Qualcomm announces "Streamboost" to give your Home Network some Brains

Subject: Networking | January 4, 2013 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: streamboost, qualcomm, qos, D-Link, ces 2013, alienware

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With CES right around the corner, we’re about to be buried in a deluge of announcements from consumer electronics vendors.  Since I was not able to get out to CES in person this year, Qualcomm offered to give me a sneak peek at their new “Streamboost” technology they’ve just announced and will be showing at CES.  I got to spend some time on the phone with Ciera Jammal, their PR rep and Michael Cubbage, Director of Business Development in their networking unit.  For those of you that may not recognize Michael’s name, he was one of the co-founders of Bigfoot Networks that brought us their “Killer Gaming” line of Ethernet and wireless products.  Acquired by Qualcomm in the fall of 2011, the merged Bigfoot and Qualcomm teams have now released “Streamboost”.

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So, what is Streamboost you ask?  Simply put, it’s an innovative Quality of Service engine that’s much, much more than what’s available for consumer QoS today.  QoS on most current consumer products only looks at what ports traffic is flowing across and prioritizes the traffic based on a simple list of what ports should be given priority at the expense of traffic on lower priority ports.  There’s no analysis of what the actual traffic is and in cases where different types of traffic flows over the same port (port 80 for example) it doesn’t offer any benefit at all.  The Streamboost engine on the other hand, will actually inspect the packets in real time, determining not only what port the traffic is using, but what the traffic actually is.  So for example, Streamboost will be able actually be able to tell that one stream is 1080p YouTube video while another is Standard Definition Netflix traffic, even though they are both on port 80, and give both streams the bandwidth they need. 

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Once the engine determines what type of data is moving through the connection, it will give that connection the bandwidth it needs to run optimally, but no more.  The “no more” piece is important because it frees up bandwidth for other applications and connections.  If there is not enough bandwidth available for the “Optimal” setting, it will then drop back and make every effort to give the connection what’s been determined to be the “Minimum acceptable” bandwidth needed for that type of traffic.

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How does Streamboost know what bandwidth is Optimal and what bandwidth is Minimum?  Well, Qualcomm has studied various types of traffic ranging from YouTube to Netflix to Call of Duty to torrents, and they’ve come up with the Optimal and Minimum bandwidth values for all types of traffic.  This data will be included in a “Detection and Policy Table” on the router that the Streamboost engine will reference.  My first thoughts when I heard this was that it sounded great, but what happens when that table gets out of date?  Qualcomm has thought of that as well and Streamboost includes an opt-in, cloud based service that will keep your router’s table up to date.  Not only that, but if the router encounters a new type of traffic not in its table, it will capture a few packets and send them up to the cloud (anonymized of course) to be analyzed and added to future table updates.  Your router should actually perform better as it’s table is updated and will be better after a year than it was on Day 1.  However, if you’re not interested in being part of the “Opt In crowd”, the engine can also be manually updated at any time.

The UI looks great and will let you drill down into your bandwidth use either by application or device.  Speaking of devices, Streamboost can detect the various types of devices on your network and lets you prioritize based on those criteria as well.

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D-Link and Alienware are the first two partners onboard with Streamboost and will be showing routers with the technology at CES as well as releasing them this spring.  All in all, after speaking to Qualcomm, I think I’m going to hold off my planned router upgrade until I can get my hands on a new router with Streamboost built in.

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Source: Qualcomm
Subject: Networking
Manufacturer: ASUS

ASUS RT-N56U Wireless Router Review

On deck for review today is the ASUS RT-N56U “Black Diamond” Dual-band Gigabit Wireless-N Router.  ASUS has a broad stable of networking equipment including wireless adapters, wireless routers, wired networking gear and even some power line networking gear.  Released in late 2010, the RT-N56U is one of the lower cost offerings in ASUS’ Dual Band N series and can be found online for around $99

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ASUS RT-N56U Wireless-N Router Overview

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The media review information supplied to us by ASUS claims the ASUS RT-N56U “Black Diamond” offers “Extreme performance in style.”   The router’s “Aesthetic design” has a “Sexy and stylish approach with streamlined, meticulously designed and well-rounded appearance, just like diamonds sparkling and twinkling in the dark.”  Now I don’t know about you, but if it’s dark, I’m not sure how you see diamond’s twinkling?  But I digress; the RT-N56U is a great looking router, with the black cross hatched lattice surface we liked from previous ASUS routers. 

