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Networking Upgrades

Creating a Functional Network for a Radio Station? 60

Posted by Cliff
from the upgrades-on-a-tight-budget dept.
E-bot & Ro-bert asks: "I volunteer for my campus radio station and, as the only techy there, I've been asked to help design their new network. We're on a very fixed budget and we're working with win98 PCs. The network needs to provide the ability to simultaneously stream and transfer large files (uncompressed WAV data) w/o interruptions to the stream. I know their current idea of using a simple hub and connecting all the computers won't work, but I'm drawing a blank on what to suggest. The specifics: Two of 6 Win98 PCs need to have the ability to broadcast audio data from any source on the network. The other 4 of 6 computers must be able to transfer files on the network w/o taking too much bandwidth away from the streams. I'm thinking of QoS, but how should it be implemented? What does the slashdot community look for, and suggest, in making a high-bandwidth network?"
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Creating a Functional Network for a Radio Station?

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  • win98??? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by liquidpele (663430) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @04:35PM (#13716819) Journal
    First of all, upgrate to either win2000, or Linux. There is simply no excuse to be running streams from win98. I mean, you do realize it has memory leaks right?

    I'm not sure exactly what you're trying to accomplish here really, but my fraternity used Tunez [sourceforge.net] to stream radio around our place.
    • Our college station uses Win 98 for our Dalet workstations, it works, it's not vulnerable, and it can stay up for months w/o a reboot.
    • Consider also that the budget is tight, and win98 liscences are probably plenty (if not free) at most universities, while win2k+ would not be
      • Any college kid that can't come up with a free copy of Windows 2000 doesn't deserve to be working in the radio station, and damn sure isn't worthy of posting a question to Slashdot. Heck, where I went to college the kids acted like they INVENTED software piracy (of course I'm pretty old, so maybe we did.)
        • Re:win98??? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by justforaday (560408)
          Campus radio stations are often owned by the school and hence a liability. If the station was caught knowingly installing pirated software on their machines, there's a very good chance the school would shut them down instantly. Don't suggest such moronic ideas next time.
          • The school I went to had an agreement with Microsoft (MSDNAA) wherein each student got a free copy of whatever they wanted.
            Granted there were some restrictions, but getting a legit copy of Win2000 was about as hard as saying 'Please'.
      • Yeah, but doesn't M$ make deals with schools to get them their OSes on the cheap. At OSU it was $99 for the 'Buckeye Bundle' which had Office, XP, and 2000. Heck I was able to get FREE copies of Server 2003, Exchange Server 2003 and a few other programs while I was there.

        M$ also gave some of the Engineering Honors students Win 2000 and VS 6.0, retail boxed versions of both, back in the day. So a Windows upgrade might not be so out of reach for them. But yeah I would move away from Win98, it really is
    • Did you miss the part where they don't have a lot of money? Even if they steal (urk!) Win2K, they'd probably have to buy more memory to support it. Ideological [wikipedia.org] issues aside, Linux is the only viable upgrade path when you don't have funds for new hardware or software.
  • by cbiffle (211614) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @04:39PM (#13716860)
    Perhaps I'm over-simplifying, but uncompressed WAV data (2-channel, 44.1khz, 16-bits-per-channel) is only 1.411 Mbps. For the network itself, a 100 Mbps switched Ethernet should provide plenty of bandwidth and dramatically reduce latency.

    The switch will allow you to dedicate 100 Mbps each way per machine by preventing each box from having to see streams in which it is uninterested. It will also allow you to run full-duplex, which will decrease latency if you're ACKing your transmissions (e.g. using TCP).

    Really, a 10 Mbps switched network would probably be sufficient, but good luck finding a 10 Mbps switch these days.

    I'd be more concerned about the ability of Win98 boxen to stream/process realtime data without hiccups, but I assume you've already got that solved.
    • Perhaps I'm over-simplifying, but uncompressed WAV data (2-channel, 44.1khz, 16-bits-per-channel) is only 1.411 Mbps. For the network itself, a 100 Mbps switched Ethernet should provide plenty of bandwidth and dramatically reduce latency.

      That's what came to my mind when I read the article. When transferring data @ 100Mb/sec in full-duplex mode the bottleneck typically becomes the hard drive. For that, you'd have to upgrade the RAM in the high-bandwidth using machines to max your disk cacheing.

      I'd be

    • Really, a 10 Mbps switched network would probably be sufficient, but good luck finding a 10 Mbps switch these days.

      I have a 3com rackmount 10mbps managed switch with a 100mbps fiber port in the back.

