Archive for March, 2014
When I first stumbled across Tunlr two years ago, I was very happy that I finally could watch my favourite shows from the UK on Iplayer. I don’t really care for auto sports, but I’m an avid fan of Top Gear 🙂 . The BBC does generally have some great things to follow, I’m a sucker for the great British bake off and Doctor who as well 😛
Before that I used to have a VPN service and tunlr made it very tempting to just end my long standing relation with that VPN provider at the time. Also the VPN solution did never really cut it for me, just the constant buffering and things like that. Not that the VPN provider was to blame, but for streaming and on demand services VPN isn’t the best solution in general.
All was fine and well, and I also started to watch series from the USA to. Elementary and Person of interest from CBS are great. and Marvels agents of shield from ABC.com is fun watching. But that was all over, this did mean I had to search for an alternative to tunlr and a VPN provider again was not going to cut it. Not even mentioning that I would need to have two of them. One for the USA things and an other one for the BBC stuff as well, glad there where by now a few more options to choose from. It was not going to be free, but hey they don’t cost the world either.
At this point in time that I’m writing this, unlocator is still currently in beta and free because of it. But I did not choose them because I wanted service that I didn’t have to muck about with because it is in Beta, also the service will not stay free either of course it will be a paid service after the Beta as well of course and it will be $4.95 per month.
Unblock-us seems like a great service, with a lot of channels supported and a huge user base. And there PR seems great as well. The cost of this service is $4.99 per month.
The reason I chose adfreetime is very simple to be honest, for only $1.99 they are one of the cheaper per month services. But they do have the real benefit of having an ad-block feature as well for the same price. Now I can watch my favourite shows without commercial interruptions on any device. Except for hulu.com but that is a completely different story. Hulu isn’t the best with keeping series on-line either. Often seasons are not sorted by episode number most of the time even complete episodes are missing from a season. So no big loss that hulu still has the ads, was not worth watching it anyway most of the time.
About the ads, don’t get me wrong I do understand that those network people also have to make a living. However do exaggerate it a bit in my opinion. I would even watch the ads on a video, was it not for the reason a show is interrupted every 5 minutes for some ads of stuff I never going to buy. And the worst part of the ads because they are so plentiful, I get the feeling the total runtime of the ads is longer then the actual show I am watching. So I would, say go adfreetime with your wonderful ad-blocking abilities 😀
Short list of tunlr alternatives:
Wouldn’t it be wonderful that you could have WiFi internet access in the world for free? Luckily Martin Varsavsky who founded Fon thought the same thing. The way it works is share a bit of your internet bandwidth and get it in return from other people that share their internet the same way.
Well this did sound really great (still does) but the sad thing is that Fon never took of on it’s own, it was the classic “the chicken or the egg” dilemma. For the network to have a huge coverage and usability you would need to have a huge user base with access points and to have the incentive for people to sign up you would need to have a great coverage. Of course there where early adopters, but some of theme where not that pleased with how thing progressed and left again.
If someone doesn’t share there internet trough a Fon router, there is the option to buy a Fon pass. The most common Fon Passes are for 25 minutes, 1 hour, 1 day and 5 days. Fon does have the option to share in the profits if someone buys such a pass via your device, but if you don’t live in a high traffic area the earnings wouldn’t be much or nothing at all. Thus also not being a good incentive in my opinion to get more people sharing there internet connection via such a router.
Last but not least there is the anxiety for some people to open up there home internet connection to total strangers. But how the Fonera router functions, the total strangers don’t get access to the local network and only to the internet and they do get logged that they have used the Fonera hotstpot with a time and date. I do hope they log visited websites as well but can’t say that for certain at this point in time.
Because not enough people where joining Fon, they had to come up with some other strategy and what they started partnering up with telco providers to increase the coverage of there Fon network and potentially attract more subscribers in the process as well. The partnerships with BT_group (formerly know as British Telecom) Belgacom and SFR (Société française de radiotéléphone) are really successful in my opinion, a testament to this is just simply the massively orange coloured countries (France Belgium and the United Kingdom) on the Fon coverage map they have on-line. In every country they have a partnership with a telco provider you still can buy a Fonera router from Fon and join the party and you don’t have to sign-up with the partnered telco, the only exception to this is the Netherlands.
In the Netherlands the partnership with KPN partnership will be huge as well and it is estimated to have best coverage yet on a per country bases. The only sad thing is that the Fonera routers aren’t for sale any more in the Netherlands and the partnership includes that it will be exclusively for KPN ISP members only. Not even daughter companies are going to offer Fon to there customers. This undermines what was Fon all about in my opinion, free wifi by the masses for the masses.
For people living in the Netherlands a solution would be to simply buy a fonera router trough ebay, preferably a new one because that way you are sure it is not currently linked against an existing Fon account and also still has the original firmware. The reason for the alternate firmware on second hand Fonera routers, is that it is a relatively cheap device and is great for usage in DIY electronics projects. After procuring such a router, just simply power it up and connect to the unsecured SSID: fon_free_internet . At this point you will be greeted by the Fon catch page, on this page you can either create or register a new Fon account. While registering the Fon account from Netherlands, make sure that you not choose the Dutch version of the website but the English one. Via this route it is still possible to register a Fon router from within the Netherlands.
Although I think Fon does still offer a great service, I do find it somewhat limiting that if you have one Fon router you can only connect to one other Fon router while on the road and only upto 3 devices (to the same fon access point). Because I do live in a household with more then one person, I bought 3 fon routers to just hook them up side by side to have 3 separate accounts. This way all family members can use there devices at the same time at different fon access points. So in total I could connect up to 9 devices (still 3 per hotspot though).
