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recommendations Uncategorized

Internet speed tests

So you’re online and you wonder how your network is doing. How do you measure it? I’m here for you.

  • Fast.com is my go-to for quick checks. It measures using only Netflix connections so bypasses some ISP fuckery with DPI and slowdowns. Elegant UI.
  • Speed.cloudflare.com is the best by a long shot. Detailed and capable of saturating my 400mbit downlink.
  • Testmy.net is decent but uglier.
  • Speedtest.net is ad laden.
  • Sourceforge.net/speedtest is ok and used to be my favorite. Lots of ads now.

As explained in my series of gigabit posts, making a fast, reliable network takes time and effort, and these sites don’t magically make it happen. However, having a way to measure your changes is super helpful, and I probably use these weekly.

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recommendations

New cable modem

Maybe it was getting old, or maybe the much-increased traffic from pandemic WFH caused problems, but for whatever reason our Spectrum-provided cable modem has been a problem. I’ve had to power cycle it a few times to clear slowdowns. Symptoms – speed tests dropped down to under 10 megabits, and on reboot would rebound to over 200. (We’re paying for 400/25 and seem to be provisioned for faster.)

Having seen similar problems before, I first narrowed the suspects down by power cycling the (apple) access point and (Mikrotic) backbone switch and (ER-4) router; none sufficed but a modem cycle did. I found the Spectrum supported modems page, did some research and bought the Netgear CM1000v2 direct from the manufacturer and installed it today.

Install was painless. I called Spectrum’s activation line (877-309-5869) and waited for a callback. The tech took the MAC address, waited patiently for the power, sent down an activation packet and waited for reboot and DHCP to the router. Easiest install I’ve ever had with any ISP!

Now things are back at line speed and I’m a lot happier. I’m spending hours a day on Zoom and BlueJeans and now Google Meet, so fast and reliable internet is rapidly becoming essential.

fast.com is a great test
Admin interface is basic

The CM1000v2 isn’t their fastest – they have ones that can gang 2 or 4 gigabit ports together. I decided not to bother, as 1G is the max available locally and going faster than that would cascade to needing a new router and possibly multipoint wireless. I’ll wait.

New gear

I considered the other supported modems, but the Arris ones ran hot and some had the problematic Intel Puma chipset; hard pass. Do your research if you’re thinking of buying an Arris SB8200 Rev 4 or Arris SBG8300.

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Computer science Random

Ten gigabit home networking

This will be a series of posts. I upgraded my NAS to a model with dual 10G ports, and the compute server already had 10G so I had an excuse.

Old setup – 4-bay Synology DS416play and a USB3 drive caddy for a temporary backup solution. TP-Link 16 port switch, all ports in use.

After some searching, I found this Mikrotik switch for $142 on Amazon. 28 ports of 1G plus two 10G ports. Most switches with 10g are either $100 per port or have fans – this one is 19 watts, no fans, and cheap. Note the “sfp+” notation – it means you need more pricy bits to finish the job, but you can use other media like fiber optic links. So total cost of almost 2x.

Switch in and waiting for NAS backup to complete:

Power usage went down by 20 or 30 watts. Always something I pay close attention to. Here’s semi-final:

Next week I get the SFP+ transceivers and rewire a bit. Trunked dual 1G links for now. Power usage is back to where it was, maybe down a watt or two. The new switch is only 19W (the old was around 30) but the larger NAS uses more power, so even under heavy load with 5 disks going.

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recommendations Uncategorized

Hardware for gigabit

As part of my series of posts on gigabit Internet connections I had a friend ask about hardware, which is currently spread across multiple posts. Here’s what I’m running with a bit of details for each item. I’ll go from the outermost layer inwards.

Guidelines and goals

All equipment must be low power.

No cooling fans.

Reliability is worth paying extra.

Modem and router

2018-09-25 16.25.23

The modem is supplied by Spectrum, as their only approved model, and is DOCSIS 3.1. A bit bulky but low-power, reliable and delivering the promised speed. It’s linked via a short cable to my Ubiquiti ER-4 router/firewall. I had to upgrade from the ER-X as explained here, I wasn’t able to get line speed out of the ER-X and rather than fight that I upgraded to the ER-4. So far, it’s been great and I recommend it without hesitation.

Backbone switch

2018-09-25 16.25.18

I wanted a backbone that’d handle lots of load, give me the ability to monitor/tweak, and generally be awesome. For an ethernet switch, that means

  1. Fully non-blocking; i.e. handle 100% traffic, bidirectionally, across all ports.
  2. Managed, with a web interface
  3. Media ports so I can add fiber if necessary

I bought the TP-Link TL-SG2216 which is a 16 port version; you can get more ports in the same switch. It’s been a good choice, right now I’ve got some bug with SSL on the web interface but the switch and SNMP have been flawless. I should have paid for more ports; if you squint at the picture you can see a 5-port dumb switch I had to daisy chain in to add more ports. Ahh well.

