Monday, September 19, 2016

Faster Internet and the Bullshit of Cable Modem Marketing

People assume that a blazing fast 340 Mbit/second cable modem will give them better performance than an 80 Mbit/second modem.  "4 times faster!  8 times faster!"

All of that is simple marketing garbage, a hold-over sales pitch from the days of dialup modems.

The fact is that the Internet doesn't work like that.  You will likely get the same exact performance with a low-cost standard cable modem versus an expensive fast modem.

The reason?  Internet bottlenecks.  The Internet is a vast, shared network, and there are plenty of bottlenecks on every network path. With your 340 Mbit/second modem, you'll know that your modem is no longer a bottleneck.  But there are more than a dozen network devices between your computer and Google and so your cable modem is likely never the slowest device on the network.

What other devices are slowing things down?  First, there is your home WIFI.  Then there is bandwidth that your ISP provides to you.  Then there is the network equipment at your ISP, which is shared among perhaps hundreds of thousands of users.  Then there is all of the shared networking equipment between your ISP and Google's ISP, which is used by millions of users.  And then there are all of the network devices at Google - which is used by hundreds of millions of users.

Save your money.  Get a normal, reasonably priced modem, like this TP-Link DOCSIS-3 Modem, or this Netgear DOCSIS-3 Modem. Your performance experience will likely be identical to a "blazing fast high performance" modem, and you'll save a ton of money.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Apple's Self-Driving Car

Today it was reported that Apple's Self-Driving Car project is going through some significant challenges - with some layoffs, reorganization, and perhaps a change in focus.

But let's be realistic here: Self-driving cars are very hard, on the order of magnitude of the Manhattan project... or maybe harder.  An incredible amount of new science, AI, and associated engineering needs to be solved.  It isn't a "simple" hardware/software engineering exercise like creating the first iPhone, or implementing the Android OS from scratch, or implementing Twitter.

It took about 40 years for the helicopter to go from concept to production, as a lot of science and engineering had to happen before a helicopter could be a reasonably safe way to travel.

The idea that a self-driving car project wouldn't go through significant struggles and major changes in direction is fantasy, as that even happens with simple projects, such as the creation of another new fighter aircraft.

Kudos to Apple, Tesla, SpaceX, and others for taking on tremendously challenging projects.

MacBook: burnt out magsafe connector repair

My MacBook (A1342 model from 2009-2010) stopped working, thanks to a cheap knockoff magsafe charger. The magsafe connector looked burnt with heat-distorted melted plastic and some black carbon surfaces.  Plugging in the charger resulted in no lights and no action.  My MacBook was dead.

First I tried to clean up the connector with some Q-Tips, tooth picks and solvent, but that did little, as seen in this "after" picture (below).   The heat generated by the aftermarket charger permanently deformed and distorted the MacBook's magsafe connector.  Clearly the damage was significant.


Burnt Magsafe Connector - Replacement Required!
Looking at iFixIt, I determined that it would not be difficult to replace only the magsafe connector with the right tools.  I hoped and prayed that the problem was isolated to the connector assembly and not the logic board.

I bought a replacement magsafe connector assembly (available from Amazon) for under $20 and started to replace it by following the instructions on iFixIt, using a proper tool kit like this one.

When I pulled out the old Magsafe, and boy did it look nasty.

My removed Melted Magsafe Connector, thanks to a crappy 3rd party charger.
While I was in there, I also cleaned out a lot of dust that accumulated inside of the MacBook.  I cleaned up the following locations:
  • Fan, heat sink, and vents
  • Logic board (front and back)
  • Case
  • Battery
  • DVD Drive
To remove the dust, I first quickly vacuumed up the big blobs.  Then I used a dry, unused paintbrush and lightly brushed dust off of all the surfaces.  This was followed by more vacuuming.

Also, while I was in there, I carefully cleaned out any scum that developed around the port openings, using some Q-tips and some solvent.

After re-assembly, my MacBook fired right back up and I was back in business.  Success!  I'm very happy, and will certainly never use a cheap aftermarket charger ever again.

My new Magsafe connector allows charging once again!


Now that this MacBook is again in operation, I have since updated its memory and the hard drive, as seen in my other articles.




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