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Creating a Functional Network for a Radio Station?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the upgrades-on-a-tight-budget dept.

Networking 60

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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win98??? (2, Insightful)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 8 years ago | (#13716819)

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.

Re:win98??? (1)

nuggetman (242645) | more than 8 years ago | (#13716955)

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.

Re:win98??? (1)

Bozzio (183974) | more than 8 years ago | (#13717105)

Consider also that the budget is tight, and win98 liscences are probably plenty (if not free) at most universities, while win2k+ would not be

Re:win98??? (1)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 8 years ago | (#13718006)

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??? (2, Insightful)

justforaday (560408) | more than 8 years ago | (#13720989)

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.

Re:win98??? (1)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 8 years ago | (#13726723)

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'.

Re:win98??? (1)

thebdj (768618) | more than 8 years ago | (#13724471)

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 not what I would want running on a Network, especially if it needs to stay up.

Re:win98??? (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 8 years ago | (#13717848)

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.

Uncompressed WAV data? (4, Insightful)

cbiffle (211614) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Uncompressed WAV data? (0, Flamebait)

brohan (773443) | more than 8 years ago | (#13717006)

1.411 Mbps is used in the transferring of streaming video. However, for the transfering of large files which would hog up all the bandwidth. The solution I'd suggest is NetLimiter [netlimiter.com] .

Just limit the overall bandwidth of each computer to 1.6 mbps and all computers could actually be used in a 10mbit hub. And NetLimiter just installs quickly, on win98 even, without a fuss!

pls think. thx. (1, Troll)

adolf (21054) | more than 8 years ago | (#13717413)

Cool.

I always suspected that whenver I've had trouble handling networked media files, that the problem really was that the network was just too bloody fast.

I'm so glad that NetLimiter will finally slow things down to such an extent that I can reliably transfer a WAV recording.

Too bad it's less than one-third the speed of my fucking cable modem.

Talk about pathetic and absurd. It's a stupid idea, and you know it. More bandwidth to the world than across the desk? Fucking-a NOT.

Now: How about spending $25 on a cheap, fast ethernet switch? Not only is it plainly a better solution to the problem, but it's WAY FUCKING CHEAPER than buying a bunch of copies of NetLimiter, and doesn't involve even an iota of a software adjustment, it's cheaper, and it's existance easily understood by any technical people who will appear later on. Oh, and it's faster as greased shit and is plug-and-play when installed in place of the existing 10base-T hub.

Did I mention that it's cheaper to just buy a switch and be done?

(Are you some kind of schill for Netlimiter?)

Re:pls think. thx. (1, Funny)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 8 years ago | (#13718771)

Hey everybody, make sure to mod this guy down. He's actually making sense, plus he appears to have spent a little effort thinking about the problem. His answer is most likely the correct one, and is inexpensive to implement. Alas, useful information is not allowed on Slashdot. Plus, telling ignorant people that they are ignorant is something that must never be done.

He must be punished.

Re:pls think. thx. (-1, Troll)

adolf (21054) | more than 8 years ago | (#13719294)

Yeah. Mod that motherfucker down, too. He's clearly off-topic, what with metadiscussion being cause for castration and all.

At least the mods are still able to chew cock with great proficiency, even at this time of the night! :P

Re:pls think. thx. (1)

BushCheney08 (917605) | more than 8 years ago | (#13721103)

I'll third this. Please mod what is probably one of the most useful posts here down! And adolf, I take offense at your sig. We don't let Colin join in the hammering.

Re:Uncompressed WAV data? (1)

lucm (889690) | more than 8 years ago | (#13719011)

Just limit the overall bandwidth of each computer to 1.6 mbps and all computers could actually be used in a 10mbit hub

You could also use 1-mile category 5 cables wrapped around a gigantic magnet, this would efficiently limit the bandwith of every computer.

Seriously, how the hell this solution can be voted as "3, Informative"??? This is Slashdot, not Fox News!

Re:Uncompressed WAV data? (1)

danielrose (460523) | more than 8 years ago | (#13720088)

Agreed.
This guy is obviously that fuckwit that installs that 1 486 in the fucking cupboard thank RUNS FUCKING EVERYTHING but nobody knows what it does!
You know the box i'm talking about right? The first one you unplug and throw out..

