Docs Need Review: wiki article on Wi-Fi Extender with `relayd`

I needed to convert a spare OpenWrt router to be a Wi-Fi extender. I rummaged around the wiki, and found a whole bunch of confusing articles on that subject. I finally latched on to the relayd article that worked. But it was hard to tell at the outset whether it would solve my problem (it did).

So I took a strong editorial pass over that article to spruce up the introductory material (so that it would have been clear that this is what I wanted.) It had great screen shots, but the steps were a little uneven, and the descriptions weren't well organized.

My request: I would ask people who know more than me to review the Wi-Fi Extender/Repeater with relayd article and offer comments/suggestions/corrections. Thanks!

I would certainly agree there. But then it has all evolved over many years and as it is a "user" driven wiki, who is going to update it all.
It is only when someone like yourself tries to find a specific solution that there is any chance of an update/rewrite. - So good for you for the effort!

As far as review goes, I am going to sound very critical, so bare with me.

There is a fundamental problem with the article.

Yes, relayd can be used to configure a "WiFi Extender". BUT a "WiFi Extender" does not imply relayd.
Relayd was required way back when no wifi drivers supported more than one mode at a time. But it is now very outdated and 99% of the time completely unnecessary as almost all open-source wireless drivers support multiple simultaneous modes for layer 2 upwards, ie all protocols, ip4 and ip6.
Note that relayd only "relays" ip4 traffic.

In most cases, all you need for a wireless extender is for the remote access point to also have a "STA" interface which connects to the "main wifi" and bridges to its own access point interface(s). Very simple config in Luci with no additional dependencies and set up in seconds. Yes this will turn off the remote AP signal if the "main" router is down - but does that matter? If it does there are ways round the problem.

There is also WDS and 802.11s-mesh if you want to build a more complex infrastructure of "extenders".

Relayd still has its place for those awkward devices that for example, use Broadcom wireless chips that will not support "STA/AP" dual modes.

There used to be a warning on the wiki page stating something like:
"WARNING: Relayd is very outdated and usually not needed. It should only be used as a last resort" but it seems to have disappeared.

The bias of this wiki as it stands is that relayd is the proper way to configure an extender, but this could not be further from the truth. It is only one, fairly restrictive way.

I do not mean to decry your efforts, indeed it is now a better document than it was. My suggestion would be to reinstate some warning to the first paragraph and use a non ambiguous terminology such as "relayd extender" instead of the generic "wireless extender" and add an overview paragraph or two explaining the use case.
The reference to the Youtube video should be at the end and described as a "useful primer - possibly outdated". These sorts of videos very rapidly become outdated and very often do not go into sufficient detail. Beginners can be misled and "social media know-it-alls" will swear blind that OpenWrt is broken because they followed the "tutorial" to the letter but it did not work for them.

Please see this as constructive criticism and I hope it is useful!
I am happy to contribute with more detail on my points if required.

@bluewavenet Thanks for these comments. I don't mind the tone at all.

I updated the relayd article because I wanted to document my success at configuring my ancient Archer C7 to be a Wi-Fi extender, not because I thought it was the best way to do it. To your point about relayd warnings, I did move a bunch of text to the bottom of the article. I think that warning is there now.

My further questions:

  • Are there places in the article that are wrong? I am happy to correct them: even if it's recommending older technology, it's still important that the information in the article is right.

  • Some of the strategies require cooperation from the "main router" (meshing, etc). In my situation, I don't have the ability to make any changes to the main router. That's why I said this at the top of the article:

    Use this configuration in situations when you do not control the main router, or the main router does not run OpenWrt, or the main router does not support the preferred Wireless Repeater/Extender with WDS or 802.11s Mesh Networking.

  • Can you point to an existing article that documents a better strategy, that takes advantage of modern open-source Wi-Fi drivers to create an extender?

  • For example, you write, "... all you need for a wireless extender is for the remote access point to also have a "STA" interface which connects to the "main wifi" and bridges to its own access point interface(s)." I'm not sure how to do this, and I know a newcomer to OpenWrt couldn't succeed. (That's why I was hoping for a link to an existing article.)

Thanks again

There is a page for WDS:
https://openwrt.org/docs/guide-user/network/wifi/atheroswds

So we also need one for AP/STA mode.

Better for the wiki, would to have a new subsection "WiFi Extenders" and then have Relayd, WDS AP/STA and a brief subsection linking to to Mesh under there.....

