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CradlePoint's New NetBSD Platform vs Legacy Ubicom Platform

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Wednesday, 29 June 2011

CradlePoint's New NetBSD Platform vs Legacy Ubicom Platform


CradlePoint has released several new routers recently, all of which operate on CradlePoint's new NetBSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) platform, which is Unix-based and offers a much cleaner interface than the legacy CradlePoint Ubicom admin interface you'll find on the "classic" CradlePoint routers.   For those that have heard of NetBSD, it is the same operating system that Apple has built Mac OS X.  This new platform is specifically built with 4G LTE and 4G WiMAX technology in mind and features improvements in modem reliability. With NetBSD they’ve also made the control panel more user-friendly and a lot easier for customers to navigate. However, customers used to the older platform may feel a bit lost initially. Above you'll find a full video demonstration comparing the NetBSD platform with the legacy Ubicom platform, and below you’ll find screenshots and detailed information on the new NetBSD platform.


All of CradlePoint's recently-released routers operate on the new CradlePoint WiPipe Series 3 (NetBSD):


To make things easier and less confusing on the customer Cradlepoint has also created model identifiers for their older legacy routers:


Be sure to click the above 3Gstore links to read customer reviews on how actual users like the new CradlePoint interface!

classic CradlePoint admin interface:


new CradlePoint BSD interface:


When you log into the web admin for a netBSD router (the URL is the same: http://192.168.0.1), the first thing you'll notice is that the initial setup is much easier than it was on older CradlePoint models. You can easily change your wireless network name (SSID) and set up WEP or WPA security; on older models you needed to dig through a wall of text and options to find these sections. By creating a simple step-by-step interface that customers can follow, CradlePoint has made the initial configuration easy enough so that even users with very minimal technical knowledge can configure it. In fact, if you're not concerned with changing the network name and just want to access the internet, these new models ship with WPA security already enabled!

Guest SSID Settings (left): Digging beyond the basic interface you'll also find some exciting new options like the dual SSID feature, which allow you to create two networks within one router. This will allow you to create a private network for your home/office and a secondary network with a different password for guests. The main advantage to the guest network is it can be configured with a different password and turned on/off when you know you'll have guests that need access; users connected to the guest network will only have internet access - they won't be able to log into the router or access any of the other computers on the network.

WiFi as WAN: Another major difference between the older Cradlepoint routers and the new CradlePoint BSD models is WiFi as WAN (screenshot below). This feature allows the router to connect to any WiFi source within range (as long as it's either an open network or you have the password) and use that network as its source of connectivity. Until this new NetBSD platform launched, Cradlepoint users who wanted to pick up a WiFi network (like campground WiFi, for example) needed to use a product like the Pepwave Surf Mini. This feature alone makes the NetBSD platform unique and offers users several new uses for their router that aren't possible with the older Cradlepoint routers.

Popular WiFi as WAN applications:

  • Failover/backup: If your main Cable/DSL connection goes down, you can connect to a neighboring WiFi signal within 10-15 seconds, allowing you to continue working until your network comes back online.
  • Connect a smartphone: Many popular smartphones offer a "Mobile Hotspot" feature, which turns the phone into a WiFi hotspot for 3-8 users. By connecting your CradlePoint router to your phone's hotspot, you'll be able to remove the user limitation, gain access to features like port forwarding and be able to hardwire devices via a standard Cat5 Ethernet cable.
  • Repeating a wireless signal: If you have a large area you'd like to cover with WiFi you can use WiFi as WAN to receive the WiFi source from your main router and then repeat the signal throughout the remainder of the building. Please note: For multiple CradlePoint routers linked together, we recommend a Star Topology configuration for optimal performance.
  • Wireless receivers: If you've got a desktop or other device that doesn't support wireless but isn't nearby your WiFi source, you can place a WiFi as WAN-enabled CradlePoint router by the device connect via ethernet.


WiFi as WAN configuration nenu

Modem Health Management: Another great feature for anyone using a 3G/4G data card is the "Modem Hammer," also know as Modem Health Management (MHM). MHM monitors the connectivity of 3rd party 3G/4G USB modems connected to the router and offers different ways of recovering from modem freezes and other modem issues. If MHM determines there is a problem with the modem, it can do a software reset, hardware reset and even a full power cycle of the modem if necessary. This feature will allow you to stay connected without having to detach the modem from the router to reset it.

