Category Archives: Newsworthy

News in the technology world.

Reddit Deplatforms Popular Microsoft Software Swap Subreddit

As large social media platforms like Reddit grow subject to ever increasing scrutiny over the content posted by their users, it is becoming increasingly common for these platforms to remove entire communities over concerns about the content being shared and discussed there.

Last week, Reddit struck down /r/MicrosoftSoftwareSwap, a popular subreddit for buying and selling digital licenses to Microsoft products. The move coincided with the banning of a similar subreddit /r/MicrosoftServices and a number of the largest sellers on both subreddits.

/r/MicrosoftSoftwareSwap as archived by The Internet Archive in August 2022.

Officially, the reason for the ban as declared by Reddit, is because the subreddits were being used for spam.

What you will see today if you try to visit /r/MicrosoftSoftwareSwap

At first glance, this explanation might hold up under a strict interpretation of Reddit policies, since these subreddits frequently contained duplicates of the same post in order to keep the fresh and active sellers on the top of the listings.

However, the timing of the concurrent bans, after the subreddit operated undisturbed for nearly a decade, and conveniently leading up to Reddit’s anticipated stock IPO, leads some displaced community members to conclude that the move is really about distancing the platform from the activity on the subreddit, in order to avoid attracting unwanted attention from Microsoft, whose software’s EULA does not typically authorize this type of resale. The discounted prices offered by sellers on /r/MicrosoftSoftwareSwap likely also cut into Microsoft’s retail software business.

Sellers, and even operators of these subreddits, were unaware of the bans and unable to prepare for their sudden impact. One former /r/MicrosoftSoftwareSwap moderator, going by the Reddit username s5ean, had been selling product keys on the subreddit for almost a decade, accumulating a large base of both repeat and new customers. His livelihood was suddenly shut down on Reddit’s whim, leaving him scrambling to reconnect with past customers as his own Reddit accounts were being shut down as well.

S5ean, not deterred, created a Discord community, which he’s dubbed The New Microsoft Software Swap, where he hopes to gather together what’s left of his customer base as he figures out how to move forward from here. He plans to keep on selling his discounted licenses for Microsoft software as he works on finding new ways to reach customers.

If you are a displaced user from the /r/MicrosoftSoftwareSwap community who is looking to get in touch with S5ean, his Discord can be found here: https://discord.gg/vUa8ngTGpy

S5ean’s post from September 2022 reflecting his software prices – as would be live on /r/MicrosoftSoftwareSwap if it were still around.

Comcast Upgrades Gigabit Pro from 3Gbps to 6Gbps!

Seems like I just wrote one of these articles, doesn’t it? It was only back in September 2021 when my Gigabit Pro connection received an upgrade from 2Gbps to 3Gbps, now, Comcast has officially bumped all Gigabit Pro customers up to 6Gbps!

Once I began hearing more rumors on Reddit, I investigated and found that Comcast’s support articles had been quietly upgraded to indicate that all Gigabit Pro customers would receive an upgrade to 6Gbps.

Since late last year, I have enjoyed speeds of “3Gbps+1Gbps” on my two handoffs. The service provides a 2Gbps fiber hand-off (10G fiber, rate limited to 3G), and a 1Gbps ethernet hand-off. Both circuits were able to be used simultaneously, as I demonstrated briefly at the end of my installation article.

With the upgrade in place, I now seem to have a “6Gbps+1Gbps” symmetrical service!

It’s genuinely hard to find a speedtest.net server that can do this connection justice. This test was run to Comcast’s own speedtest server.

I wanted to see if the 10% over-provisioning typical of Comcast’s fiber in the past was still in effect, speedtest.net seemed to top out for me at around 6200Mbps, but I was occasionally seeing some higher numbers on my router.

I set out to test the connection more thoroughly, which was not an easy task. I used multi-gig servers from 4 different datacenter locations to complete some iperf tests.