Re:Uncompressed WAV data? (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 8 years ago | (#13726127)

If it's stupid and it works, it isn't stupid.

It certainly sounds more cost-effective than buying a high-end switch or router with rate shaping.

What you need is proper QoS on the switch (1)

forged (206127) | more than 8 years ago | (#13720449)

No offense but parent's suggestion is so 1990.

Why limit the speed of your machines on the network to a fraction of the available bandwidth, when in 99% of the time this bandwidth would be freely available to use and allow fast file transfers.

What you need to do, is implement simple and efficient QoS on the switch. If you know that two PC's will be streaming at 1.411 Mbps then define the appropriate class to isolate this type of traffic and reserve the appropriate bandwidth on the switch.

Then all the rest can be unmanaged, filling the remaining bandwidth for file transfers. When congestion occurs, default traffic will become policed. At that time your streaming traffic will get its reserved share of bandwidth, and your default traffic will clock down a bit, leaving room for the streams.

Simple, unmanaged switches usually do not offer any QoS but on the other hand provide bandwidth aplenty for a very small cost (about $100 for a 8-port Gigabit switch). If you want QoS then you must purchase more capable, managed equipment with built-in QoS. There are lots of vendors and good products out there.

Re:Uncompressed WAV data? (1)

Blkdeath (530393) | more than 8 years ago | (#13717226)

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 more concerned about the ability of Win98 boxen to stream/process realtime data without hiccups, but I assume you've already got that solved.

As would I. However if you leave the machines stripped down, don't install extraneous applications, leave your startup items absolutely minimal, preferrably keep them off the web and you should be alright. Win'98 can work really well for a dedicated application but it's extremely fragile.

I'd further reccomend partitioning your OS and your data separately and storing an image of a freshly installed, up-to-date install of the OS with all drivers and requisite software. If anything starts to go haywire simply re-image the partition. It's far more time effective than trouble shooting reams of registry and DLL corruption.

Re:Uncompressed WAV data? (1)

ModernGeek (601932) | more than 8 years ago | (#13733136)

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

An Inexpensive and Flexible upgrade path (2, Funny)

bluethundr (562578) | more than 8 years ago | (#13716861)

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!

Use a switch (1)

tedhiltonhead (654502) | more than 8 years ago | (#13716886)

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.

Example use w/ NetBSD (-1, Offtopic)

hubertf (124995) | more than 8 years ago | (#13717119)

``Richard Rauch is doing a radio show on human rights, and he's using NetBSD to prepare the show: post-processing interviews, improving overall sound quality, adding music, etc. See his first, more general, and second, more detailed, posting to the netbsd-advocacy list. '' [see my blog entry [feyrer.de] for more]

Start with the network (2, Informative)

crstophr (529410) | more than 8 years ago | (#13717255)

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

Re:Start with the network (2, Interesting)

anticypher (48312) | more than 8 years ago | (#13717871)

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 connection between two ports, you will see drop and loss problems on all the remaining ports. Avoid these cheap switches at all costs, they will only cause you headaches down the road. Certainly avoid the no-name ones that look just like major name brand models, because they are the brand name models which have a problem (or several) and thus are rebadged and sold for cheaper. Even if you can get a warantee replacement when it dies in a few weeks, the replacement will also have a fault.

The best bet for cheap used switches right now is Foundry. There are tons of used Foundry WorkGroupServers on eBay and sitting around used kit warehouses. I've seen people pick them up for under $100. With the latest firmware (i.e. from 2001), they'll do vlans, rate-limiting per port, and can support multiple, simultaneous, 100Mbps streams. Plus they have SNMP support, so you can set up MRTG or cacti and watch how much bandwidth each machine is using.

Don't skimp on the network switch or the cabling, you'll only look bad when it all goes wrong (which Murphy says will be at the worst possible moment, but you know that by now or will learn the hard way soon enough :-)

the AC

Re:Start with the network (2, Insightful)

Jjeff1 (636051) | more than 8 years ago | (#13718965)

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 actually be using.
Additionally, if you're staying with 98 on these machines, consider something like deepfreeze and/or some strong administrative policies. The last thing you want is dead air while bonzi buddy is sending your credit card numbers to Russia.

Re:Start with the network (2, Informative)

lucm (889690) | more than 8 years ago | (#13719061)

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]

Re:Start with the network (2, Funny)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 8 years ago | (#13718056)

do they still sell hubs?

