Apple has left the home WiFi market. Airport Express and Airport Extreme products are discontinued and the work group that was maintaining the device firmware was dispersed to other Apple work groups. One of the attractions of Apple Airport is that Apple announced device firmware updates in the same way as other software updates. The App Store applied the update and life was good. I had been spoiled since I bought my first Airport Express back in 2002 or 2003.
- Revised to describe IPV6 configuration. It appears auto does not configure IPV6.
- Added references.
- IPv^ configuration: https://kb.netgear.com/24009/How-do-I-use-auto-configuration-to-set-up-an-IPv6-Internet-connection-on-my-Nighthawk-router?cid=wmt_netgear_organic
- OpenDNS for IPV6: https://support.opendns.com/hc/en-us/articles/227986667-Does-OpenDNS-support-IPv6-
- Google DNS for IPV6: https://developers.google.com/speed/public-dns/docs/using
- Verify IPv6 configuration: https://testipv6.google.cm
- Verify IPV6 browsing: http://test-ipv6.com
- Orbi maintenance portals: https://orbilogin.net/ and 10.1.1.1 or 192.168.1.1 on LAN.
What I bought
I’m not the fan of a cigar box bristling with enough antennas to be a spy ship. I don’t need to do anything fancy with ports, DMZ hosts, etc. Just a basic home network for the things and iPad/iPhone use at home. Recently, a number of companies have introduced WiFi mesh routers, Among them, two new companies Eero and Luma, new to hardware Google, and old friend NetGear. I’d been reading reviews for a while so I ordered up a NetGear Orbi and new NetGear cable modem (CR700) as Cisco had left the low margin home equipment business.
NetGear Orbi Setup Impressions
NetGear Orbi proved to be easy to set up. Everything went pretty much in accordance with NetGear’s getting started video and quick start guide. The box automatically configures itself reasonably. All you really need to do is enter your network’s SSID and WPA2 pass phrase. The carrier side provisions via DHCP from the cable modem. The home side configures as RFC 1918 class C network 192.1.1.*.
The initial configuration happens via the NetGear Orbi iOS/Android app. The router will come up on a cold start WiFi network. A sleeve on the device gives the SSID and pass phrase. You connect your App to this network and follow the dialogs. They will prompt for the new SSID, new pass phrase, and maybe a new admin password. I got this last bit wrong and had to follow NetGear’s router password recovery procedure at https://orbilogin.com/. Once recovered, I could log in and review what the wizard had done for me. I changed DNS providers from Cox to Google and DynDNS, and changed to the Class A RFC 1918 space.
Note that the Orbi configuration app does not configure IPV6. You must configure it manually from orbilogin.com or by browsing to the router LAN port.
The router offers 2 management options, orbilogin.com remote management and local management by local web browser talking to the first local network address, 10.1.1.1 in my case.
I configured IPV6 from the LAN side but it may also be configured from OrbiLogin.net
- Browse to orbilogin.net and sign in with Email and credential.
- Select the Advanced tab
- Open Advanced setup and select IPv6 link.
- When the page opens, select Internet Connection Type item Auto Detect
- It should tell you the configuration method and IPv6 WAN address of the router
- Skip ahead to the LAN section. The LAN side network address and router port should appear.
- Select the Auto Config radio button.
- Apply these settings.
- Review the new view to confirm that all went well.
Configure IPv6 DNS
Above, I skipped over DNS for the moment because it is a matter of personal preference. If you are happy using your carrier’s DNS servers, Click “Get automatically from ISP”. If you, as I do, prefer to use 3rd party DNS servers, click the radio button “Use these DNS servers” and enter a primary server and a backup server. I use OpenDNS and Google DNS servers. By default, Orbi uses the ISP’s DNS servers. If you change this option, remember to Apply the changes.
Note that Netgear Parental Controls use OpenDNS. If you enable parental controls, this happens using OpenDNS parental controls service. I have not installed parental controls.
You can test IPv6 operation using the link in the references. I’ve found that iPad Pro is happy, I’ve not checked iPhone but it should be happy, and my geriatric Mac Mini is unhappy. Most Mac browsers will not use IPv6. I’ve confirmed this with Safari, Chrome, and Brave. The problem appears to be on Apple’s end. DNS works but no browsers use IPv6. The MacOS application firewall appears to be ok.
MacOS El Capitain IPv6
MacOS El Capitain appears not to use IPv6 protocols for WAN communications. However, El Capitain is perfectly happy to communicate with a Chromecast Audio device that is IPv6 only. Given that all IPv6 address block have been issued, new networks will be IPv6 and El Capitain is unable to communicate with them. This appears to be a conscious Apple design decision as netstat shows that IPv6 is being received and sent. Apparently, many applications have legacy IPv4 only network interfaces.
Colicky Nest Protects
Nest Protects are well behaved once settled on a network but can be colicky when a WiFi MAC address is changed. In my case, I first configured with the original SSID and pass phrase. All my Nest Protects went missing. After a lot of reading at Nest and Orbi forums, I learned that this was a common occurrence and that the Protects needed to be reconfigured. I took advantage of this opportunity to pick a new passphrase.
I also learned that WPA2-PSK [TKIP] was deprecated and that WPA2-PSK [AES] should be used for new deployments. There were new check boxes in the Orbi advanced configuration to enable AES+TKIP to accommodate legacy devices. Did I need to do that? Nest didn’t say so I opened a support ticket while I continued reading. It turned out to be easier to try AES only than to get an answer from the Internet Oracle. So I set AES only and brought everything up.
A free upgrade from Cox?
The Airport Extreme, the tall one, was not keeping up with Cox Preferred during speed test. The Orbi does. When I called Cox to provision the new cable modem, Cox informed me that Cox preferred had been upgraded to 110 mbps down and 5 mbps up in Tidewater Virginia. They don’t automatically provision clients to the new QOS standard but rather do so when people call in. After provisioning the new modem and checking throughput, the Cox staffer offered to update me to the new Cox Preferred performance levels. Turns out there was a promotional break to upgrade from standard to preferred, so he downgraded to standard, then upgraded to Preferred. I save about $5 a month and price reverts to the original cost of old Preferred.
Once upgraded, Orbi’s built in speed test showed that it was keeping up with the new Preferred. Orbi was also able to do this over the air in the lounge.
What Makes Orbi Unique?
Eero, Google, Luma, and Orbi, all use WiFi mesh technology with over the air mesh links between each device. The first 3 devices all do the back link on the primary network frequency. Orbi is unique in that it has a 3rd MAC dedicated to mesh links. Mesh forwarding or back haul does not borrow capacity from the user channel. Orbi makes this happen transparently. It is an inherent feature of the device and system design. It also explains the price premium for Orbi. Each device must have a third radio transceiver for the mesh link.
The other unusual feature of Orbi is that the Satellite is different than the primary. The primary has an uplink connection. The Satellite uses that 4th connection as an additional access port. Orbi Satellites must do the mesh link over the air on the third transceiver.