Back to the drawing board...Router & AP(s) for Home Network

oneplane

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A note on the Fanless devices in an enclosed space: this isn't really a problem in most cases, even in a small closet (non-walk-in) they will do just fine. A 7th or 8th gen i5 (Qotom in this case) at medium load on a 1Gbps WAN-LAN type of configuration with no active airflow runs at about 30°C here. Because the chips used are low-power and/or mobile variants, they are designed to run fine even when hot (think: 100°C!).

If you can get a Topton, go for it, Qotom would be a good choice if you don't need 2.5GbE yet, and most other brands generally derive from those (or are just white label variants of the same thing).

On the other hand, you can run an mATX device with large fans at a slow speed just fine. Even with no case fans and just a PSU and something like a Cooler Master tower cooler (very cheap yet very performant) with a relatively large fan you can get a pretty quiet setup. That said, if you want to prevent the accumulation of even more stuff, you can also make the choice to only buy new stuff if something else goes out the door.
 
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Markess

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My lab is usually in a perpetual state of churn, and this spring is no different. For a while now, I'd been thinking about updating the NAS to be a bit more "capable". I've decided that I could use a Supermicro X11 & E3 v5 I'd picked up a couple months ago when I saw them for a good price (even though I didn't know what I wanted to do with them at the time).

This will free up the Supermicro A2SDi-4C-HLN4F (C3558) that had been in the NAS, and which I thought might work well in the firewall/router role. I swapped it into a small ITX case left over from an upgrade, along with an NVMe boot drive, 2x8GB Ram, and a single 60mm Noctua fan (https://www.servethehome.com/near-silent-powerhouse-making-a-quieter-microlab-platform/). Fan curve set to "Optimal" (30% PWM base speed) in the BMC. Power via an external brick

I don't know BSD very well (not at all really), so I used Ubuntu Mate with Stress-NG for some thermal/noise testing. After 10 hours with all 4 cores pegged at 100%, CPU was steady ~47, and the System Sensor at ~56 Degrees. The fan never increased from the 30% baseline speed (1200 RPM), which is virtually silent from anything more than a couple inches away.

I'm thinking in actual use that I'd never see the kind of heat that 100% all core utilization for 10 hours would generate? And while I suppose the onboard gigabit NICs would contribute more heat in operation that it did in testing, it wouldn't be too much more given that the NIC "chips" are part of the SOC which has the fan on it, and wouldn't be churning at 100% for hours at a time like I had it do in testing?
 
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Markess

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Thanks to everyone who helped me on this one ( @elvisimprsntr , @oneplane , @ReturnedSword , @sic0048 , @ddaenen1 , & @adman_c ) Networking is my definite weakest area, so all the advice was appreciated!

pfSense is up. I guess I was always intimidated by its being described as "highly configurable" & me having no idea what configuration I'd want/need. The Wizard, of course, took care of the basic configuration, which is all I need right now. VLANs & other "stuff" can come later

I put a single Engenius EWS377AP on the upper floor's ceiling in a position that gives at least partial unobstructed line of sight into all the living areas on both floors of the relatively open floorplan, plus a single wall for two bedrooms. 5 GHz is good (under 60 dB) in all those rooms.

Signal for two bedrooms on the other side of the house (stacked one above the other) is marginal. 5 GHz is ~-70-75 dB (ground floor) & -65-70 dB (upper). 2.4 GHz is -62 dB & 60dB respectively. Steering is on and set to "Prefer 5 Ghz" with threshold at 70 dB..

Not sure if I need a second AP to keep devices in those rooms from jumping back and forth between bands?
 
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elvisimprsntr

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@Markess

Congrats!

I too was intimidated by pfSense, but got tired of DD-WRT and OpenWrt (formally LEDE) limitations. My Linksys WRT series routers had outlived their usefulness so I took the plunge with pfSense many years ago. So much easier a to manage, save, migrate, restore configurations.

I tried a single WRT in AP mode for many years in my three story townhome, but coverage on the third floor was always weak. When I switched to the EWS377AP it was better, but adding the second EWS377AP eliminated all the weak zones.
 