An other feature I’m currently missing is that they did have in the past, is the ability to download a POI list with all the active fonera routers. That list then could be loaded into most GPS applications/devices, of course Fon has Android and Iphone apps to locate Fonera hotspots. But the issue with those apps that they need to be on-line to retrieve the nearest access points. And mobile internet access comes for a premium when you are abroad and makes it thereby somewhat useless. If they come up with a app that also works offline with a cached list, I would be very happy 🙂 .
All in all, I’m quite happy with the service Fon delivers. But since I’m from the Netherlands, I’m not that thrilled with the KPN exclusive deal they did. But at least I can still use my Fon accounts when the KPN finally roll out there Fon network.
The TP-Link tl-wa850 and the wa750 are both very identical, the only differences I could find are that the wa750 only has one internal antenna and the wa850 has two of them. This translates into to that the wa750 can only do 150Mbps and the wa850 300Mbps and of course de ring with the coloured leds on the wa750 are orange and on the 850 they are blue. (I do like orange leds better). Also the wifi strength indication on the ring looks nice, but is slightly pointless in my opinion. Price wise between the devices is not much differences either, so I would go with the wa850 in any case.
A bit more in depth
Because this device is a range extender, it is a shame it doesn’t have two radios. The benefit of two radio’s would be that it can send and receive at the same time passing the extended wifi along happily. This basically means that if you retransmit your wifi trough the range extender, you cut the speed in half more or less. Although this is a bit of a drawback, I haven’t found any device in this price range with two radio’s. It would be amazing if a router company decided to make such a device 🙂
Feature wise the wa850 and wa750 is a bit crippled lacklustre but that is probably by design, the slightly more expensive routers and access points they offer the much needed missing things. The fun thing is though that in terms of hardware there are no difference between some access points tp-link offers and the range extenders. For example it is not possible to run a lead to the range extender from your existing router and eliminate the issue of the cut in half speed of the wifi, oh well who know maybe they add it in a future update. But I wouldn’t bet my money on it.
Configuring the thing is relatively easy, but it works terrible when attempted over wireless directly. I would recommend using the included Ethernet cable to set it all up, Also worth mentioning is that the connection over wifi back to the main router is sometimes flaky and cuts out completely from time to time, and requiring you to unplug and replug the device.
My conclusion for the firmware that is running on the wa850 and wa750, the intend is there but not not quite there yet. Also the flakiness is dependent on what router you have, in conjunction with other tp-link devices there wasn’t an issue worth mentioning.
Beyond the exterior casing
Because I had other plans for this need device and needed some custom firmware on it I cracked open the case. Getting into the device was really a hassle because the ultrasonic welded the thing together, I ended up putting the whole thing into a vise and tightening it until a cracking sound was heard. At least my warranty was void for sure at this point ;). How the device cracked open along side the seems, I was very pleased with that. At least I’m able to put/glue it back together again.
The pcb is double sided and rather thick, not flimsy as you see more and more common these days. This also means that the device can handle some abuse of dropping it for example, from experience I know that the exterior case can handle a lot of abuse as well.
One thing though I am missing is a heat sink on the SoC, but not really needed for it’s intended purpose as range extender. Oh well it can do probably without.
The design itself is put together properly, and is almost identical the the Atheros ap123 reference design. Why change a good design anyway 🙂 For the tinkerers under us, the ring of leds can potentially be used for signal in and outputs.
More bang for your bug
Because the lacklustre firmware that the device came with and I needed to do run some other funky software on it. I ported it to OpenWrt. Currently the wa750 and wa850 are only supported under the trunk (beta) release of OpenWrt, this also means that there is by default no user interface. But my custom OpenWrt firmware comes with a webgui installed by default.
If you like to install OpenWrt stable (Attitude Adjustment), I backported the wa850 and wa750 to it as well, only downside to my backported devices is that it does come without a webgui, but it can be installed afterwards.
To install the OpenWrt firmware simply download the correct image that ends with factory in the name, and you are good to go :). You can simply flash it trough the tp-link web interface
More bang for your bug the simple way
Of course I understand that OpenWrt is not your cup of tea and you don’t want to keep tinkering with it and get frustrated when it doesn’t work. The solution for you is GarGoyle , it does run on OpenWrt Attitude Adjustment (stable). But in this case the added value is that the firmware isn’t harder then your avarage firmware a router comes with, but it does have a complete range of amazing features you have always been missing without the hassle of learning OpenWrt.
Because the range extender is fairly recently supported under OpenWrt, I made some custom gargoyle images available to flash them on to your range extender 🙂 . Just download the correct firmware with factory in the name and you are good to go, you can simply flash it trough the tp-link web interface.
The why on the custom firmware
While the original firmware on the Tp-link TL-wa850re and the wa750 works more or less, the custom firmware can really get everything out of the device. And if you flash the GarGoyle firmware you can have the same functionality again as the original firmware (extending your network). But have a lot more stuff and options in the process.
Also an other potential benefit would be that you now also have a fully fledged router.
Although the original firmware on both the wa850 and wa750 leave a lot desired, putting custom firmware on it makes it an amazing device and router.
This is my first blog post ever, don’t go too harsh on me 😉
Technical things have always been a passion of mine, at a very young age I always loved to take stuff apart and thinker with various things.I even started to pull things apart even before I could read! (oh well who reads instructions anyway).
The last few years I went trough a rather tough time. Well at least for me it was, also some stupid mistakes where made.
Enough about that, otherwise it would become just an other blog about someone being unhappy, instead I want to focus again on the positive things in life and share some of my ideas and knowledge with the world and give something back to the great Internet community in the process 🙂
The blog will be mostly about techie stuff from software to hardware, not just reviewing some products but sometimes even taking it apart completely and slightly modifying it. (or maybe in a big way, who knows).