Friday, February 13, 2015

BT Homehub 5 restricts your freedom

As Richard Stallman puts it, you have a choice - either the user controls the software, or the software controls the user. The router BT provides with its Infinity broadband package is a pretty striking case of the latter. As BT state on their help pages, the router automatically downloads firmware updates without the user's knowledge and then BT remotely forces a reboot of the router so that the firmware update is installed - again without the user's consent or knowledge. The only sign something has happened is that if you happen to look at bottom of the page of the router's web interface, the date of the firmware is different to it was before (presuming you knew what it was before). There seems to be no way to turn off this 'feature'.

In addition to the poor ethics of this practice, it can cause real problems. A recent firmware update put my router into a continual cycle of connecting and disconnecting from the VDSL line for several hours. The only fix I've found so far was to disable the Apple Time Capsule I was using for WiFi and backup, and use the built-in wifi of the router. And it's still flakey. So, I'm going to try and replace the router with a third-party VDSL modem that I can actually control, rather than vice versa.

UPDATE: The modem arrived today. Setup was OK, but some of the information required product registration with Draytek, and other bits were on the BT customer support site. So, here it is, all in one place:
DrayTek Vigor 130: This should work out of the box but, just in case, here are some details:
  • The modem web interface is at
  • Set to pass through a PPoE connection.
  • VDSL2 VLAN tag set to 101
  • ADSL VPI/VCI set to 0/38 to PPoA (0/101 for MPoA) I think this is actually irrelevant unless you want to connect to an ADSL rather than a VDSL line.  
  • NOTE: You should change the login details for the modem web interface, for security reasons.
Apple Time machine (or Apple Airport): This needs to work as a router, which is different to the operating mode when connected to a BT HomeHub:
  • Open AirPort Utility, go to the Internet tab, and set 'connect using' to PPoE.
  • Enter the username and password. These (for my connection anyway) are:  and BT. Technically, there is no password, but the Time Machine will not accept this as an answer. BT support pages say to use the password 'BT' in these situations, and this works here. 
  • Service name should be left blank.
  • Click  Update.
UPDATE: Since switching to the DrayTek, uptime is now 55 days and counting!

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