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ReturnedSword

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pfSense is up. I guess I was always intimidated by its being described as "highly configurable" & me having no idea what configuration I'd want/need. The Wizard, of course, took care of the basic configuration, which is all I need right now. VLANs & other "stuff" can come later

I put a single Engenius EWS377AP on the upper floor's ceiling in a position that gives at least partial unobstructed line of sight into all the living areas on both floors of the relatively open floorplan, plus a single wall for two bedrooms. 5 GHz is good (under 60 dB) in all those rooms.

Signal for two bedrooms on the other side of the house (stacked one above the other) is marginal. 5 GHz is ~-70-75 dB (ground floor) & -65-70 dB (upper). 2.4 GHz is -62 dB & 60dB respectively. Steering is on and set to "Prefer 5 Ghz" with threshold at 70 dB..

Not sure if I need a second AP to keep devices in those rooms from jumping back and forth between bands?
See, it wasn't that scary after all, right? ;) What did you end up deciding to run your pfSense on? Specs are always fun, even if it's repurposed older hardware!

The default installation of pfSense is more than adequate, and better than most consumer router/firewalls. The nice part is configuration changes usually don't break your connections so learn pfSense at your leisure. I'd suggest setting up:
  • Snort/Suricata (signature based IDS/IPS, the community rules which are free are adequate for most homelabs. Suricata is more performant and preferred, though out of laziness I've been using Snort forever)
  • pfBlockerNG-devel (ad blocking, it uses the same rules lists as Pi Hole, but has additional features making pfBlockerNG much more powerful)
  • ntopng (network probe service monitoring network flows; it has nifty features like identifying what apps/IPs/ports are using bandwidth, connections, and geolocation tagging via MaxMind. Free version of MaxMind API key is sufficient)
  • apcupsd/NUT (for UPS. Can work in server mode for direct connect UPS, or network client mode if UPS is connected elsewhere. Allows you to gracefully shut down appliances on power loss)
  • OpenVPN/WireGuard (VPN tunnels, e.g. to connect back home while road warrioring)
  • OpenVPN Client Export (Generates pre-configured OpenVPN configuration files, if using OpenVPN)
  • RRD Summary (I have this installed since RRD for statistics was deprecated, don't use it often but it's useful)
  • Status Traffice Totals (Calculates traffic passed over a period of time, per NIC interface)
  • Service Watchdog (for auto-restarting stopped services on crash. Most services don't crash though)
There are some other nifty packages, such as Softflowd (similar to ntopng, but for Cisco, both output NetFlow for export), Telegraf (if you want to export data, e.g. creating your own Dashboards as you see posted often in /r/homelab). Since you're using VLAN capable APs now, another fun thing you can do later is to set up additional SSIDs for IoT, Guests, etc. You can even secure them with RADIUS, enforce a custom Captive Portal on Guest networks, etc.

From what I understand about your new AP (did you just buy that btw?), in the bedrooms at the other side of the house the 2.4 GHz signal is acceptable? If these are just guest bedrooms, that might be good enough. If you need better 5 Ghz signal there, then you may check signal elsewhere around the house and notate it down on a roughly drawn map. I find having strong WiFi signal in most areas of my front, back, and two side yards to be important as well, and have set up my APs accordingly. For your situation, perhaps you can move the new AP a bit towards the opposite edge of the house, if you're planning to install a second AP nearer to the two bedrooms.

About band hopping: I don't find this to be a huge issue for most devices, especially IoT, as long as the device has some kind of decent connection signal. Where hopping bands unexpectedly becomes a problem is if there is some expectation of consistency from an app, let's say WiFi Calling while walking around your house. With my RT-AC68Us, I don't even have that issue, because the AC68U lacks the capability to intelligently deal with hand-off between APs, much less switching bands haha. Do you have any particular use cases where band hopping becomes a problem?
 
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Markess

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See, it wasn't that scary after all, right? ;)
I'm pretty slow and deliberate with software installs, so it took 12 minutes instead of the 10 minutes you originally estimated. :D

What did you end up deciding to run your pfSense on? Specs are always fun, even if it's repurposed older hardware!
All repurposed from stuff on hand...
I'd suggest setting up:
Wow, thanks for the detailed recommendation list. I'll need to take some time to sort through that!

