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The "science" of my internet connection

 
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brian-hansen
Site Admin


Joined: 17 Mar 2006
Posts: 712
Location: Oregon

PostPosted: Mon Aug 29, 2011 11:13 am    Post subject: The "science" of my internet connection Reply with quote

While I maintain a "scientific" orientation in many of my day-to-day activities and thoughts, it is probably fair to say that this orientation competes with an "engineering" mindset, and an "artistic" sensibility. If one wanted to attempt to complete the picture, one could consider sides of my personality related to my poetic, consumer, communitarian, and hedonistic hominid qualities. There would still be quite a lot missing, as, I suspect, there'd be for most people.

I actually have scientific credentials, and I know how science works, but I find that my internet connection routinely puts my scientific credentials to the test. It always seems to happen the same way...

It starts with there being a problem with my internet being slow or completely unconnected. I perform a series of tests checking connection strengths and speeds, with or without wireless routers. Often there is a reseting involved. Power cycling is a prominent feature. Rebooting and re-installing. Testing after each attempt. Calls to my local ISP, and checking of the speed across different browsers, to different websites, on different computers, using different connection methods.

Ultimately, these tests all give the same results. Inconclusive. Without preparing spreadsheets and going through a human subjects testing committee, I invariably put myself through a frustrating series of steps that work okay, and then stop working, work at a low level, don't work at all until later when it works okay, doesn't work on one computer but does on the other, until it doesn't, and just about every possible pattern (or lack of pattern) until I am cursing and playing out fantasies of sledge hammers and flying sparks in my mind.

Without there being a single definitive identified problem solved by a particular set of steps, things just start working again, and the only result from the hours I wasted talking to ISP "customer account executives", disconnecting, rebooting, etc. etc. etc. is higher blood pressure.

If it was just once, then I could blame a diminishingly scientific temperament, and my lack of detailed notes. But this is routine. All too routine.

Its times like this I want to do my computing on an abacus, and replace my phone with a tin can attached to a wire.
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jabailo



Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2011 6:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

While I don't know the full extent of your testing, based on this article, it seems you've done very little in the extent of data collection and metering.

Have you used any of the standard troubleshooting tools -- either the classic ones like netstat, or windows based tools, or logging and reporting on your routers?

Saying "Internet connection" is a giveaway, that you are less technically proficient in this area than you boast. Is it the connection from your cable modem to the Internet (or rather, your provider's backbone, which then goes to the rest of the network), or is it your wifi router which is connected to the cable modem, or is it the LAN or wifi connection to your home router?

You can make measurements and take readings between each of these either with automated tools or by repeated testing.

Its very common, especially with cable, to be "throttled"...usually its dependent on your own behavior (lots of movies or file downloads) but not always...if your in a dense neighborhood of cable users, with a correspondingly inadequate local router (not yours, but the external one the cable company uses) then you could be seeing reduced bandwidth through no fault of your own.

And by the way, no ISP will ever admit to throttling. Ever.

A simple way to check if you've getting good service is to use

http://www.speedtest.net

You'll note that it can not only test speed, but ping (the quickness of reaching outside servers). It will also save your results and show the results of people similar to you.

In the end, it comes down to good old fashioned process of elimination. Isolate the parts, see what the slow link or links are in the chain. Try a different computer in your network, for example...see if results are the same.
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brian-hansen
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Joined: 17 Mar 2006
Posts: 712
Location: Oregon

PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2011 6:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I admit to not taking notes. Good advice, I suppose.

I don't boast technical proficiency in this posting, I believe. And my testing does involve 2 computers, one hardwired through a wifi router, and the other accessing wifi, and also involves, bypassing the router and tapping directly into the cable modem. For those of you out there doing experimental design, that contributes 3 variations on a dimension, before and after each component's rebooting and power-cycling, so we've got a dozen or more test cases before trying the least effort.

I recognize my case is weak: the interactions that cause a morning's frustrations are not easily scientifically disentangled. But how hard can it be? If non-technical people somehow cope, then why must I have to break out my lab notebook, stopwatch and caliper to track it down? Or would it have solved itself if I just left it alone for a while, which must be what 95% of people do?

And believe me, I do use speedtest.net. I typically encounter every variation as I cycle through possible fixes: 0, full, slow, intermittent, full, 0, and on and on.

I'd believe in throttling, but there's no reason to believe that my usage warrants it, because my bandwidth use tends to be quite modest. I guess the subtext of my posting is that yes, my cable provider is just messing with me every few months, though as you say, they never notice any problem when I ask them. I don't like having that as a conclusion, but the alternative, so far, has not crossed the threshold of donning the complete scientific lab coat. More the engineer's bang it out and get it working mindset. So far, if it turns out to be 4 hours every 2 months, I may continue with the "curse the darkness" strategy.
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jabailo



Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2011 8:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Remember...its "up to" some Mbps.

Which includes everything less than that.

Which includes...0 Mbps.

No promises.
No strings.
Nothing to deliver.

Pay the fee.
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