upgraded to ASUS RT-AC56U router – speed tests

As per my router troubles earlier, I have finally upgraded to the Asus RT-AC56U. I’ve been using an old Linksys WRT54GL as an access point for legacy 802.11g connections, so here is the baseline for comparison, using a desktop machine located two feet away, using built-in wifi antennas:

Linksys WRT54GL, 802.11g, 2.4 Ghz

here’s the result from using the new router:

ASUS RT-AC56U, 802.11n, 2.4 Ghz

here’s the result from using the new router on my main workstation PC in the basement, using a PCI wifi adapter:

Linksys WRT54GL, 802.11g, 2.4 Ghz

and using the new router, with a USB AC-1200 wifi adapter (ASUS USB-AC56):

ASUS RT-AC56U, 802.11ac, 5.0 Ghz

my Netgear WNDR3700 (v1) router’s 5 Ghz network just went missing – bad antenna?

As this is a geekblog, I might as well document my woes here in public. Here is the support ticket I filed with Netgear just now.

Hello,

I purchased a WNDR3700 on 1/11/2011 – serial number 21840B550A390. I have registered the router on my.netgear.com.

this week the 5 Ghz wireless network stopped working entirely. I have updated to latest firmware, and also:

– the 5 Ghz blue light is on
– the settings on the configuration dashboard (192.168.1.1) indicate the 5Ghz network is active
– SSID for 5 Ghz is set to “broadcast SSID name: on”
– the 2.4 Ghz network works fine, computers connected can access internet
– computers attached to the router via ethernet also can also access the internet normally

however no device capable of 5Ghz is able to detect the 5Ghz SSID. the scanning software inSSIDer does not detect any 5Ghz network being broadcast either.

Logically, maybe the antenna or antenna amplifier has burned out, I can think of no other explanation in software for why 5Ghz is missing – the router itself is convinced that 5Ghz is indeed working, but it isnt. That suggests a hardware problem to me.

The router is only 2 1/2 years old and my previous Netgear routers are still going strong at my relatives’ homes after 5-6 years so this is very surprising. I am hoping Netgear support will not disappoint me.

It looks like other users have reported similar issues with the 2.4 Ghz network also mysteriously vanishing, which is why I think my diagnosis of a bad antenna is correct. To be honest I was never enamoured of the speed of this router to begin with, as my initial tests showed.

ASUS RT N66U router

I am skeptical that Netgear will be willing to replace the unit but if they make some kind of gesture that will go a long way towards persuading me to buy a Netgear replacement. I’m not going to bother with a draft 11ac router, all I need is a solid 11abgn machine with some MIMO and I’ll be happy. Unless they make me a good deal, I am very tempted to ditch Netgear. For example, that ASUS RT-N66U “Dark Knight” got a nice review. External antennas, too!

Budget Gaming PC build for spring 2013

Corsair Carbide 400R (upgrade)
Corsair Carbide 400R (upgrade)
One of my hobbies here at Haibane is blogging about computer hardware, and I’ve decided to put some of that hobbyist energy towards creating my own spec sheets for PC builds, mainly because I’ve been asked to do that a few times recently for friends and family anyway. I’ve created a page here at Haibane called the Budget Gamer Build that specs out an entry-level box that should be capable of running most modern games at medium resolution, at a target price of $800. There’s also an upgraded version of the build that comes in at $1200 which offers better graphics performance, audio and an SSD drive.

The writeup goes into detail about why I chose each component, but I also have direct links to Lists at Amazon to facilitate ordering:

(I get a few percent back from any purchase at Amazon via those links or the affiliate links on the spec page here at haibane.)

I will probably update that page every quarter so I stay within the price envelope and add new components as applicable. Hopefully I will also find time to spec out a higher-end build in the $2000 range and a home-theater build in the $1000 as well. If you are looking to build a PC, I’d appreciate the opportunity to advise you as well, just drop me a line or comment.

Bizarro-Moore’s Law for SSDs?

It looks like SSDs are going to get worse over time, unlike hard drives:

SSDs are seemingly doomed. Why? Because as circuitry of NAND flash-based SSDs shrinks, densities increase. But that also means issues relating to read and write latency and data errors will increase as well.
[…]
The group discovered that write speed for pages in a flash block suffered “dramatic and predictable variations” in latency. Even more, the tests showed that as the NAND flash wore out, error rates varied widely between devices. Single-level cell NAND produced the best test results whereas multi-level cell and triple-level cell NAND produced less than spectacular results.

This suggests to me that SSDs are never going to break out of the boot-disk niche for hardware builds. I get equivalent read-speads on my striped hard drives as my boot SSD, for that matter.

time to buy an SSD: 128GB C300 for $200

judge me by my size, do you? No! And well you should not! For my ally is SATA3, and a powerful ally it is! (Use the code CRUCIAL4455, Luke...)
The SSD market is providing a rare opportunity for anyone not intent on building at the bleeding edge. The newest generation of SSDs like Crucial’s RealSSD C400, OCZ Vertex 3, and Intel’s SSD 320 are out and have been reviewed, but offer incremental performance upgrades at best (mainly from refinements of the controllers’ firmware, and also some further power consumption efficiency from moving to a 25 nm die). This means that the prior generation’s performance leaders are a real bargain at reduced prices.

