Ubiquiti Unifi Long Range Access Point – Review

About a year ago I decided to replace my aging Linksys access point that was beginning to cause a fair amount of trouble.  One problem is that it would freeze on a weekly basis and had to be power-cycled to fix it.  Range was also an issue.  I wanted the signal to reach another building on our property that was about 200 ft away.  In order to make that happen, I had purchased a pair of range extender antennas for the unit.  This allowed internet access in the other building, but the signal was very weak and not all devices were sensitive enough to be able to connect to it.

After some searching, I decided to get a Unifi Long Range access point from Ubiquity.  Shortly after I purchased it I recorded a video showing the unboxing and setup, as well as my initial thoughts.   Now that I’ve used it for some time, it’s time for a more in-depth review.

Ease of setup and use

Setting up a Unifi access point is different from most other access points in a similar price range. Instead of having a built-in web-based administration interface, it requires that you install the controller software on your computer. The controller software runs on Windows or a MAC, and you can also download a Linux version from the Ubuquity website. Once the controller software is installed, then you use a web-browser to configure the unit much the same way as you would any other access point. For most of the features of the Unifi, the controller software doesn’t have to be running – you only launch it when you need to change the configuration. A few businesses oriented features such as captive portal need the controller software to be running in order to function.

For home use, the controller software doesn’t give you any major benefit, and it takes a little more effort to use than a built-in web-base administration interface. However, where the controller software becomes useful is when you have two or more access points. The controller software allows you to configure common settings such as SSID in one place, and it gives you lots of statistics on who is using wifi and what AP they are connecting to.

Some enterprise access points use a hardware controller. The problem with them is that if the hardware controller fails, you have to get a replacement to get things working again. With a software controller you can move the controller function to another server in minutes and be back up and running.

Range

The range of the Unifi access point is leaps and bounds better than my old Linksys. With the Unifi, any device can connect from any building on my property. In fact, I can manually set the power of the AP one notch back from the highest setting so it’s not using full power, and the coverage is still sufficient.

Value

For a business-class access point, it’s hard to find an access point with all the features of the Unifi without spending a lot more money. For home use, it’s still a good value, but there are other good choices. I’ve been impressed with the models I’ve used by Engenius. Although Engenius isn’t as well-known a brand as many others, I’ve found that they beat the more well-known brands in price, features, and reliability. But if you’re looking for business class features on a budget, go with a Ubuquity Unifi.

The model I purchased can be found on amazon by clicking here.

Install and use a LAMP Server on Ubuntu

If you’ve been wishing that you could install a web server on your Ubuntu PC, you will be pleased to find out that you can install one very easily. All you will need is an Internet connection, and a bit of time. I hope this guide is helpful.

Here’s how to install: Open Synaptic Package Manager. Choose Edit > Mark Packages by Task. Scroll down and check the box beside “LAMP Server.” This will mark apache2, PHP, and MySQL for installation. Apply the changes. You will be prompted for some configuration information. That’s it! Punch http://localhost into your browser’s address box to test your installation.

Now I suppose you want to add some files. The server’s root directory is /var/www. If you navigate there with your file browser you will see the files, and even be able to open them with gedit, but you will not be able to edit them. This is because the directory is owned by root. There are multiple ways to work with this. You can run Nautilus from a terminal (sudo nautilus /var/www), or even create a launcher on your desktop (for this command: gksudo nautilus /var/www). However, you will probably find it more convenient to change the permissions of the /var/www folder. To do this, run Nautilus as root (sudo nautilus), navigate to the /var folder and right-click on the www folder. Give yourself access under the permissions tab. Now you can create and delete files without running your file browser as root.

Feedback welcome!

Oh by the way, you can access the server from another computer on the network as well, provided that your firewall allows incoming traffic on  port 80. Just enter http://your-ip, where your-ip is the ip address of the computer that hosts the server.

ProxMox VE – The best virtualization software you haven’t heard of

Before you plunk down serious cash on an enterprise virtualization solution, check out the free, open-source ProxMox VE.  It is based on two mature open-source virtualization products, namely OpenVZ and KVM.  I maintain two physical ProxMox VE servers running a total of eight virtual machine “guests”, including Ubuntu 8.04, Ubuntu 9.04, Windows 2003, and CentOS.  So far, the expirience has been nothing but positive.

To download ProxMox VE, head over to the developers website at www.proxmox.com and find ProxMox VE on their product page.  Or just go straight to pve.proxmox.com to get right into the good stuff.

There’s also a good review of ProxMox over at www.montanalinux.org.

Web server adventures

After years of hosting my blog and other web sites on rented server space, I now have my very own web server.  For the geeks out there who care to know, it is a Ubuntu 7.10 server running in a VMWare virtual machine, which is running on my Ubuntu 7.10 file server.  Why run Ubuntu 7.10 virtualized below Ubuntu 7.10?  The reason is simply because the of the time it takes to configure the web server and the associated software like apache, wordpress, mysql, egroupware, postgres, and others.  By running this on a virtual machine, I can easy make a complete backup of the web server VM.  Then, when server hardware fails, my web sites will be back online quickly, even before the server is repaired.  If needed, I can even place the VM on one of my Windows or Ubuntu workstations temporarily.

I compress the virtual machine backups with 7-zip, an open source product with a much higher compression ratio than .ZIP products.  This allows the virtual machine to be copied to a single CD, ready for quick restoration when trouble strikes.

Originally I planned to move my old blog posts to the new server.  However, because I’m lazy and computer information gets out-of-date quickly anyway, I’ve decided to start over  Therefore, this is post #1.