From what I understand about your new AP (did you just buy that btw?), in the bedrooms at the other side of the house the 2.4 GHz signal is acceptable?
Yes, the AP is new. I'd been in the ASUS ecosystem since pre-AI-MESH Lyra. I converted it to AI-Mesh firmware when it came out and then replaced the nodes with something newer as each one died. For the last couple years, the system was a GT-AC2900 and two RT-AC68U (actually T-Mobile CellSpots I got cheap on Ebay and reflashed).

Because the main router was in a closet (WAN and the LAN from all the rooms terminated there), it's WiFi signal was awful and I had to rely on the two extra nodes for Wifi. When the GT-AC2900 died recently, I was down to one AC68U (moved into the closet for router duty,) and one AC68U as AP. Which sucked. Rather than buy more ASUS stuff, I decided it was time to move on.

Yes, 2.4GHz is good in the two rooms at the far end of the house. One is my home office/lab of doom, which is pretty much all wired anyway. The other is my Daughter's bedroom. Even though her PC is wired as well, she does a lot with her tablet, phone, and school provided (wifi only) Chromebook. She's going to see how things are for a couple weeks with just the one AP. The IoT stuff on the perimeter (doorbell, cameras, etc.) is all good to go on 2.4.

If it turns out that one AP will be sufficient, I'll be a bit peeved...I spent all that time researching hardware that did fast roaming well, and I may not even need it! Sheesh! :rolleyes:

Anyway, thanks again! Cheers!
 

ReturnedSword

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I'm pretty slow and deliberate with software installs, so it took 12 minutes instead of the 10 minutes you originally estimated. :D
At least you took the jump, so it won't be so scary the next time you upgrade (to multi-gig if you get fiber internet over 1 Gbps).

All repurposed from stuff on hand...
That's some pretty nice hardware; I must say, better than anything I've run at home. It will serve you well until you upgrade past 1 Gbps fiber. You can cut down a bit on power usage by a few watts if you switch to a SATA SSD. I don't have any PM/SM951 anymore as those went into some builds I made for others, but that generation did use a bit more power than newer NVMe drives.

Yes, the AP is new. I'd been in the ASUS ecosystem since pre-AI-MESH Lyra. I converted it to AI-Mesh firmware when it came out and then replaced the nodes with something newer as each one died. For the last couple years, the system was a GT-AC2900 and two RT-AC68U (actually T-Mobile CellSpots I got cheap on Ebay and reflashed).

Because the main router was in a closet (WAN and the LAN from all the rooms terminated there), it's WiFi signal was awful and I had to rely on the two extra nodes for Wifi. When the GT-AC2900 died recently, I was down to one AC68U (moved into the closet for router duty,) and one AC68U as AP. Which sucked. Rather than buy more ASUS stuff, I decided it was time to move on.

Yes, 2.4GHz is good in the two rooms at the far end of the house. One is my home office/lab of doom, which is pretty much all wired anyway. The other is my Daughter's bedroom. Even though her PC is wired as well, she does a lot with her tablet, phone, and school provided (wifi only) Chromebook. She's going to see how things are for a couple weeks with just the one AP. The IoT stuff on the perimeter (doorbell, cameras, etc.) is all good to go on 2.4.

If it turns out that one AP will be sufficient, I'll be a bit peeved...I spent all that time researching hardware that did fast roaming well, and I may not even need it! Sheesh! :rolleyes:
I still don't have an idea why your ASUS equipment keeps dying. After my first WiFi router (Linksys WRT54G), all my WiFi stuff has been ASUS, and I've yet to have something die. Borked firmware perhaps, but recoverable from the built-in recovery server. There was a time newer firmware reverted the RT-AC68Us back to TM-AC1900s, but I was able to reflash back after jumping through some hoops.

What do you mean if "one AP will be sufficient?" Are you already planning to buy another AP? It won't hurt in most cases, just make sure there's slight overlap between the edges of signal. Engenius also has wallplate mount APs (they're usually lower range/weaker, but I've done installations like this because a client didn't want wall/ceiling mount).

If you ever upgrade to multi-gig fiber, you may think of going the route I'll go, which is a TMM box, probably a Lenovo M920q with an i7 for CPU frequency, and a fiber NIC, probably an Intel X520-DA2.
 
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Markess

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I still don't have an idea why your ASUS equipment keeps dying.
Just lucky I guess? The first generation Asus stuff was a three pack of the round Lyras. Those were buggy from day one, and if Google is any indication, I wasn't the only one with issues. Of the other equipment, only the GT-AC2900 died. The other two, older model, routers still work but coverage was lacking by themselves. I thought that as long as I was going to need buy more equipment, it was a good time to move away from AI-Mesh and its limitations.