      $25 + Whatever it costs me to ship.

      http://www.sharkchat.com/ [sharkchat.com] - you know where to get me
  • by bluethundr (562578) * on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @04:39PM (#13716861) Homepage Journal
    Two of 6 Win98 PCs need to have the ability to broadcast audio data from any source on the network. The other 4 of 6 computers must be able to transfer files on the network w/o taking too much bandwidth away from the streams. I'm thinking of QoS, but how should it be implemented? What does the slashdot community look for, and suggest, in making a high-bandwidth network?"

    I have a suggestion...Upgrade the entire network to Macintosh 512's and PhoneNet and VOILA! Problem solved!
  • A fast ethernet switch, rather than a hub, will provide dedicated bandwidth to each connected node. You could use a gigabit switch and NIC's, but your computers probably couldn't keep up with that kind of throughput.
  • by crstophr (529410) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @05:19PM (#13717255) Homepage
    Get a 16 port 10/100 Ethernet SWITCH (not hub... do they still sell hubs?)
    Make sure every PC has a 10/100 card in it.

    At that point just test. I don't think that bandwidth is going to be the problem. I wouild be more worried about CPU since the machines are so old.

    So just spend a little bit to upgrade the network and then start testing. Get some streams running first, then try to hammer the network with file transfers. See how much it takes to break things. You may find that the simple upgrade is all you need. If you can beef up the buffering on the destination for the streams it would help, but if you have to do that you're pushing the limits already.

    Worst case:

    2 network switches and 2 network cards each for the PCs. Do the file transfers on one network and the streaming on the other network. Segregating the traffic guarantees they will not interfere with each other on the network layer... I would make a "streams only" network and put all other office traffic, including the file transfers, on a normal office lan.

    Hope this helps.

    --Chris
    • To start, there are no 100Mbit hubs, the very spec for 100BaseTX requires a switching function. The cheapest 10/100 hub/switches are just that, a 10BaseT hub for the ports in 10 mode, and a 100BaseTX switch with one port internally going to the 10BaseT hub.

      Don't get a cheap taiwanese 10/100 switch. They don't really have more than 100 Mbps of switching capacity. Once two ports are communicating, all the other ports are being buffered. As soon as you have a higher bandwidth than about 5-10Mbps streaming conn
      • Burning Karma, but it's late. Cisco FastHUB 300 [cisco.com] 100 Mbit Hub. These also had a modular port which you could plug in a management module with a 10 or 100 Mbit switched port. I feel so much better now.

        To actually be helpful, the parent is correct, a decent managed switch would be good. Actually being able to measure traffic will help to diagnose problems. In fact you might want to setup performance monitor on any existing PCs and duplicate the production traffic, just to see how much bandwidth you'll actua
      • by lucm (889690)
        To start, there are no 100Mbit hubs, the very spec for 100BaseTX requires a switching function.

        Curiously Netgear has 10/100 Mbps hubs [netgear.com] AND 10/100 Mbps switches [netgear.com]

    • do they still sell hubs?

      Nope.
      Then again, they don't sell Windows 98 machines anymore either.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @05:22PM (#13717300)

    I also work at a small radio station and a limited budget, where all of our computer are either Win98 or DOS, plus one Linux server. We've been streaming our audio onto the air from the Linux box using a Samba server no problem, just by using 100MB full-duplex switches.

    The three problems that crop up are:

    1) Large file downloads across the LAN, but this is only a problem when the files are being pulled to or from a computer that is serving or receiving a stream. This almost never happens where I work, though.

    2) Hard drive accesses. This one isn't so obvious. Once or twice I've put a heavy load on the Linux box's drive (e.g. unthrottled data backups, recursive grep) and the drive couldn't keep up with both the backup and the audio file reads simultaneously.

    3) Lack of contingency plans. If you're putting things on the air pulled from a computer across the network, you need to make sure your backups are thorough and extremely fast to restore. Our Linux server is backed up once a day (we only change about a dozen or less files per day) to a second hard drive, and we can pop a floppy in the disk drive and reboot to switch to the backup very quickly, all systems operational; then you have plenty of time to fix the problem and switch back to the main storage drive.

    I hadn't heard of the bandwidth limiting software that someone else mentioned. It initially sounds like a good idea, but if you install it on the computers that are serving or receiving a stream, it would actually aggravate the problem, so implement that idea carefully.

  • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @05:33PM (#13717449) Homepage Journal
    Your specifics are too thin to be very useful.

    I'm guessing the following:

    The two PCs that "need to have the ability to broadcast audio data from any source on the network" have their audio hooked up to the broadcast equipment (maybe they're in the studio?).

    So the requirement is that these PCs be able to access WAV files sitting on any old computer the station has lying around, without having to stage it on the broadcast PCs or on CD first.

