A few weeks ago, I wrote about my new QNAP TS-109. Since then, its use has only increased. I now regularly mount it from both my laptop and the upstairs desktop, and use the built-in BitTorrent client to download stuff unattended off the web. It’s really nice to have it be the only device on during an overnight download. Last night, I set it up as a print server, usable from both laptops and the desktop. This turned out to be pretty trivial on both Windows and Linux, and provides an office-like convenience we’ve never had in the house before. Another serendipitous use has been to plug my iPod Touch into it; since nothing else in the office is on any more, that’s the only live USB port most of the time.

One thing I had mentioned in my previous review is that the TS-109 really highlighted the shortcomings of the 100Mb/s (MTU=1500) switch inside my old wireless access point. I actually got the new one before my Boulder trip, but tonight was the first chance I had to play with it. It’s a Netgear WNR854T, which has MIMO, draft 802.11n, and four gigabit Ethernet ports, for less than $50 including shipping from eBay. Not everyone likes Netgear, but my previous access point was a WGR614 and it worked fine with better range than the D-Link it replaced or the Linksys that came with my Verizon service. Like moving this website from one host to another, upgrading from one access point to another is something I’ve gotten pretty good at. Here are the steps.

  1. I saved the configuration from the old AP, and also manually wrote down every bit I could find that I thought could possibly matter. For example, the MAC address from the old AP turned out to be handy.
  2. I plugged the new AP in, and connected my desktop to it.
  3. I started setting up a parallel configuration on the new AP. Where the old SSID was xx2, the new one is xx3. Where the old IP address range was xx.xx.2.xx, the new one is xx.xx.3.xx.
  4. Plugged the TS-109 into the new AP, tested functionality between that and the desktop.
  5. Modifed my laptop’s configuration to use the new AP, tested functionality between that and the TS-109.
  6. Plugged the new AP into the old one, creating a double-NAT daisy chain, and verified that my machines could connect to the internet.
  7. Modified Cindy’s laptop configuration to use the new AP, and tested that.
  8. Took the old AP out of the loop, plugging the outside connection directly into the new AP.

Up to this point, everything had pretty much just worked, and all the repeated testing was just me being careful. It turns out that the new AP couldn’t get an IP address from Verizon until I cloned the old AP’s MAC address. This is probably just a measure to prevent people from abusing their connections by connecting lots of devices simultaneously, and might well have resolved itself after a timeout, but I didn’t feel like waiting. With this one change, just about everything worked. The only other issue is that everything was still using the “cloned” IP address range xx.x.3.xx, which would have required changing network mounts and printer configurations, so I changed the IP address range on the AP to be the same xx.xx.2.xx that the old one had used. I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of the address-reservation and port-forwarding entries were automatically update to reflect the new subnet, so I didn’t have to go through all that again. There was nothing left to do now but decommission the old AP, so now it’s sitting in a drawer with its predecessors.

So, what’s the verdict? Mostly I don’t notice any difference, and that’s good. The one negative difference is that the new AP seems to require reboots for a lot more configuration changes than the old one did. That’s both surprising, considering that it’s a newer product from the same vendor, and annoying. On the positive side, things do seem a bit snappier but the only quantitative measurement I’ve done is iozone between my laptop and the TS-109 via NFS. 2.4MB/s (19Mb/s) is certainly better than it had been before, but really only reflects on the wireless speed and signal quality. Some day I’ll have to run a similar test over the wired connection from the desktop, since that was really the case that I had in mind when I decided to upgrade, but I had been in Windows (for iTunes) and didn’t feel like rebooting into Linux just for that test. I guess the net result is that I don’t seem to have made things worse and there’s good reason to believe that some usage scenarios – especially video conversion on the desktop with both source and destination on the TS-109 – will be a lot better. That’s pretty good for $44 and a couple of hours.