Last month, I finally decided to upgrade my old Celeron 550-based home server to a modern system, and found a pretty sweet Core 2 Duo-based system from Compaq available for just under $300 CDN as a factory refurbished unit. I quickly unpacked it, put Debian Lenny on it (Sarge was a bit too old to recognise some of the hardware, particularly the built-in network adaptor), and copied all the data from the old file server. It's most compute-intensive task is to run pyTivo, and moving from a 550Mhz system with 256MB RAM up to a C2D at 2.xGhz with 2GB RAM was a huge improvement -- we went from about 4fps up to about 60fps (at which point it would pretty much saturate the 100Mbps network connection). It was beautiful to behold.
Last week, after three weeks of flawless operation, I started getting a huge pile of network timeouts, and ultra-slow transfers from the new server. Slower than the old Celeron 550Mhz box it replaced. An order of magnitude slower. So I decided to do some simple diagnostics. In the end, it turned out there were two independent failures in two different pieces of hardware: firstly, the hard drive in the new server was crapping out already. More insidious however, and the actual cause of the slowdown I was trying to diagnose, is that my old 100Mbps switch appears to be having significant problems.
This switch was what most of our wired network devices are plugged into. We have a Tivo, and Playstation 2, the file server, and two Vonage phone adaptors wired into the network, and usually try to have one spare cable for times when the wireless network in our building goes crazy, and we need to plug one of the laptops in. This, of course, is more plugs than the 5-port switch could handle, so we also have an old LinkSys BEFSR41 router, set to switch mode plugged into the switch to offer yet more ports.
The new server is in getting its drive replaced (I wanted an empty drive, but they absolutely insist on putting Vista on it, even though the first thing I'm going to do is reformat/repartition it). As for the networking problem, I decided to leapfrog the issue altogether. The whole reason for having the 5-port switch was because our main routing device is an 802.11g version of the Apple Airport Extreme, which only has one ethernet LAN port on it. So, in an attempt to be a bit more forward-thinking (not to mention allowing me to use 802.11a or 802.11n to hopefully bypass the problem we have with too many wireless devices in other units in our part of the building -- I can usually see at least 12 other SSIDs from our unit), I bought a new Apple Airport Extreme, 802.11n edition, which comes with four built-in gigabit ethernet ports.
Now unfortunately, between our old 802.11g-based Airport Express and my wifes 802.11g-based PowerBook, I probably won't get to take advantage of the 11n speeds all that often. I'm willing to live with that for now. However, the possibility of some really fast transfers on the wired portion of the network by adding a gigabit ethernet adaptor to the server once it's back from being repaired would be fantastic.
My current plan is to continue to use the BEFSR41 as a switch/hub for those devices which are only ever going to be 100Base-TX, such as the PS2 the Tivo, and the Vonage boxes (which will fill it up right there), and other than the BEFSR41 itself, use the Airport Extreme's ports for Gigabit enabled devices (the fileserver, once so equipped, and the spare cable for my MacBook and work MacBook Pro when I bring it home). All of which hinges on finding a good Gigabit adaptor for the fileserver.
Any recommendations on a good Gigabit card for running with Debian Lenny? The board has some free PCI Express x1 slots, and thus a card supporting this would be preferable. Any ideas?