Nope.
Then again, they don't sell Windows 98 machines anymore either.

Re:Start with the network (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13733894)

Get a 16 port 10/100 Ethernet SWITCH (not hub... do they still sell hubs?)

Of course they do. It's just that these days they are all switching hubs. "Hub" just means it's a device that all the lines radiate out from. It does not inherently mean that all traffic is repeated on all lines.

Before you try being pedantic about terminology, make sure you understand it yourself.

Comments from Similar Situation (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

So, let me get this straight (2, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#13717449)

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.

Re:So, let me get this straight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13717823)

Very helpful. Maybe I'm short on details because I HAVE LIMITED SPACE TO DESCRIBE THE PROBLEM.

Yes, the two PCs are hooked up to the broadcasting equipment, one in the production room, one in the main studio. No, I don't mean a complex stream, I mean having a WAV buffer correctly over a network. No, I do not feel any responsibility to push a tech solution, as I stated in the summary, I WAS ASKED TO help with their intent to install a network. No, we are not putting the entire library on two win98 PCs, that would be STUPID. No, the PCs aren't hooked up to the internet as THAT WOULD BE STUPID.

Jesus fucking christ. Don't assume everyone is an idiot just because you think you're God.

Thanks for the help... really.

Re:So, let me get this straight (2, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#13720901)

Dude -- You're the one looking for free network design advice.

The first rule of asking for free technical help is do your homework. The second rule is to describe your problem precisely. The third rule is to have a thick skin.

If you do those three things, you can get your free advice. It's rather presumptious of you to expect to get professionally valuable advice if you don't do those things.

If you get off your high horse, you'll see I'm trying to be helpful here, which I have no obligation to do. Nor do I have an obligation to be nice, the way I would for a paying client. By in large, being nice gets in the way of being helpful. I'm telling you to do your homework first.

Re:So, let me get this straight (1)

BushCheney08 (917605) | more than 8 years ago | (#13721735)

Wow! Assuming you are the original poster, YOU ARE A COMPLETE ASS! You don't provide information, then jump down other people's throats when they make assumptions which are totally reasonable considering you're asking such a basic question overall. Quite honestly, you don't deserve any help from these people. Be grateful you're getting advice at all.

Re:So, let me get this straight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13723734)

I think that the parent is not the original poster. Why would he not post a reply signed in?

Re:So, let me get this straight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13717955)

I'd just like to add that the Internet Stream (RealAudio and Shoutcast) are isolated from the network... so no need to worry there. It wasn't my idea, but the source for the stream is a actually a radio set up beside the transmitter. Low-tech, yes, but functional as hell. We haven't had a net-stream issue since they've been up.

Right now, the switch idea seems to be the cheapest and most appropriate for my problem. The paid tech guy will understand it and be able to monitor it when I'm gone.

Oh, and for those who want more info:
- I haven't been given permission to tweak/change our media software, so buffering on the broadcasting PCs is always going to be shitty.
- The network will not be connected to the internet. Not directly anyway. Some of the PCs on it will have seperate network cards granting them access to the internet via the university's connection.
- We can't upgrade the machines, or the licenses, or install a central server. It breaks down to this:
    - Our budget is too tight.
    - The current paid tech guy is opposed to major changes. He's not very up to date on modern technology, and is very protective of the station he's been working with for about 20 years. I know, it sucks, but it's what I have to work with.
    - The station management would not want to ask the university for more modern licenses because the university is currently looking for any reason to shut down the station.
    - In general, the solution needs to be simple so I can show the current station staff how to use it.

Thanks for the help guys

Re:So, let me get this straight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13721281)

Welcome to the real world. "Fix it and make it better, but don't change a thing!" : p

Okay, here's what I'd do. (2, Insightful)

Tuxedo Jack (648130) | more than 8 years ago | (#13717530)

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?

Re:Okay, here's what I'd do. (1)

BKX (5066) | more than 8 years ago | (#13718922)

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 whatever, but altogether they can only handle some lower than expected bandwidth. For example, port1 can talk to port2 at 1000Mbit/s but if port3 talks to port4 at the same time then both conversations may only take place at 500Mbit/s each. Imagine having one of cheapasses as a 20-port with all twenty in use at the same time.