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Is the ASUS RT-N56U a worthy contender to handle all your router needs?  Read on to find out!

A light in the quantum cryptography tunnel

Subject: General Tech, Networking | November 21, 2012 - 02:15 PM |
Tagged: quantum encryption, security

One of the biggest hurdles to implementing quantum cryptography has been vaulted, with researchers finding a way to transmit the key over a non-dedicated connection.  Previously because of the inherent noise in a fibre channel transmitting general data the key would be lost and so a separate fibre channel was needed which only the keys were able to transmit but thanks to researchers at Toshiba’s Cambridge Research Laboratory it is now possible to send the keys on existing fibre which also carries other data.  They have created a detector which can open for a mere 100 millionths of a micro-second and receive the key, with the detection window being so quick there is not time for noise to interfere and the wrong photon be detected as the key.  The Register reports they can transmit keys over a line running at 500kbps for 50km and still have the key properly detected.

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"Traditionally it has been necessary to use dedicated fibre to send the single photons (particles of light) that are required for Quantum Key Distribution (QKD). This has restricted any applications of quantum cryptography technology to specialist and small-scale systems in banks and high-level government, essentially because of the extra inconvenience and cost required in allocating a dedicated fibre strand for quantum key distribution."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Your wireless signal getting tangled? WiFox might be the cure

Subject: General Tech, Networking | November 15, 2012 - 12:49 PM |
Tagged: WiFox, wireless

The short blurb at Slashdot makes WiFox sound more impressive than the actual implementation will be, but for anyone who has attempted to connect to WiFi at a tech show would love to see this new software appear on wireless access points.   Once a channel becomes crowded by multiple users, especially if they use devices which like to have a constant connection, the network will hit a point of saturation and the performance of every device on the network will suffer; not just the most recently connected devices.  WiFox is a piece of software which can monitor channel saturation and when it is reached it will immediately assign all available bandwidth to the WAP and allow it to transmit all backlogged data before then allocating bandwidth back to the devices ... clearing the tubes as it were.  It sounds like this will be easily added to existing WAPs instead of only being available to the next generation of devices so while your WAN will not suddenly become 700 times faster, the WiFi at next conference you go to might just be usable for a change.

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"Engineers at NC State University (NCSU) have discovered a way of boosting the throughput of busy WiFi networks by up to 700%. Perhaps most importantly, the breakthrough is purely software-based, meaning it could be rolled out to existing WiFi networks relatively easily — instantly improving the throughput and latency of the network. As wireless networking becomes ever more prevalent, you may have noticed that your home network is much faster than the WiFi network at the airport or a busy conference center. The primary reason for this is that a WiFi access point, along with every device connected to it, operates on the same wireless channel."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot
Subject: Networking
Manufacturer: Amped Wireless

Amped Wireless R20000G and UA2000 Introduction

Continuing with our networking adapter and router reviews, today we have a pair of devices on tap from a relative newcomer to the home and office networking field, Amped Wireless.  Founded in 2007, they began selling Wi-Fi products in 2010.  In those 2 years they’ve already pushed out a wide array of Routers, Range Extenders, Access Points, USB Adapters and Antennas/Boosters.  While they don’t have the history of Cisco, Netgear or D-Link, it’s great to see new companies entering the fray as more competition can only benefit the consumer.

 

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 Today we’re looking at their flagship High Power Router, the Wireless-N 600mw Gigabit Dual Band R20000G as well as one of their leading USB adapters, the High Power Wireless-N Directional Dual Band UA2000.  List price for the router and adapter is $169 and $99 respectively, but the router and adapter can be found online for about $10 less each at Newegg.

 

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Continue reading our review of the Amped Wireless R20000G Router and UA2000 Adapter!

Subject: Networking
Manufacturer: ASUS

Product Overview

Some computer components get all the glory.  Your normal lineup of FPS crushing GPU’s, Handbrake dominating CPU’s, and super-fast Memory end up with most of the headlines.  Yet behind the scenes, there are some computer components we use that are pivotal in our use and enjoyment of computers and receive very little fanfare.  Without networking we wouldn’t have file sharing, LAN parties or even the Internet itself.   Without routers and network adapters, we wouldn’t have networking.

