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For Christmas I received a Squeezebox Radio which I have happily been using ever since. When I reviewed it I didn’t have my power meter, so I was not able to measure the power consumption. Now that I have located the power meter it is time for an update.

The measurements show that the radio has a background consumption of between 2W and 3W. This level of consumption seems to be mostly independent of activity, with no measurable difference between standby or active, stopped or playing. This is true for volumes up to around 75%, but above that volume the consumption increases rapidly up to about 6W or 7W at full volume.

When the radio is turned off, the consumption drops to an unmeasurable level.

I did measure consumption of up to 10W when the integral batteries were being charged, which indicates a substantial amount of power going into the batteries.

Overall it’s a pretty good level of power consumption, and is lower than the consumption of my other squeezeboxes.

A while ago I migrated our wireless LAN to a ZyXEL NWA-1100-N access point powered by a Planet POE-152 power over ethernet injector. This solution is working well but at the time I reviewed it I couldn’t find my power meter so couldn’t measure the power consumption. I’ve now found the meter, so it’s time for an update.

My previous router/access point was a D-Link DIR-655 Xtreme N device, which is claimed to be very power efficient, but D-Link never actually quote a consumption figure, which is usually a bad sign. Measurements show that the D-Link router/access point consumes approximately 6W when booted with factory default settings, including the wireless being active, which is quite a respectable figure.

In a similar idle state, the ZyXEL device consumes around 5W when using the Planet POE injector and the supply adaptor provided for it. The datasheet claims a maximum consumption of 10W over PoE, but this will be dependent on the amount of traffic that is going over the wireless (see later). However, in my domestic environment, the WiFi will only be used for mobile devices which are unlikely to sustain very high data rates for ay length of time. Consequently, the idle scenario is probably close to the average usage conditions, and the idle power consumption is the most important.

When using the supplied ZyXEL power supply, the consumption dropped to about 4W when idle, so the PoE device, or it’s power supply, add an overhead of around 1W using a 5m long ethernet cable. The overhead might be slightly higher with a longer cable, but I don’t currently have one to try and the effect is probably negligible. Again, interesting but hardly significant in any real way.

To test the power consumption while the device is active, I copied a large file across the network to my laptop. This only uses a 802.11g wireless connection, so was achieving between 48mbps and 54mbps but delivered a steady bandwidth of about 16-18mbps (over ethernet the same file transfer achieves over 40mbps, so the wireless is the limiting factor). With just this link active, the power consumption went up to between 7W and 8W (the power meter resolution is only 1W and the display was flickering between the two figures). This makes it easy to see that a consumption of 10W (if not more) is easily possible when the access point is fully loaded. However, since the peak traffic won’t happen very often it’s really only for interest.

Overall, the ZyXEL NWA-1100-N access point power consumption is pretty reasonable and isn’t going to make a huge impact to our power bills for the foreseeable future. It continues to be highly recommended.

Now that I have migrated our house network to a ZyXEL NWA-1100-N wireless access point I wanted to relocate it in the house to improve coverage in a few areas.

Unfortunately, getting power to the access point while keeping it out of reach of the kids is easier said than done. However, the ZyXEL access point supports Power Over Ethernet, meaning that I just have to run a powered ethernet cable to the right place and there’s no need for a local power socket.

So, that’s the strategy, but how do I get the power onto the Ethernet cable safely? The answer is to use a POE injector.

For low speed connections, 100mbps and below, Ethernet only uses two of the four pairs of wires in each cable. As a result it is easy to use other two pairs for power. However, gigabit/1000base-t uses all four pairs and connecting 48V to a device that isn’t expecting it can be bad news. Consequently the POE injector needs to go through a discovery process to determine what is connected before applying the power to prevent the possibility of damage. This starts with a lower voltage being applied, followed by a negotiation phase where the device and injector negotiate on the available power before connecting the 48V. This protocol is covered in 802.11af and since the access point is gigabit then it is important to be compliant.

