Virgin Media Hub 3

I’m not an “early adopter” of new kit, I like to see what problems people are having before “upgrading”. Recently I had the opportunity to have a play with Virgin media (VM) Hub 3, here’s what I think!

The Hub 3, (which has never been known as “SuperHub3”) was released and foisted upon the public about 3 years ago.The hub 3 was using an out of date Linux Kernel that was full of security holes, which were addressed and mostly fixed either before or shortly after it was released. This would indicate that the decision makers at VM don’t have a grasp on technology, why would you issue new kit that is using out of date software?

Looking at forums etc, it would seem that problems with the Hub 3 are still apparent and that “fixes” (in True Virgin style) seem to be slow to come about. It could be that the Hub 3 is still using an old Linux Kernel and isn’t up to the job but it’s more likely that the decision makers at Virgin probably don’t understand technology; in the same way they don’t really understand customer services 🙂

I’ve been using the “super”Hub 2 for a few years and it isn’t without its problems but in the main a regular reboot (weekly) and the clearing of logs seems to cure any problems with the WiFi dropping out etc.

Recently, my wife & I had talked about having “multi room” TV again like we had when the kids were at home and have been thinking about upgrading our Tivo to the V6 but it seems that we can use the Virgin Media Connect App with the Hub 3 to view recordings on a laptop/Desktop/Whatever, so I decided to get a Hub 3.

Oh dear what an eye opener!

I hung a laptop on it with the intention of getting it set up prior to getting it activated. The actual UI (User Interface) isn’t all that bad, it’s fairly clean, pretty much user friendly and doesn’t have the usual gaudy Virgin colours of red and purple that make you think you’re in a brothel (not that I would know) From there it seemed to go downhill very quickly 🙁

There is definitely nothing Super about it 🙂 If you don’t use the WiFi or use it in modem mode, it’s probably OK.

a. LAN (Internal) IP address. The first 2 octets of the address cannot be changed from 192.168. I had a Victor Meldrew moment and steam coming out of my ears but after I had finished cursing;  I realised that for most people that won’t be a problem because the “typical” user likely won’t know or even care what an IP address is or even what a LAN is and it’s likely that the decision makers at Virgin fall in to this group 🙂 If you’re in this group, don’t read any further 🙂

I can accept this limitation begrudgingly because it’s likely that most home users have no need for an additional LAN but with the “Super”Hub 2 it was possible to use the 172.16 – 31.0 or the 10.x.x.x network. IMO, this limitation doesn’t comply with industry standards.

I was reminded of When Henry Ford started mass producing cars he advised that you could have a Ford car of any colour you like as long as it’s black! Seems Virgin are now saying you can use any of the 3 (reserved) private address networks for your Internal IP, as long as it starts with 192.168! The question “why” springs to mind! The only IP addresses of CPE that an ISP should be concerned with is on the WAN side of the router, which is dynamic and controlled by the ISP. The LAN side should be controlled by the customer (as long as they only use the private address ranges.)

On the upside, the 3rd octet can be changed from 0 through to 254 e.g. 192.168.10, 192.168.254 etc. This means that you don’t have to use the default “Internal” IP address of 192.168.0.1. so it isn’t a huge problem. If you want to create extra LANs, you just need to use an IP address from the 192.168.x range for your extra router(s) and make it a static IP on the “Red NIC” then the LAN (Green) side IP address can be whatever you want – preferably from one of the reserved (non routable) private address ranges.

*Note whatever you change the 3rd octet to, the router will always default to 192.168.x.1 and will always be the default gateway.

So without much configuration changes, my “Guest LAN” is now on the 192.168.x network, instead of the 172.16.0 network that the Hub 2 used and the VM box still acts as a DHCP & DNS server for that network. The router for my “HomeLAN” uses a static IP (on the Red NIC) from the 192.168.x range and continues to use the 192.168.0 network for the LAN side and I didn’t need to reconfigure anything else. The “TestLAN” again uses an IP from the 192.168.x network set as a static on the Red NIC and I can use either 10.0.0. or 172.16 – 32.0 for the LAN side. The “Home” & “Test” LANs use the routers for DHCP & DNS.

