Speed Speed Speed
Date: 18/1/2007
Well now that I have a Macbook C2D with 802-11 "n" wireless hardware it occured to me that a nice 802-11 "n" access point wouldn't go astray. Lo and behold Apple release just such an 802-11 "n" access point/router/internet gateway called the Airport Extreme. Knowing that just such an Apple product would interoperate perfectly with the "n" wireless hardware on my Macbook, I swished out the credit card and was seriously thinking about clicking "Buy" button, but fortunately (unfortunately?) I double checked the tech specs first.

Lets see, what have we here.
  • 10/100 uplink port for 'net access: tick.
  • The usual NAT/DHCP/VPN tech: tick.
  • Wireless a/b/g/n: tick.
  • Plausable price: sigh, but 'tick'.
  • Looks the business: tick.
  • Usb2 jack for external hard-disk/printer: BIG ASS TICK!
  • 3 x 10/100 wired ethernet ports: W. T. F. >:-(
How can in this day and age can Apple in all seriousness release a wired ethernet switch product that only has 10/100base-T? I mean all their computers have 1000base-T right? And this is the age of high-flippin-definition TV and gigabyte media files? The network is the weak link in my local setup:
  • Memory bus: 2GB/s
  • HD: 30+MB/s
  • Network: 7-8MB/s
  • (Cable: 1MB/s)
And 2 of the 3 computers I own do gigabit. One of the applications for a faster network would be to stream SD digital TV from the main PC that does recording to the Macbook for viewing. SD digital weighs in at about 7mb/s which is right on the edge of the bandwidth limits of (my) 100base-T network. In fact I've tried it and it skips like a young billy goat. So I need some gigabit action if I'm going to get that working smoothly. A better 100base-T switch might work, but if I'm getting something anyway, why not just do it properly and get 1000base-T?

To put things in perspective, CodingHorror goes into some detail about the various actual throughputs you can expect on various networks. A lot of people will get 30MB/s on gigabit but it's possible to get more with the right tuning. Even 100MB/s. Anyway, a good read if your at all interested.

Also the Airport Express comes with a CD to "update" your Mac computer use 802.11n, which would be a nice little bonus considering that Apple is going to charge us US$5 to enable the existing "n" hardware that we've already paid for. A practice that I find both disturbing and unethical. I don't give a hoot about your Sarbanes and your Oxley, you can shove that pile of steaming. I have every faith in the hacker community to make a free solution to that very issue widely available any time now.

So back to square one, I want some gigabit, some network attached storage, some 'net sharing and some wireless "n" that works with my Macbook. For less than $200 AUD. Is that even possible?

Update: Well it appears after a little sleuthing that a few alternative products do exist, but the info is kinda thin and the prices kinda max:
  • D-link DIR-655: Pre-N, 4 x Gigabit Eth, but NO NAS despite having a USB port on the back. Looks nice though. ~$150USD
  • Linksys WRT350N: Pre-N, 4 x Gigabit Eth, USB2 NAS, but hideously ugly. ~$150USD
Only the DIR-655 is available here for $320AUD, which is a good $100AUD more than the Apple product, although you get gigabit ethernet and lose the NAS.

One would be tempted to get the Airport Extreme and pair it with a Gigabit switch (D-link do a 5 port for $60AUD!!! *blink*) but then what is the point of 802.11n if your server is stuck behind a shared 100Mbit link between the Airport Extreme and the Gigabit switch? And you can't use that 540Mbit of "Pre-N" goodness to access your files?

Argh, it's all nafted I tell you... nafted.
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