moving my Unifi Controller to my Synology Rackstation

As I mentioned last week in my blurb on the Unifi Security Gateway, I recently moved my Unifi controller from running part time on my desktop PC (basically starting it any time I needed to upgrade a device or change a configuration) to running full time on my Synology.

I had a couple of options, and I'm still not entirely sure I'm going to stick with the one I chose:

Option A: Install it Natively

It happens that there is a guy in Russia that maintains a repo for installing the Unifi controller.  His Repo is:

It looks pretty up to date, and it was what I initially started to go with, but instead I went with Option B.

Option B: Install it as a Docker Container

I'll admit that one of the reasons I did this is because I hadn't done it before.  Docker is a somewhat new thing that allows apps to be given their own environment, but to share common items and run on the same kernel.  Basically, a docker package runs in its own operating system, sort of.  Here's a link if you want to read up.

I actually found a couple of different docker repositories that had potential, but I went with this one:

This one seems to be following the unifi build cycle the best, using Latest/Testing/Unstable build tags.

I had no problem setting it up initially, but instead of pulling "latest" I pulled "version 5.2.9," which happened to be "latest" when I did the install.  Unfortunately, that wasn't what I wanted to do.  Today I pulled "latest" which is now 5.3.8, backed up my existing configuration through the Unifi controller, stopped the "5.2.9" container, created a container from the "latest" image, started it and restored my settings.  Actually there was one other step:

Set Up Your Ports

You'll probably want to change your local ports from "automatic" to be the same as the container ports, as shown below:

This was really trivial to set up using the GUI interface.  I'm not 100% sure I'll keep it in docker, but the repository seems to be well maintained.  We will see how things go over time.

Friday, December 9, 2016

AT&T REALLY Wants You to Sign up for DirecTV Now

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that the world of in home video entertainment (10 years ago we would have said "television") is in the process of changing completely.  For a long time the subscription video services (cable, satellite, and hybrid services like AT&T's U-verse) have been bleeding subscribers by the millions.

2016 Fire TV Stick with Alexa
AT&T will give you a month of service if you buy this from them – er, they'll give you one of these if you buy a month of service

Young adults barely use traditional subscription video.  YouTube entertainment, available internet streaming, and little aversion to piracy have created a demographic that just isn't interested in the bloated traditional product.  Us "old guys" who can't quite believe we're not the young guys anymore, understand all of this stuff, but many of us just aren't willing to give up on being able to watch the Cowboys game in 45 minutes by time-shifting it, and the broadcasters have been very averse to letting us do that with streaming solutions, even though they KNOW it's coming.  It's inevitable.  There are only so many channels that Disney/ABC/ESPN can force into my bundle before we walk, and they pretty much passed that point years ago, we've just been slow to give up on things that we're comfortable with and to accept a lower quality experience in exchange for the huge savings in cash.

The options have been popping up and getting stronger.  First we had Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video, then HBO got into the game with HBO Now, which was game changing and put everyone on notice.  Playstation Vue, Sling TV, and now you can watch more and more of the traditional content.  More and more people are finding that they can cancel their service and not look back.

Meanwhile, many of us have been pacing the floor hoping that the end result would be traditional service without the bundles.  Surely à la carte will be the answer and we can keep our coax cable pretty picture and ability to timeshift whatever we want, right?  Apparently not.  Looks like The Mouse is not going to give up their bundling power until after they've strangled that entire industry.

Well, AT&T, of all people, has decided to be the one to say "This thing's over, let's put a bullet in it."  Why AT&T?  Well, they've always been an outsider.  U-verse, their own proprietary IP TV service, let them get in the door, but really you were talking about delivering TV over copper twisted pair ADSL2+ and VDSL.  It was always a limited way to deliver service and, really, not a great product.  They were a 2nd tier player in subscription TV.

They bought DirecTV to expand their offering, but it doesn't seem that that was what they were really doing.  They were really making a play for a bigger subscriber base so they could then make the move to take the old bundle model into the future.  They stopped making hardware for their traditional U-verse product about a year ago, and they started pushing new subscribers to DirecTV wherever possible, and they recently introduced their new product:

How bad do they want this to work?  Their intro pricing is simply stupid.  Sign up for the big package for $35/month.  Prepay a month and they'll send you a FireTV Stick with Alexa.  Prepay for 3 months and they toss in last year's 4th generation Apple TV.  (hint, don't sign up for HBO and Showtime when you sign up, or you'll prepay $45/month instead of $35/month for your test drive plus device).  Now, you're going to get a lot of bundled channels that you don't want, and you ARE going to need one of these streaming devices for it to work, but really, it's a stupid good deal, and a real reason to get off the fence.  They're FedExing me an Apple TV as we speak.

Will I keep the service?  It's probably not the long term solution.  The answer remains something more à la carte, but $35/month is cheap enough that AT&T is losing money, I'm sure.  I would gladly let them delete 80% of those channels and still pay $35/month, though.  It's going to be interesting to watch.

Ubiquiti Unifi Security Gateway (USG)

All my UniFi posts so far:

Ubiquiti UniFi AC Pro Wireless Access Point
Ubiquiti Unifi Security Gateway (USG)
Moving my Unifi Controller to my Synology Rackstation

If you read my blog entry on my Ubiquiti access points, you might have noticed that I completely glossed over what you should do about a router if you're using access points, since most home wifi is done with wifi routers.  If you read my cable modem guide you would note that I am an advocating of splitting the roles.  You want a modem/bridge to your ISP, you want a router, and you want access points.  I've covered options on 2 of the 3.

When I first set up my network here at the Angleridge lab, and went with the first generation Ubiquiti 802.11ac access points, I needed a router, but I didn't have the time to research it before getting everything up and running.  My short term solution was to disable the wireless radios in a wireless router and make it my home router.  Of course, this was a consumer (Linksys) router and I knew this wasn't my long term solution, as the software support would certainly evaporate (PSA: make sure you're running the latest firmware on your router, and if there's not been an update from the manufacturer in the last 12 months, replace it ASAP).

A year later and no firmware updates from Linksys, and it was time to take some action.  After doing a little reading, I went back to Ubiquiti for the solution.  The only question was whether to go with the $100 Ubiquiti Unifi Security Gateway (USG) or the Ubiquiti Unifi Security Gateway Pro (USG-PRO-4).  Realistically, the only difference for my application is simply speed.  The USG-Pro hardware just has a lot more horsepower.

Unifi Security Gateway (USG)
The Unifi Security Gateway (USG) is plenty powerful for most home and small business needs.

So I looked at my application and said "do I need the extra speed?"  AT&T has been rolling out Gb fiber, and it's now available in my block, so theoretically I need the USG-Pro to get everything out of that, but I decided to save $200 for now and test out the USG.  I'll say that I'm happy.  Once I make the Gb fiber move, I'll reassess and update the post.

One of the great things about going with the USG is that it integrates with my existing Unifi Controller:

The Unifi Controller is used to control the horizontal and the vertical

Needless to say, this beats the heck out of bouncing to a web interface on a consumer grade router.  I originally was running the controller on my desktop machine.  You don't have ot run it all the time unless you're using a few specific functionalities, which aren't needed in most residential applications, so I was only running it when I specifically wanted to make changes and provision devices.  That said, I recently made the step up to running the controller on my Synology Rackstation, and so it's now running 24-7, and I can access it through Ubiquity's cloud controller software.

So, I've got a real router solution with active software support.  I can't stress how important that last bit is.  Check your router and don't use something that isn't supported, and for goodness sake, don't trust your ISP with that job.

Products referenced in this post: