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Cardinal sin of shopping

Last post 04-19-2009, 1:29 by Anonymous. 3 replies.
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  •  08-08-2008, 0:35 4308

    Cardinal sin of shopping

    I thought it was that simple. I really did.

    It has been years now. I am just so used to maxing out my 100Mbps home network. Routine file transfers stream from computer to computer at takeoff speeds of 80-99.9Mbps. It would not be far off to guess that the numerous hard disks in my possession are reaching similar levels of capacity and utilization. However, if you think that is due to the high volume of anime and songs I archive, that is only half the truth. The real issue of worry? Since I operate an usually large number of computers, backing up important data and entire drive volumes take up..... more disk space. On top of that, I operate an indefinite number of virtual machines within those physical machines. Simulating and backing up all those virtual hard disks requires..... much more disk space. I have come to a state where I am backing a drive partition that carries the back up images of other drive partitions. I probably need a better structure in my organisation of disks and drives.

    So yesterday saw me peeking around Sim Lim for a new voluminous and sexy external disk. I got seduced by another type of device though - the consumer NAS. Why just an ordinary dump USB disk? I chanced upon the Linksys NAS200 - a networkable casing that plugs in two SATA disks, and two more via USB ports. With expandability up to four drives, what more can a consumer ask?

    Much more, as it turned out.

    Like a kid opening christmas toys, I quickly got around stripping off the packaging and fitted a disk into the first bay. It was dead simple procedure done in two minutes. Unfortunately, that was the only thing fast about this device. I soon got to experience first hand how unbelievably slow data transfers are - a whooping 3+MB/sec, which roughly equates a third of a 100Mbps pipe. Was there something wrong? Could it be due to the fact that I was transfering data from the USB disk attached to my laptop? Was it somehow due to the office M1 Huawei mobile broadband router that I was basing as a switch for this experiment? I got home and tested with similar performance.

    Indeed, this product is rated to be excrutiatingly slow. The slowest in fact.

    Now I think I know why it was "only" priced $220+ ($330+ with disk) against other products that span into the $1000-2500 range. But how the heck does network communication even become a performance matter in the first place? In this day and age of gigabit rates, why are we even given the opportunity to buy sub-par runners in the100Mbps lane? Even an averaged 60Mbps sustained rate would have been satisfactory. And yet, what's being released here is stunningly abysmal. Cannot even match DVD burning rates.

    Linksys NAS200 performance

    So it is not just a Function-over-Form debate. Sometimes we need to factor in a Speed-over-Function consideration, which is seldom detailed in the box packages the products come in. Therefore, the cardinal sin of shopping is: rushing purchase decisions based on the exciting spur of the moment. The annoying part? That I would quite easily commit the same mistake again.

  •  08-10-2008, 8:33 4314 in reply to 4308

    Improving NAS200 network throughput

    So having purchased the wrong type of NAS device, there now sits a 640GB (596GB in reality) disk that cannot keep up with my purposes of fast backups. So what's a man gotta do in this situation? I sought the wisdom of the true man's man and took the only logical macho path there is - I went back to the store and demanded, like no other stubborn customer you will ever face, that I get to buy another disk of the same model.

    Fast it is not, so I see little point in adding a second disk for more storage in the future. If I cannot use this as a speedy repository, then I might as well make it a steady repository. By configuring as RAID 1, I get to ensure some level of redundancy and security of my backups. And it was with this effort I discovered an easter egg that is not revealed if one uses the setup program to prepare and format the disks. Because I feared the setup program would format the existing data in the first disk, I used the web-based administration site to order a format.

    Linksys NAS200 disk format

    Lo and behold. What is this? The disks are formatted as a Journaled file system by default. I opt to format the second disk as Non-journaled, and observed a rough 33% increase in throughput. Or, a 7-10% increase in the 100Mbps scale.

    Linksys NAS200 without journal

    That is by no means lightning fast; it is still the slowest among comparable consumer products. Anybody disappointed with, and still keeping, the NAS200 should consider re-formatting the disks as Non-journaled to get at least some level of "compensation" from this underperforming worker.

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  •  12-13-2008, 13:38 4984 in reply to 4308

    Re: Cardinal sin of shopping

    Like a repeated offender, Linksys is fast losing my confidence in their passion to develop decent products. Notice I did not use the word "quality". Just when we thought the NAS200 cannot get any worse, it one ups, or should I say one downs itself to a new low.

    The very reason why I bought this device over D-Link's offering: the additional two USB ports to plug in additional external disks. And so I did take advantage of this feature, I guess much to the horror of the NAS200 development team. Why? Because I have a theory they were hoping nobody really use those ports. We are now in the age of 1TB external disks, and such a size was exactly what I plugged into the USB port. Initially, I was moving files in and out via the NAS200 USB link, and was "happy".

    But there was a slight issue; this Western Digital MyBook model came formatted with FAT32. Oh my. A cluster size of 32KB is rather large for my taste, and a maximum file size of 4GB is not acceptible for me; I have growing virtual machines and backup archives to store. So I plugged the disk into my workstation computer to renovate its interior with NTFS. Sure enough, a FAT32 format is actually impossible as Windows would complain the disk is simply too large for that. That means I cannot go back to FAT32 anymore; good riddance.

    Plugging the disk back to the NAS200 port, it got redetected and life was good once again. Or so I thought, until I tried writing files to it instead of reading. The disk had turned into a read-only volume. Investigating it further, the nasty news is revealed to show this NAS model's support for NTFS goes only so far just to read files. Absolutely brilliant! Perfectly sound and wise design choices! Thanks for foreseeing my destructive habits when it comes to NTFS drives, and putting a physical barrier to prevent me from writing files and damaging the disk. Woe to me! If only I would treat NTFS drives with care like I do with FAT32 volumes.

    I never saw this coming. Thanks Linksys.

  •  04-19-2009, 1:29 5625 in reply to 4314

    Re: Improving NAS200 network throughput

    Thanks, good work.
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