News Archive for: Monday February 12th, 2007 (later added items first)
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Hardware RAID USB drives with Airport Extreme (802.11n) base (w/benchmarks)
(Updated again at 6:30PM Eastern, - now including MBP onboard FW400/800 results as well as USB 2.0, wireless and ethernet and comments on streaming video from the USB/wireless drive)

A reader last week reported he could not use this Disk Utility setup RAID'd USB drives on the USB port of his new Airport Extreme so I asked if anyone had tried an ext. drive with hardware RAID support. He's some feedback that it works (although performance isn't anything to crow about).

" just connected my nitroAV raid 5 to the airport...connects perfectly.
It reads nice and fast from it, but write times are sloooooooooow....will call apple to find out more.
(he later wrote)
Ran some tests with xbench. The read speeds I get from the airdisk are between 2 and 4MB/sec, which is fine with me, for backup and general storage of files i rarely use, it is plenty. The write speeds are a joke - i am still in contact with apple about this. I also have a ReadyNAS which shows the same problem since I ran the N (Enabler) upgrade....hmmmm.. (Some other readers earlier noted performance drops (sometimes large) after installing the 802.11n Enabler. Most had 3rd party bases.-Mike) I am waiting for a simple USB HD and will plug that in once i have it. All in all very easy to set up and this is a great way to have shared storage. There is simply something wrong with my set-up...
-Paul "

I suspected performance would be well below what even a single drive was capable of (on a faster interface). Good to know it worked however. (For someone that wanted to run mirroring for instance.)
Another reader sent word he'd used an OWC Elite AL Pro case w/hardware RAID:

I had good performance with hardware based mirroring on a OWC mercury elite pro case. (He later wrote he was mistaken, it was RAID 0 mode, not mirror.) I wrote about it on my blog:
(I didn't see any performance tests there yet, so I asked if he had run any)
Not specifically, copied files on and off...
Cheers, Francois"

He later sent results of Xbench 1.3 disk tests of Wireless N vs Ethernet vs onboard USB/FW400/FW800 with the same drive:

I ran xbench, over ethernet and wifi, from a macbook pro.
(I asked if the MBPro had the 802.11n enabler installed and if the network was running in N-only mode-Mike)
Thanks for asking for details, too many things going on here, MacBook Pro, N enabler, and that was the only device on the network at the time, so, presumably it was running in N mode only.

I was wrong about mirroring, that cabinet can only do striping, spanning and independent drives, so I ran the test with striped drives. Results are attached.(he later wrote)
For completeness, here is the xbench benchmark for the same drive, but now attached via USB to the same MacBook Pro.
I would not use the drive for heavy duty work, but for backups and access to shared video and music files it would be ok.
(I asked if he tested video playback from the drive when connected to the base and if so to report back on performance and what resolution video was used. QT Pro player has a FPS reporting option during playback.-Mike)
No problem, I played, apple- and that I pulled from the apple site and got the full frame rate, 24/second. The shuffle ad bit rate is just about twice that of the getamac ads, and they played fine over airport and ethernet.
One final thought, what I cant test is how many clients can simultaneously stream from the Airport Drive before drop outs happen, but it would be very interesting to find out. My conservative guess would be about 3, that would depends very much on the video of course.

(I combined all the xbench results he sent for easier comparison. I think the onboard FW port would be much faster than the onboard USB results. I've seen nearly 2x higher performance with FW400 vs USB 2.0 on my PPC Macs with a single drive.
He later sent results with onboard FW400 and FW800 Ports (case and MBP have both) that confirmed that.-Mike

Xbench Version 1.3
System Version 10.4.8 (8N1051)
Physical RAM 2048 MB
Model MacBookPro2,2
(BTW - I asked how full the USB drive was, as performance drops as drive fills, becomes fragmented, etc. He said it was clean/empty.-Mike)

(overall) Disk Test score: Wi-Fi 4.10 / Ethernet 4.92 / MBPro USB: 16.19, FW400: 40.78, FW800: 45.51

