Netgear GS110TP and LACP

So, for days I had been struggling with this very peculiar problem. On my PC, I had installed a Intel PRO/1000 Pt Dual Port Server Adapter which came with 802.3ad dynamic link aggregation (i.e. LACP) support but for some reason or another, I could only successfully enable static link aggregation with my Netgear GS110TP switch. FWIW, I had absolutely no issues setting up LACP with my Synology 1813+ NAS.

After lots of trial and error, the culprit turned out to be the Symantec Endpoint Protection software running on my PC. I had this module called Network Threat Protection running and it must have been filtering the necessary network control messages required to establish an LACP link with my switch.

After I disabled Network Threat Protection, setting up LACP worked as a charm. In addition, it also had the side-effect of tremendously improving my PC-to-NAS copy speeds! See previous post on this topic.

Synology 1813+ Slow Upload Speeds

Synology 1813+ Slow Upload Speeds

So having recently set up my Synology 1813+ NAS with link aggregation to a Netgear GS110TP switch with 9KB jumbo frames enabled, I was getting excruciatingly slow upload speeds from my PC to a file share on the NAS. To be precise, I was only getting upload speeds between 35 – 45 MB/s, quite unacceptable given my hardware and network configuration.

Network_1813_GS110TP

After many days of troubleshooting, I was able to nail down the culprit to these two programs:

  • Directory Opus 10.5.4.0 (5080) - Note: this is an Explorer replacement
  • Symantec Endpoint Protection 12.1.4013.4013 - Note: the specific offending module is called “Network Threat Protection”

Tuning Step 1

Note: for this step, I disabled Symantec Endpoint Protection.

First, I tuned Directory Opus by adjusting the copy_buffer_size setting under Miscellaneous -> Advanced. The default value is 6KB which was way too small. By gradually increasing this value, you can see in the graph below that my throughput increased as well, until hitting a maximum and gradually tapering off. The optimal setting for me turned out to be 512KB, which practically doubled my PC-to-NAS speed.

Synology_Network_Copy_Speeds

Tuning Step 2

Next up, was to disable the Symantec Endpoint Protection’s Network Thread Protection (SEPNTP) module. I was never able to fully narrow down the setting in this module that caused my transfer speeds to drop, but what I did notice was that with this feature turned on, transfer speeds could fluctuate between anything from 20-40% slower. There was no pattern at all. For e.g. after implementing Step 1 above, with SEPNTP enabled, my PC-to-NAS copy speeds could sometimes drop to as low as 50-70+ MB/s.

I think this is too big a penalty to pay so promptly disabled SEPNTP and downloaded ZoneAlarm Basic for my software firewall needs.

Intel PRO/1000 Pt and Windows 8.1

Intel PRO/1000 Pt and Windows 8.1

So I picked up a Intel PRO/1000 Pt Dual Port Server Adapter with the intention of trying teaming (i.e. combining multiple network ports into one for resilience and extra bandwidth) but given how old this network card is, the Intel PROSet drivers unfortunately do not support it in Windows 8.1. So, how to enable all the cool features like teaming, jumbo frames, VLANs, etc in Windows 8.1? Turns out there’s a neat hack for this.

(credit to Blair Fritz who posted this in the Amazon product review which I am reproducing here with minor amendments for posterity and ease of reference)

  1. Install the latest Windows 8.1 PROSet drivers.
  2. Under Network Connections, right-click on the first ethernet port of the Intel PRO/1000 PT card and click on the Configure button.
  3. Click on the Drivers tab.
  4. Click Update Driver.
  5. Click Browse my computer…
  6. Click the option – Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer.
  7. Uncheck the Show compatible hardware box.
  8. Locate Intel in the left-hand box
  9. Locate the Intel (R) Ethernet Server Adapter I350-T2 option.
  10. Click Next until the process is complete.
  11. Repeat this on the secondary ethernet port.
  12. When done, right-click on the primary ethernet port again and click on the Configure button.
  13. You should now see a tab called Teaming.

You can create a new team from the two ethernet ports via this tab. It’s pretty straightforward so I’m not really going to elaborate further. Also note that I chose to include only the two ports from the Intel PRO/1000 in my team, excluding the motherboard’s network port (Intel I217-V) which came with my Asus Sabertooth Z87 since this is a much slower network interface.

DSM Plex Media Server Shortcut Not Working

DSM Plex Media Server Shortcut Not Working

This was a really weird issue that hit me last week – the Plex Media Server shortcut in the DSM menu kept reopening DSM instead of the Plex web interface. The only way to get to the Plex web interface was to click on the relevant URL in the Package Manager. What was going on?

It turns out that right before this stopped working, I had set up network teaming or link aggregation. This is where you “combine” multiple network ports into one for increased resiliency and bandwidth. The 1813+ that I’m using allows you to combine up to 4 ports! Anyway, doing this had an unfortunately side effect in one of the server scripts used to dynamically construct the shortcut URL. Fixing it was fairly easy, I assume you know how to SSH into your Synology NAS. In my case, I used PuTTY.

  1. Login as “root” (the password is the same as your administrator password).
  2. Once inside, browse to  /var/packages/Plex Media Server/target/dsm_config/plex/
  3. Edit the plex.cgi file using vi.
  4. What you want to do is to remove the square brackets and single quotes in the first if statement. See the before and after below images below.
  5. vi can be a bit confusing to use. You can navigate around using your keyboard’s arrow keys, but to start editing, press i.  When done, press Esc.
  6. To save the file, press :wq.
  7. Go back to DSM, the shortcut should be working properly now.

Before:

Putty_Plex_Cgi_Before

After:

Putty_Plex_Cgi_After

You can view a discussion on this issue here too:

http://forum.synology.com/enu/viewtopic.php?f=193&t=76998

QNAP QTS 3.8.3 vs Synology DSM 4.3

So now that I have 2 NAS devices running (at least till I can sell off the old one!), I thought it would be good to capture some notes on the software differences between the two. These are really just personal observations and is not meant to be an exhaustive list (although I will continue to add-on where possible). FWIW, I have a QNAP TS-459 Pro and a Synology 1813+.

QNAP Firmware version: QTS 3.8.3 Build 20130426 (I know QTS 4 has been out for some time but I just didn’t want to risk doing an upgrade at this point)
Synology Firmware version: DSM 4.3-3810 (at the time of writing, DSM 5 is still in public beta)

  • Security
    • IP Blocking
      • Both QTP and DSM allow you to deny access (blacklist) or allow access (whitelist) to specified IP addresses.
      • (+) QTP allows IP addresses to be specified either individually, by subnet or as a range.
      • (-) DSM only allows you to do it individually or by subnet in the Firewall and QoS section, i.e. there is no way to specify a range of IP addresses.
      • (+) However, in DSM, you can upload a list of IP addresses to block or allow via the Auto Block section. In theory, I think this would allow me to use public IP block lists, more research required here.
  • Reports
    • (+) QTP: In the Disk Usage tab under Resource Monitor, there is a pie chart that shows a % breakdown of space utilization by network shares.
    • (-) DSM: In the Volume tab under Resource Monitor, the pie chart only shows a % breakdown between used and free space.
    • Despite QTP being better here, this is an area where I think both really require serious improvements, e.g. why not provide a report that allows admins to drill down into exact utilization by share, by folder, etc. Or a report of the Top N largest files.
  • Time Synchronization
    • (+) QTP: The NTP server and interval can be specified.
    • (-) DSM: Only the NTP server can be specified. To change the interval settings, you have to SSH in and edit the /etc/ntp.conf file.

More comparisons to add on the RAID modes supported, but in short, Synology’s SHR > Raid-5 based on available space provisioned when the array contains larger disks than the base HDD size.

Synology 1813+ and Tons of Thumbnails

I recently upgraded/migrated from a 4-bay QNAP TS-459 Pro to an 8-bay Synology 1813+. As a photographer, you won’t believe how much space digital files can consume (a typical photoshoot can easily take up between 5-10GB of storage).

However, one very strange thing that I immediately noticed a day after migrating my images (RAW, PSD, JPG) was that almost 100GB on space on the 1813+ was being used just for thumbnail files. I know this because I regularly sync my images folder with my main PC and my sync software (SyncBackSE) lets me know the total size of files that needs to be copied across from the PC-to-NAS/NAS-to-PC. There were folders called “.@__thumb” everywhere, in my root folder, image negatives and exported subfolders, everywhere!

Try doing a Google and most content that comes back is around disabling Video Station, etc. However, the real cause of the thumbnail generation is not from this package, from from a daemon (i.e. that’s a Service for the Windows folks) called S77synomkthumbd.sh that needs to be stopped and prevented from running in the future. Here are the steps to get that done:

  1. SSH into the NAS. Make this option is enabled in DSM via [Control Panel] -> [Terminal]. I use a neat little program called PuTTY.
  2. When prompted to login, use root and not admin. The passwords should be identical.
  3. Once in, browse to /usr/syno/etc/rc.d and edit the file called S77synomkthumbd.sh. I’m currently using DSM 4.3 so the only text editor available is vi.
  4. Again, this could be DSM 4.3 specific. In the editor, comment out the line (i.e. add a “#” symbol at the start of the line) that says $SYNOMKTHUMBD.
  5. Save the file, i.e. type “:w” followed by “:q”.
  6. Next, stop the service by typing:
    /usr/syno/etc/rc.d/S77synomkthumbd.sh stop.
  7. This step is optional, do only if the “.@__thumb” directories have already been created – remove them by typing the following command: find /volume1 -name '.@__thumb' -type d -exec rm -rf "{}" \;
  8. Sit back and relax, it might take a very long time!

Credit to the following articles here and here that helped me come to this obscure issue:

Corsair H80i and Windows 8.1

30 Nov 2013 – Bought a Corsair H80i liquid cooler kit for my new Haswell CPU and did an upgrade to Windows 8.1 in the process only to find out that Windows could not detect the cooler at all no matter which USB port (both internal and external) I plugged it into. Though the cooler still worked (i.e. fans were spinning and liquid was being cycled), the problem was that the fans were always spinning very high even at low CPU load causing an unbearable sustained hum.

After much Googling and hundreds of dead-ends, I managed to find a solution (source) that worked that involves modifying the registry:

“Go into the registry and look for HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Enum\USB\VID_1B1C&PID_0C04. For each port/path string you see under this (numbers and ampersands smushed together), open the “Device Parameters” and change the FOUR DWORD settings to 0 (AllowIdleIrpInD3, DeviceSelectiveSuspended, EnhancedPowerManagementEnabled, SelectiveSuspendEnabled). Reboot.”

After making the changes, I rebooted, launched the Corsair Link 2 software and could now see the H80i. Consequently, I was able to change the fan speeds from “Fixed RPM” to “Balanced” which helped bring down the noise a little.

Hope this post manages to help someone and credit to the person who posted the original fix. And FWIW, I’m using an Asus Sabertooth Z87 motherboard.

Ashley’s 1st Day of Primary School

2 Jan 2013 – Ashley started P1 this year at CHIJ (Kellock), a school that isn’t too far away from our house although not nearly as convenient to go compared to Chinese Kindergarten. She wasn’t scared at all on starting her first day of school thanks to all those years of pre-school and kindergarten. Here are some of the highlights of the day.

Sitting amongst the other kids in Earth class. There are 3 Ashley’s in the same class, the teacher is going to get confused! :)
DSC_4161

Lining up outside her class getting ready to go home.
DSC_4165

Ashley learning how to buy food at the canteen.
DSC_4186

Going home time! Sitting in the hall according to bus numbers.
DSC_4172

The vision statement of Ashley’s school.
DSC_4176

Meow!

