My gaming rig

A bit of story.

In 2012, my brother decided as a gift for going away to college, he would purchase PC parts for me to build my own PC from. There was a $500 combo deal upgrade package from Newegg that he found and made mine. I grew upon that initial build as time went on, adding and replacing parts with newer and better parts, until finally its last build. In 2014, I had better income and could afford to upgrade to higher end parts, so I donated that PC to my sister and built my current gaming rig, which has also since been upgraded over these past 4 years.

The current gaming rig I have started out with much less storage space, a different set of monitors, a different mousepad, video card, and webcam. All of these have been upgraded over time.

In addition, I’ve now added an Intel NUC to my mix of networked devices, which I’ve been using as a utility server. I’ve offloaded nearly all of the virtual machines that my gaming rig has been hosting for 4+ years over to the Intel NUC. This has changed my PC’s performance and resource usage in a favorable direction, and it also means I should be able to take my PC offline more often.

There is one problem I want to tackle, the 2x 5 TB WD Black drives are actually unused. They were originally given exclusive access to a guest virtual machine running my Plex server, and they were configured with LVM, creating a virtual volume of 10 TB. The performance wasn’t that great, however. I transferred the contents of them to a single 6 TB HGST drive and had equal performance with less headache. I want to RAID 1 the 5 TB WD Black drives and then possibly use them for general purpose backup storage, rather than exclusively with my Plex server.

And as for the Plex server, I want to move it off my gaming rig. I’m looking at short-term and long-term right now. In the short, I’m expanding the RAM on my Intel NUC from 16GB to 32GB, so I can host more guests on it, which would allow me to transfer my Plex server. I should then be able to move the HGST 6TB drive to the NUC since the drive is using an external USB3.0 interface. In the long-term, I want to purchase a dedicated storage server, host it at a colocation, and use a RAID 10 array of at least 6×4 TB or 8×6 TB enterprise drives. This would then become the permanent home for my Plex server, giving it the maximum efficiency I can offer.

In the long-term for my gaming rig, I do foresee a possible shift from Intel to AMD. The Ryzen processors have intrigued me. This would mean a new motherboard, which means adopting a new architecture platform. And I’ve never used an AMD processor as my main machine before, either. There’s comfort level hurdles to overcome in that direction. I also won’t need 64 GB of RAM either, since I’m moving the virtual machines to my Intel NUC, so if I build a new desktop system in the future I’ll probably split them to 32 GB. It’s unfortunate that the memory modules between my gaming rig and the NUC aren’t compatible, in addition the NUC has an upper limit of 32 GB memory. Sadness. Maybe I should purchase a second NUC? We’ll see.

My custom PC speaker setup

I recently moved in March 2018 to another apartment unit in my city. I neglected to unpack and setup my computer speakers until earlier this week. What a difference it makes, I pretty much forgot in three months what it was like to have them, turns out I missed my setup and didn’t know it.

This custom speaker setup actually used to be recommended on the r/audiophile subreddit. It’s a basic all-in-one setup that is pieced together by different components.

This setup allows me to connect my PC’s rear stereo output to the Lepai amplifier, which then drives the Micca speakers.

The sound is amazing. I have bass and treble control through the amplifier, which is something I had missed living in my new apartment for the last three months. The Micca speakers are more than suitable for listening to music, no subwoofer required as these Miccas have a woofer built-in that does the job. In terms of volume, I feel like moving the knob more than half way is too loud for my environment, so there’s plenty of upper volume range.

I’ve now had this speaker setup in three different apartments in total. This custom set easily beats any of the all-in-one speaker setups I’ve tried.

A letter to AT&T

Today, I share with everyone an email message I sent to my apartment management about the level of dissatisfaction I have with the AT&T U-verse service.

It’s a bit of a read, but worthwhile I promise.

It was originally sent on March 19, 2018.

Hi,

 

After being at the [redacted] Apartments for a week, I wanted to bring to light my dissatisfaction with the Internet service available at this property. I’d appreciate if this was taken into consideration as well as forwarded to the appropriate AT&T employees.

