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The Pit BLOG

August 2006

The Need for Speed

Hello, my name's Rob and I'm a speedaholic. I am addicted to bandwith. The fatter and faster my pipe to the internet, the better I feel about myself. Me and my internet connection are inextricably linked at the hip for better and worse. As soon as my bandwidth provider has a higher speed, I am always among the first to purchase the faster service. Right now, I have 8000 kbps in the United States and 2000 kbps in Brazil. But the future is even more exciting! One day soon we will be downloading at 50,000 kbps.

As our research suggests, the internet keeps getting faster! With this increased bandwidth enables us to do more and more powerful things. Only 7 years ago, no one would have dreamed that a web site like iTunes or allofmp3.com could exist. Now web sites like youtube are doing the same for video. Imagine the possibilities when we can download a whole feature movie in a little over 10 minutes! Not some grainy Divx version of the movie, but DVD quality.

Being a bandwidth junkie, I thought I would share a few tips on understanding your internet performance.

Download speed is king. Your rated speed from your internet provider is the theoretical maximum speed that you can download information from the internet. Strangely enough, most new PC's are not optimized for fast internet connections. In fact, most PC's are still tuned for a dial up connection. In order to get the close to your maximum performance, you have to tweak your internet settings. I always use PC Pitstop Optimize, since I don't like fiddling with the registry. This is no small tweak, you can get up to twice the download speed by making these adjustments.

Download speed changes. Your download speed changes day to day, hour to hour. Depending on your type of internet connection, your speed increases and decreases depending if your neighbors are also using their connections. That's why I run our download bandwidth tests frequently. Each visit, I run the tests at least twice since there are sometimes large fluctuations between tests. It is so important to make sure your bandwidth is there when you need it.

In Brazil, my bandwidth at times goes down as low as 50 kbps! The internet still works, but it brings my Vonage connection to its knees. The phone will ring, but the voices on the other end sound like they are in an electrical storm. I would imagine that Skype users would have the same problem.

Don't forget to check your upload speed. Typical internet users download about 1000 times as much information than they upload, therefore upload speed has little impact on your average web surfer. However, upload speed plays a critical role in next generation internet applications.

A great example is my Slingbox. This nifty device enables me to watch American TV in Brazil. In the United States, I connect my Slingbox to my Dish Networks satellite dish, and then to my internet connection. Voila. I can watch American satellite TV in Brazil on my PC. It's great in theory, but this product is very dependent on your internet speeds. In particular, my upload speed in the United States determines the picture quality I receive in Brazil.

Vonage also uploads as much data as it downloads. Frequently, I am talking on the phone and then I send that person an email attachment. Usually, we can not talk during that time because of the limitations of my upload bandwidth in Brazil. Just like download bandwidth, your upload bandwidth varies considerably day to day. So I always run the upload test before I begin each day.

Ping Times Matter. They are called ping times or sometimes referred to as latency. Ping times measure the amount of time it takes to send a small piece of information from your computer to a server and back again. Ping times are the reason you should avoid satellite internet connections when possible. Satellite connections have slower ping times than a dial up connection since your information has to be sent to a satellite around the world and back down again.

Ping times are important due to online gamers because they are sending tons of pieces of small information back and forth every second. The slower the ping times the slower your game appears. It is also important to people accessing far away internet sites. I run our ping tests about once a week to keep things on an even keel.

The First Step Being a speedaholic is a never ending battle. I use the PC Pitstop bandwidth tests at least once a day. I believe there is a 12 step process to recovery. The first step is admitting that I have a problem and realizing that I am powerless to fix it. Writing this article has been very good therapy for me.

Rob

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