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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

iPhone or iPad on Ethernet

This falls between stupid party trick or total clutch move. Two apple dongles plus a lightning cable and your iDevice is online at 100megabits.

Part numbers are A1277 (usb Ethernet) and A1619 (lightning to usb). I’ve heard of sysadmin uses for this, you could combine with the Prompt app for ssh for example.

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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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Random

10gig completed

Two sfp+ transceivers and some reconfigurations layer…

Note the magic “10G” lights!

Full view.

A test via nfs shows 300MB/sec writes and 350 reads. Next I can play with jumbo frames and such. Might put an old SSD in the NAS to see if it’ll speed it up.

But even so it’s super fast.

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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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3Dprint

Useful 3D print

Circular wall plate for an Ethernet jack. Cool!

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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

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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

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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

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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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Site news

“Gigabit” home Internet

In San Diego, we have decent ISP options, and for a while we even had the possibility of Google Fiber. (That would have been awesome.) I’ve been on Spectrum, FKA Time Warner, for a few years at 300/25Mbit, and today a technician came by, swapped out our cable modem and upgraded us to “up to 940Mbit.” The Spectrum page with availability check is here.

Upload speed unspecified, and the ‘up to’ is never good. The price is 125/month, but there’s a $20 discount for a total of $105 a month with taxes, which is the same price I’m paying now. You do have to pay $200 for a technician visit, but I can get over that.

The other local ISP of interest is AT&T, who in some areas has full, symmetric gigabit. Not our area yet, though.

Anyway, it looks like the money I saved on my EdgeRouter X has bitten me. It was a $50 replacement when my ER-3 Lite died, and I knew when I bought it that it maxed out under 400Mbits. Sure enough, today I ran some speed tests, and also a BitTorrent download of the Ubuntu ISO and even on wired gigabit I’m “only” seeing around 350Mbit by 45Mbit:

Screenshot 2018-08-01 19.36.59.png

Screenshot 2018-08-01 20.17.32.png

During the test, the CPU on the router hit 100% – there’s the problem!

Screenshot 2018-08-01 19.37.20.png

Meh, I say, meh. This MUST BE FIXED IMMEDIATELY. Off I went to the Ubiquiti router comparison page:

Screenshot 2018-08-01 20.19.35.png

The ER-4 is new, and looks great – still silent and fan-less, more power (13W vs 5) but not too bad, and much faster. Amazon has them for $166. I’ve ordered one, and if that helps then it’ll be money well spent. I think I made the right call with the ER-X, as the ER-4 wasn’t out yet. If not, well, hmm. That’d require more work and research.

More info for the curious: I tried disabling DPI in the ER-X, but it made under 10% difference, and the other thing I’ll try is doing the speed tests directly from the laptop to the modem. The tests that I used are HTML5 speedtest and Speedtest.net.

Update 8/2/18

I enabled hardware offload and re-ran the tests. A tiny bit faster, and now no CPU problems, but where’s my speed?

Screenshot 2018-08-02 07.13.35.png

Screenshot 2018-08-02 07.13.04.png

Screenshot 2018-08-02 07.23.21.png

And when I plugged my laptop directly into the modem, voila:

Screenshot 2018-08-02 07.40.35.png

Still not full gigabit, but much better. Uploads peaked over 100Mbit too:

Screenshot 2018-08-02 07.41.00.png

So I think I’ll try the ER-4 and see how it does. Odd that others on the net had better luck with the ER-X, though.

Update 8/3/18: Yay new router! Peaking at 958Mbits:

Screenshot 2018-08-03 19.03.41.png

Screenshot 2018-08-03 19.03.56.png

Mind you, this is testing at peak Internet time, Friday evening, so I suspect I’m limited elsewhere. So far it looks great as far as speed. I wasn’t able to restore my old configuration onto the new router, so I’m in for a couple of hours of tedium tomorrow recreating the dynamic DNS setup, but that’s not terrible.

Gigabit!