    You don't mention any special media software or anything, so I'm guessing when you say "Stream", you don't mean "deliver isochronous through the Internet or some other complex network, buffering and reassembling out of order bits, so that the data is played without skipping although possibly with considerable latency." You probably mean "click on a WAV file using Windows file sharing and have it play right away over our broadcast equipment without skipping."

    It sounds to me like a Golden Hammer scenario. As resident computer geek, you feel it is your responsibility to deliver a technically whizz-bang solution. I'm guessing that what they really need, given their budget and technical sophistication, is some form of sneakernet: physical media and common sense operational procedures. People were running to the record library for call in request shows years before anybody had a computer network after all. And there are drawbacks in hooking up PCs that are connected to your radio to the machine the station volunteer uses to troll the Internet for pr0n.
  • by Tuxedo Jack (648130) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @05:41PM (#13717530) Homepage
    For starters, go buy Win2K licenses. Only get the bare minimum; your college _SHOULD_ have an academic license program that gets you copies on the cheap. If not, go the fun way; go on eBay and get them there.

    Since you're streaming, I assume you're streaming to the entire campus (and possibly the web, via the WAN link). Grab yourself a cheap Linksys 8-port gigabit switch. Don't cheap out and get a hub; get a switch. That'll take care of LAN bandwidth; don't worry about the WAN bandwidth (that's the university's problem).

    Here's a link to that on Newegg (I don't know if you can claim tax-exempt, since you're a college organization):

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.asp?Manu factory=&PropertyCodeValue=1501%3A10238&PropertyCo deValue=1502%3A10242&PropertyCodeValue=0&descripti on=&MinPrice=&MaxPrice=&SubCategory=30&Submit=Prop erty [newegg.com]

    Since these are Win98-era machines, I'm assuming they don't have anything other than regular PCI, so no PCI-E gigabit cards. You can get gigabit PCI NICs from Newegg pretty cheap - I see them for $12 and shipping here.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.asp?Manu factory=&PropertyCodeValue=1281%3A9683&PropertyCod eValue=1282%3A9687&PropertyCodeValue=1628%3A10711& PropertyCodeValue=0&description=&MinPrice=&MaxPric e=&SubCategory=27&Submit=Property [newegg.com]

    Next, we come to the real doozy, QoS implementation on the streaming machines. If your college supports it, grab a Win2K/Win2K3 Server license from them on the cheap and install Windows Media Components on it. That'll allow you to stream audio and video over the LAN/WAN. If not, try to dig up an OEM license.

    2K/2K3 support QoS out of the box, so that issue is solved.

    Depending on the amount of listeners you have, you may want to upgrade to another gigabit LAN drop sometime.

    Anyone see anything I missed?
    • First, as someone already noted, there's no such thing as a non-10baseT hub. All 100baseTX and Gigabit switches are switches. Don't worry about Win2k. It's not really important. Watch out on the switch. Don't (repeat: DO FUCKING NOT) cheap out on the switch. Many cheaper switches are really a bridge (2-port switch) connected to a big 10baseT hub. Worthless. Others are really Switches but can only handle so much aggregate bandwidth between ports. In other words, all ports individually can do gigabit or whate
  • by jbrax (315669)
    Hackers solution, cheap and easy to manage:

    No need to upgrade every machihe: make them ltsp-terminals!
    Install one powerful server with Linux and the latest LTSP (LTSP 4.1 or maybe Ubuntu Breezy Badger). Wire everything with a 100Mb or 1GB managed switch (bandwidh control).

  • Who's going to manage it when you're gone?
  • by Malor (3658) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @06:26PM (#13717919) Journal
    As always in an Ask Slashdot, there's not enough info in your post to make any clear recommendations. Your specs are pie-in-the-sky wild.. there's really very little to work with here. But I'll try to give you some pointers.

    I'm assuming you want two Windows 98 PCs to provide streaming audio to some arbitrary number of clients. Sending one stream isn't that hard... as others have said, that would be about 1.5megabits per stream. However, in ordinary TCP, you have to send a unique stream per client... even though it's the exact same data going to all clients. This adds up *fast*. So the number of clients you want to serve at any given time is the determining factor for how hard the problem is.

    To give you an idea of the number ranges you're talking about, your network fabric is one potential bottleneck. Even on a 100Mb switch, you'll have a hard time exceeding about 60 connections. If you're willing to settle for MP3-compressed files (and LAME sounds REALLY good), you can cut your bandwidth needs to no more than 320k per client with almost no sound loss. 160k LAME still sounds very nice, and would probably let you support around 600 clients on a 100Mbit connection.

    However, I doubt that Win98, even on a powerful machine, could stream that much data without croaking, particularly with the 600-connection scenario. It has trouble with multiple filesharing connections, a core function of the OS... running a heavy-duty server application on 98 is likely to be pretty troublesome.