What do you mean if "one AP will be sufficient?" Are you already planning to buy another AP?
From everything I was reading, I just assumed I'd probably need two APs. I'd planned to see how much the first one covered before I decided what I'd need for the far side of the house (e.g. a wall plate, another EWS377AP, or something in the middle like a EWS357AP). Biting the bullet and getting into the crawl space to pull a cable over for a central location ceiling mount seems to have paid off though, and the one AP seems to be sufficient so far.
 

Markess

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One thing you haven’t shared about so far, was how was your wife and son’s reaction to this upgrade? ;)
Funny thing that...Wife and daughter went out of town for a couple days, and my son was busy with something else. I told them I'd dedicate my life, nay, my entire existence, to fixing the degraded WiFi for them while they were off doing other important stuff. I'm such a selfless family man! :D

Upon their return, I proudly pointed out the ceiling mounted AP that had replaced the AI-MESH node in the upstairs office. WiFi was back up to speed, and everyone was pleased! Somehow, I...er....um....forgot to tell them about the pfSense box having replaced the other router that had been on the top shelf in the closet (where nobody ever looks anyway). :rolleyes:

Oops! ;)

Remember the WAF!
Oh yes! The saga of updating the network while simultaneously satisfying my kids and the woman in charge has been going on for a while (https://forums.servethehome.com/ind...recommendations-for-a-home-wifi-router.28762/). I think this one was a definite win.

Still on the To Do List is replacing the 16 port manged switch in my office with a 24, or even a 48 Port one. Since its in my office, nobody in the family will care what I do on that one. Yay! I think I'll also use the (now unused) RT-AC68Us to replace the weak sauce outlet plug mount WiFi extender in the garage I have for the gear that's out there.
 
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ReturnedSword

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Haha, sometimes I feel like getting buy in from the family is a complication, rather than being helpful. I just go ahead and do it, after giving a heads up about the expense to the budget. I can certainly have a discussion about budget matters, however many people go with marketing and get suckered into that.

For the garage, would the two rooms that have weak 5 GHz signal be nearby? Perhaps if you install a second AP for the two rooms, the garage will get better signal as well? My aging RT-AC68Us not withstanding, I have blanketed 5 GHz signal everywhere in my late 1950s ranch style home (a lot of metal in those walls, the whole house is a semi-Faraday cage). The 5 GHz signal extends to almost all edges of the front/back/side yards (my residential plot is pretty big). Heck, I automatically start connecting to the 2.4 GHz signal from a half dozen houses down the street haha.

A little anecdote about the wife and son's insistence of Best Buy solutions:

When I was a teenager decades ago, I worked at Best Buy when they started their major expansion. In a few short years, Best Buy managed to kill off the Sears Electronics department and a beloved electronics chain here called Good Guys. In just a bit more time they killed off CompUSA. As some might know, the thing people hated most about electronics and appliance stores back in the day was the commission incentive structure for salesmen, because American society had just about moved away from haggling for these purchases (electronics, appliances, were one of the last haggle structure purchases left, with only cars remaining). Best Buy was great because they had ZERO commission, so no haggling right?

Well, not so. Indeed there was no haggling involved at Best Buy, however, in that computer terminal of every department was the inventory lookup system... which conveniently had wholesale, current price, any sale savings, all conveniently broken down for the "blue shirts." But most importantly, it had the profit breakdown. The profit to Best Buy, that was. Now being an honest person, I tried to understand customers' needs and budget, then guide customers to the best product for their budget. I can still remember the many "talks" from supervisors/associate managers to this day. Not only were store incentivized to not really understand the products (because no commission), but it was drilled into associates that they needed to steer customers to the products with the HIGHEST profit to Best Buy, regardless of if it suits the customer's needs or not. I don't work that way, so one day I had a frank talk to the store GM, and resigned.

