Review: Netgear MCAB1001 MoCA Coax-Ethernet Adapter Kit

(Note: If you haven’t already, and are interested in some of the background of my needs and this testing, you should read my earlier review of powerline networking hardware)

So after the disappointment of the powerline networking experiment, I decided to give MoCA hardware a shot. If it performed as advertised, MoCA made sense in our house: There were already live cable drops in both the rooms in question, and the technology seemed far less jankier than powerline. So I ordered the Netgear MCAB1001 MoCA kit, which included two endpoints. This review will be much shorter than the last one.

I love this hardware. In fact, I really only have two gripes which I could think of:

  • The configuration utility is Windows only, and is basically required due to…
  • One of the endpoints was configured in “All Pass”, which lets MoCA overrun the frequencies used for television.  One of the reviewers on Amazon mentioned this as well, so I knew to look out for it.  Fortunately I was able to use the configuration utility in a virtual machine I already had lying around, so I wasn’t stuck.  But if you’re a non-Windows user, you’d be screwed as far as I can tell. (Update: See the comments for a non-windows way to accomplish this)

Installation of this hardware was as straightforward as the powerline hardware:  Hook up the endpoints and you’re live.  The endpoints even have a button which disables all of the front panel LEDs, which should be a feature on every piece of hardware.  Time to cut to the chase and get to the numbers:

milgrim$ time nc -v -v -n pbook 2222 < big-file.bin
Connection to pbook 2222 port [tcp/*] succeeded!
124.98 real         4.20 user        31.90 sys

(1,073,741,824 bytes) / (124.98 seconds) = 65.5464874 Mbps

Compared to the 15 Mbps I got from the powerline hardware, this was literally night and day.  And this was using the USB Ethernet adapter on my Air, so I doubt it’s fully flexing the bandwidth available.  Almost as important as the bandwidth (and the reason I sat on this review for awhile) is the reliability.  After I wrote the powerline review I learned that I was seeing all kinds of dropouts and failures.  But the MoCA hardware has been seemingly rock-solid. I’ve done many large data transfers over the link and seen no trouble whatsoever.

I’ve been so pleased with this gear, that I’ve considered getting a third endpoint to put in the basement and move some ‘headless’ hardware down there (cable modem, Slingbox, time capsule, etc), as it’d be really easy to run a Coax drop down there.  Actually, I think the only barrier to that right now is that all the power in the basement is on the common circuit of the house, so I’d have to install an outlet that comes off of our breaker panel.  Anyway, I’m rather pleased with this hardware, and if you have similar needs, you might want to give it a spin yourself.

Review: MacBook Air

My MacBook Air finally arrived on Friday, after more than three weeks of anxious anticipation. This machine is replacing my old 1.67Ghz Powerbook G4, which now belongs to . Now that each of us has our own Mac, we are freed from the scourge of Windows. Corinna was reluctant to “switch” while she was finishing her masters, fearing learning new shortcuts and whatnot would slow her down while working, but now that she can learn at a more leisurely pace, she doesn’t seem to mind. Just before Christmas, the boot disk in our PC died, and the frustration of getting that machine back in working order was finally the last straw. After the new year, I began posting the eyepieces I won at Stellafane to eBay to get the money for a new laptop.

I was interested in the Air from day one, but after they started showing up in the local Apple Stores and I actually got to play with one, it was game over. For me, the tradeoffs that most people see weren’t really existent… I walk to work as often as I can, so a lighter machine is a huge win. And most of the time, my old G4 was plenty fast, so the slightly slower processor in comparison to my work MacBook wasn’t really much of an issue either. The only thing that really concerned me was the slower rotational speed of the hard disk, but after playing with it in the store it didn’t seem to be much of an issue (not to mention that eventually there will be faster discs in that form factor that I can upgrade to in the future). I ended up ordering a 1.8Ghz machine (with a traditional hard disk).

The machine is simply awesome. When I’m holding it I feel like if I left go of it, if it didn’t hover in place it would at least gently float to the floor (I haven’t tested this out yet). As you’ve likely heard in just about every review of the machine, it feels way sturdier than you’d expect given it’s size and weight. I’d venture to say it even feels sturdier than my Powerbook, which always felt like a tank to me. I feel like I could drop it from the roof of NRH and still use it when it hit bottom (of course, the floating would help).

I read some reviews criticizing the battery life, and frankly, I just don’t see any problem. Sure, when I was downloading a 10GB file using the 802.11g, the battery life was shortened. But whenever I’m using the machine in a more normal setting, I get 3-3.5 hours out of the battery. I’m sure I could stretch it further if I disabled Bluetooth and WiFi, but whatever. As far as I can tell, it lasts longer than my Powerbook battery ever did.

The screen is gorgeous, even if it is glossy (why can’t you make the matte finish a BTO option on all the lines, Apple? I’d happily pay more!) The LCD backlighting is so bright at full brightness it is almost uncomfortable. I haven’t really trained myself to use the multi-touch stuff much at all, honestly, it seems mostly like a novelty. I’ve been wrong before, though, so I’m going to see if I can make it useful. My guess is that when a 3rd party releases a trainable gesture system, it might become more attractive. I just don’t zoom photos enough to get a semi over the pinching. :)

I haven’t played with Remote Disc… I bought the external drive, but honestly I probably won’t be using that all that much either. I’ve gotten to the point where optical discs are the new floppies. I pretty much buy all of my music and software online these days, so it’s pretty rare that I need an optical drive. The only time I watch movies on a computer is when traveling, and I always ripped DVD’s to the hard disk for travel anyway (as the optical drive devours precious battery).

I don’t really have many gripes with this machine.. I seem to sometimes get a double login prompt when unlocking the machine, but I don’t know if that’s a Leopard problem or specific to this machine. It is also strange not hearing the optical drive initialize every time I wake it from sleep. It’s like trying to sleep in the country after living in a city, the silence is disconcerting. All in all, it’s pretty awesome.