For example, if you use the code CRUCIAL4455 at NewEgg (valid until tomorrow) you can get a C300 for $200, and free 2-day shipping. That’s $40 cheaper than I paid for it just a few weeks ago (and you can see my benchmarks here on PREFECT). I expect that the Vertex 2 and Intel’s SSD 510, also previous generation, will see some major rebates or discounts soon, but the C300 is really the best SSD of the 34nm generation. .

UPDATE: The 120 GB Intel 510 Series is also on sale at NewEgg until 4/7.

The bottom line is that the upgrade to an SSD packs better punch than upgrading RAM and is a far cheaper alternative to upgrading a mobo and CPU (Sandy Bridge is still not compelling an upgrade IMHO, which I can elucidate on in thread if anyone cares). The advantage of the form factor is that its compatible with any SATA laptop or any desktop (unfortunately, my old T42 is just outside that generation, still using ULTRA-ATA. And it has a broken LCD backlight, but I digress…). These things even come with simple utilities to clone your current drive, OS, apps, etc without a hitch to the SSD. This is the best bang for your buck. I think that the $200 price point for 128 GB is a price floor, however – it won’t go lower, because all the inventory of the old generation drives like the C300 will sell out at that price. Once the old generation drives (which as I mentioned, offer largely comparable performance) sell out, then the only SSD options will be the new generation which are about $100 more expensive. After that, your best window to buy an SSD again will be 6 months to a year from now, when the current “next” generation is again replaced by a new crop and the cycle repeats.

Filco Majestouch tenkeyless with RED switches at Amazon

UPDATE – There are a number of other Filco Majestouch keyboards available on Amazon right now – supplied probably limited as these are no longer in production.

This is a real rarity – a Filco Majestouch keyboard, of the 87-key layout (tenkeyless), and with the linear Cherry MX Red switches, in stock at Amazon.com. In my earlier post on keyboards I noted that reds were pretty much impossible to find. And here they are, in stock and free shipping. The keyboard is a little pricey but I think it’s worth snapping this up.

Filco Majestouch 87-key (tenkeyless) mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Red switches - $165 at Amazon

Red switches are linear like blacks, but lighter force for actuation. The result should be an ideal hybrid between gaming and typing. My only complaint is that it isn’t a blank keyset, but that’s ok 🙂 There’s a thread at geekhack with some initial reviews of this board and I think I am going to enjoy it.

benchmarking the SSD vs striped drives

I’ve got the storage system all sorted out now. Here’s my disk manager:

Disk0 (E: – BACKUP) is the 2TB Western Digital Caviar Green, formatted as one large basic volume. Disk 1 and Disk 2 are the 1TB Samsung Spinpoints, where the first 128 GB of each have been striped together to create a single 256 GB striped volume (Y: – FASTDATA) and the latter 800 GB are mirrored (Z: – USERDATA). There’s also a strange unallocated block on one of the Spinpoints, which is relatively tiny (130 MB). Odd, that. Finally, Disk3 is the 128 GB Crucial RealSSD C300. I’ve moved all the user data directories to the mirrored partition and kept the Windows OS and application data on the SSD, with plenty of room to spare.

I was curious as to the performance of the striped volume versus the SSD. Note that I allocated the beginning of the spinpoints to the stripe, to “short-stroke” it (ie, the data is on the start of the disks, meaning the read heads have to travel less physical distance). Unfortunately, HD Tune does not seem to like partitions, only treats disks as single entities, so I used CrystalDiskMark 3.01 instead. The results were intriguing! Here are the runs for each partition – each run had 4 averages, 1000MB test data size:

2TB Western Digital Caviar Green

800GB mirrored partition, Samsung Spinpoint F3 (pair)

128 GB Crucial RealSSD C300

256GB striped partition (short-stroke), Samsung Spinpoint F3 (pair)

What is kind of amazing is that in sequential reads, the striped volume actually matches the SSD in read speed, and outperforms by a factor of 2 on write! However, when it comes to random 512K and 4K sectors, the SSD completely smokes the striped volume. This suggests that the striped volume would be just as good as an SSD for things like video other multimedia. In fact I might just rename my striped volume VIDEO and move the My Video folder to there instead of on USERDATA. Actually I should rename USERDATA just DATA as well 🙂

I’m not really sure why I created the striped volume, other than simply because I could. I didnt need a full terabyte for mirroring once the OS and apps are excluded. At some point in the future i can move to 2TB disks if necessary, but this setup shuold last me for a few years at minimum, if not longer – especially since I’m also segregating video. The only downside is that the striped volume not only lacks redundancy, it’s doubly vulnerable to disk failure. But that’s why I have my backup volume E, after all, and backblaze. (Though backblaze doesn’t backup data files over a certain size… need to check into that)

I’ve put a huge amount of overthought into this, but I think I am finally happy with how it all turned out. I need to do my final wrap up post on PREFECT now, with photos and cost estimate. Since the only game I run is WoW I think I am basically futureproof for a long time.