I think Best Buy is ok, like any other store, to buy stuff at. This is of course the company famous for the "angels and devils" customer strategy. Angels being uninformed customers who will buy whatever the associate suggests, Devils being well-researched customers who insist on receiving the promised promotion. I never talk to anyone. I know what I want before I arrive. Of course marketing inevitably influences me in little ways too, but I want to research the hard technical facts first before purchasing anything.
 

elvisimprsntr

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Best Buy (or any BnM retailer for that matter) is a about profit per cubic foot and sub leasing space to brands to cover their expenses. If I find something on Amazon and BB is willing to price match, then maybe.
 
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ReturnedSword

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Best Buy wants to play games too, where they have the same exact product, but with a slightly different model number, so they won’t price match it. They’re not a warehouse club, with discounted prices to begin with (warehouse clubs usually have unique model numbers).

A fun experience a few years back was they stealth changed a policy for people with resale certificates. Best Buy and Fry’s (RIP, but yuck) were my source of last resort if I needed something for a client within the day. Nowadays, Best Buy tries to steer resellers towards their business program, which costs money and provides no benefits. In the last couple of years I’ve spent a total of $50 at Best Buy (Google TV dongle). They don’t deserve a customer’s money.
 
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Markess

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For the garage, would the two rooms that have weak 5 GHz signal be nearby? Perhaps if you install a second AP for the two rooms, the garage will get better signal as well?
Garage is actually on the side of the house with good signal, but its not wired. There's three systems in the garage. Rather three WiFi adapters, the RJ45 on the extender connects to a 5 port switch and from there to the three system's NICs. I can only assume that the AC68Us (in either Bridge or AP mode?) must be more "capable" than an outlet plug extender...so presumably better reception/faster? :)

In a few short years, Best Buy managed to kill off the Sears Electronics department and a beloved electronics chain here called Good Guys. In just a bit more time they killed off CompUSA.
A few years before they got bought out (by CompUSA!), The Good Guys moved their headquarters to Alameda, across the street from where I worked. CompUSA didn't last much longer of course. By the time CompUSA went, I'd moved and there was a Fry's, a CompUSA, and a Best Buy all about 2 miles from the house. Now that the Fry's is gone too, its Best Buy or nothing for me, as far as B&M options go.

Fry’s (RIP, but yuck)
Yeah, yuck. But before their decline, they were handy to have around for consumers that liked to build their own. I first moved to California for work in 1989. When I walked into the original Sunnyvale Fry's for the first time, I thought I was in heaven! :p CompUSA wasn't as slick, but I was floored by the "here take this huge shopping cart and fill it up with parts from the huge stacks all over the store" vibe when I went to one in Dallas for the first time a couple years later. Heck, these days even MicroCenter has moved out of my area.
 

LodeRunner

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Garage is actually on the side of the house with good signal, but its not wired. There's three systems in the garage. Rather three WiFi adapters, the RJ45 on the extender connects to a 5 port switch and from there to the three system's NICs. I can only assume that the AC68Us (in either Bridge or AP mode?) must be more "capable" than an outlet plug extender...so presumably better reception/faster? :)



A few years before they got bought out (by CompUSA!), The Good Guys moved their headquarters to Alameda, across the street from where I worked. CompUSA didn't last much longer of course. By the time CompUSA went, I'd moved and there was a Fry's, a CompUSA, and a Best Buy all about 2 miles from the house. Now that the Fry's is gone too, its Best Buy or nothing for me, as far as B&M options go.



Yeah, yuck. But before their decline, they were handy to have around for consumers that liked to build their own. I first moved to California for work in 1989. When I walked into the original Sunnyvale Fry's for the first time, I thought I was in heaven! :p CompUSA wasn't as slick, but I was floored by the "here take this huge shopping cart and fill it up with parts from the huge stacks all over the store" vibe when I went to one in Dallas for the first time a couple years later. Heck, these days even MicroCenter has moved out of my area.
Fry's was fine until the kickback scheme (which triggered a number of supplier lawsuits), the attempted move to consignment model, and they were very late to the selling online game. They never really seemed to recover from that and got real aggressive putting the floor workers on commission and such. The two near me hung on until 2015 or so I want to say before they really started having supply issues. There were a handful of staff at each location that knew their stuff and I was always willing to let them write up whatever thing I happened to be purchasing.
 