 

This property exclusively provides AT&T Gigapower for Internet service. I’m extremely unsatisfied with the service provided, specifically because of the egregious level of technical responsibility on AT&T’s part. AT&T provided me with a BGW210 gateway device for connectivity which exhibits the problems described further below. The problems I have reminded my brother and I of similar problems that we had while living with our parents using AT&T U-verse in [redacted], Texas.

 

Please take the mood of my replies below as direct and with reasoned explanations. They are intended to show my frustration.

 

  • AT&T field installation technicians personnel relegated technical support to online and phone service support. This seems like a lack of ownership of responsibility to me. Field technicians should be able to handle technical questions.
  • AT&T online chat services are poorly configured. Consider the difference between http://chatnow.att.com and https://chatnow.att.com, the former displaying a web server setup page instead of the AT&T webpage. As a systems administrator myself, the difference between the data served indicates a lack of thoroughness and professionalism.
  • AT&T online tech support provided incorrect answers and recommendations; I was able to trivially prove this using simple network diagnostics tools such as ping and traceroute.
  • AT&T service regularly has latency/ping spikes indicating poor connectivity or service provisioning. This is easily visible using connection monitoring software such as Smokeping or Pingplotter.
  • AT&T does not provide IPv6 connectivity to residences, thereby contributing to IPv4 address exhaustion. It did not provide IPv6 service to my parents’ [Texas] address on AT&T U-verse despite repeated requests while I was living there for several years of service. AT&T still does not provide IPv6 to even [redacted] Apartment Homes’ brand new apartment complex; the complex is so new that most online address verification services are unable to verify the address. When tech support was asked about this, they stated that IPv6 was disabled and that I would need to speak to “advanced tech support”, then later after the conversation with them was told that the equipment in the area isn’t configured for IPv6 yet as they still have IPv4 available. This reeks of corrupt profit-seeking instead of creating and adopting solutions for customers. IPv6 is a technology that has been adopted by many major Internet providers since as far back as the 1990s, it’s over 20 years old, it isn’t new and should be freely available.
  • AT&T’s BGW210 gateway device is limited to 8,192 NAT table sessions, causing a bottleneck on the number of IPv4 connections that can be open to another device, whether it goes to the Internet or exclusively uses the local network. This bottleneck would otherwise not exist if AT&T permitted the use of customer third-party routers and modems, such as pfSense where NAT table limit can be upwards of 300,000 sessions, or if AT&T permitted IPv6 at this location. Additionally, as an AT&T Gigapower customer with a 1000 Mbps subscription, this bottleneck is effectively a throttle to the Internet, causing connectivity issues with web browsing and online games, as was already experienced in the first two nights at [redacted] Apartment Homes.
  • Drawing on U-verse experience, the first thing that many technicians would do when encountering a problem would be to replace the modem which was provided and required by AT&T. It was replaced so often that the account had been notated (paraphrase from memory) “do not replace the modem, it is not a problem with the modem” since we had gone through so many replacements without solving the service level problems.
  • With U-verse we had service issues so often that my brother ended up in a conference call with the field technician manager, local service manager, and regional manager to troubleshoot the problem. If I recall correctly, it turned out to be a configuration issue on AT&T’s side.

 

In all, AT&T does not provide service to the level of competitors. Other providers allow true bridged mode, allows customers to use their own purchased third-party routers and modems, and have full IPv6 connectivity support. I am disappointed that AT&T does not appear to have the level of technical service I hope for even after over a decade of interactions with them. I wish to protest AT&T being the exclusive Internet provider at [redacted] Apartment Homes, and wish for the property management to consider and prioritize adding additional competing providers such as Verizon Fios as soon as possible.

 

Thanks,
Carl

The only update to occur after this email was AT&T provisioning IPv6 to my BGW210 gateway device. All other issues still persist, including the NAT issue; I found out after the IPv6 was provisioned, IPv6 still uses sessions in the BGW210 NAT table.

AT&T is arguably worse than Comcast.