Synology RT2600ac Router Enhancement Ideas

Introduction

This document is my list of all the enhancements I would love to see made to the Synology RT2600ac router and it’s Synology Router Management Software.  This is based on a blog post I wrote about my installation process but I thought it would be a good idea to separate out the Feature Requests into a separate document

Orientation

The case design includes a substantial pair of rear feet which allow great airflow to cool the unit. They also provide an interesting option if you wall mount the unit because they allow you to bring cables up behind the router and over into the ethernet ports.  

I thought about wall mounting the unit but decided not to.  Because of the large feet and the large standoff they would create from the wall, the up-and-over LAN / WAN / power cables would be very visible and not look good in a domestic setting.  

Suggestion

A snap-in cover to hide all of this would help.

Suggestion

It would also be a lot neater if the unit was wall mounted the other way up. with the cables hanging down but there are no screw slots for this.  

Power connection

Every piece of networking kit I have ever owned has had secure clips for the LAN / WAN ports so that there’s no chance of accidental disconnection.  Meanwhile, the power supply is a tiny round interference fit plug that can be pulled out with ease. And that seems to me to be a huge weak point.  You can securely clip the ethernet cables as much as you like but they can’t receive/transmit anything if the power cable is accidentally pulled out.  Round-pin power connectors are universal so there must be a reason for it. Synology is no worse than any other manufacturer, but the power connector does represent a single point of failure.

Suggestion

Wouldn’t an RJ11connector be better? Similar to that used to power landline phones?

Wall Fixing Template

Why is there is no wall drilling template?  It’s easy to print a piece of paper with an accurate template for the hole positions (and recommended screw size) that you tape to the wall.  Instead, you have to measure the holes and mark the wall.  You only have to be a couple of millimetres out for the unit not to fit the screws. 

Suggestion

Print the template on the last leaf of the Quick Installation Guide

Antennae

Like many of the latest crop of powerful routers the RT2600’s antennae are impressive but, unlike the TP-Link’s which flopped around like limp lettuce, they stayed where they were pointed.  Exactly where they should be pointed is less clear as there is are no instructions.  Those of us of a certain age will remember fiddling with adjustable TV internal aerials to try to get a better picture.  Things don’t seem to have advanced much in 50 years.  For now, I will position them all vertically.

 

Fortunately, there’s a mobile app that can help with this.  Jens Hofman from the Synology Admins & Users Facebook group suggested WiFi Analyzer from Kevin Yuan on Android*.  It has an audible beep that changes according to signal strength so you can leave your phone or tablet in the room while you go and adjust the antennae.

*Actually it’s listed differently on Google Play. It’s Wifi Analyzer by farproc but the screens are identical to the ones shown by Jens so it must be the same app.  Even if it’s not, it does the same thing.

Suggestion

But that app is generic.  It would be good to see a Synology specific app that also provided a visualisation of the network (see final suggestion below.

Ports on the Front and Sides

On the left-hand side, there is a USB3.0 connector for a device such as an external HDD.  It’s strange though that when you plug one in, SRM downgrades the port to USB 2 speeds to prevent interference.  That seems to defeat the purpose of adding a high-speed drive.  From a design perspective, I don’t see why this major interface slot is on the side of the case.  If you insert a typical HDD the sturdy USB 3.0 connector sticks out a long way and it looks ungainly, spoiling the overall look of the system.  It gives the impression it was added as an afterthought.  

On the right-hand side, there are two buttons, to turn WiFi on/off and to enable a WPS connection.  It’s hard to tell the difference and pressing the wrong one could have drastic consequences if you wanted to create a WPS hookup but accidentally disabled WiFi for all users.  The labels are not very helpful because they are almost illegible.  

Suggestion

Move this connector to the rear panel along with the other major interfaces.  That would allow the SD card slot to move from the front edge to the side where it would be more accessible.

If the labels were printed white on black that would help.  Better still, move the buttons further apart to prevent accidental selection of the wrong one.

And deal with the interference issue.

Operating System Update x 2?

Unsurprisingly, as soon as SRM setup is complete you see a message inviting you to check for an update.  I was offered SRM 1.1.4 6509 so I downloaded and installed it.  The router rebooted, as expected.  The familiar countdown clock from DSM appeared.

When the router came back online the same message box appeared.  I could have dismissed it but decided I’d try again to see what happened.  It offered me another update, to SRM 1.1.4 6509 Update 1.  It’s possible that this had been released in the 5 minutes since the last one was downloaded (but unlikely given the time of day I was working and the time difference to Taiwan) but I selected it. The download completed (again) and I installed it (again).  And rebooted (again).  Why was it necessary to go round this loop twice?

Suggestion

Fix the initial install process so that only one download and install cycle is required

ISP Credentials 

When the router rebooted the second time, the update message box appeared again.  I selected it – and that’s when a problem appeared.  When I selected download I got an error message No internet connection. A quick check on my other wired connections confirmed this.

I opened Network Center > Internet and the reason became obvious.

The ISP Username and Password had been changed to the Router admin username and password.  The correct credentials must have been entered during the initial router setup otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to download the updates.  Reentering the ISP credentials restored internet connection immediately.