Our family has grown by 2! Today, we welcome the addition of Mocha and Ollie, our dear 4 month old silver tabby coloured Maine Coon and cream bi-coloured Ragdoll respectively. Though of different parents and breed, they were coincidentally born on the same date, i.e. 27 Jul 2012, and have since grown to become the best of friends. The girls simply adore them and we really look forward to them growing up together!

Mocha and Ollie

These boys are so close they not only play and eat together but sleep together in the same pattern too!

Synchronized Sleeping

Speaking of growing up, Maine Coons and Ragdolls are really huge breeds and some can reportedly grow to over 10-15kg, the size of a medium dog. Gonna be fun if that happens!

Sentosa Stay-cation (2012)

18-20 Aug 2012 – Singapore is the last place I’d think of visiting for a vacation, especially since our family stays in Singapore. However, on wifey’s advice, I went along with her suggestion of a 3D2N stay at Sentosa thanks to a promotion that included buffet breakfast and dinner for S$1300. The idea seemed a little silly at first since in my mind there wasn’t anything worthwhile doing in Sentosa other than visiting Universal Studios.

Turns out I was wrong!

View of the pool area from the restaurant at the Rasa Sentosa Resort.
Sentosa_Holiday-24

Firstly, the hotel we stayed at – Rasa Sentosa Resort – has a lot of things going for it.
1) The hotel restaurant, Silver Shell Cafe, has a really good seafood buffet dinner every Fri and Sat night. We piled on the crabs, crayfishes and prawns till we were so stuffed. There’s also free flow of ice cream, an assortment of cakes and a chocolate fountain to wrap off dinner.
2) There’s a 2-storey indoor tree house with a slide that goes into a pool of coloured balls which is great fun for the kids.
3) A big pool area for cooling off from the tropical sun and humidity.
4) Free and unlimited wireless.
5) A short walk away from the bus stop which has buses to other parts of the island.
6) Right next to Underwater World, where the fish spa is.

Other highlights of the trip

1) The Pythons
Every since my visit to Sentosa way back in 1996, these pythons outisde Underwater World have been an ever present sight. Ashley really liked touching the pythons although the same couldn’t be said for Alicia, who prefered to look on from a safe distance. Photos with the pythons cost $6 per person.

The friendly python outside Underwater World. Ashley was very brave and kept wanting to touch the big slithery snake.
Sentosa_Holiday-4

2) MegaZip Adventure Park

The main attraction here is undoubtedly the 450m free-fall zipline that takes one over the jungle canopy to Siloso Beach in under a minute. There’s also a 3 level ariel obstacle course called ClimbMax consisting of wobbly tightropes, bridges and cargo nets that definitely looks easier from the ground then when you’re on it. Ashley was the only one in the family who dared to try both the MegaZip and ClimbMax.

Start of the MegaZip firefox drop.
Sentosa_Holiday-8

3) Fish Spa

There is a fish spa right next to Underwater World that offers 2 sizes of fishes – big and small (just can’t remember the exotic fish names!). Ashley loved the fish spa so much that we went there 3 days in a row. It’s hard to describe how being nibbled on by fish feels like, but many customers couldn’t take the intense feeling that they gave up after only a few seconds. After much laughter and loud squeals.

These are the small ones and when tens of them nibble at you at once, it feels like mini electric shocks up your feet.
Sentosa_Holiday-21

4) Skyline Luge

Riding the luge is like riding a go-kart, but one that utilizes gravity instead of fuel. The only complaint I have is that the 650m course was over too soon!

This is the Skyline ride that takes people back to the top of the hill after the luge ride.
Sentosa_Holiday-26

If you’re thinking of a short getaway without the hassle of a long plane or boat ride, Sentosa is definitely a viable choice now with the whole island transformed over the last few years with new and exciting attractions for the whole family!

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