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Mikrotik Router Operating System Gotchas

Mikrotik Router Operating System Gotchas

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Published by Imi Michał Smulski

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Published by: Imi Michał Smulski on Oct 28, 2012
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Mikrotik Router OS "Gotchas"http://www.gpsinformation.org/hotspot/mikrotik_router_os_gotchas.html1 of 531/7/2006 2:04
Mikrotik Router Operating System "GOTCHAs"by Joe Mehaffey
(updated 6/1/2004)
I have received comments from users (and experienced myself) a number of problems in setting upa Mikrotik OS HotSpot router that cause a lot of wasted time. I have documented the worst here soas to (hopefully) help keep others from falling into the same traps. Recently, Mikrotik has advisedme that "We are not targeting customers that need basic IP training. We can't do this with ourbusiness model." I personally had a great deal of computer experience but none in routerprogramming and since Mikrotik has no overall application notes to get a new user started, I didrequire extra help at first which Mikrotik was not able to provide. Eventually, to get myapplication configured the way I needed it, I got (paid) assistance from Eje Gustafsson athttp://www.wisp-router.com/ for a reasonable fee. Since that startup phase in about May 2003, themajor problems I have had were with a continuous list of bugs found in new versions, and in tryingto upgrade to get rid of the bugs and finding more bugs. At one point, I was directed to go to theMikrotik BETA software to get around a problem I was having in a version of 2.7.3, I tried2.8beta6 and used it successfully for many months. However, my advice is to avoid at all costsMikrotik BETA software as it is often unstable. After not being able to find a stable beta versionfrom 2.8beta7 through 2.8beta12, and later to 2.8rc5 (release candidate), it was suggested I try theprior edition version 2.7.18. This version has proved stable and I have found it free of "crash" orother problems as far as operation in my documented Mikrotik Hotspot configuration isconcerned. As of June 2004 I am still using it in several systems.The following are things to be aware of as you consider using the Mikrotik Router OS. Generally,these are not "killer" problems but they can cause a lot of wasted time when you are a new userand not sure exactly how things are supposed to work. A good place to visit is the Mikrotik RouterOS Forum. There you can read the archives and learn problems and answers to problems thatothers may be having with a particular version of Mikrotik OS.I am no longer regularly updating this material so some items may not be up to date withMikrotik's latest versions. One Mikrotik manager has objected to my posting this list of potentialproblems. I think that Mikrotik OS users have a need to know about potential problems so as to beable to avoid them where possible. I have offered to delete/correct any item(s) as soon as Mikrotikproduces an update eliminating any listed problem. I have been listing my "gotcha" list for somemonths and indeed, about twenty of the original problem items have been corrected and the listingeliminated. If anyone finds that ANY of the "gotcha" items listed below have been corrected inRELEASED software, PLEASE email the author so I may make the necessary corrections. It ismy desire for this information to be entirely factual and correct.. Thanks for your help. Pleasesend changes/corrections to:Joe Mehaffey.1) The Mikrotik OS is only modestly well documented and Mikrotik has less technical supportthan many users expect for a production software product as complex as is the Mikrotik OS. The400+ page manual is detailed, but much more a reference guide for the knowledgeable routerprogrammer than a tutorial on how to initially set up a system. In the past months, thedocumentation has been getting better with more and more applications guides, installationwizards and examples in the manual, but getting detailed answers to most any technical questiondirectly from Mikrotik Technical Support can be difficult. Yet, the Mikrotik software is generallywell designed, robust, serviceable, generally reliable (but not well tested at the factory), andinexpensive. For these reasons I have written myHOTSPOT SETUP PROCEDUREto assist usersin getting an initial system up and running.. I am hopeful that Mikrotik will soon realize that asuperbly featured product like the Mikrotik OS will sell A LOT better (and be worth a higherprice) if it is accompanied by quality applications guide information, good support AND if thesystem is tested throughly prior to release. (For example, over about six months, 2.8 software hasgone through eleven betas, six release condidates and eleven full releases. Real stability began for
Mikrotik Router OS "Gotchas"http://www.gpsinformation.org/hotspot/mikrotik_router_os_gotchas.html2 of 531/7/2006 2:04
most users at around 2.8.10. Microtik appears to depend on customer debug of their software,even production versions.) Several users say they would not mind paying double the priceMikrotik charges IF they would improve software stability and quality and improve their technicalsupport. I concur.2) Related to #1, Mikrotik software appears to be mostly "user tested" without the use and benefitsof the usual structured and detailed software test plan for software as complex as the MikrotikOS. This leads to both beta and production software that works in many "NORMAL"configurations but with a lot of software operating sequences that remain untested until some usertries to use a particular feature in some heretofore untested scenario. Since these paths may nothave not been explored before, it is not too unusual for a particular user to encounter problems inareas of the program where other users report "no problems".. For this reason alone, be SUREto maintain frequent backups so you can reset or reload the OS and get back up and runningwithout a lengthy time delay. Always make a new backup just BEFORE you make any but themost trivial database change.3)Mikrotik's "ChangeLog" is cryptic and apparently includes only a fraction of the changesactually made from version to version. Mikrotik has moved to correct this and as of 2.8.11 (June2004) has promised