In 2014 I bought a new router. I did again this year.
The old ASUS RT-AC68U still works great, but we've been stretching it's RAM and CPU with the abundant networking we've been doing lately during our time working from home. The kiddos are either on their Mac or iPads, the missus is on her laptops or phone, and I've got a pair of laptops and iPads and a phone, too. Then there are a couple wired workstations, printers, Google Home kind of devices, and the television (and related equipment). Man, spelling it out, that's a lot of stuff. Most of it is either work-provided or generations of upgrades and hand-me-downs.
After much vacillation, I decided to upgrade the gateway router to a new ASUS RT-AX88U. It's a bit of a beast, with a massive quad-core processor, gig of RAM, and a generous 256MB flash. Like double or quad what the old router had. Plus four radios, and next-gen wireless, including 5G. It's about the most advanced wireless device in the house. We're ready for the next gen.
It arrived earlier in the week, and then I dreaded the interruption it would take to install it. The network is pretty simple. There are a few static-addressed servers, but they connect directly to the telco router. Internally, at the basement servers, there's a GB switch that the servers use to connect to each other and the LAN, independent of the routers. In the office, there's another server. The office has its own GB switch for the server and wired workstations and printers. The two server switches are wired to the router. This means that unplugging the router disconnects the one server group from the office server, which disrupts things, like this blog, which has web services on one and database services on the other.
It happened yesterday that the RT-AC68U decided to seize. It has been doing this infrequently, but not rarely. It had been happening every few days, so I set it up to reboot each morning, in the wee hours. Still occasionally it hiccups. Also the telco router hiccups under pressure, leading to a minute-long interruption. This still happens occasionally, and seems to always be when everyone is busy; certainly that's when everyone notices. Since the router had stopped responding, and some internet traffic was hiccuping, it seemed like a great time to make the swap.
I pulled the RT-AX88U from its box, and attached it to my laptop to quickly set it up. I added the static IP of the old router, gave it its static IP, tweaked the DHCP, and set the other ISP settings. After it configured and restarted, I unplugged it and put it into place where the RT-AC68U was. It barked that the internet was missing, but traffic seemed to flow. WiFi behaved, and everything was visible on the network. Some things were wonky, like some sites wouldn't load, really because some host name resolution failed, but I could ping the world by IP. I disabled the DoH (DNS over HTTPS), and suddenly everything wonked back to normal. I'll worry about that later.
I added in a couple of the static DHCP reservations I hadn't put before, and put the SSH through to the host I allow (which only accepts private-key authentication, so don't bother), and a couple other tweaks I hadn't set before. Then I lugged the RT-AC68U upstairs to add it as a mesh node later.
Only the Apple TV needed credentials to be re-entered. I used the same SSID and password as before, so only the gateway changed (I gave the new router a different LAN IP, because it deserved it), and the DHCP reservations. The rest of the afternoon and next workday went just fine, with no apparent breaches or drops.
Last night I took the old router upstairs, where I'll start the mesh. I connected it to my laptop, reset its firmware, re-created its network, and then fumbled to make it part of the mesh. I set it up as an AP and a repeater, and neither offered the option to join the mesh, even though the AP setting also noted it was an AP/AiMesh offering. I checked for a tutorial and found the menu item I needed to see. Once I bonked the "AiMesh Node" item in the "Operating Mode" tab, it again reset, and this time was available to the other router to add as a node. Sadly, I cannot provide it with a fixed IP, but that seems OK as I can't directly administer it anyway.
Through the web interface and ASUS's admin app, I can see the router in the network, and that it has about half of the devices, and even see that my iPad moved from one to the other with no apparent interruption. Slick. Now I have strong signals throughout my house, instead of the occasional half-strength I'd get on the second floor. I will find an Ethernet port to connect the upstairs router, to reduce WiFi traffic and noise.
But, still, slick.
One small side effect is that now in the ASUS admin app on my iPad and phone, I can't see the CPU or RAM on the primary router. This was key to knowing when the router was about to bottom out. Surely it's because of all of the DNS and NAT caching and management it's doing. Hopefully the generous CPU and RAM of the new router will crush it, plus the offloading of some of the WiFi handling.
Now I just need to curb my desire to buy any more to extend the network to the garage...