I can reorganise that (I think) unless you want to.

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I agree that having a top-level "Wi-Fi Extender" page would be good. I envision it would list the various options (WDS, AP/STA, relayd, maybe meshing solution(s) - are there others?) with links to their pages. That page should also list the situations where one would be better than another. Is this something you could pull together? Thanks.

Ok, I created a new section and copied your relayd doc to it, see:
https://openwrt.org/docs/guide-user/network/wifi/start

Please check:
https://openwrt.org/docs/guide-user/network/wifi/wifiextenders/relay_configuration

The original should be changed to a brief message and link to the new location. This will preserve the functionality of any previous links people may refer to. It also preserves the history of the original.

I also moved the wds document there.

There is also a pre-existing page for ap/sta, although it needs some work as it only describes a routed repeater. Some simple rewriting can add the layer 2 repeater scenario.

Let me know what you think so far.

1 Like

I like how you have tidied up all the Extender pages into one group. I had envisioned the top-level page for extenders would have more detail about which to choose.

I threw this together as a start toward what I had in mind: https://openwrt.org/playground/richb/wifi-extenders

It lays out the situations where someone might use an extender, and establishes some of the lingo (extender/main router/uplink/upstream) that we can use in the detailed descriptions.

I wonder if it's possible to come with a two or three sentence that explain why someone would want to use each of the five alternatives. You'd be welcome to edit that page, or send me text and I'll paste it in.

THANKS!

I added this:
https://openwrt.org/docs/guide-user/network/wifi/wifiextenders/overview

2 Likes

Looks great. I would add that any OpenWrt router can act as extender/repeater ( so that the people do not throw away their equipment) or even go further and mention that even EOL version of OpenWrt can be still ok to expand your network
Kr
K

I like the edits to the Overview page! (https://openwrt.org/docs/guide-user/network/wifi/wifiextenders/overview) A few fussy comments:

  1. Is there a reason that page could not be the top-level page for the Wi-Fi Extenders section (replacing https://openwrt.org/docs/guide-user/network/wifi/wifiextenders/start ?)

    I ask because I find these <pagequery>... pages to be a dreary catalog of some other group of pages. I dread that clicking on one of those links will lead to yet another (dreary) set of links (that's what happens with the top-level of the WiFi hierarchy).

  2. I wonder if we can do away with the term "repeater" in the headings? I'm not arguing with the term - it is used properly, but it has a very deep technical meaning that's widely used throughout the OpenWrt site. People who're looking for a Wi-Fi extender aren't searching on the term "repeater" (and if they do, they get a hundred responses). I'm only talking about the heading: we should absolutely include "repeater" in the paragraphs.

    2a. Putting "extender/repeater" in the heading also increases uncertainty for newcomers. They have to puzzle out if an extender is different from a repeater, or if they're synonyms, or if there's some subtle difference that they need to know about...

  1. I just realized why I like the format of the Overview page. It provides some "expert guidance" for the subject. We're the experts, and I feel an obligation to help newcomers make sense of this stuff. The Overview answers the Three Big Questions that every wiki page reader asks, consciously or not. That is, every wiki page should answer these questions, right at the top:
    1. What's this page about? Can I read the first couple sentences and get an idea of whether this article might be of interest?
    2. Is this for me? If so, can I tell if it address the problem that I'm having? Does it help me choose between alternatives?
    3. Can I follow the instructions? Are the steps written at a level where I understand (nearly) everything presented? Or do I have to jump head first and learn a ton of jargon before I can start...
  1. The overview page gets five stars for question 1. It gets 2.5 stars for the second question: after skimming the page, I don't see any reason for deciding between any of the five alternatives. And I can't say about question 3 from reading this page - I would need to look at all five alternative approaches to decide if I want to tackle it.

Final question: How can we fill in a couple sentences for each of the five approaches listed on the page? Thanks again.

PS: Question 3 is the reason I chose the relayd article - the intro sounded as if it would do what I was looking for, and the steps were clear. So I glommed onto it and succeeded.

  1. I could not make it work. I suspect I do not have high enough rights.
  2. It would be different to the rest of the wiki (Does that matter? Probably the reason why I cannot make it work...)
  3. Life is too short to be bothered with 1. and 2. if there is a valid alternative :wink:

I'll try a few things.....

