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Aquarium Controllers - Configuring Remote Access to your Apex Controller - Part 2

Apex Remote Access

In Part 1 I discussed configured a simple Dynamic DNS address with No-IP

Now let’s get to Part 2. Putting your Dynamic DNS to good use and access your device remotely. I’m going to feature an Apex Controller by Neptune Systems. With this controller you can manage and monitor your aquarium away from home, even on your cell phone.

The Apex Controller is the highest rated controller on the market. There are many competitors, but nothing that I’ve seen comes close to the Apex’s capabilities out of the box.

I’m writing this all from memory and “borrowing” some friends controllers for screen shots. I don’t own an Apex (yet), but I’ve setup many.  Let’s get started.

Things you will need for this:

  1. Part 1 of the guide completed with your Dynamic DNS name
  2. Apex Controller, connected to your LAN (local area network) via wireless or hardwired ethernet.
  1. Firewall or modem from your ISP that allows port forwarding
  2. IP Scan tool like Netscan. It’s not needed, but will make your life easier. Download it directly here. Download the ZIP file and extract it to a folder on your Desktop.

Step 1: Internal network preparation

First thing we need to do is assign a static IP to your Apex Controller. To do this, we need to know a few things about your network.

The first thing we need from your network is your IP Address Scheme. There is a very easy way to figure this out. On a Windows PC, press the “Start” button, and type “cmd” and then press “Enter”. This will bring up a command prompt. Inside the command prompt type “ipconfig”. This will show you a list of your network adapters and their IP addresses. We’re looking for 2 pieces of information. Your IPv4 address and your Default Gateway.

Example:

On my home network I use 192.168.11.x/24 as the IP scheme. This will vary depending on how your network is setup. A lot of manufactures use 192.168.0.x/24, 192.168.1.x/24, or 192.168.100.x/24. If you are using Comcast and their hardware, depening on the modem, your network will be a 10.1.10.x/24 or a 10.1.1.x/24
Nerd note: The /24 at the end of the IP address is the subnet mask. /24 means 255.255.255.0. Click here to learn more about subnets.

Being an IT guy my network is a little different (of course it is!). I use a Windows 2008 Server for my DHCP and DNS.

Most everyone else will use their ISP’s modem or their wireless router/gateway device.

Those of you with Comcast modems (not with built-in WiFi) are in luck. I have access to one and can show you the configuration of those devices. What we are ultimately trying to do in Step 1 is assign the Apex a static IP address. This means we want to assign it an address that never changes inside your network. To ensure we assign a proper address, we need to check our DHCP scope and make sure we assign it an IP outside of the range.

To access your Comcast modem, pull up your favorite internet browser and type “http://10.1.10.1″ and press Enter.  You should see a screen like this if everything is working correctly. The username is “cusadmin” and the password is “highspeed”. Press login to access the device.

When you are in the modem, you have a few options. Click the “LAN” tab under “Feature Settings”. This will show you your DHCP configuration.

Comcast by default uses 10.1.10.10 – 10.1.10.199 for its DHCP scope. We’ll assign our Apex 10.1.10.201 for this example. Note that we will use 10.1.10.1 as the default gateway, the Comcast modem is our gateway to the internet. Also note that our subnet mask is 255.255.255.0. We’re working on a 10.1.10.x/24 network.

Step 2: Apex Network Configuration

Now that we know our network is 10.1.10.x/24, our DHCP scope spans 10.1.10.10 – 10.1.10.199, our gateway is 10.1.10.1, and subnet is 255.255.255.0, we’re ready to rock n’ roll.

Now let’s connect the Apex to the network. If you are connecting your Apex with a Wireless Adapter, you’ll need to configure that before you can (well, should) configure the Apex. Netgear has a great guide to follow to set it up (PDF). I like to also set this device with a static IP. For the example lets assign it 10.1.10.200.

Once your wireless adapter is configured and ready, plug it into your Apex unit and make sure the Apex is powered on. Give it a few minutes to get a DHCP address.

This is where netscan comes in handy. Time to fire it up! Run the netscan application. Go to your folder you extracted the Netscan application to on your Desktop. To rule out any compatibility issues, open the 32-bit folder and run netscan.exe.
Nerd note: You can download the OUI.txt for netscan. Place it in the same directory as your netscan application and you can now resolve MAC addresses and the vendors they are assigned to. Download it here.