to include more detail in the changelog so users can better determine if aproblem they have has been corrected in a later version.4) MT has been improving documentation lately and the problem of incomplete command detailsand command syntax information in either the manual or in the OS command listing is not so badas it was. Still, commands sometimes have "unpublished" features and options that turn out to bevery useful but that are (seemingly) documented nowhere but in the Mikrotik programmer'smemory. The moral of this story is: If you cannot figure out how to do something, ASK. Youlikely have a 75% chance that there is a feature (or workaround) to do what you want even if it isnot addressed in the manual.5) My experience when reporting problems to Mikrotik and asking for assistance has beenvariable. On "failure of router to operate properly" problems, I have found that unless I havebeen able to give Mikrotik a detailed test sequence so they can reproduce the problem, they assumeI am "just another inexperienced user who has fouled himself up" with some programming error.(Early on, this was indeed true from time to time!) In any case, Mikrotik can be excusedsomewhat as complex failure scenarios are about impossible to diagnose and reproduce without adetailed test sequence as a guide. The difficult part to understand is why Mikrotik does not employa structured test procedure in their QC operations. Then when they encountered one of thesestrange failures and fixed it, a test sequence would be added to the test procedure. It can be a slowprocess, but eventually, the structured test procedure gets good enough and detailed enough tocatch most problems that creep into software developments. Such test procedures are oftenautomated. As of today, the MT OS has to get my vote as the software system with the poorestquality control of any I have ever used.7) If you use the Mikrotik UNIVERSAL CLIENT so as to be able to allow visitors with "ANY" IPaddress/gateway/dns setup to log into your Hotspot without making networking IP changes (a verynice feature!), then simple 802.11 REPEATERS such as in the Dlink DWL-900AP+ will not work.You get to pick which operational feature you like best. Note: These same 900AP+ units will workfine as Access Points with Universal Client mode.8) Mikrotik software versions below 2.7.11 and 2.8beta1 through 2.8beta4 do not support theMikrotik HotSpot unless you are a PAID license holder. Versions 2.7.8 and up DO support theMikrotik Hotspot (one simultaneous HotSpot user) with a DEMONSTRATION license. You willhave to buy a license to be able to actually use the MT Hotspot, but the price of about $75 isreasonable.
Mikrotik Router OS "Gotchas"http://www.gpsinformation.org/hotspot/mikrotik_router_os_gotchas.html3 of 531/7/2006 2:04
9) Fixed: Router versions 2.7.20 and 2.8.X can have users with IP addresses OUTSIDE a limitedDHCP range (say of the hotspot pool and these users can now login to thehotspot. That is, with the above DHCP range, a user with ip address of can now loginto this hotspot network. This repair was not noted in the changelog so I do not know when itoccurred.10) Problem Fixed:11) It is not a good idea to have a router, bridge or client with a fixed IP address inside the DHCPrange of another router or a hotspot port. If the device with the fixed IP address is offline then itcan happen that the MT hotspot can pass out this IP address to another user and then one or bothusers will have problems when the fixed IP address device comes back online.Often, for administrative reasons, it is desirable to have APs, bridges, repeaters, and such havefixed IP addresses.12) Problem fixed.13) Problem fixed.14) Problem fixed. 2.8.11 appears to be a stable platform for most applications.15) Problem fixed. Now, you can routinely upgrade and/or downgrade without losing yoursoftware key and having to go back to Mikrotik for a new key.16) Problem fixed in 2.8.6 and up (maybe earlier). As you move from one software edition toanother or between versions, you MAY find that the particular NIC cards identified as ether1,ether2, ether3 and etc. have "changed places" in your computer. This can lead to a fair amount of confusion if you find that the NIC card that WAS ether1 (say the connection to the Internet) isether2 (the hotspot interface to your external AP) after you upgrade your software.17) Mikrotik makes "running user interfaces changes" between versions without any notice tousers. The changelog generally will not mention that "so and so" command(s) have beenchanged/moved and the old command(s) will no longer function. This also applies to configurationbackup files from an older configuration which, because of changes, can cause the backup file notto be workable when an update version is loaded. Such changes are generally not mentioned ineither the version changelog and corresponding changes in the manual may not be mentioned untilthe next major software or manual edition. This process can make a configuration file that workedfine in one software edition fail to operate at all in when you try and use the same configuration inthe next software update in the same software edition. A routing system may be extremely complexand you may not have anything to work with except the backup file which cannot be used in ANYother machine except the one it was generated on! Couple this with the fact that when youencounter this problem, you may have just had a hardware failure. It may be quite awhile beforeMikrotik gets back to you with a fresh software key so you can back up to your prior software andyou can have quite an emergency situation on your hands.18) So you decide that to avoid urgent problems, you are going to make up a "clone" systemIDENTICAL to your existing Mikrotik system so as to be able to maintain an identical backupsystem at all times. This is a good idea, but you had better be SURE the hardware is absolutelyidentical all the way down to the MAC addresses of plug in NIC cards, wireless cards and etc. If the computer is not identical or (for instance) the NIC cards are not identical or from differentmanufacturers, then likely the systems cannot be made to work with each other's configurationfiles. I believe Mikrotik must key the configuration files off the hardware MAC addresses and such

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