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ReturnedSword

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Garage is actually on the side of the house with good signal, but its not wired. There's three systems in the garage. Rather three WiFi adapters, the RJ45 on the extender connects to a 5 port switch and from there to the three system's NICs. I can only assume that the AC68Us (in either Bridge or AP mode?) must be more "capable" than an outlet plug extender...so presumably better reception/faster? :)
A RT-AC68U is going to be likely better than any AC-class extender when put into wireless bridge mode. I really prefer to run a cable drop though, and have done so to my garage. Is your garage too hard to reach through the crawl space/ceiling?

A few years before they got bought out (by CompUSA!), The Good Guys moved their headquarters to Alameda, across the street from where I worked. CompUSA didn't last much longer of course. By the time CompUSA went, I'd moved and there was a Fry's, a CompUSA, and a Best Buy all about 2 miles from the house. Now that the Fry's is gone too, its Best Buy or nothing for me, as far as B&M options go.

Yeah, yuck. But before their decline, they were handy to have around for consumers that liked to build their own. I first moved to California for work in 1989. When I walked into the original Sunnyvale Fry's for the first time, I thought I was in heaven! :p CompUSA wasn't as slick, but I was floored by the "here take this huge shopping cart and fill it up with parts from the huge stacks all over the store" vibe when I went to one in Dallas for the first time a couple years later. Heck, these days even MicroCenter has moved out of my area.
I was never sure why CompUSA bought Good Guys. CompUSA was clearly on the decline even before they got bought out by the vulture hedge funds. I do have good memories of them though, as they had a store nearby my high school where I’d be able to walk to. Bought quite a few upgrades for my Pentium II/III/4 and Athlon/Athlon XP systems from there, not to mention the old school video games. It was also where I fell in love with Lian Li cases, but wasn’t able to afford one back then. Ironically to this day I still love Lian Li but have never bought one of their cases haha.

I’m so lucky we still have a MicroCenter here in Tustin, CA. They have knowledgeable people who are actually helpful. That’s my go-to B&M

Fry's was fine until the kickback scheme (which triggered a number of supplier lawsuits), the attempted move to consignment model, and they were very late to the selling online game. They never really seemed to recover from that and got real aggressive putting the floor workers on commission and such. The two near me hung on until 2015 or so I want to say before they really started having supply issues. There were a handful of staff at each location that knew their stuff and I was always willing to let them write up whatever thing I happened to be purchasing.
Oh no, Fry’s started its downward spiral well before the executive kickback scheme scandal. It started long before, when Fry’s took away commission incentives for employees except computer/appliance salesmen, without paying employees more. This was around 2003 I reckon, when my younger brother was working there. Back then even a cashier on minimum wage could make a decent paycheck if they were efficient with ringing up customers due to commission, though small. I recall employees in every department proactively trying to help customers, even if their knowledge was lacking, because of commissions (when they try to help you then print out an invoice). After that debacle employees just didn’t care anymore. It just looks bad when a customer such as myself was able to help other customers better than the employees (who never failed to try to interject to print up an invoice so they get commission ;)).

The kickback scandal was just the icing on the cake. Here in Orange County we had two stores, in Fountain Valley and Anaheim. I have fond memories as a kid being in awe of all the video games, computer parts, it was a techie’s dream, reminding me of Radio Shack’s heyday where I could actually buy components to make/repair electronics. Fry’s totally failed at the consignment model, and only had suppliers of shoddy products left. Even then they would shuffle inventory around, most famously in their last year where they literally temporarily shipped all west coast inventory to the Las Vegas store to feebly show they were still in business for CES. The two local Fry’s have been bought by Amazon to be logistics centers. Kinda weird, seems like Amazon is buying up defunct big box stores everywhere to turn into logistics centers.
 

newabc

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The ntopng add-on package of pfSense was not so stable and often made coredumps when I was using it on an Atom C3000 pfSense box together with Suricata, on and before year-2020 in which year I removed ntopng.
 

ddaenen1

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I have 4 packages installed:

- ACME certs as i use a FQDN for access to my Nextcloud
- HAProxy to manage the connectivity to the Nextcloud server
- apcupsd to monitor my UPS from within fpsense
- pfblockerNG-devel as additional threat monitor and blocker

All of that together i have absolutely zero issues.

If you start with pfblockerNG, do go for the devel-version as it is easier to configure and start small. Only one or 2, max 3 feeds. You will find you will go back and forth several times to get the right amount with no interference with your browsing activity. As you see below, i maintain only few.

1653486497795.png
 
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