Posts in Category: technology

Netgear EX7300 WiFi Extender

We’ve lived in our current house for a bit over a year now but we’ve recently changed rooms, so from one end of the house to the other. We used to be on the same side of the house as the router so wifi was never an issue, but in our new room it was spotty at best, enter the Netgear EX7300 WiFi Extender (full name, Nighthawk X4 WiFi Range Extender). I’ve had a Netgear router for the past several years (the WNDR3700 dual band router) which has served me well and continues to do so, and therefore I was pre-disposed to the brand already, when looking for the wifi extender.

Netgear EX7300

Netgear EX7300

After tossing up between the bulkier EX7000 and this one, I decided to go with this one due to its smaller design. Setup was pretty easy, just follow the steps on the quick start guide and you should be fine, although the setup prompt didn’t work on my mac mini (setup button didn’t launch anything), it worked as expected using my ipad.

Installation

I just went with the default setup to begin with, so extending both 2.4gHz and 5gHz bands on my router (which appends _ext to create two new network SSIDs) and tried that for a couple of days. It seemed to work initially, but after some use (maybe thirty minutes) the internet would either drop out (connection was fine) or the connection would die and it would be impossible to reconnect. There also seemed to be a problem with the old SSIDs on the router as the internet became unstable when connected to those as well (near the router of course), even the one device connected by LAN seemed to have issues.

Troubleshooting

I tried assigning static IPs to everything in the house which didn’t really change anything, so the final step was to try the FastLane function. This combines both frequencies from the extender to strengthen the signal meaning you use only one SSID. So I went with combining the 2.4gHz into the 5gHz band and voilà, so far so good. We haven’t had any issues with dropping out or connection in the past few days and the speed has been very solid.

Range

Currently it’s only sitting about 7m (through a wall or two) from the router (in a floor outlet) and running at 100% power, I had a quick check of the range out the back of the house and it extends out to the backyard but while the WiFi is connected at two bars all the way out the back (probably 15-20m through a few walls) the internet didn’t seem to work. Just outside the back door, through the same walls but with possibly less environmental interference, the connection still worked reasonably well, so I don’t think I need to worry about leechers stealing my internet from the reserve.

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Synology DS1511+ disk expansion

  • The bare drive
    The bare drive
  • The DS1511+ with empty slot
    The DS1511+ with empty slot
  • New drive in the disk case
    New drive in the disk case
  • New drive in and detected
    New drive in and detected
  • Volume expanding
    Volume expanding
  • Disk expansion complete
    Disk expansion complete

After three years, the original 3.6TB (3 x 2TB HDD) SHR raid (Synology Hybrid RAID) has finally been reduced to less than 50GB of free space. So with the price of a 4TB drive about the same bang for buck as even a 2TB drive I decided to go and grab one and see how this hot swappable disk expansion works. This was the exact reason I decided to get this NAS solution, expandable storage with different size hard drives providing RAID and disk fail protection. I could wait until I needed to add storage space (and when it became cheaper) before adding more, rather than filling the NAS with equal size hard drives (with less total space down the line) and having to do a lot more fiddling with it, although I do wonder what would happen if the biggest drive (in this case the 4TB) had an issue and needed to be replaced. Having thought about that, I suppose with 10TB of hard disk, the free space on the volume is equivalent to 10TB minus the largest disk, so in my case 6TB, therefore the 4TB could be removed without problem, I guess they thought of everything (except what do I do in this scenario if two disks die?).

Well, now that the deed is done, I can go over what happened, if you didn’t work it out from the picture gallery I will explain it step-by-step:

  1. First, I bought a Western Digital 4TB NAS drive because that’s what the marketing wants you to do.
  2. Then I removed a a drive holder from the diskstation (it’s a bit dusty in there), all while still on.
  3. Screwed the new drive into the drive holder with the provided screws (by Synology).
  4. Pushed the drive back into the diskstation and clicked it in, about ten seconds later the light came on.
  5. I didn’t actually know what to do at this point, but decided to just load up the synology application page, and went to the storage manager, lo and behold there is a volume expansion function there.
  6. I also had no idea how long it was going to take so googled it, and was quite surprised to see that people had complained of this taking 4-5 days or more. Fortunately for me this took less than two days, and luckily there were no power interruptions or anything of that nature because I don’t have a UPS.
  7. In conclusion, that went splendidly well, and now I have an additional 2TB (decimal) of disk space which should last me a couple more years, I may even be able to get a UPS in that time.

