Elliott C. Back: Internet & Technology

Synology DS1511+ NAS Review

Posted in Computers & Technology, Hardware, NAS by Elliott Back on April 19th, 2011.

In this post, I’ll be reviewing a brand new Synology DiskStation DS1511+ NAS equipped with five Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 5K3000 drives configured in RAID5. For comparison, I’ve also written about the Gen 1 Drobo’s performance as a NAS before (it tops out around 20MB/s), and own two of them at home. While the Drobos allow you to build mix-and-match RAID arrays, they are slow, take forever to rebuild, noisy, and hot. I am hoping the DS1511+ will remedy all of these issues.

Read more about the DS1511+ specs here

Network Base Configuration

The Synology NAS is using default MTU of 1500, connected to a Gigabit Ethernet Switch on LAN2. Testing with iperf shows a good gigabit connection between my PC and the NAS of around 885Mb/s:

Big_Bug> iperf -s
Server listening on TCP port 5001
TCP window size: 85.3 KByte (default)
[ ID] Interval Transfer Bandwidth
[ 7] 0.0-20.0 sec 2.05 GBytes 882 Mbits/sec
[ 6] 0.0-30.0 sec 3.09 GBytes 885 Mbits/sec

In megabytes per second, we can transfer 110.625 MB/s. As you will see, this is actually slightly lower than the performance of the RAID array.

The Hard Drives

How fast are the triple-platter 2TB deskstar 5K3000s in RAID5? It can do a very reasonable 125 MB/s in unbuffered pure-disk performance:

Big_Bug> hdparm -t /dev/sda
Timing buffered disk reads: 374 MB in 3.01 seconds = 124.22 MB/sec

Benchmarking File Copy from Windows

To test how fast I can transfer from my PC to the NAS, I’ve created a 4GB binary file:

C:\Users\Elliott Bäck\Desktop>ls -l test.file
-rw-rw-rw- 1 Elliott Bäck 0 4693544330 2011-04-19 20:00 test.file

Copying this file in Windows 7’s explorer took just 50.5 seconds. Doing the math, this gives us an average write rate of 88.63 MB/s. How fast can we copy it back? It took 71.6 seconds, for an average read rate of 62.51 MB/s. Both of these number are going to be constrained by how fast my desktop PC’s Intel SSD can read/write. I also tested using Java and writing a RandomAccessFile with a ByteBuffer, which achieved 95MB/s write and 97MB/s read on a 1GB file.

Reliability & Temperature

You just need to open up the storage manager on the Synology DS1511+ NAS to see what a beauty it is, giving you a full SMART status readout on all your physical drives, as well as their temperatures. Even after running through my benchmarking, the drives were only 34° C warm:


At nearly $900 for the NAS itself without drives, it’s pricey. But plugged into a Gigabit ethernet, the DS1511+ from Synology is also fast, cool, and quiet; the three things you want most from a NAS. Featurewise, it has a glorious UI, media servers built in (which I don’t use) and expandibility from 5 to a maximum of 15 drives. I anticipate phasing out my Drobos, with their proprietary technology, for the Synology NAS, which runs on open-source plain-vanilla linux.

My 2011 New Years Resolutions

Posted in Holiday by Elliott Back on January 2nd, 2011.

I’m not much of a person for resolutions, since far too often New Years’ promises go unheard, and unkept. Making a list of New Years’ resolutions falls firmly into a cognitive bias known as “optimism bias“, as too often people set unattainable goals. On the other side of the equation, there’s evidence that setting goals publicly can help their completion.

The following goals are my own, completely personal, and probably unsuited to most of you. We are each unique individuals with varying strengths and weaknesses; in 2011, I want to shore up some areas which I think I fall short in.

#1 – Complete a 5km Run in 25m

I have in mind the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge, which I’ve participated in twice before, with times around the 32 to 35 minute mark. I’m young, and in good shape. I just went to the gym and ran 2 miles at 9 minutes each. This isn’t a great time; I would need to be running 8 minute miles before I could achieve this, and run an extra mile. Fortunately, I have until this summer to get ready!

#2 – Finish My Website Redesign

This blog theme is getting tired. it’s too thin in a world of wide-screen monitors. It could be much more heavily optimized. And, it’s not readable with its small text. My wife has been prodding me to redesign it, and there’s no excuse for letting it go any farther. I plan to employ some new technologies on the front-end, perhaps using A/B testing, CSS sprites, and other optimizations. On the backend, there’s room to use Varnish and other acceleration technologies. And upgrading to the latest version of Wordpress should let me host all my subdomains from a single installation, freeing me up from symlink-hell and too many open file handles.