We are talking 100% about "repeaters" here, as the standard term. "Extenders" is a term that has come out of nowhere in the last couple of years, probably originating with some manufacturer''s BS marketing department. You don't know how hard it was for me not to expunge all traces of it :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: :rofl: /s

It is not even in the same league though as "Dump App" (sic).
I am all for making the docs unambiguously clear and easy to follow. But I do not think we should dumb down to the lowest common denominator. (Sorry, I have my Grumpy_Old_Git hat on :wink: )

I rest my case...

OpenWrt is for those with at least a technical interest and the ability/desire to learn. If you as the reader don't see any reason for deciding between the alternatives, then the means to find out is given by reading on.

Looking at the alternative approaches is expected and required as part of the learning process.

People not prepared to learn should buy a ready to use device from one of the well known manufacturers and take the option of a support contract...

Well that is trivial - feel free to write something - I will as well and we can compare notes!

Absolutely the content of the pages for these approaches needs to be seriously worked on (and thanks for your efforts too). For the most part they have existed for years and been tweaked by loads of people, ending up with an unfortunate entropy increase. But that is the nature of unmanaged/selfmanaged wiki pages I guess.

Sorry for the rants :scream: :flushed: :pleading_face: :exploding_head: :parrot: :pirate_flag:

Ok. I have added some words. Is this the sort of thing you mean?
https://openwrt.org/docs/guide-user/network/wifi/wifiextenders/overview#what_are_the_most_common_types_of_extenderrepeater

Edit: I completed updating the text - please review :wink:

Good Rants! :slight_smile:

And GOOD DESCRIPTIONS for the five approaches. The Overview page now gets two 5-star ratings. The third question relies on the quality of the second level documentation (which, as you said, is uneven - and gaining entropy by the month...)

re: Overview page replacing .../start page. You're right - life is too short. But I might take a couple minutes to experiment...

re: repeaters vs extenders. I don't much care. I have a tiny preference for using "extender" but I am OK with it as-is

Thanks!

I suppose we should get back to the original topic of this thread "relayd" article review. I don't even remember where we got to. :wink:

It has all been a very useful exercise and now at least all the articles re extenders are together. Now they all need to be reviewed!

The mesh ones are mostly mine and quite recently re-written. The others were randomly named and scattered through the Wi-Fi Configuration list, maybe no-one has even read them for years.

Is there an existing article for this? I always thought relayd was a necessary evil? I feel like I’m about to have my mind blown :exploding_head:
Not trying to put the onus on you to write it.

As a brief overview, how does it work? If I can replicate it at home I’ll write the page.

STA to upstream AP
STA is part of br-lan instead of a separate wwan interface
?? That’s it?

Is there any reliable way of knowing when relayd must be used? You mentioned old broadcom. Would it be a matter of scraping iw output and looking at the “interface combinations” section?

Do you mean this? :
https://openwrt.org/docs/guide-user/network/wifi/wifiextenders/ap_sta

Yes.

I don't think it is ever needed, not for some significant number of years anyway.
I cannot think of a scenario where relayd is the only way.... Perhaps someone can point it out if there is one - it would be useful to add to the wiki page(s).

Yes .......... :wink:

No, that one is currently written as a routed client setup if I understand it right.
As you said it’s probably 80% right with some tweaks for the bridged scenario.

I’ll try this tonight and see if it all behaves the way I want it to.

One thing I’m wondering: in Gargoyle we have carried the linked patch forever. The default (unpatched) behaviour sounds incompatible with the idea of bridging the STA directly to br-lan?

This patch came about when Gargoyle used to do layer 2 wireless bridging via ARPNAT and ebtables. I left it in out of ignorance (mostly).

The more I’m reading, this doesn’t sound doable.
You need relayd

Are we talking about the same thing?
Can you elaborate?

I have used this many times in the past:
ie:

  • An OpenWrt device with one radio and one (or more) ethernet ports.
  • Configure a STA interface to connect to a remote SSID
  • Add the STA to br-lan
  • Configure an AP with its own SSID
  • Add the AP to br-lan
  • Stop and disable dnsmasq
  • Job done

It can be improved so the "repeater" also gets an ipv4 dhcp lease so you can remotely connect via ipv4 (for Luci or ssh), but ssh by ipv6 link local works perfectly well.

I need to rewrite this particular doc. The fundamentals have not changed since 2016, just added entropy since then.