    What you really WANT is to be able to send the stream just once, and have all your clients tap into the stream and play the music. Multicast will do this... it is a one-to-many protocol. But your server, network infrastructure, and clients have to support it.

    So what clients and server software do you use? I have no idea. I'd suggest starting with a search for 'multicast' on Freshmeat and going from there.

    Overall, this is a hard problem. It's absolutely solvable, but it will take both expertise and money... the more of the former you have on tap, the less of the latter you'll need.

    Even with the needed expertise, I don't think you can do this on the cheap. You're very, very likely to have to spend money. If they're talking about using HUBS, you're not even on the same page... this project, if it's meant as more than a toy for five people at a time, will most likely require a fairly expensive backbone.

    Your campus IT department probably has both the expertise and the network backbone already in place, so your first stop should be them.

    (I'm being interrupted, so I can't edit this as well as I'd like... hopefully any mistakes won't be too awful.)
  • Sounds like you want 2 networks, either via vlan or physical means. I'd recommend physical, it would cost about the same either way (I assume you are running the cables) and leave room for adding more equipment in the future.

    As to the many replies about upgrading your machines, check wiht the college, local school board, county, etc. to see what happens to PCs that are replaced. The local community college sells a bunch each semester (4 year replacement cycle) to faculty/staff for $150, and then sells a f
  • ...but you might find performance to actually be better using a hub rather than a switch in this case. From your basic description of your traffic types, it's worth some comparison of both options.
    • For a smaller network, you might have a point. Is it easier to do multicast on the cheap when the hub is already sending traffic to every point connected to it? I imagine this method would require slightly less expertise than running multicast on a larger switched network.
  • If you are thinking it's a good thing to stick with Win98 you're fooling yourself. Eventually you're going to get a virus and it all goes up in smoke from there.

    Install Linux (There are some great distro's out there on distrowatch.com that cater to music professionals).

    Get a switch not a hub. Managed and one that could do vlan's if possible.
  • Setup a linux box to do all routing for the small mini network. By giving each system a netmask of 255.255.255.255 you can make all traffic go through the linux router. If you've got static ip's for the machines, use em as normal, otherwise setup the router to do DHCP and use NAT connection sharing. If you want to get fancy you can setup some hijinx with DHCP relay systems. Easy enough. From there you can either mangle the gateway address to point to your router or make the linux box a transperent gate
    • Great idea: let's take all the networking slang we can find on Google Groups and patch them together in the phoniest post ever made up.
    • That is the biggest mess of shit ever. 100 MBPS should be enough for what they want to do. If it isn't, go get some gigabit. What your proposing is a ticking time bomb. All that traffic going through a one box (a linux box no less, next time when your dropping "names" drop a BSD one) is a. a manageablity issue waiting to happen. B. A single point of failure explosion waiting to happen.
      • Linux or BSD boxes are free on the curb. Either is fine if you dont dick with it constantly, put it in a closet and go. Gigabit is $100 for the switch alone, I havent found any in the trash yet. Radio stations often operate on shoestring budgets. We have the largest record collection on the east coast and the station still operates on pennies.

        Besides, there's no reason you need gigabit for such a piddling task. If someone's going to be saturating a 100bt such that even a 1.4mbps stream is underbufferin
  • I've done a lot of work in this field, working for a major UK radio broadcaster.

    If money permits, keep your audio network (with your playout machines and audio server on) separate from your office network (with office machines, printers etc). You can either use VLANs on a decent managed switch or better still have two completely separate networks connected by a machine / router to allow you to put audio on the server.

    We had a vested interest in this because our audio servers were often running netware and w
  • If a 100bT switch doesn't do the trick as mentioned by other posters, how about installing a separate set of NICs and switch dedicated to the streaming content. That would guarantee bandwidth. The cost would be a little higher, and involve more setup, but you would also be in a much better position for future expansion/capabilities. BTW, I haven't run Win98 for years. I don't remember how hard it is to set up Win98 with multiple NICs.
  • why not use a 10/100 switch, but configure the network cards of the 'other 4' to be 10/half?

    or even, use cables with only 4 wires in them so they autonegotiate a slower speed? (can be unreliable, in my experience).
  • I wonder if you could get an accomodation from the one of the companies that many commercial stations use (many many are on file servers.) Try scott studios <url:www.scottstudios.com/> or <url:http://www.rcsworks.com/> or <url:www.prophetsys.com/> - these are the BIGS. See if they'll donate. Their systems will comes with specs.

    Depending on how serious you are about it, you want RAID capabilities, as servers WILL crash, I assure you.

    If you voice-track, then you need more sophistication,

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