is a pile of bits

The Eero6 Mistake
Someone Else's WiFi

I made a mistake. I’m rectifying the mistake now, but I want to share my experiences with you in the hopes that the information I gained while sorting through my folly may be interesting or enlightening in some way.

I bought into the eero6.

Let’s backtrack a bit. My home network is what I’d imagine the average mid-nerd level setup to be. ISP (ATT Fiber in this case) provides their hardware, and I immediately get it set to bridge mode. I connect my own hardware to act as router and firewall, I run my own caching nameserver and my own timeserver, and have a mix of static and dynamic addresses on two subnets (let’s call them “user” for user devices and “core” for persistent services). It’s nothing particularly intense but it’s also not the consumer plug-and-play.

My user network had been providing wireless connectivity via a trio of old 802.11g access points, each acting as simple bridges, and all sharing the same SSID. Roaming connectivity was good, but bandwidth was very dated (54Mbps max, yikes). I’ve got wired gigabit to my desk and the spots that the access points were located in, and it was well past time to start trying to actually use some of that. I started to think about upgrading.

At the same time I’d been fostering a growing interest in home automation. I wasn’t sure at the time what technology I’d settle on, but zigbee and wifi both seemed reasonable.

So when I saw this new eero6 thing announced, I was very excited. A wifi6 router (802.11ax) with integrated zigbee hub! I could go from extremely dated tech to the cutting edge. It also had a lovely sleek aesthetic, so it wouldn’t look like a big spiky pile of junk when stationed around the house. I quickly looked over a few reviews and ordered a pair!

I didn’t research deeply enough.

Here’s what I discovered after having the eeros in service for a few weeks.

  • management is cloud-based only. There’s no local management interface on the eeros, they connect out to api-user.e2ro.com and that’s what you have to talk to in order to check the device status or change settings. There is a python package which can authenticate against this REST endpoint in order to query the device status.
  • the eeros have an undocumented MAC address that they use when in bridge mode to get an IP for themselves. I watched my dhcpd logs to discover this, and subsequently assigned them specific IPs. There is no way to configure an IP from the eero itself when it’s in bridge mode.
  • the eeros use dhcp to get an IP, but do not honor the dns or ntp options. Instead they have hard-coded lists of name and time servers and will use those directly. I discovered this watching iptables logs, and added some pre-routing rules to dnat to my own name and time services.
  • the eeros run samknows1 speedtests nightly, and this cannot be disabled. This uses TCP ports 6004 and 6500, and UDP port 6003
  • the eeros perform software updates automatically, and this cannot be disabled. I noticed this when my wireless network just decided to reboot one day. This is considered to be a design feature.
  • the eeros determine if the network is up or not by occasionally hitting [http://eeroup.com/up.css] but as mentioned previously blocking the software update connections will still trigger it to start flashing an error. Nonetheless I started hosting my own copy of this file and redirect as I was with dns and ntp.
  • the eeros get some unknown information via https. Some of this is directed at the samknows1 hosts, so is probably for geolocation and fetching lists of speedtest servers. The rest is directed to EC2 which is probably where the cloud control lives. I did attempted to mitm these connections, but it’s set to validate the certificate so it wasn’t fooled.
  • the much anticipated zigbee bridge requires you to link the eero to an amazon alexa account. Devices it discovers are only available via alexa integration, which means control leaves the house.
  • nothing I own can take advantage of wifi6. At best I get 400Mb/s from my most modern wireless devices.

In short, the eero6 is really more like an amazon service than an access point. You’re very limited in what you’re allowed to do with it, and support is negligible. If you are already invested in alexa and the idea of your wireless access being a service provided by someone else seems appealing, this may be a great product for you. But if you are someone who tinkers with your network and has it set up the way you like it, and above all want to be the one in control, this is absolutely not the device you want.

To celebrate Buy Nothing Day I’ve also decided that today is the best time to file a return! I had already ordered replacement devices. This time I’m going with Cisco CBW140AC. Not wifi6, but going from 802.11g to 802.11ac is a significant upgrade still.

The home automation problem I solved with a dedicated RPi4 running a containerized version of Home Assistant with a HUSBZB-1 dongle that can operate with both zigbee and z-wave devices. More on that another day.