Living with the router, or, why I’m happy with the eero…

I have (had?), over the years, become increasingly frustrated with the quality of Internet Service into my home (but, really, who hasn’t?). I was rebooting/reseting the original ActionTec router (lovingly referred to by my kids as the “AncientTec router”) from the ISP periodically (multiple times a year) as quality and speed degraded. Eventually, I decided to dedicate a Raspberry Pi, who’s sole purpose in life was to do a speed test once an hour, every hour, and report that data to a really simple Go app running on the Google Cloud Platform.

So for strictly entertainment purposes (and possibly some cathartic value), here’s six months (or so) of data with some hilariously unscientific commentary on what it all means. (TL;DR — Not much)

November 2015

So it begins. First up, my bill shows up every month touting my 50Mb download/20Mb upload speeds I’m paying for. Now I had clear proof that the RPi was doing what I had hoped, and rather than just guessing (or running adhoc speed tests from my phone) I established a pattern of poor performance (the Pi being plugged in directly to the router, nothing else to blame). Side note: I enjoyed politely referring the equally polite tech to my website in answer to the “internet speeds vary, I ran a quick test and everything looks fine” spiel.

Anyway. Time to reset the router (evening of November 6th). For whatever reason, took a few days to settle down, but by November 9th, we were back to getting expected speeds on a consistent(ish) basis. Ping times look rhythmic up to about Thanksgiving and then flatline. No clue what that means. Probably nothing.

December 2015 (well, half of it anyway)

What black magic happened December 1, I’ll never know. But its clear things started to go haywire (is that a thing? my Dad liked to use the word “haywire”). Whatever is happening, no one would call this a healthy Internet Service EKG. This continued until sometime on December 18th, at which point I lost internet completely (aka The End of Life as My Children Knew It). The Raspberry Pi project took a back seat to long conversations with the ISP and getting answers that would make a politician proud to my “can’t you just send me a new router” plea. (I never did get a new router. At least not from the ISP.)

I did, however, get the magic keys to the Internet Kingdom that allowed me to buy my own router (whatever one I wanted!) and just plug it directly into the Ethernet cable coming into the house. Yay! (FYI, I’m skipping a whole bunch of Fiber ONT Cable blah-blah-blah here. The end result, a CAT-5 I can plug into whatever I want and ISP insisted it will just work.)

The end of year holidays sucked up a lot of free time, but to remove the pained expressions and blank stares from the Netflix-starved household, I plugged in the AncientTec router and all was well(ish).

Until I tried to take up the ISP on their insistence I could plug in whatever router I wanted.

January 2016 (post-holidays)

Attempt #1!

I had an AirPort Extreme that I was using to extend the wireless range in the house. The chart above is what happened when I plugged it directly into the cable (sans-AncientTec) round January 6th and got the Pi back up and running. I had internet access, but erratically slow including day long gaps in access. Wut? (I have teenage daughters. Pretty sure I used that correctly. I think…)

So, after fighting with this for several days, I plugged the AncientTec back in somewhere around January 15th. Guest what! Stable(ish) internet speeds were back. The day long gaps didn’t go away this time, though. Despite what you might think a rational person would do, I did not call the ISP for tech support. They’d already told me everything was fine and going to work, right? What more wisdom could they possibly impart?

February 2016

Picking up where January left off, it was back to “end of November” behavior. Not wanting to leave well enough alone, I was suckered into the 2am infomercial (just kidding… it wasn’t 2am…) for the eero WiFi system.

“Welcome to the first day of the rest of your WiFi” they said.

“Take my money” I said.

March 2016

I got the eero system installed (piece of cake, btw) and running. Took a bit of debugging (with very helpful eero tech support) and an experimental build of the eero OS (version 1.0.5-experimental, to be exact) before the eero settled down. The ISP was/is expiring my DHCP lease every 30 minutes — which apparently required fixes to the eero system to handle that case. Nice of the ISP to do that. I’m sure they have reasons.

Anyway. It is starting to look a little more steady, but there is still that almost rhythmic slowdown that just seems odd. Clearly this is some kind of maintenance cycle on the ISP side. Or maybe not.

April 2016

Well would you look at that! We’re now up to eero version 1.0.10 (self-updating, self-healing software is beautiful when it works) and it looks like we’re settling in. Weird ping times though. No clue why that would happen. I didn’t touch the eero once. It just kinda fixed itself.

May 2015 (half way through today)

Looks like we’ve settled in, not perfect, but no longer frustrating. Had a few times where the WiFi would go wonky (there’s another word — is it a thing? guy I used to work with used “wonky”. All. The. Time.) — but now instead of restarting/reseting routers and going through a multi-step debugging checklist, I just tell myself:

Give it a minute; eero will figure it out.

And you know what? So far, it does.

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