Something similar happened a few days later when I was cruising the router settings.  The culprit appears to be my password manager LastPass which, recognising a page with username and password fields, replaced what was there (the ISP credentials) with what it had in my vault (my router credentials.)  I think this was because the LAN address of the router login and ISP credentials pages share a core address.  I must have saved the page without realising that the details had been changed.

Suggestion

Please find a way to stop the ISP username and password from being recognised as credentials fields by password managers.  Change the field type to a non auto-fillable field?

Setting Lease Validity

There are some lease validity issues setup issues.  At (1) you can see that the value set in the previous screen appears here as a non-editable field whilst at (2) we can set the Guest Validity using a drop down that includes an unlimited option. Why are the two related values set on different pages, using different input methods, and with different validity options?  

Suggestion

Please make the lease validity setting options and method of setting consistent. 

Connecting Existing Synology NAS Drives

This step should have been easy but did not go according to plan.   I expected find.synology.com to find my three NAS drives easily.  But it only found one, and only found it once.

While most of the routers I have ever experienced (and there have been a few) have used a local address range of 192.168.x.x, the Netgear router I just replaced used the 10.x.x.x range.  And static addresses in those ranges had been applied to my NAS drives in my old setup.  For some reason, this made it impossible for find.synology.com to locate them.  And when it did it find one of them it appeared to have  10.x.x.x addresses and no apparent way to change them.

I decided the easier approach would be to change the Synology router’s local IP address range to the 10.x.x.x range, in the hope that it could then pick up the NAS drives (which it did). In hindsight, I realise I should have tried to find and manage the Disk Stations using Synology Assistant, the desktop client utility, but everything’s working now so I will leave it alone.

Suggestion

Please improve find.synology.com so that it discovers devices in the 10.x as well as the 192.x ranges and offers to ‘move’ them all to the default range.

Setting the Base and Guest DHCP ranges

Setting the IP Address Range to 10.x.x.x

Setting the base IP address range was easy (see steps 1 and 2 in the image above) but setting the Guest DHCP server to use part of that range was not.  I could find no combination of start and end addresses that the router would accept.  In the end, I reverted the Guest server to the 192.168.x.x range, which worked. On reflection, it’s quite useful have guests on a separate IP address range.  It makes it very easy to identify them.

I mentioned earlier that there are two places and methods for setting lease expiry times.  Here (4) is one of them. There is no obvious way to set it to unlimited (the user guide doesn’t tell you either) and why there is a setting for the main DHCP server and not the Guest Server is unclear. too. 

Suggestion

Please make this area more intuitive for inexperienced users, and sort out the Lease Validity settings so they are consistent (and preferably together in one place,)

Parental Controls

The facility I wanted, the ability to block out WiFi access by time schedule for specific devices, is present and so easy to use.  Blocking out access between 22:00 and 06:00 took two mouse clicks, a couple of click and drags to select the time blocks, and a confirmation click.  Excellent!

Suggestion

I wish I could assign time slots in half- or even quarter-hour segments.  That would give me more flexibility over bed-time blackouts with growing grandchildren.  There’s a lot of difference between 9 and 10 PM and shorter time segments would offer much more flexibility.

Suggestion

It would also be good if you could create a custom profile without a MAC address that you could then use to assign to individual devices as they appear on the network. e g. “Grandkids”

It could be even better

It’s a router. OK?  If it’s anything like my old Netgear router it will sit quietly in the background chugging away, needing little if any attention.  Unlike my old Netgear however, when I do have the occasion go into it, I will be in familiar territory because of the UI’s similarity to DSM.  But that got me thinking…

Suggestion

Having played around with it for a few days one obvious user requirement comes to mind.  With my local LAN ecosystem now firmly based on Synology products ( 3 x Disk Stations and 1 x Router) and with the router as the natural heart of it all, it would be great to see a Synology System Manager, a super-app with the ability to manage the entire Synology system from one application.  You can (sort of) do this with the Disk Stations using CMS but it’s crying out for an all-embracing solution.

And since Synology is a great offering for the non-techie domestic user like me that doesn’t want to put everything in the cloud, that could include things like managing the entire process of enabling WordPress to run on a DiskStation. Instead of assigning DNS names to the Disk Station(s), let me do that at router level and let the router pass the traffic for my WordPress, Photo Station and other apps to the appropriate DS device.  Forget port forwarding (or rather, let me forget the dark art that is port forwarding by just doing it, silently, in the background).  And if I want to install WordPress on multiple DS’s and access them from the internet, just handle it.  That would be SO cool.

Suggestion

Something else that would be nice to see would be a visualisation of the network.  Netgear’s Network Genie comes close but is looking a bit jaded these days.  The ability to see the network graphically and assign metadata to the devices is powerful.  If I could open the network map, tell my grandson to connect his device, watch it pop up on the map, and then assign privileges (including parental controls), and do it from my smartphone or tablet would be fantastic.

And if that same mobile app could be used to fine-tune the antennae (see above) that would be great too.

 

Paul Barrett

8th July 2017

Edited 17th July 2017

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