For a 20-port Gigabit worth it's salt expect to pay at least $300. For an 8-port pay at least $125. For cards, you should be able to get away with about $15. Even if you find ISA and have ISA in your Win98 PCs, go with PCI; you'll notice the difference. If you have PCIe available, use it; you'll notice the difference. (Your Win98's won't have it, but new PCs will.) If you don't skimp out and go gigabit, you will mare bandwidth than you can handle. If you're going to skimp out (Don't, you WILL regret it.), you may as well get a 10baseT hub and bulk 10baseT cards. It'll give you the same performance as the cheapass gigabits.

As far as QoS, if you get a decent switch, it'll have it built in. Just read up on it. But with Gigabit, I doubt you'll need it.

If he was talking about streaming to a boatlaod of people then some type of multicast is in order. That will save mega bandwidth. I'm not much of an expert in multicast and I'm not sure what the questioner wants his streams to do but it sounds like he wants to stream to many people on the college network. Multicast will be a must.

LTSP (1)

jbrax (315669) | more than 8 years ago | (#13717667)

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).

Think ahead. (1)

Takeel (155086) | more than 8 years ago | (#13717693)

Who's going to manage it when you're gone?

not cheaply possible, probably... (2, Informative)

Malor (3658) | more than 8 years ago | (#13717919)

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.)

Upgrade them PCs & 2 networks (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 8 years ago | (#13718232)

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 few more to students via a PC repair shop on campus for the same price. Currently they are Dell GX150s with Win2k licenses/media included.

I'll get slaughtered for this... (1)

slasher999 (513533) | more than 8 years ago | (#13718692)

...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.

Re:I'll get slaughtered for this... (1)

rzebram (828885) | more than 8 years ago | (#13719563)

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.

Re:I'll get slaughtered for this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13723411)

I get the concept of hubs sending packets to all attached machines, but how would you get the machines who the packets were not meant for to accept them? Wouldn't they reject them on the mac level?

First Dump Windows (1)

Bruha (412869) | more than 8 years ago | (#13718825)

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.

Helix + Linux + 8 port 10/100 switch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13719415)

I'm doing a similar sort of project at work
Get a good 10/100 switch from whoever. If you feel the need, put some extra ethernet cards in your two main boxes (get the $10 ones instead of the $5). Think about upgrading them in the future too... Anything running Win98 isn't really meant for 24/7 audio streaming, and will probably cause headaches in the near future.
Next, check out http://www.helixcommunity.org/ [helixcommunity.org] Helix. It runs on Linux, Solaris (that's free now too!) and even Windows (really only server 2003 only though). I'm not totally convinced Real is totally evil, and odds are people will already have the client installed so they can listen online while they're stuck in the basement lab.
Finally, move as many computers to Linux or Solaris as you can. I'd recommend Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora Core, OpenSUSE or OpenSolaris. Whatever you're more comfortable with, but still easy to maintain for the next person. My experience has been that they are all easier to install and maintain than Windows.

Re:Helix + Linux + 8 port 10/100 switch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13721846)

Yes!

Helix streams just about anything (you don't need to use Real), so its pretty fantastic. Setup the computer that streams to the radio equipment as a client (I'm assuming that you just use the 3.5mm port on the back).

It also gives you the same quality as an uncompressed WAV without the bandwidth. At 112kbps, you should be able to stream to over 600 clients without a problem, and still do the "on air" thing.

In the future, I think I'd do some fundraising and buy a Mac or two. In the mean time though, Helix on an open platform with a good switch.

Traffic Policing (1)

LordMyren (15499) | more than 8 years ago | (#13719597)

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 gateway- very clean, probably the way to go but you still have to mangle whatever netmask the actual DHCP srever is providing. Details details. Basically get all traffic going through the linux box. I suggest just using an internal DHCP network, its the simplest most exandable.

Then just setup traffic policing. Cap all connections to like 50% of the 100bt's TESTED capbilities except for the couple ports doing streaming. Dead fsckign simple QoS stuff, just a Token Bucket Filter. Traffic policing is also known as Ingress queueing, and is made possible by Intermediate queueing devices (IMQ).

Basically the Linux Advanced Routing and Traffic Control HOWTO will become your new bible. It has everything you need.

Now that I think about it, I dont suppose theres any reason you couldnt just do packet queueing/egress filtering too once you get the linux system acting as a router.