I was having some trouble getting the inbound and outbound maxed out at the same time, so for the sake of the most accurate test of “what is the rate limiting set to?”, I decided to test both directions of traffic flow separately.

Transmitting at full speed on both lines does indicate a 10% over-provisioning, and the ability to use both uplinks simultaneously for a total throughput of around 7Gbps.
Throughput during the test is a bit inconsistent, but this is likely just due to how difficult this test is to run. A lot of factors on the outside Internet make achieving this speed all the time difficult.
Receiving at full speed on both lines also works as expected, although for me, the receive test was a bit less consistent and harder to keep the bandwidth at expected levels. This is again most likely due to external factors, not how Comcast is rate limiting the connection.
You can see here that throughput during this test is a lot more inconsistent, even on the gigabit uplink, which is likely indicating some congestion coming from my test servers more than anything else.

Interestingly, in the tests you can see that the upload (TX) test was much more stable and consistent than the download (RX) test. It’s difficult to say for sure where the fluctuations are coming from, but the servers I was testing with or the networks they are connected to may have some capacity constraints. Datacenter traffic tends to be heavy outbound, so there is likely more free available inbound bandwidth at datacenters (for me to transmit to them), resulting in a smoother test.

I may re-conduct these tests again in the future if I gain access to faster servers to test with. For the time being, the results are still very impressive, and I have to comment Comcast for pushing the envelope with this, even though I suspect the only reason they did it is to give a petty jab at AT&T who just rolled out a 5Gbps residential fiber plan themselves.

In any case, I look forward to never maxing this connection out except when trying to stress test and speed test! ūüėČ Even the 3Gbps connection was basically impossible to fully utilize given the limitations of the servers you’re connecting to.

6Gbps is even pushing the limitations of a lot of common computer hardware (like SATA III disk drives which have a 6Gbps interface speed). It’s crazy to think that my Internet connection is capable of transferring data faster than most consumers currently are able to read\write data to a SATA SSD.

It will definitely be a long time before these speeds are needed by any residential customer, but I’m still quite pleased to have them now!

Comcast Upgrades Gigabit Pro from 2Gbps to 3Gbps!

I have been a satisfied Comcast Gigabit Pro customer for almost two years now, since my original installation in November 2019. Although the price tag is high, I have always felt that the exceptionally perfect service quality I get in return is well worth the price. Now, it seems I have even more to be excited about!

Comcast does have a history of upgrading service tiers, such as earlier this year when they universally converted the 1Gbps (1.2Gbps provisioned) cable service to a 1.2Gbps (1.4Gbps provisioned) cable service. However, it was unclear if and when an upgrade for Gigabit Pro might follow.

It all started last month with some rumors on Reddit that Comcast would be upping the speed of Gigabit Pro, adding an additional gigabit of capacity to the fiber hand-off.

Up to this point, Gigabit Pro service has sort of been a “2Gbps+1Gbps” symmetrical service. The service provides a 2Gbps fiber hand-off (10G fiber, rate limited to 2G), and a 1Gbps ethernet hand-off. Both circuits were able to be used simultaneously, as I demonstrated briefly at the end of my installation article.

With the upgrade in place, I now have a “3Gbps+1Gbps” symmetrical service!

Speedtest.net test of the 3Gbps fiber hand-off.

I have tested and verified that both circuits are able to be used simultaneously, at full speed, for an extended time. A screenshot from my router follows:

IPERF load testing, with both circuits running at maximum capacity in both directions.

This testing was not perfect, I was testing to a single multi-gig cloud server at a single Internet provider. I have no doubt that this is the reason for the slight fluctuations in achieved throughput. It may also have fluctuated a bit since I was capping everything out in both directions, which may have caused some increased TCP ACK latency and may have degraded the performance slightly.

Regardless, I believe this demonstrates clearly the additional value provided by the Gigabit Pro service tier upgrade!

