Sunday, 19 January 2020

Another fine mesh

While Anita shops for groceries in the local supermarkets, I often have a coffee and then browse the hi-tech shelves.  I noticed, a while back, the arrival of a new technology; a wireless mesh system for WiFi in the home.  The idea is to spread around in the house, a number of wireless hubs that talk to each other, and each of these then offers a WiFi access point with a good signal.

Our house has thick walls, some are of stone, and the WiFi doesn't penetrate all that well from the modem/router in the downstairs hall.   I had installed an extender to give a better signal upstairs, but it makes a new WiFI net with a different name, which you then have to deal with.   So I figured that a mesh system would probably be useful for when we move house, but is not necessary right now.  Besides, they were expensive.

During a browse last week, I saw that the price of a TP-Link mesh system had been vastly reduced.  They were offering a two-hub system for about €75.  That's an interesting price, and could mean that it's worth getting one now rather than later.  I looked around the internet and settled for a 3-hub system for €99.  I figure that you can't get much in the way of electronics for €33 normally, so even if this is an end-of-range offer, it's still worth getting.  After all, it should last a reasonable time.

I installed it yesterday and it seems to work well.  You manage the mesh with an Android (or Apple) app (Not available for Windows; a sign of the times), and the setup is straightforward, pretty much automatic.  The only hassles I had were with the existing modem/router.  I decided to disable the old WiFi system to minimise the possibility of interference, so I had to log in to the old router.  Funny, it's not accepting my password, and I'm sure I keep a meticulous record.  Long story short, it seems that TP-Link manage your password centrally, and in setting a password for the mesh, the login password for the (TP-Link) modem/router changed to that new one.  I don't remember being told about that.  I had to do a factory reset of the modem/router and re-enter all the internet account login and communications parameters.

Here's a picture of the hub (the white cylinder next to the black modem/router).  They're not ugly (although Anita put the one in the lounge into a vase to hide it), they seem to work, and I get a good WiFi signal throughout the house.  I might need to play with the layout to get the best data rate, and TP-Link tell me that I can unplug them and move them about without having to set them again.  We shall see.

PS: you can move the hubs around and they do reconnect themselves, taking a couple of minutes to restart and sort themselves out.

PPS:   After a few days of using the management software on a tablet, I have to say that I'm impressed.  Too often these days, manufacturers overlook the necessity to make such things easy to understand and follow.  So not only do you get a series of labelled icons on the screen, but if you click on one, it goes on to tell you what the thing does, and sometimes, what to do if things don't work out.  It builds confidence, and I like it.  

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