Signal Display Bar (left): Within our tech department we've found that customers like to have the ability to easily view the signal strength of their wireless 3G/4G modem within the router. With the older CradlePoint routers this was done by navigating to the "Modem" tab and digging through the system diagnostics. With the new CradlePoint NetBSD you'll see a quick reference signal bar widget in the upper left corner of the screen and clicking on it will give you detailed RSSI information.

On the picture to the left you can see we've circled the signal bars, which is clickable and brings up a drop down menu (Modem Connection Quality) indicating your signal percentage and RSSI levels. If you see a red circle with no signal then you know that you're not connected to the internet currently. This menu system also serves as a signal strength indicator when you're connected via WiFi as WAN. This is useful if you're using the WiFi as WAN feature as a repeater solution as it allows for optimal router placement, ensuring the signal quality is still strong so the network isn't degraded.  

Advanced Mode (right): Thus far we've been discussing all the great basic features the NetBSD platform offers, but all of the other features that advanced users require such as setting DHCP reservations, port forwarding, DynDNS, Mac Filtering and more are also easily available on the new platform. You won't be giving up most of the features that you've grown accustomed to with the older CradlePoint admin interfaces! In fact, CradlePoint has created a "Basic Mode" and "Advanced Mode", which allows you to hide more advanced options if you're a basic user and expand them as needed. This can be a very useful tool for novice users that will never use the advanced features and keep you from getting confused within the admin interface. In the new NetBSD interface they've removed settings like SPI (Stateful Packet Inspection), aggressive modem reset and enable high speed, which were settings within the older legacy interface that caused issues with 3G/4G hybrid modems.

System Update (left):

Upgrading your router's firmware is easier than ever with the new NetBSD platform. In the picture to the left you can see that you've only got to deal with one firmware file, where on the older platform you needed to worry about "Router Firmware" and a "WiMAX Modem Driver" in order to get any WiMAX device online. With the NetBSD platform you'll know as long as you've got a supported firmware version for your modem, there isn't anything else you need to do to make it work.

Also, you'll see that the "System Config Save/Restore" is found within the same section. This allows you to backup all your existing settings in the event that you decide to do a firmware upgrade. We highly recommend backing up your configuration so that you'll have a restore file if you ever lose your custom settings (for instance, if you have to reset your router to factory defaults for any reason). In the previous legacy interface this "Save/Restore" configuration option was found under "Tools" and "System," which didn't make a lot of sense because that wasn't where you did the firmware upgrades. When you have all of these settings on the same page it makes it easier to make changes and you won't need to memorize all the little sub-menus to make specific changes!

Online gaming: As more and more people turn to 3G or 4G as their internet source we've seen an increase in customers looking to get their Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 online vai mobile broadband, and the new NetBSD platform simplifies the process. When you purchase your NetBSD based CradlePoint router from 3Gstore you'll receive access to custom gaming tipsheet, which will help you optimize your connection for console or PC gaming. The new NetBSD platform is much more intuitive and user-friendly to set up and configure for an open NAT and optimal gaming experience with minimal lag.


3Gstore NetBSD Tipsheet For Playstation 3

Are there any downside to the new platform?
Whenever a major change like this comes into play, many users assume that there must be some downsides - it can't all be good! With the NetBSD platform, there really is remarkably little negative to report! The only downside to the NetBSD platform is that Cradlepoint has eliminated support tethered phones (on older Cradlepoint models, a limited number of phones were supported in tether-mode as 3G modems). However, any smartphone that features a mobile hotspot option (such as BlackBerry, iPhone, Android) is fully compatible via WiFi as WAN! 

The bottom line: When CradlePoint first released the CTR35 on 1/1/2011 (first NetBSD product) - there were some negative customer reviews because the NetBSD platform had issues - but those were worked out in firmware updates and since March 2011, has been a solid.  The NetBSD platform is Linux-based, the same platform that Mac utilizes in their OSX operating system. This is what you'll find on all the new CradlePoint routers released after 1/1/2011; all future models will also feature this new platform. If you've already purchased an older CradlePoint router, don't worry: they should be supporting their older platforms for another year. However, after that point, no new firmware updates will be available for the legacy platform, meaning newer modems won't be supported. Also, you will see many new cool features available only for the NetBSD routers. CradlePoint plans to add some other exciting new features on the NetBSD platform later this year, and if you're in the market for a router we highly recommend going with one of the newer NetBSD models to future-proof yourself.

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 29 June 2011 )
 
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