There are a limited number of gigabit compliant POE injectors and these are more expensive than those for 100base-t. This is probably due to the extra complexity of merging the signal and power onto the normally unused cable pairs.

The cheapest gigabit POE injector I could find was the Planet POE-152 from Taiwan, although even this was relatively expensive. This consists of two elements: a simple plug-in 48V power supply; and a small white plastic box, a little smaller than a pack of playing cards, to actually inject the power. The injector has a standard RJ45 connector for the unpowered connection to the rest of the network and another RJ45 on the other side for the cable to carry the signal and power to the target device. Finally there are two small LED on the device, one to indicate power is available and a second to indicate whether power is being supplied along the ethernet cable following negotiation.

Since my access point natively supports 802.11af, there is no need for any further hardware. The powered ethernet cable plugs in and the access point splits power and signal internally. The original access point power supply becomes redundant and goes back into the box for emergency use.

I wired them all up and everything just works with no problems or drama, and with the connection being maintained at 1000base-t. With a suitably long ethernet cable I now have the ability to easily try different locations in the house for the access point to maximise coverage.

On a mechanical note, the POE-152 does have a couple of small cutouts on the back to allow it to be wall mounted. These allow either horizontal or vertical alignment, with power and main network cable on the right or top respectively. Personally, I’d have preferred the power and network connection at the bottom but it’s not a big deal.

It is quite an expensive solution to the problem even if it does the job well and is relatively elegant. As a result, the Planet POE-152 gets a Recommended rating.

Shoe Goo Two

I recently wrote a review of Shoe Goo after using it to stick soles back to uppers on a pair of trainers.

I also had a pair of slippers where the sole was completely separated from the uppers for the length of the toes. I had just about given up on these and had briefly looked for some new ones. However, I thought I’d give the Shoe Goo a go to see if it worked.

In this case both the uppers and insoles needed to be stuck down. I applied a generous amount of glue on both sides, left it to go tacky and then pressed the sides together. For good measure I clamped them together for a couple of hours.

The glue seems to hold well, standing up to being worn a day later. After several days of wear, the slippers are still holding together well.

I had my doubts whether the glue would work for such a major repair but it is working as well as I can imagine.

This is truly a great product and is highly recommended.

Shoe Goo

In the summer I bought a couple of pairs of Merrell trainers (Sprint Blast and Striker Goal).

These have generally fared well but on the Striker Goal (which have seen more use) the sole is starting to separate from the upper at the side just where the shoe bends when crouching down (having young children seems to make you do this more than you’d expect).

I wanted to try to stem this problem before it got worse and following some recommendations on a completely unrelated forum, I decided to try out Shoe Goo. This is a high strength but flexible contact adhesive that is designed for this purpose, or for building up soles as repairs.

The product was easy to find on our most popular online auction site (as well as Amazon) and comes in two sizes (30ml and 110ml). I went for the larger size since it seemed better value for money, but it contains more glue than I’ll ever use and the smaller pack would have been fine. It’s also available in clear or black – I went for clear since the shoes are a light colour.

The glue is relatively easy to apply – I used a small piece of cardboard coated in glue to slide between the sole and upper. You’re supposed to keep the two surfaces apart while the glue becomes tacky, and then press them together. Keeping them apart was tricky, so I didn’t take it too seriously. After a couple of minutes I pressed the sole and uppers together and held it for a minute or two for them to bond, which they seemed to do well. Rubbing off the excess glue was also straightforward.

They quote up to 3 days to achieve full strength so I left them alone for a couple of days before wearing them. I’ve now been wearing them during the day for the best part of a week and the glue seems to be holding so far. It’s not as good a joint as the original, but this is probably down to my application rather than the product itself.

Overall, Shoe Goo is recommended.

ZyXEL ZyAssure

I recently bought and reviewed a ZyXEL NWA-1100-N wireless access point which has been performing very well.

