Archive for September, 2010

Drobo-FS Review, part 2 (abbreviated)

Here’s the low down.  I’m not ready to do a bunch of tests with AFP and CIFS, and give you the read and write performance of the Drobo-FS.  After all, I’m not Anand (but I’m a fan of his).  I’ve been pretty busy lately, but I know some readers have been waiting on this sort of info, as I was before I ordered my Drobo-FS.  I did a quick AFP test tonight so I’ll post my results for those interested:

I just copied a 4.7 GB file off of my Drobo-FS in 2:15 (135 seconds) using AFP.  That’s about 34.8 MB/sec (278 Mbit/sec).  These numbers are the result of a single file copy, not repeated tests, but that speed seems in-line with what I remember from the preliminary tests I did soon after getting the Drobo-FS.  That’s significantly slower than the approximate 45 MB/sec I got copying to/from the ReadyNAS Pro with AFP, and a heck of a lot slower than the 70-80 MB/sec the ReadyNAS Pro can handle on CIFS.

Ok – That’s it for the review part – The rest below is mostly ramblings on the economics of RAID solutions.

So, is it fast enough?  It depends on what you are doing.  For most home users?  Considering the cost of a ReadyNAS Pro vs. a Drobo-FS, and the fact that most people simply need storage for videos, photos, and backups, I’d say the Drobo-FS is probably plenty fast enough.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like my ReadyNAS Pro, but it’s expensive storage.  You need to use certain drives, which are never the ones you see with “fire sale” prices.  In fact, the drives you should use in a ReadyNAS Pro should all be the same model and same capacity, and are pretty much Enterprise drives.  Since they are Enterprise drives, they keep a pretty lofty price premium above desktop units,  That makes it expensive to expand.

To illustrate my point, when I had three 500 GB drives in my Pro (with 6 bays), I faced a difficult choice when it came to upgrading…  I could buy more of the same expensive 500 GB drives and add 500GB a pop, or I could upgrade to three drives of a larger capacity (still expensive drives) and add the difference in capacity for two of my new drives to the total.  The big thing to consider is that once you fill up the 6 drive bays, the only way to easily expand is to replace all 6 drives with higher capacity drives.  If you replace one or two with bigger drives, it doesn’t give you any more real capacity on your existing shares until you replace them all.  That makes me want fewer, higher capacity drives in the ReadyNAS.  The key factor in my case was the fact that the 500 GB drives I had were known to have a very high failure rate.  Now, I have three 750 GB drives in my ReadyNAS and I use it for fast storage, such as an iSCSI volume for a VMware virtual machine.  For that, it makes a HUGE performance difference.

Anyhow, I had a recent need for some additional space.  This is where the Drobo really shines.  Just the other day, I saw a 1.5 TB drive on sale for about $80, which I snapped up, dropped into my Drobo-FS and within minutes I had an extra 500 GB of storage, with no rebooting, with 1 GB waiting for another drive swap.  If I next swap my 500 GB drive with a 1.5 TB drive, I’ll have added another 1 TB of redundant storage to my Drobo-FS.

Anyhow, I hope this has helped you to make your decision.

September 30, 2010 at 8:17 pm Leave a comment

CheckPoint UTM Edge NW

The CheckPoint UTM Edge NW arrived today at my work.  These are some pretty amazing little units.  They are pretty much the Enterprise version of the CheckPoint Safe@Office 1000NW.  Four Gigabit Ethernet interfaces for your local networks (each of which can be a different port-based VLAN, if you like), a Gigabit WAN interface, and a Gigabit WAN2/DMZ interface.  The WAN2/DMZ interface can also house all your tagged VLANs.  And it comes with 802.11N wireless, plus two USB ports which can be used to attach a 3G modem (which then becomes your WAN2).

Anyhow, I’ll be learning more about them in the days to come as I attempt to automate some scripts for a deployment in a few weeks…  Wish me luck!

September 28, 2010 at 10:40 pm Leave a comment

Hulu Plus – meh

Hulu Plus has a little more than you can get with the standard Hulu service.  I signed up for it after I saw that all 9 seasons of the X-Files are available on the Hulu Plus service.  I’d probably already watched 80% of them already, but to buy the entire series would probably run at least $50…  To get it over the course of 2 months for $10 a month, along with the first three seasons of Sliders and a few movies for the kids is a pretty good deal.  In fact, if you go to www.hulu.com/plus you can see a good list of the shows that have multiple seasons available.  If there’s something on that list that appeals to you, dive right in and subscribe for a month or two.