(I also want to try improving my Twitter Weather and Nikon Lenses pages, but those fall more into the category of tinkering rather than full-scale work, so I’m not including them in 2011 resolutions. Resolutions are for getting things done you should already have done or be doing.

#3 – Travel / Photography

Take my camera out more. Take more photographs, read some photography books. Master the use of the digital SLR that I have, and the lenses that I have already bought. Learn to use my flash, properly meter exposure, and focus. I may need to invest in some small equipment (like a proper flash, long telephoto zoom), but what I have already (Nikon D90, 18-105mm/3.5-5.6 VR, 50mm/1.8, 60mm/2.8D, Tokina 11-16mm/2.8, and 8/16GB flash cards) is more than enough kit for an amateur like myself.

In my opinion, travel is one of the best uses of time and money. In 2011, I want to ski, visit a Caribbean island, Spain, and Japan. My motivations for the three are (a) it’s very cold in NYC right now and I want to escape, (b) Spain has tons of historical architecture, museums, and cultural value, and I can practice my Spanish, and (c) Japan, the high-tech capital of the world, will tickle my love of gadgetry and cutting-edge fashion. New places are new opportunities to learn about other cultures, to practice language skills, and to take photographs!

#4 – Play guitar

I have an Epiphone Les Paul and a nice Fender practice literally gathering dust. I used to find playing guitar very enjoyable, and in fact, a mood stabilizer of sorts, but recently (say for the last two years) I have not played a lick. In 2011, I should clear off the dust, restring and retune, and pick it back up again.

These four simple New Years’ resolutions are mine, and I hope that they are achieved in part, or in full, in 2011. What do you want to change in your life in the new year? Leave a comment below!

Steve Jobs’ Health

Posted in Apple, Health by Elliott Back on January 5th, 2009.

Today Apple released a press release, a Letter from Apple CEO Steve Jobs informing the world that his weight loss is not a recurrence of his pancreatic cancer, and that he is able to continue carrying out his duties as Apple’s CEO while recovering from his “hormone imbalance:”

Dear Apple Community,

For the first time in a decade, I’m getting to spend the holiday season with my family, rather than intensely preparing for a Macworld keynote.

Unfortunately, my decision to have Phil deliver the Macworld keynote set off another flurry of rumors about my health, with some even publishing stories of me on my deathbed.

I’ve decided to share something very personal with the Apple community so that we can all relax and enjoy the show tomorrow.

As many of you know, I have been losing weight throughout 2008. The reason has been a mystery to me and my doctors. A few weeks ago, I decided that getting to the root cause of this and reversing it needed to become my #1 priority.

Fortunately, after further testing, my doctors think they have found the cause—a hormone imbalance that has been “robbing” me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy. Sophisticated blood tests have confirmed this diagnosis.

The remedy for this nutritional problem is relatively simple and straightforward, and I’ve already begun treatment. But, just like I didn’t lose this much weight and body mass in a week or a month, my doctors expect it will take me until late this Spring to regain it. I will continue as Apple’s CEO during my recovery.

I have given more than my all to Apple for the past 11 years now. I will be the first one to step up and tell our Board of Directors if I can no longer continue to fulfill my duties as Apple’s CEO. I hope the Apple community will support me in my recovery and know that I will always put what is best for Apple first.

So now I’ve said more than I wanted to say, and all that I am going to say, about this.


This comes in response to a post on Gizmodo, Steve Jobs’ Health Declining Rapidly, Reason for Macworld Cancellation, which alleges that “Steves health is rapidly declining. Apple is choosing to remove the hype factor strategically vs letting the hype destroy apple when the inevitable news comes later this spring.”

When this latest revelation is coupled with the previous delays we’ve seen in reporting Job’s health problems, the only thing we can expect is worse news. If you follow Apple and appreciate its products, do not be surprised if Steve Jobs resigns as CEO, or is replaced by the Apple board following a deterioration in his health, or death.

Update: It appears that the common thought that Jobs is sicker than Apple’s willing to admit was true. Apple just released a press release stating that Steve Jobs’ “health-related issues are more complex than [he] originally thought” and that he “decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June.”

Please see Disclosure & Legal Notice for information about conflicts of interest and this post. Disclosure: Short Apple at time of publication.

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