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RT-AX86U AiMesh setup

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Thanks @L&LD , hopefully that will work during initial setup! When I first install merlin on the node, should the node be connected to the internet/modem?
I don't connect to the internet/modem at all when I'm setting up a new router (home or onsite at a customer's premises).

I have the files I need already downloaded, verified, and I am set for any router I will encounter.

For any modern Asus router, I also don't use an Ethernet connection at all, it is done over Wi-Fi.

The first time a router is connected to the internet, it is fully set up except for amtm + Entware + scripts (but I do install and format via amtm a USB drive and put a swap file of 2GB on it when I know scripts will be used).
Ahhh thank you @L&LD , that is what I did not understand! I downloaded the firmware before doing anything and didn't connect the node to the internet. However, I unfortunately did that for the main router :S So router 1 now needs to go through a hard reset and the instructions you gave me. For the noded router, now that it's flashed to Merlin, I don't need to do anything else right? By the way, I preliminarily did speedtests and the AX86U is more stable than the AX11000 and almost immediately hits max speeds. It's also got slightly lower ping. But back to testing... next step, do I need to do any setup on the node (SSID, PW, etc) or skip all that, only do it on the main router and then hard reset the node and set it up as aimesh as per your instructions?
Yes, do not do anything except fully reset the nodes. :)
Ok thanks @L&LD , it's done and it's all connected using the 2.5GBE backhaul! Now what else can I do as refinements? I've set 2.4ghz to channel 1 and 5ghz to channel 161 as you suggested.
Hmmm, I've been getting a lot of disconnects on the 5ghz channel on my cell phone, and password not recognized errors...happens when i am closer to the node. Odd
  1. 2.4GHz SSID Main Wi-Fi (only shared with trusted users)
    • (New, never-before-used/seen by any of the clients on the network before)
    • 8 alphanumeric characters, exactly, beginning with a letter.
    • Do not include punctuation, spaces, special characters, or smiley faces.

@L&LD, would you be so kind to explain the 8 exact character limits on SSIDs?
@Nebulaz, I will try to explain as best as I can below.

As to the 'why', it is/was an issue that some posters had come across when using short SSID's and/or anything other than alphanumeric characters, no spaces, etc. see link above. If memory serves me well, it was within the last couple of years on these forums.

I arbitrarily started using 8 characters (for no other reason than a nod to old DOS naming limitations...) for all my customer installs and found improvements for them vs. what I could have expected previously. For reference, I have always defaulted to 8 characters myself. But when others found issues with short SSIDs, I made it part of my 'best practice' steps that I deliver for each customer.

While I wouldn't go shorter than 8 characters for all the reasons above and more (almost anything can be described in 8 characters, with some imagination), there is no reason it can't be longer. Up to a maximum of 16 characters is the most I would suggest. Asus has arbitrary limits (16 characters is the limit for the Username, for example) that are not obviously, transparent, or easily linked to issues expect by fortuitous experimentation (like the short SSID name proved).

Because I like to keep things consistent for each customer, I do not like to give ranges (8-16). That is why 8 alphanumeric characters, with no spaces, punctuation, special characters, or smiley faces is my recommendation.

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