How to save your broad­band band­width

WOR­RIED ABOUT EX­CESS US­AGE CHARGES? HERE’S HOW YOU CAN DEAL.

TechLife Australia - - WELCOME - [ NATHAN TAY­LOR ]

UN­FOR­TU­NATELY, WE DON’T yet live in an era of uni­ver­sal un­lim­ited band­width. Sure, some land­line broad­band plans have un­lim­ited data, but mo­bile data is still very re­stricted, and many other broad­band plans still have caps ap­plied to their data.

If go­ing over your limit is a real threat, then there are some pretty ba­sic things you can do that will mas­sively cut down on your broad­band us­age. The big­gest cul­prit is al­most al­ways stream­ing video, with BitTor­rent com­ing in a close sec­ond. This month, we’re go­ing to look at how you can shave data us­age off those ser­vices.

ON YOUTUBE

By de­fault, YouTube videos will go to the high­est res­o­lu­tion that your band­width can sup­port — of­ten 1080p — which sucks down huge amounts of data. If you drop back to 480p, you can ac­tu­ally re­duce data us­age by about two-thirds. For ex­am­ple, a 60MB video will drop to about 20MB, but will still be em­i­nently view­able.

To do this while watch­ing a video, click or tap on the set­tings icon, then switch the res­o­lu­tion from ‘Auto’ to 480p.

Un­for­tu­nately, YouTube has re­moved the abil­ity to se­lect res­o­lu­tion au­to­mat­i­cally, so you have to do that ev­ery time you watch. Thank­fully, there is a so­lu­tion in the form of browser add-ons called Auto HD for YouTube (in the Chrome Web Store) and YouTube High-Def­i­ni­tion (on Firefox’s Add-ons). These add-ons let you se­lect a pre­ferred YouTube de­fault res­o­lu­tion for all videos.

ON NET­FLIX

Like YouTube, Net­flix de­faults to the high­est res­o­lu­tion avail­able. At 1080p, that works out to about 3GB per hour, and at UHD it’s 7GB per hour. So you can see that bing­ing eight sea­sons of Gil­more Girls in Ful­lHD can re­ally gut your band­width (we did the maths — by our reckoning, it would work out to about 350GB of data to watch all of Gil­more Girls in 1080p).

If you drop back to medium set­tings, how­ever, the data rate drops to about 0.7GB per hour. That’s still DVD-qual­ity. And you can set it to de­fault to that rate in the ac­count set­tings. Each user can have dif­fer­ent de­fault set­tings, too (so you might want to set it just for the kids).

To set it, log onto Net­flix in a web browser, then choose a profile. Mouse over the user name on the top right, then se­lect Ac­count. Un­der Profile, you’ll see an op­tion called ‘Play­back set­tings’. Click on it and se­lect Medium and save.

ON BITTOR­RENT

BitTor­rent can also be a ma­jor band­width sucker. Obviously, a down­load can’t use less data than the size of the file you’re down­load­ing, but you can limit the amount of data it up­loads. You can also stop it from con­tin­u­ing to up­load once the down­load com­pletes.

In μTor­rent, click on the gear icon to bring up Pref­er­ences. The first thing we want to do is limit the up­load rate. Click on Band­width, and in the box for Global Up­load Rate lim­it­ing, set a num­ber that you think is rea­son­able given your in­ter­net con­nec­tion’s up­load speed. We wouldn’t go less than 20KB/s, since that might cause your down­loads to have se­ri­ous prob­lems, but on a ser­vice with 1Mbps up­loads (like most ADSL ser­vices), 40–100KB/s is rea­son­able.

Now we want to stop μTor­rent from con­tin­u­ing to up­load once a Tor­rent is done.

Click on Queue­ing. Change the Seed­ing goal min­i­mum ra­tio to 10% or 20%. Then check the box that says ‘When μTor­rent Reaches the Seed­ing Goal Limit the up­load rate to:’, and make sure that the box says 0.

This means that, when the tor­rent is done down­load­ing, it will con­tinue up­load­ing only un­til the seed­ing goal (for ex­am­ple, 10% of the down­load file size) is reached. More of­ten than not, a tor­rent will stop up­load­ing im­me­di­ately when it fin­ish­ing down­load­ing.

ON KIDS

Let’s face it, you’re not the ir­re­spon­si­ble one. The big­gest cul­prit in mas­sive broad­band ex­cess charges is nearly al­ways kids sit­ting and watch­ing Twitch and YouTube to all hours.

There are ways to stop them. For a start, many routers now have parental con­trol tools, where you can limit in­ter­net ac­cess times and pos­si­bly even to­tal data us­age on a de­vice-by-de­vice ba­sis. This is a good place to start. You can try us­ing the router man­u­fac­turer’s mo­bile app, or log­ging on to the router’s ad­min page and look­ing for parental con­trols.

Some routers are more so­phis­ti­cated than oth­ers. Most al­low you to set ac­cess times on a de­vice by de­vice ba­sis, so that you can at least re­strict the times that your kids can ac­cess the in­ter­net. Some also let you set re­stric­tions on apps, and in rare cases, you can ac­tu­ally mon­i­tor and limit ac­tual to­tal data us­age on a user-by-user ba­sis.

That last op­tion is rare, how­ever, and not avail­able on the stock firmware of any of the ma­jor con­sumer router ven­dors. If you want bet­ter mon­i­tor­ing of your kids’ ac­tiv­ity, you’re bet­ter off with a so­lu­tion like GlassWire ( www.glasswire.com).

GlassWire is a fire­wall and traf­fic mon­i­tor ap­pli­ca­tion avail­able for Win­dows and An­droid. In ad­di­tion to its fire­wall func­tion (it re­places the Win­dows fire­wall), it also has a de­tailed traf­fic mon­i­tor with an alert sys­tem that can be set up to send a warn­ing when a pre­con­fig­ured thresh­old is reached. For ex­am­ple, you can con­fig­ure it to send a warn­ing when monthly data us­age hits 100GB on the de­vice it’s in­stalled on. On An­droid, it will track mo­bile and Wi-Fi data sep­a­rately.

Per­haps most use­fully of all in a fam­ily sce­nario, GlassWire can be con­fig­ured to mon­i­tor mul­ti­ple GlassWire in­stal­la­tions from a sin­gle PC. That way, you can in­stall it on your kids’ PCs and keep an eye on their data us­age from your own. It can also mon­i­tor data us­age on your router.

As an al­ter­na­tive to GlassWire, you can also try NetWorx ( www.soft­per­fect.com/ prod­ucts/networx), an­other tool that can mon­i­tor in­ter­net us­age both lo­cally and on your router. It’s not a fire­wall like GlassWire, but it will mon­i­tor us­age on mul­ti­ple de­vices and send you alerts when con­fig­ured thresh­olds are reached.

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