Sequential: Wi-Fi 2.72 / Ethernet 3.19 / MBPro USB: 12.11, FW400: 48.20, FW800: 64.51
Uncached Write Wi-Fi: 1.32 - 0.81 MB/sec (4K blocks)
Uncached Write Ethernet: 1.26 - 0.78 MB/sec (4K blocks)
Uncached Write MBPro USB: 20.93- 12.85 MB/sec (4K blocks)
Uncached Write MBPro FW400: 31.67 - 19.44 MB/sec (4K blocks)
Uncached Write MBPro FW800: 39.09 - 24.00 MB/sec(4K blocks)

Uncached Write Wi-Fi: 2.97 - 1.68 MB/sec (256K blocks)
Uncached Write Ethernet: 4.07 - 2.30 MB/sec (256K blocks)
Uncached Write MBPro USB: 31.09- 17.59 MB/sec (256K blocks)
Uncached Write MBPro FW400: 63.40 - 35.87 MB/sec (256K blocks)
Uncached Write MBPro FW800: 98.02 - 55.46 MB/sec(256K blocks)

Uncached Read Wi-Fi: 4.58 - 1.34 MB/sec (4K blocks)
Uncached Read Ethernet: 7.40 - 2.17 MB/sec (4K blocks)
Uncached Read MBPro USB: 4.42- 1.29 MB/sec (4K blocks)
Uncached Read MBPro FW400: 44.32 - 12.97 MB/sec (4K blocks)
Uncached Read MBPro FW800: 51.54 - 15.08 MB/sec (4K blocks)

Uncached Read Wi-Fi: 6.40 - 3.21 MB/sec (256K blocks)
Uncached Read Ethernet: 11.99 - 6.02 MB/sec (256K blocks)
Uncached Read MBPro USB: 41.30 - 20.76 MB/sec (256K blocks)
Uncached Read MBPro FW400: 76.51- 38.45 MB/sec (256K blocks)
Uncached Read MBPro FW800: 146.58- 73.67 MB/sec (256K blocks)

Random: Wi-Fi: 8.29 / Ethernet: 10.80 / MBPro USB: 24.43, FW400: 35.34, FW800: 35.16
Uncached Write Wi-Fi: 4.41 - 0.47 MB/sec (4K blocks)
Uncached Write Ethernet: 5.49 - 0.58 MB/sec (4K blocks)
Uncached Write MBPro USB: 9.12 - 0.96 MB/sec (4K blocks)
Uncached Write MBPro FW400: 13.38 - 1.42 MB/sec (4K blocks)
Uncached Write MBPro FW800: 12.97 - 1.37 MB/sec (4K blocks)

Uncached Write Wi-Fi: 5.71- 1.83 MB/sec (256K blocks)
Uncached Write Ethernet: 7.58 - 2.43 MB/sec (256K blocks)
Uncached Write MBPro USB: 37.63 - 12.05 MB/sec (256K blocks)
Uncached Write MBPro FW400: 58.36 - 18.68 MB/sec (256K blocks)
Uncached Write MBPro FW800: 59.01 - 18.89 MB/sec (256K blocks)

Uncached Read Wi-Fi: 69.14 - 0.49 MB/sec (4K blocks)
Uncached Read Ethernet: 77.42 - 0.55 MB/sec (4K blocks)
Uncached Read MBPro USB: 79.39 - 0.56 MB/sec (4K blocks)
Uncached Read MBPro FW400: 103.87 - 0.74 MB/sec (4K blocks)
Uncached Read MBPro FW800: 106.38 - 0.75 MB/sec (4K blocks)

Uncached Read Wi-Fi: 15.07 - 2.80 MB/sec (256K blocks)
Uncached Read Ethernet: 23.15 - 4.30 MB/sec (256K blocks)
Uncached Read MBPro USB: 67.20 - 12.47 MB/sec (256K blocks)
Uncached Read MBPro FW400: 85.64 - 15.89 MB/sec (256K blocks)
Uncached Read MBPro FW400: 96.67 - 17.94MB/sec (256K blocks)

Just as I suspected with the onboard interfaces (even FW400 a much better choice than USB 2.0).
These posts reminded me of a Benchmark for networked drives I used many years ago (back long before OS X was released) called Helios LanTest. I found the web page for it and they now have an HELIOS LanTest Universal Binary with support for Mac OS X Intel and 10 Gigabit Ethernet.