ASUS recently sent a whole slew of networking components our way and we’ve decided to take them for a spin and see if they’re worth your hard earned dollars.  Our box of ASUS goodies included:

  • ASUS RT-N66U Gigabit Router – Dual Band Wireless-N900
  • ASUS PCE-N10 - Wireless N PCI-E Adapter Wireless-N
  • ASUS PCE-N15 - Wireless N PCI-E Adapter Wireless-N
  • ASUS USB-N53 - Dual Band Wireless N Adapter
  • ASUS USB-N66 - Dual Band Wireless-N900 Adapter

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Without further ado, let’s jump in and tackle each one.

ASUS RT-N66U Gigabit Router – Dual Band Wireless-N900

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Routers are one of those components that most of us don’t really think about unless something goes horribly wrong.  Most people will buy one they find on a big box store shelf (or even worse, just use their ISP’s router), pull it out of the box, plug a few cables into it and then forget about it in a closet for a few years. 

Continue reading our roundup of the ASUS RT-N66U and accompanying adapters!!

Netgear Announces New 802.11ac Gear, Launches New Router

Subject: Networking | May 16, 2012 - 09:57 PM |
Tagged: wifi, router, networking, netgear, 802.11ac

Following up on the announcement by Buffalo Technology, Netgear has released their own 802.11ac wireless router, the R6300. (PC Perspective recently ran a giveaway for the R6300 which you can read about here). In addition to the flagship 802.11ac router, Netgear announced a slimmed down version–the R6200–and the A6200 WiFi USB dongle.

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The Netgear R6300 is their highest end wireless router supporting the 802.11ac WiFi standard. It supports 802.11ac speeds up to 1300 Mbps (450 Mbps over wireless n) and is backwards compatible with the 802.11 a/b/g/n standards. It also has two USB 2.0 ports that can be used to share hard drive and printers across the network. Further, the “5G WiFI” router is powered by a Broadcom chipset, which should open the door to third part firmware(s).

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In addition to the above router, Netgear has announced the R6200 wireless router. It is compatible with the upcoming 802.11ac standard, but at reduced speeds. It features approximately 900 Mbps transfer rates over the “ac” standard and up to 300 Mbps over the 802.11n standard. The router is backwards compatible with all the older consumer standards (a/b/g/n), and it features a single USB 2.0 port to share a printer or hard drive to computers on the LAN.

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Last up in the announcement is the Netgear A6200. This device is a USB WiFi dongle that supports the 802.11ac standard as well as existing a/b/g/n networks. It claims to deliver enough speed for HD streaming of videos, though Netgear has not stated if it will be able to take advantage of the full 1300 Mbps theoretical maximum connection. The WiFi adapter features a swiveling antenna and a docking station for use with desktop systems.

The other neat feature that the new routers support is the Netgear Genie application, which allows users to monitor and control the network using an application on their computer or smartphone (iOS and Android). They also feature Netgear MyMedia, printer sharing, guest network access, a DLNA server, parental controls, and automatic WiFi security.

The Netgear R6300 router is available for purchase now with an MSRP of $199.99. The R6200 router and A6200 WiFi dongle will be available for purchase in Q3 2012 with suggested retail prices of $179.99 and $69.99 respectively.

Source: Netgear

Buffalo First To Market With 802.11ac Gigabit Wi-Fi Router

Subject: Networking | May 15, 2012 - 05:38 PM |
Tagged: wireless, router, networking, ethernet bridge, buffalo, 802.11ac

Netgear and Buffalo have been working hard to build and get to market new wireless routers based on the 802.11ac (pending ratification) standard. PC Perspective recently ran a giveaway for the Netgear 802.11ac router, but it seems that Buffalo has managed to beat them to market with their new gear. In fact, Buffalo yesterday released two 802.11ac devices with the AirStation™ WZR-D1800H wireless router and WLI-H4-D1300 wireless Ethernet bridge. Both devices are powered by Broadcom’s 5G WiFi chips (what Broadcom refers to 802.11ac as–the fifth generation of consumer WiFi) and based around the IEEE standard that is set to become an official standard early next year.