 

When netscan is launched you will need to enter the IP information of your network. I like to also scan for available ports to make this a much easier process. Inside Netscan, Click “Options” -> “Program Options”. Select the checkbox “Check for open TCP Ports” and enter in “80,443”. These are common HTTP/HTTPS ports. Then press “OK” to return to the application.

 

Assuming you’re on the 10.1.10.x/24 network. If you’re on another network, type that information in and click “Start Scanning”.

 

You’ll now see a list of devices connected to that network. The best way to find your Apex is to find a device that has port 80 open. Inside Netscan, right click that device and click “Open Computer” -> “As Web (HTTP)”.

If this is your Apex, you will be asked to sign in.  By default, the Apex is configured with username “admin” and password “1234”.

You should now be at the main Apex page! Congratulations!

Now, lets configure this bad boy for our network. On the Apex page, select “Configuration” -> “Network Setup”.

You’re now at the main network setup. I’ve blanked out this information to protect the innocent.  This page is where you will configure your static IP and update the username and password if you choose to (I highly suggest you do!)

 

 

 

With our information we gathered before, here is how we should configure this.

  • AquaController IP address: 10.1.10.201
  • Netmask: 255.255.255.0
  • Gateway: 10.1.10.1
  • Primary DNS: 10.1.10.1
  • Secondary DNS: 8.8.8.8 (Trusty Google DNS)
  • HTTP Port (default 80): Leave this at port 80 unless you would like something else. I would suggest Googling non-standard ports if you decide to change it. Make yourself a note if you do change it.
  • Admin name: You can leave at admin or change it (CHANGE IT!). Write it down if you change it.
  • Admin password: Change it, write it down.
  • Reboot system after update: Click this check box.

Scroll all the way down and click “Update Network Settings”.

When you click this button, give it a few minutes to reboot and get back on the network. To verify the settings were saved correctly. Open up your internet browser and type “http://10.1.10.201″ and press Enter.  You’ll be greeted with another login window, sign in with the admin information you just changed.  If everything saved correctly, you’re now back at the main Apex screen.

Nerd note: If you want to watch your Apex reboot with a ping, click your Start button, type “cmd” and press Enter. In the command prompt window type “ping 10.1.10.201 -t” and press enter.  This will show you when the Apex comes back online.

 

You’ve now configured your Apex with a static IP and are ready to port forward!

Step 3: Configure Port Forwarding

Just a reminder, this is a guide. Your configuration will most likely be totally different. Following these steps and concepts will assist you in setting it up.

Let’s go back to our Comcast modem or firewall, depending on your setup.
Click the “Firewall” tab under “Feature Settings”. Here is where the magic happens.

Click “Add new”. Configure the information like this.

  • Application Name: Apex
  • Port Range Public: Comcast WILL block port 80 to your network. Let’s configure a random port number. We’ll use 9480 for the example.
  • Port Range Private: Port 80, unless you changed it in the previous step.
  • Protocol: TCP/UPD
  • IP Address: 10.1.10.201, the IP address we set to you Apex.

Press “Apply”. Give the modem a few minutes to update.

Step 4: Verifying access to your Apex

I’m going to use my iPhone to test this out. The best way to test when you’re setting this up is on your cell phone. If your phone is on your wireless network, disable wireless for now.

If you do not have the Apex app for your phone, download it now. IOS link and Android link.

If you haven’t done Part 1: Configuring Dynamic DNS, you’ll want to do that now.

Launch the Apex app on your phone (wireless off, remember) and let’s configure it.

  • Name: Apex-Away (just so you know this is the one you can access outside your house)
  • Host: Your Dynamic DNS name created in Part 1
  • Port: The custom port you configure in the port forwarding section of your modem/firewall

 

Press “Done”. You will now have an Apex-Away device configured.  You’ll be prompted for your admin username and password. Type that in. Click your Apex-Away. If everything is configured correctly, you can now access your Apex from your cell phone!

 

You can now also use this information to use a computer away from your house to access your Apex. You can pull up an internet browser and type “http://yourdynamicdns.no-ip.info:9480″ and using your admin username and password manage your system from anywhere in the world.

Neptune Systems has produced a great guide to go along with their controller, check it out.

If you have any issues with these, please feel free to contact me.



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