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Newer Tech MiniStack price cuts
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Airport Extreme connected USB Hard Drive Benchmarks

"I just did some extensive testing on a USB drive connecting to the N Base Station. (Although the base/interface is the bottleneck with most any drive, I asked for more details on his USB HD just for the record.-Mike) The drive is a Maxtor OneTouch Mini 60GB. USB powered 2.5in drive. I'm not sure of the model of drive in it. (WPA2 personal encryption was on at all times. I ran a few tests with no encryption, but measured no difference at all.) Benchmarked with the base station running:

Read: 6.34MB/s
Write: 3.6MB/s

Read: 3.89MB/s
Write: 2.6MB/s

N only, 2.4Ghz 130Mbps
Read: 4.16MB/s
Write: 2.6MB/s

N only, 5Ghz 300Mbps
Read: 3.5MB/s
Write: 2.55MB/s

I thought that the speed seemed slow, as I have a NAS that I can read/ write at 9.5MB/s, so I tested the same file on the drive directly connected to my computer via USB, but I could write to it at 23MB/s, so it does not seem to be the drive that is slowing it down. It's really strange to me that the drive is faster in 130 mode than in 300 mode.

Anyone else have this same issue?

I made sure to unplug all of my wireless phones, I used the same file for all tests, and sat in the same position.
-Adam "

I don't have an AE 802.11n base but welcome other reader comments from those that do and have a USB hard drive to test with it.
I've added this to the page of Mac user reports on 802.11n which also has another report on 802.11n enabled Macs with 3rd party 802.11n bases. (Belkin N1 user noted big performance drop after installing enabler.) I hope after 802.11n gets finalized there will be firmware updates (and driver updates) that will hopefully improve performance and solve some of the problems early adopters have reported.

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Transintl miniD External Drive Price Cuts
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Mac Mini Core2 Duo CPU Upgrades page updated
I've updated the page of Mac Mini Core 2 Duo CPU upgrades with a reader's notes on his 1.66GHz Core Duo to 2GHz Core2 Duo upgrade. (He included some before/after tests with Photoshop and Xbench.)
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iBook Video (GPU separation) Repair Service
" Hi Mike, I recently had my iBook 700MHz 14.1" suffer the classic, video goes crazy, freezes and reboot with no video. I could tell it was the GPU 'cause I could put pressure on it from below and make the problem better. So I called these guys. They were close to me west of Chicago:
Talked to a guy named Dale and he was very accommodating. A pull and re-ball of the GPU would cost $75 return shipping included.
Reflowing was $38 but he pointed out many downsides to that.
I pulled the board and shipped it to him UPS. He called me the moment it walked in the door. The board came back after the weekend along with 8 X-rays of my GPU pulled and re-balled! Put the board back in my iBook and it works like new!
Dales says the problem is with these Ball Grid Array devices that tend to separate from the board as the board flexes. I've been working on it for a week now and it is very stable like it used to be. I expect this fix to be relatively permanent depending on how much flexing the board gets. Traveling and the like. I highly recommend these guys.
-Richard "

The April 24th, 2006 news page had a post on this problem and link to an article on end-user repairs, although they may not be a permanent fix. (See "Article on iBook G3 Video Repair (may not be a permanent fix)")
Another reader later wrote about a reflowing service:

" I saw the story (above). I have been using First Phase tech to reflow the video GPUs. They have been real friendly and offered a price of $50, lower if you send more in at once. I got an xray of the first one, at it looks great. G3 or G4 ibook.
I dont know what disadvantages reflowing is supposed to have, but all the boards I (and another person) have gotten back work fine. 100% successful.
-Tom "
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Other News/Misc. Software Updates
(Updated, later added items first)

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Recent Articles and Reviews
Listing/links to recent articles and reviews you may have missed.
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