At the time of this writing, Comcast has not updated all of their marketing materials, and some markets (particularly Western US) may not receive this upgrade until October or November 2021. But, if you are a Gigabit Pro subscriber, rest assured that your upgrade should be coming soon! ūüôā

I hope that a price increase does not follow… but I am quite excited and pleased by my upgrade!

Update on 10/7/2021:

I finally received the official email from Comcast announcing my speed increase. ūüėõ

10Gbps Home Network Tour Video Follow-up!

Recently, I was contacted by Lon Seidman from Lon.TV on YouTube about my home network and my Gigabit Pro setup. He found me through my article here on Binary Impulse: What It Was Like Getting Comcast Gigabit Pro.

Interviewing with Lon was quite a fun experience, and I enjoyed the opportunity to both show off my setup and talk shop with him, as a prospective Gigabit Pro customer himself who is just at the start of his journey.

Not too long ago, I posted an article entitled 10Gbps Home Network Tour, detailing my setup behind the scenes and going into detail about the equipment I am running on my home network, in my home lab, and how I am taking advantage of Comcast’s multi-gigabit Internet service.

The video with Lon is a great follow-up to this post, as I got to show on video and talk about aspects of my setup that would have been too in-depth for the scope of that post, so I wanted to post it here for anyone who might stumble on my blog and maybe did not see the YouTube video. If you enjoyed my network tour article, are curious about Gigabit Pro, or just like looking at other people’s networks, then this is well worth a watch!

Digital Signage with a Raspberry Pi and Google Slides

I have been looking at an easier way to Digital Signage and I just got my first Raspberry Pi.  I figured the low and High def inputs would allow me to strap a rPi on the back of a TV and provide rich content.

I am looking for a opensource, free/very low cost solution that is easy to manage and simple for the people updating it.  I foresee about 10 devices in my future.

I did a lot of reading and found that there are plenty of projects out there already that enable digital signage for the rPi.  I found this site and started down the list.

I tried a few applications and liked Screenly the best.  It is simple, performs well, and overall just works.  See their online demo for their interface. They provide their own rPi image or allow installation onto raspbian if you want to further customize it.  SSH is available on the Screenly image out of the box.  Screenly allows web pages, images, and videos (MP4) to be streamed to the rPi which gives me plenty of flexibility to mix and match what I like.  They have 2 versions; a centrally managed model or a free, per device management model.

My immediate thoughts were to convert our ancient overused powerpoint into something more rich, but to get users to buy into this solution I would first convert them over to Google Slides which would provide an easy to use, collaborative, updating presentation to all devices without actually touching any of the devices.

I created a simple Google Slide presentation with four or five slides and random comments on it.  I followed these instructions to make it automatically full-screen and play right in the browser.  I took that link and threw it right into Screenly-OSE and viola!

Caveats…

  • Google sets a single time for all slides… ¬†Therefore you cannot make one slide longer than the others (as far as I can tell). ¬†Transitions can be set differently though.
    • You could leverage second presentation and set the delay longer, or use the Screenly interface to get more specific in necessary.
  • One issue I ran into was that if you have Google loop the presentation rather than Screenly, the content never updates. ¬†Obviously this defeats the purpose of using Google Slides in the first place. ¬†Let Google finish the presentation and let Screenly reload the presentation and it will be fairly straightforward.
    • Related to the above post, then timing becomes an issue. ¬†Some simple math should work to fix that though.
      • 5 seconds a slide (as per when publishing within Google) plus 3 seconds for transition time (as set in presentation) times 5 (number of slides) should come out to be about 40 seconds. ¬†Tweak as needed.

Things to investigate:

It appears the database being used is simply for the ‘Playlist’. ¬†I would imagine that the application would refresh the playlist frequently. ¬†That being said, would placing the /home folder in a shared NFS location make management easier? ¬†This could also lessen the wear and tear of the SDcard. ¬†If all clients pointed back to this NFS share, would this update all of the clients or would this require a reboot/restart on the clients to apply any updates? ¬†I do not know how the software is triggered or written… So more experiments to come when I get more Pi’s!