Aside from that, unless you want to watch content on the go a lot (like on an iPhone), I can’t recommend getting Hulu Plus for more than a few months at a time.  Even if you fall into the “on the go” crowd, much of the current content (i.e. new stuff that just aired) isn’t available on “Mobile” or “TV”, only on “Web”, meaning in your normal browser.

Honestly, the biggest competition to Hulu Plus is Hulu’s own free service.  I mean, they have a thousand or so episodes of some hit shows from the last few decades on their “Plus” service.  Their free service has many, many times that, including fresh content that aired within about the last week.

Hulu honestly can’t offer much less than what it current does on the free side of the service.  If Hulu doesn’t have the fresh stuff available pretty quick after airing, people will just download the torrents that are out usually within hours of airing, for free.  Heck, if you live on the west coast, you might even be able to occasionally download a torrent of your favorite show (recorded by someone on the East coast) before it even airs in your local market.

If the customer goes to torrents, then Hulu loses out on advertising revenue too, and if someone is a collector of a series, they probably won’t bother buying the DVDs when they can just download DVD rips for free, so that’s more money out the window.  Streaming a show provides commercial revenue and the potential that the customer may later want to actually buy the content…

Now, I’m going to a side topic real quick.  The TV industry has a hard time with this concept, but for many, many years a large percentage of the population of this country recorded the streams of TVs shows as they entered their homes.  To do this, they used devices called VCR’s.  You’ve probably seen one before.  In the last 10 years, they have largely been displaced by DVR’s, which record directly to hard drives.

The TV industry now wants us to believe that recording a video stream off of a site like Hulu.com isn’t the same as recording with a VCR/DVR, but that doing so is somehow wrong.

My personal belief?  I don’t see anything wrong with it, as long as you aren’t then redistributing it to others, but are just keeping it for your own personal use.

September 25, 2010 at 12:22 am Leave a comment

Thank you Comcast!

Ok – What gives, right?  Why would anyone thank their cable company?  We’ll, I just got my bill…  And, no, it isn’t extremely low due to a mistake on their part…  It’s actually gone up.

So, why would I thank them for that?  That was the kick in the pants that I needed, that’s why…

For the last few years, I’ve been a customer of Comcast, dutifully paying them $42.95 a month for Internet, plus $5 a month for modem rental, and something in the range of $9.95 to $12.95 a month for limited basic cable (poverty level cable – mostly just local channels), plus taxes and fees.  I was paying for the limited basic cable to save money, actually, as they give you a discount off the normal Internet price if you are a cable TV customer.  I’ve been using Over-The-Air HD for a few years now and using SageTV to record everything, so this cable TV service isn’t really doing me any good.

Anyhow, it seems like every few months that cable price has gone up, and up.  It’s recently grown to $17.95.  On the most recent bill, however, I noticed that my Internet price is now $50.95.  There is no mention of a $5 modem rental fee.  Oddly, their website still shows $42.95 as their pricing for my level of service.  So, they must have just raised it $8 and decided to include the modem rental.  I guess too many people were buying their own modem to try to save $60 a year.  This effectively raised my price by $3 a month.

Now, it’s not so much this $3 that is the issue, but the price has steadily gone up from being just about $58 a month to now a little over $72. If you think in terms of percentages, I’m now being charged about 25% more for this service than I was charged about 2 years ago, which is pretty significant.

Anyhow, I don’t have a local phone line anymore (dropped that a few years ago in favor of VoIP), but checked with AT&T anyhow.  They happen to be offering $19.99 a month for a whole year, for their 6 Meg Direct DSL service.  (That’s DSL service without having phone service.)  Add in the typical fees that I’d expect from any phone company and I’m figuring it will run about $25-$27 a month, or about $45 a month LESS than Comcast is charging me.

Now yes, 6 Meg is a lower speed than I’m getting now with Comcast… The actual speed is probably 10-12 Meg that, but you can’t really tell what the top end is because of their “Power Boost” feature, which gives you more speed for short bursts of time, like long enough to run a speed test. (Sounds like a marketing feature, really)

ISo, again, Thank you Comcast!  You made me check out the competition, and the competition looks pretty good.  Perhaps I’ll be back in a year…

September 5, 2010 at 9:05 pm Leave a comment


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