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The Buffalo 802.11ac Router (left: front, right: rear view)

The router and Ethernet bridge both support the upcoming 802.11ac standard as well as the current 802.11 b, g, and n standards so they are backwards compatible with all your devices. They also support all the normal functions of any other router or bridge device–the draft support for 802.11ac is what differentiates these products. The router stands vertically and has a router reset and USB eject buttons, one USB 2.0 port, four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, and one Gigabit Ethernet WAN port. Below the WAN port is a power button and DC in jack. The Buffalo Ethernet bridge allows users to connect Ethernet devices to a network over WiFi. It looks very similar to the router but does not have a WAN port or USB port on the back. It also does not act as a router, only a bridge to a larger network. The largest downside to the Ethernet bridge is pricing: (although out of stock now) Newegg has the bridge listed for the same price as the full fledged router. At that point, it does not have much value–users would be better off buying two routers and disabling the router features on one (and because the Broadcom chipset should enable custom firmwares, this should be possible soon).

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The Buffalo 802.11ac Ethernet Bridge (left: front, right: rear view)

What makes these two devices interesting though is the support for the “5G WiFi” 802.11ac wireless technology. This is the first time that the Wireless connections have a (granted, theoretical) higher transfer speed than the wired connections, which is quite the feat. 802.11ac is essentially 802.11n but with several improvements and only operating on channels in the 5GHz spectrum. The pending standard also uses wider 80 Mhz or 160 MHz channels, 256 QAM modulation, and up to eight antennas (much like 802.11n’s MIMO technology) to deliver much faster wireless transfer rates than consumers have had available previously. The other big technology with the upcoming WiFi standard is beamforming. This allows wireless devices to communicate with their access point(s) to determine relative spatial position. That data is then used to adjust the transmitted signals such that it is sent in the direction of the access point at the optimum power levels. This approach is different to traditional WiFi devices that broadcast omni-directionally (think big circular waves coming out of your router) because the signals are more focused. By focusing the signals, users get better range and can avoid WiFi deadspots.

Hajime Nakai, Chief Executive Officer at Buffalo Technology stated that “along with Broadcom, we continue to demonstrate our commitment to innovation by providing a no-compromise, future proofed wireless infrastructure for consumers’ digital worlds.”

The Buffalo AirStation™ WZR-D1800H router and WLI-H4-D1300 Ethernet bridge are available for purchase now for around $179.99 USD. The Ethernet bridge is listed as out of stock on Newegg; however, the router is still available (and the better value).

Qualcomm Atheros Launches Two New Killer Networking Cards

Subject: Networking | April 18, 2012 - 10:33 PM |
Tagged: wi-fi, qualcomm, networking, killer, Ethernet

Qualcomm Atheros today launched two new networking cards for the desktop and laptop markets. A subsidiary company of Qualcomm (formerly Killer Networks), the Wireless-N 1202 and E2200 provides Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity based on Killer Networks’ technology.

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The Wireless-N 1202 is a 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth module with 2x2 MIMO antennas which should provide plenty of Wireless N range. On the wired side of things the E2200 is a Gigabit Ethernet network card for desktop computers. Both modules are powered by Killer Network’s chip and the Killer Network Manager software. The software will allow users to prioritize gaming, audio, and video packets over other network traffic to deliver the best performance. Director of Business Development Mike Cubbage had the following to say.

“These products create an unprecedented entertainment and real-time communications experience for the end user by ensuring that critical online applications get the bandwidth and priority they need, when they need it.”

The E2200 Gigabit Ethernet NIC is available for purchase now, and the Wireless-N 1202 module will go on sale in May. More specific information on the products will be available after the official launch date (today) so stay tuned to PC Perspective.

ZTE Shows Off 1.7 Tbps Fiber Optic Network

Subject: Networking | March 16, 2012 - 05:58 AM |
Tagged: zte, wdm, networking, fiber optics, 1.7tbps

Chinese telecommunications provider ZTE showed off a new fiber optic network capable of 1.7 Tbps over a single fiber cable. Computer World reports that the ZTE network trial utilizes Wavelength Division Multiplexing technology to pack more information through a single cable by employing multiple wavelengths that comprise different channels.

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The ZTE fiber network runs 1,750 kilometers (just over 1,087 miles) and uses eight channels- each capable of 216.4 Gbps- to send data at speeds up to 1.7312 Tbps. The company has no immediate plans to implement such a network. Rather, they wanted to prove that an upgrade to 200 Gbps per channel speeds is possible. To put their achievement in perspective, Comcast currently has fiber networks running at 10 Gbps, 40 Gbps, and 100 Gbps channel speeds, according to an article on Viodi.

And to think that I only recently upgraded to a Gigabit router! I can't wait to see this technology trickle down towards a time when home networks are running through fiber optic cables and doing so at terabit per second speeds!

Image courtesy kainet via Flickr Creative Commons.