When I bought it ZyXEL were offering next business day hardware replacement for 3 years for free. After purchase I had to send a few pieces of information to ZyXEL who then sent me back a license code for the ZyAssure cover a couple of days later.

A quick registration later and my Access Point is covered!

For some time I’ve been using a relatively good D-Link DIR-655 wireless router effectively as my wireless access point. However, there are places in the house that it just can’t reach. Part of this is because of its physical location which is dictated by the placement of my ADSL modem and switch and is not optimal for the building. Unfortunately, it’s configured in a way such that it needs a cable to the modem and a cable to my main switch as well as a power supply. The need for all three cables means that it is very hard to relocate to the ideal location.

Furthermore, we’re in the process of designing a new house, where I plan to simplify the network topology and wiring for the WiFi access point. I’ve decided to check the revised plan will work as expected before making decisions related to the design of the house that may be slightly painful to reverse later.

So, it was time to look for a new wireless access point. To keep it simple I want a pure access point – no ADSL modem, no DHCP server, no switch. It needs to support a variety of legacy devices as well as the very latest, so it needs to support B, G and N WiFi. I hope that one access point will form the basis of the WiFi support for the new house, but it will be a big house, and it is possible that one router might not be enough to cover it all. This is especially true if there ends up being foil covered insulation in the floors preventing signal propagation up and down floors. In this case I need an access point that will play nicely with additional access points to provide full building coverage.

To place the access point in the ideal location it would be easiest to have a single cable. This can be achieved using Power over Ethernet (PoE) where a DC power supply is transmitted down the Ethernet cable, meaning that just a single ethernet cable needs to be routed to the access point. There is no need for a local power socket, and this will help avoid the need for a power socket neer the access point in the new house, with it’s associated ugly wall wart. Native PoE support in the access point would also remove the need for a power splitter, again keeping the setup clutter free.

Finally, it would be nice to be able to setup a guest network with limited access to local resources for our visitors.

Devices that support all of these requirements tend to be professional quality devices, intended for use in offices and businesses. This is fine by me, although it does push the price up a little. Most of the mainstream professional networking companies have products in this market, but the most cost effective (by quite a long way) seems to be ZyXEL. After research I decided to go with their NWA-1100-N access point which provides all of the features, including native PoE support, that I was looking for at a reasonable price (for this class of product).

At the time I bought it, there was an offer including free 3 year next business day replacement from ZyXEL direct (I have applied for this support but I am waiting for the license to come through) which makes it worry free for the next 3 years at least.

My experiences with the router have generally been good. The web interface is simple, clear and uncluttered and extremely responsive (in fact so quick that I frequently need to double check that I actually clicked a button). Furthermore, none of the changes so far seem to require a reboot of the access point, which has not been the case with any other similar device I have ever owned. This makes setup and tweaking a doddle.

The wireless performance, even when in a non-optimal location, is also excellent – much better than the D-Link. In fact, it’s good enough that I can leave it where it is for now and still get a signal anywhere in the house! Using my new Squeezebox Radio as a signal strength device, it easily reaches the full length of our garden (around 35 metres or more each way) albeit with some degradation with more walls in the way. It is hindered by our hot water cylinder but unlike the D-Link it still just about manages to get a wireless signal to the other side.

Devices also seem much faster connecting to the ZyXEL than my old D-Link, leading to a much better user experience for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

I have had a couple of problems with legacy devices on a WEP network, where it won’t support shared and open authentication simultaneously, but a little thought and a second wireless virtual network on a newer encryption standard soon got around that problem.

There are still a few things I need to setup, like MAC filtering on the WEP network and the Guest network, and I haven’t got anywhere near using the full power of the access point, or trying to saturate the wireless network but so far the performance and functionality has been perfect.

The access point, therefore, comes extremely highly recommended.

Note – I have temporarily mislaid my plugin power meter, so I’m not able to check the power consumption. As soon as I find it again I’ll take some measurements and post an update.

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