WiFi

I have had much better luck using access points as opposed to all-in-one, so I use and recommend that. In my case, that’s the no longer sold Apple AirPort Extreme 802.11ac in access point mode. I disable disk sharing, DHCP, etc, etc and it runs for months and months with no problem. Note that I have very heavy usage, with upwards of 50 clients ranging from laptops, IoT, phones, tablets, etc, so the split AP/router configuration should also work for small biz or advanced home networks too.

A bit more detail about Wi-Fi Gigabit internet, the WiFi link.

DHCP and DNS

2018-09-25 16.25.31

That’s my four-drive Synology DS416play. It’s a drive server, basically, but Synology makes great software so I also run other services on it that I used to host on Debian:

  • Local DNS and forwarding. I can resolve internal hostnames and also forward to 1.1.1.1 and 9.9.9.9 resolvers.
  • DHCP server – hand out permanent and dynamic IPs on my class C subnet.
  • TimeMachine and NFS backup, then mirrored to Amazon Drive for off-site backups.

It’s a great little machine and my second Synology. Quiet, reliable and fast – I run the dual gigabit links to the switch and use the bridged mode, so I’ve got ~200MB/sec available.

Pi Hole ad blocker

I mentioned this in Staying sane and well-read with tab sets ad blocking and RSS – I adore this thing! I use a gen-1 pi for hardware and it provides DNS-level ad filtering for every device on the network.

Note that the DHCP server on the NAS gives out the Pi-hole’s IP as the DNS server to use, and the Pi-Hole is setup to use the NAS as its upstream. That way you get ad blocking plus local resolution. Takes a bit to configure that way but the results are excellent.

Battery backup

2018-09-25 16.25.09

After an outage I added the APC Back-UPS Pro BR1500G and external battery pack. Since the entire set of hardware uses 65 watts, this provides around 300 minutes of power, more than enough to keep running and nicely avoiding server problems due to the short 1-second glitches that I see about once a week.

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recommendations

A good argument for fast Internet…

The latest batch of Mac and iOS updates came out this week, and at 1 to 4GB per device, they will load your internet:

Screenshot 2018-09-18 19.04.36

xcode alone is a staggering 3.76GB… damn.

Screenshot 2018-09-18 19.04.56

The two meters are iStatMenus and PeakHour, both paid and both worth your money. You’re seeing the difference in time durations, so PeakHour is showing 64.5MB/sec and iStatMenus is measurig 31.53. The PeakHour measurement is queried from the SNMP counters in the the router. Here’s the full PeakHour setup:

Screenshot 2018-09-18 19.12.37

I have it setup to query the NAS, the router and the managed switch. I mean, why the heck not?

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recommendations

Gigabit internet, the WiFi link

So now that I’ve got “Gigabit” home Internet I’m doing reading about WiFi, because my WiFi tops out around 400ish megabits (45MB/sec) of usable throughput. While researching, I found more bandwidth-testing sites as linked above. The fast.com site is something Netflix made, which is a great idea since that’s there core business and they can refer customers there for a quick test. I don’t actually have 1.3gigabit, but it’s a flattering screenshot. 😉

On Wifi, I get

Screenshot 2018-09-16 10.08.50

That’s an Apple Airport Extreme (A1521) and MacBook Pro (Retina, 13″, early 2015, A1502) using 802.11ac, on a 5GHz/80MHz channel. From what I’ve read so far, maximum WiFi usable (ie HTTP) goodput is around 650Mbits, so I’m not far from best-case. Our house is around 1800 square feet, so a single access point provides great coverage, the issue right now is that a gigabit ‘net drop is just plain faster than the wifi you can buy right now. 😉 First world problems

The Airport Extreme is and has been an excellent choice. It does 3×3 MIMO, according to the wonderful Mactracker. From opening System Information/WiFi on the laptop, I appear to have the Broadcom BCM43xx. I know from the Ars Technica article that some MacBooks have the BCM94360CS with 3×3 MIMO; if I do that’d explain my good speed results.

One of the advantages gained by spending more on Apple hardware; it’s lasted well and is better engineered. I bought them in 2014 and 2015 respectively, so this is not new.

Advice

I’m going to hold fast and not buy anything for now. For my friend Tom, whose laptop is older, I’d recommend a ‘600Mbit USB AC WiFi’ off of Amazon for $15. The Airport Extreme was discontinued this year, but they can be found used easily and its 3×3 with 6 antennas really has been superb.

For gigabit in general, see my other posts – you really need to be thorough choosing modem, router and switch before you try to do WiFi.

Learn More

via Internet Speed Test | Fast.com

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Site news

Internet Speed Test – HTML5 Speed Test

MBP13, gigabit ethernet, Thunderbolt adapter. YASSSS.

Screenshot 2018-08-12 14.11.40

The latency varies quite a lot, and it’ll download even faster sometimes. I’m feeling like that I’m getting the bandwidth that Spectrum advertises, which is nice. Sorry Dan, I wish Australia had more sane policy on broadband. 😉

via Internet Speed Test – HTML5 Speed Test

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Site news

Gigabit two

Bad snaps of the new modem and router:

Now to figure out max throughput on WiFi!