Bad News and Good News

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This morning was a network and systems service day – that is to say that it was one of the odd days that crop up around four or five times a year when something is happening that either requires that one or more of the components of our network needs to be serviced or adjusted, or we are preparing to add a new device. This time around it was a combination of those two.

The first issue that was being addressed was an increase to the backbone for our network that was made necessary by complaints from the peanut gallery about the network speed when more than two users on the network are watching video via one of the video streaming services that we use.

Five years ago, when we realized just how little we actually utilized our Cable TV connection for the purposes of entertainment – and after a brief examination of the matter we also realized that more than 75% of the combined viewing in our house was via the streaming services of Netflix and Hulu!

One result of this was our cutting the Cable cord literally speaking – which saved us around $100 a month. Another result was the sudden and overpowering need to upgrade our physical network (only an idiot would try to stream TV via a wireless connection after all) which at the time was an ancient pair of 100bT 3Com partially-managed Ethernet Switches.

The way that our network is structured – due to it having two very distinct “zones” is simple: In the basement room that we have called the NOC (Network Operations Center) since the day we bought the place (it also doubles as my business office and library) there is a pair of system racks – a Standard black 19” Commercial Systems and Server Rack bolted to the floor along one wall, and a standard 19” Post-Style Relay Rack that is also bolted to the floor along the wall.

The former houses the various servers without which our network would be useless – including a very robust (and noisy) Dell PowerEdge Model 2950 II Server that also functions as a Virtual Server and provides the virtual presence of a variety of servers,from Primary DNS, Email, and a Wiki Server as well as a Log Server for the entire network.

It contains other servers as well – our Media Server on which music, movies, and TV show recordings are stored and a file server on which photos and files are stored. There is a dedicated backup server and a test-bed that I use for writing web applets and apps too.

The latter contains the network hardware – the Ethernet Switch, Firewall device, Router, and the DSL2 Modem that connects us to the world primarily.

At the other end is the upstairs office that contains my working hardware that I use as a writer – the bulk of which consists of video game consoles housed in a rather nice Ikea TV and Entertainment Center, while the computer bits reside in a standard black 19” Commercial Systems and Server Rack that is tucked away in the corner.

The two zones were connected by a single “backbone” Cat5e Ethernet Cable that theoretically provided all the speed we needed, right? Well no, not so much really. Because even though the switch could maintain 100MB connections between any systems that were on the switch at that end, those systems had to share a single 100MB connection to the other switch – which if you were at the wrong end of that zoned backbone happened to be our Internet Connection and you probably get the picture.

So these complaints about network speed had to be answered – and so the old 100bT backbone and switched were removed from the network completely, being replaced by a matched set of GS724T Netgear Gigabyte Ethernet Switches.

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Those two switches were connected via a pair of Cat6 Ethernet Cables that were then joined as a “Trunk” to create a 2GB Backbone. And that worked great for quite a while and at least until in addition to using the network for TV viewing via streaming services, my daughter was bitten by the MMORPG bug, and THAT was when speed complaints cropped up again – and why this service say appeared on my schedule in April of 2016.

The solution was simple – add a third cable between the two switches right beside the original pair, connect them and then add the third port to the Trunk, effectively giving us a 3GB backbone connection. And that did the trick!

I decided that a test was in order so, what with my PS4 having not been used in something like six months due to all of the review copies I had been getting arriving on either Xbox One, PS3, and Xbox 360, turning on the PS4 so it could patch and update made a lot of sense. Sigh.

The Blue Line of Death – or “BLOD”

The practically unused almost new but now out-of-warranty PlayStation 4 was fired up, and the following happened:

  • Its power indicator pulsing blue.
  • No video/audio output happened.
  • The PS4 then powered off after the annoying pulsing blue light pulsed a bit.

Consulting Google I learned that this was a general fault code; it would be nearly impossible to pinpoint exactly what had gone wrong.

A quick log-in to Sony revealed that my PS4 was now 2 months out of warranty — that is to say the date had come and gone two months past at which I could have requested and received an RMA and gotten it fixed on Sony’s dime.

The price they quoted me – not including shipping – for the repair? $255 US.

That’s $255 US for a console I can purchase brand new for around $380 – so what to do? Pay for the repairs to my old console, or buy a brand new console for $125 more? The new console would have a longer warranty – and if I went the new route I was not locked into the bog standard black PS4 either – I could get a white one, or a limited edition version – the sky was the limit!

The thing is I absolutely required a PS4 as one of my upcoming projects requires me to have a working PS4 – so either way I needed to act on this now so that I could have a fully functioning, patched and updated PS4 ready to go on the morning of 10 May, when that project kicked off.

Interestingly enough I had recently experienced a similar issue with my Xbox One – and had opted in that case to purchase the Forza 6 Limited Edition Console because (a) it was on sale at the time, and (b) I liked the way it looked. If I was going to replace a console I might as well – I told myself – get something kick-ass!

You know that little voice in the back of your head that is supposed to help you in making decisions and in not embarrassing yourself? Yeah well, mine is broken.

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Hello Limited Edition Star Wars Battlefront PlayStation4!

Oh and, while we are on the subject – when I logged into my Xbox One this morning and booted up Forza 6 to do a few laps I discovered that my custom Tunes and Livery Designs had both attained $50K in Community Use! Woot! So yeah, two Achievements worth 40g in total unlocked that I was so not expecting to happen! And how cool is that?

So far this week in terms of Achievements I am having a great week!

  • Forza 6 = 2 Achievements worth 40g
  • Hitman 2016 = 4 Achievements worth 40g
  • Tom Clancy’s The Division = 4 Achievements worth 30g

That’s a cool 110g in Achievementsville and how sweet is that?

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