So overall the 192.168. limitation isn’t a huge problem, it’s just a bit of an irritation(for me). For most people it won’t be a problem at all!

If you want to create an extra LAN, bear in mind that 192.168.0.and 192.168.1 and 192.168.2 etc are different networks. In all the above addresses, the Sub Net Mask (SNM) is the same e.g. /24 which can give up to 254 “hosts” for each network. The Network is defined by the first 3 octets and the hosts is defined by the fourth octet. With industry standard routers, you can also alter the SNM and have a play with sub/super netting but hey ho 🙂

b. WiFi seems to be a cludge. It does offer 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz like the Hub2 but it seems this is now “combined” to enable the best signal to be used, VM call this “Intelligent WiFi”! The hub has default SSIDs for WiFi, along with default passwords and it would seem that trying to amend these causes problems 🙁

After much playing about, it does seem possible to have a different SSID for the 2 signals e.g. 2.4Ghz as “WiFi one” and the 5Ghz as “WiFitwo”; just like you can on the Hub 2. I found that, iPhones and iPads seemed quite happy to use either 2.4 or 5Ghz and both gave similar download readings (50+Mb) on (Ookla) Speedtest.This was the same if both the 2.4 & 5Ghz had identical SSID & PW.

Unfortunately, my Android devices could only use the 2.4Ghz and had an appalling download speed of just over 3Mb, instead of the 30+Mb they get on the Hub 2.This could be due to a recent software release (by VM) that wasn’t tested enough! This software update also had a strange effect of not recognising built-in passwords, the “work round” was to add extra random numbers or letters to the end of the built-in passwords: you can’t make stuff up like that! In the 2 or 3 days I was using the Hub 3, the WiFi kept dropping the connection, even on the iPads & iPhone. So much for “Intelligent WiFi” 🙂

c. Network & Firewall logs can no longer be emailed to a “designated email address”. For most people that won’t be a problem but for people that like to monitor their network and keep it safe, it’s a serious fail. Some would say “Firewall logs only show what it’s stopping and serve only as confirmation that the firewall is working” in principle I absolutely agree but those people don’t seem to realise the importance of knowing where the attempted potential “attacks” are coming from, neither do they realise that the collecting of this info and adding it to a central database helps create a picture of potential “bot nets” and potential organised intrusion attempts. Logs are your friend! Logs should be the first place you look when trouble shooting.

d. Virgin Media Connect. It came as no surprise that it didn’t work. I tried the app on a Wileyfox Swift 2X running Android 8.1 and on an IPad running iOS 12.2. I kept getting messages about already being logged in on another box! Rebooting the Tivo and the Hub didn’t help, I didn’t want to waste any more time trying to polish a turd.

I got my “super”hub 2 re-activated. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t 🙂

Conclusions:-

  1. I didn’t find anything that the Hub 3 does better than the Hub 2
  2. The Hub 3 offers less features than the hub 2.
  3. The WiFi on the Hub 2 seems more reliable.

I’ll give the Hub 3 a miss until I’m forced to use it but if it still has the same “lack” of features, I’ll probably change ISP for my broadband. That will mean having go over to ADSL but at least I can chose a router with the features that I want. I could use the a VM Hub 3 in modem mode and buy a suitable Router with combined WAP but why should I have to, if VM only allow the router supplied by them to connect to their network; they should provide kit that is fit for purpose!

Overall, It’s quite disappointing because I was also intending getting a V6 box to replace the Tivo but if the Hub 3 is anything to go by, I think I’ll give that a miss too. I might give Freeview or FreeSat or even Sky a try, It will be a very big wrench because I’ve been on cable since Yorkshire Cable put cable down the street, some 20 years ago. I used to have a good dial-up service from Plusnet and they are still in business but they are now part of BT so it would be like “out of the frying pan into the fire” 🙁 “Rock Hard place, springs to mind 🙁