[Cerowrt-devel] [Bloat] Comcast upped service levels -> WNDR3800 can't cope...

Jonathan Morton chromatix99 at gmail.com
Wed Sep 3 23:36:20 EDT 2014

On 4 Sep, 2014, at 3:33 am, Dave Taht wrote:

> Gigabit "routers", indeed, when only the switch is cable of that!

I have long thought that advertising regulators need to have a *lot* more teeth.  Right now, even when a decision comes down that an advert is blatantly misleading, all they can really do is say "please don't do it again".  Here's a reasonably typical example:


Many adverts and marketing techniques that I believe are misleading (at best) are never even considered by the regulators, probably because few people outside the technical community even understand that a problem exists, and those that do tend to seriously bungle the solution (not least because they get lobbied by the special interests).

It's bad enough that there's an ISO standard inexplicably defining a megabyte as 1,024,000 bytes, for storage-media purposes.  Yes, that's not a typo - it's 2^10 * 10^3.  That official standard supposedly justifies all those "1.44MB" floppy disks (with a raw unformatted capacity of 1440KB), and the "terabyte" hard disks that are actually a full 10% smaller than 2^40 bytes.  SSDs often use the "slack" between the definitions to implement the necessary error-correction and wear-levelling overhead without changing the marketable number (so 256GB of flash chips installed, 256GB capacity reported to the consumer, but there's a 7% difference between the two).

Honestly though, they can get away with calling them "gigabit routers" because they have "gigabit" external interfaces.  They can also point to all the PCI GigE NICs that can only do 750Mbps, because that's where the PCI bus saturates, but nobody prevents *them* from being labelled 1000base-T and therefore "gigabit ethernet".

It's worse in the wireless world because the headline rate is the maximum signalling rate under ideal conditions.  The actual throughput under typical home/office/conference conditions bears zero resemblance to that figure for any number of reasons, but even under ideal conditions the actual throughput is a surprisingly small fraction of the signalling rate.

Consumer reports type stuff could be interesting, though.  I haven't seen any of the big tech-review sites take on networking seriously, except for basic throughput checks on bare Ethernet (which mostly reveal whether a GigE chipset is attached via PCI or PCIe).  It's a complicated subject; Anandtech conceded that accurate tests of the KillerNIC's marketing claims were particularly difficult to arrange, but they did a lot of subjective testing in an attempt to compensate.

One could, in principle, give out a bronze award for equipment which fails to meet (the spirit of) its marketing claims, but is still useful in the real world.  A silver award for equipment which *does* meet its marketing claims and generally works as it should.  A gold award would be reserved for equipment which both merits a silver award and genuinely stands out in the market.  And at the opposite end of the scale, a "rusty pipe" award for truly excrable efforts, similar to LowEndMac's "Road Apple" award.  All protected by copyright and trademark laws, which are rather easier to enforce in a legally binding manner than advertising regulations.

Incidentally, for those amused (or frustrated) by embedded hardware design decisions, the "Road Apple" awards list is well worth a read - and potentially eye-opening.  Watch out for the PowerPC Mac with dual 16-bit I/O buses.

 - Jonathan Morton

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