 

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The New Setup – Mac Mini + Dell U2711

Finally, after four and a half years, and at least two years of trying times (since I got my K-5) I upgraded my computer, the old macbook just wasn’t cutting it any more, photo processing was a dire struggle, and even browsing the net could be a hassle with flash, and firefox leaking everywhere. I was planning on getting a 27″ iMac, but couldn’t wait a month and didn’t know how much stock they would have even if I could, also thought the price was a bit steep for what I wanted (but now that the prices came out, I’m second guessing myself a bit :D), but it’s ok, I have a long term monitor now so I can upgrade the mini sooner 😀 if I like. So I’ve gone from a core 2 duo to a quad core i7 and 4gb ram to 16gb (upgraded that myself of course), also got the 1TB fusion drive for good measure, and a mini display port to display port cable, so that cost me a shade over $2k (still considering whether to get apple care or not), compared to getting the 27″ iMac (upgrade to i7, 1TB Fusion drive, and 32GB RAM just cos) for $2,870, a saving of over $800 to lose some cpu speed, half the ram, and maybe a nicer monitor, hard to say, but I’m sure this computer will serve me well for the next couple of years at least while I am still using my K-5 (not really sure I need to upgrade at all) absolutely no problems with that, the 16MP raw files are handled easily by this mac mini. I have had a couple of issues though, the computer did crash once while I was watching some flash video (NBA), and the monitor seems to have some issues sleeping, but it’s not consistent so I can’t say for sure what it is. I’m loving the 2560×1440 resolution though.

Pictures taken from the companies’ respective sites, they are linked from the pictures.

Mac Mini

Mac Mini

Dell U2711

Dell U2711

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Synology DS1511+

I got this box about a month ago now and have been testing it out for a while now, I haven’t gone out of my way to test the read/write speeds because it’s not a big deal as long as playback is fast enough. I’m not that nerdy to set up my own NAS using a cheap motherboard and case and configure the crap out of some open source project, that is too much effort for me, I just wanted something that I could plug in, plug hard drives in, and put it to work. Originally I was going to get a drobo, but after a bit more research I found this to have more positive feedback.

Synology DS1511+

Synology DS1511+ with extra storage options

Quieter and faster, but more expensive (about $100), it just seemed like the better option, with pretty much all the same features (plus a costly option to add up to ten more hard drives). Setup was pretty easy, plug it in, connect to the network (I used both cables for redundancy), plug the hard drives in, turn it on, and launch the software from the CD on your computer. Actually, I think the software was a little difficult to find at first, probably because I didn’t read the manual (the problem for me was that the setup files were .pat files and on my macbook for whatever reason .pat files are associated with the Gimp), so it was a little confusing but once I worked that out, it was a breeze. I loaded it up with three 2TB hard drives using the Hybrid RAID (the Synology proprietary setup) which allows me to mix different size hard drives in the RAID for ease of use, meaning I can add 3 or 4TB (whenever they become available) to the system and the system will do all the hard work of assigning the disk space for me. This gives me about 3.6TB of usable hard drive space as one hard drive is used as a backup, at the moment I’ve only used up about 500GB so the need for more hard drives is still a long way off.

So having copied all of my videos, music, photos, and also set up my Time Machine to backup to the NAS, everything is running pretty smoothly I must say. I never managed to work out how to migrate my existing Time Machine backups (from my MyBook external hard drive) to the new location, I didn’t want to try doing the block copy and erasing existing data from the NAS as I’m not sure if that meant changing the file system so I just started a new Time Machine backup and have kept the MyBook as is for now. I did the initial backup over the LAN and now just have incremental backups working wirelessly, working like a charm. I set up the media server using the DSM web application which works perfectly with my WDTV Live thank you very much. I’ve not used that many features of the NAS, and I’m not really sure that I will need to but so far what I have used, Time Machine, Media Server, and the NAS in general, have been excellent, more than I expected (the software runs very smoothly).

DS1511+ Snug

Fits perfectly into my little communications cabinet

The top picture is taken from the Synology DS1511+ page.

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