Mikrotik / RouterOS v6 thoughts

Playing with a new router every month is not a rewarding hobby.

I got my hands on a Mikrotik Hex S and tried it as my home router. It mostly worked fine but I couldn’t figure out how to get WAN failover to work. So I gave up on it for now.

Mostly was impressed with RouterOS as a basic router product for a prosumer. The UI is idiosyncratic and their OS approach is kind of old school. But the thing works. Also it’s relatively simple and transparent for simple things. And I like the simple command line / windows app / web UI trichotomy, they all work the same way. I was able to get a basic router up and running with no trouble. (It’s pretty sad that https for configuration doesn’t work; you can enable it but there’s SSL problems.)

The docs are a mess. Apparently there used to be a user-edited Wiki with many lovingly written detailed articles. That all got thrown over in favor of some official manufacturer docs. I’d applaud that investment but the execution is not great, many of the docs are read. It took me a long time to understand the gestalt of RouterOS, the concepts you need to understand to use it.

Version management is a mess too. I used RouterOS v6.48.6, the latest long term release. They put out a v7 beta months ago which was buggy, fair enough. Then they declared v7 stable. But apparently several major features look enabled but do not work? That’s the vibe I got reasearching. I stayed away from it. Which is too bad, because you need v7 for Wireguard which is one of the features I was looking for.

The other feature I needed is WAN failover. And after a couple hours’ research I gave up and decided I couldn’t do it in a way I was comfortable with. There’s no simple way to just enable it; all methods require manually configuring routes, etc. The official docs are confusing. This blog post was more helpful and details three methods of doing it, all with drawbacks. The thing that held me up is they all require hard-coding routes to specific gateway IP addresses. But ISP gateway IP addresses are dynamic, you can’t just hardcode them like that reliably. This discussion had a link to a script that looked like it might configure things with a funky script that pulls data from the DHCP subsystem. Maybe it even works, but that was a level of complication too far for me.

Folks like Mikrotik routers. And I can understand why, particularly a few years ago. Cheap but good hardware, a solid “real” OS, very powerful configurability. But in 2022 the software felt pretty retro and the moment I ran into something complicated it got idiosyncratic. Which brings me back to OpenWRT; if I’m going to hack, might as well at least hack on something that feels like a Unix system I understand. Anyway I’m back on Ubiquiti’s router for now, at least I know what their bugs are like.

One thought on “Mikrotik / RouterOS v6 thoughts

  1. I’m a long time Mikrotik user (hostage?) and I definitely agree with you that’s it’s a real commitment to use their products. You haven’t touched up on the sh*tshow that is migrating ROS v6 to ROS v7, which I’ve been putting off for a while now.

    The real answer to finding solutions for problems with Mikrotik is (unfortunately) “use the forums”. There are plenty of crusty old Mikrotik graybeards on there who can answer the questions that most other users have, you just have to resign yourself to the fact that you’re dealing with crusty old graybeards and all that entails (“You’re doing it wrong..”, “RTF(Forums)” etc.)

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