Bullshit Bingo (1)

lucm (889690) | more than 8 years ago | (#13719862)

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.

Re:Traffic Policing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13719924)

Now that I think about it, I dont suppose theres any reason you couldnt just do packet queueing/egress filtering too once you get the linux system acting as a router.

I agree, instead he should do something that is related to what he wants to achieve. Or minimally he could try something that makes sense.

By the way, your typing is very bad and I strongly suspect that apart from living in a fantasy world where you are Andrew Tannenbaum you have a severe case of dyslexia. But that is just my opinion, I hope you won't get pissed and retaliate by coming to my workplace and "mangle" me and/or my packets.

Seriously pal, you just made my day.

Re:Traffic Policing (1)

rabbit994 (686936) | more than 8 years ago | (#13724629)

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.

Re:Traffic Policing (1)

LordMyren (15499) | more than 8 years ago | (#13725706)

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 underbuffering, there's a good chance of under run on gigabit too.

QoS is the only acceptable solution for a radio station. If you have to find two boxes on the street for absolute redunancy, go for it. Get redunant $5 switches too. While you are at it, the most likely thing to fail will be the hard drive; if you need bullet proof do netboot to hard drive less routers or use one of the distro's on floppy or distro on cd's. There are some good distro's made explicitly for routing for this very purpose.

Really, the big problem with this is that if you are on a switch all packets now have to flow through the single box. In effect, its much like running a full duplex hub from there since all communication is flowing through the single point.

That aside, I'd like to thank you for at least providing a valid argument against my post. The other two people who replied were a bit more challeneged. I like to think I at least made some sense. Aside from DHCP relays I dont think anything I mentioned wasnt straight out of LARTC [lartc.org] . And you do have an excellent point that should definately be taken into consideration.

Managed switch arrangement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13719916)

By the sound of it, the transfer needs aren't extraordinary, the most important thing would be to ensure the wav streams from the win98 systems will not be disrupted by other activity on the little network.

I would suggest a run of Cat5e or better cabling from each machine to a central wiring area. Design to have a quality network card capable of at least 100BaseT on each machine.

If an old machine already has one, then it would be best indicate to at least check it to assure that each is indeed a Fast Ethernet card, one of good quality, and working in good condition, without generating any spurious electrical noise on the network, and network wires to be carefully tested too (any noise on a wire would negatively impact performance).

At the central area, each wire would normally terminate at a patch panel, from here, place a high quality switch -- because if something goes wrong with this device, then the whole network feels it.

If this network is to be connected to the internet, then the central area would also be the place to plan to have that equipment -- or if not suitable, to run an uplink wire from here to the internet connection point.

QoS is a good idea -- one possibility would to make the switch used a layer 3 switch with features such as bandwidth limiting and QoS support, which is a good choice if you can identify which systems are generating the streams, and prioritize that protocol associated with the streaming, but this could be rather expensive.

On the other hand, by using a switch -- the only possibility of the streaming output being disrupted is if the large file transfer between a machine receiving the wav and another machine, the possibility is fairly the small, and the network may not even be the primary concern here.

If these Windows '98 PCs are older machines, then the hardware should be examined to determine if it will be adequate to both stream and transfer large files at the same time.

What software will be used to stream the files, and what else the PCs will do are important factors.

Windows '98 is not among the most stable Operating Systems out there either, so it may be an exceedingly bad choice if the audio can't be disrupted

If you can, separate playout and office networks (1)

haplesspuppeteer (752551) | more than 8 years ago | (#13720384)

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 we didn't always want to route IPX on our office segments. This notwithstanding, it'll still improve reliability of your audio playout infrastructure.

As other posters have pointed out, a 100Mbps switch will be more than adequate for pulling linear 16bit 44.1kHz WAV data from machine to machine.

haha (1)

Danzigism (881294) | more than 8 years ago | (#13720537)

geeesh you guys are much friendlier than #linux

How about a second subnet? (1)

stan_freedom (454935) | more than 8 years ago | (#13720978)

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.

bandwidth (1)

dwater (72834) | more than 8 years ago | (#13721432)

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).

Radio stream (1)

bobwood11528 (921033) | more than 8 years ago | (#13742793)

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, and that's why I suggest a nice letter or call to these folks. It should be a tax write off to them.
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