Friday, January 14, 2011

A Guide to Making the Most out of your Capped Internet Connection

Not all of us are fortunate enough to have unlimited access to the Internet. In some places, unlimited plans are synonymous with SLOW transfer rate and you inevitably have to settle for a plan with a ridiculous bandwidth cap. In this post, I’ve put together some methods in order to save bandwidth and make the most out of your Internet connection.

Optimize Settings in Software that you’ve installed:

Although you are just watching a movie or doing an Offline activity on your computer, some applications will discreetly access the internet for updating and sending usage statistics. This could become a nightmare if you have an Internet connection with a bandwidth cap. Let’s see how to reduce the usage by restricting the Internet access to various applications.

When you install software, they usually ask whether you’d like to program to check for updates automatically. Make sure that you disable this option.

Dropbox

Although many programs access the internet, Dropbox requires exclusive mention. In my experience, Dropbox has been a bandwidth hog, especially when I use more than one computer regularly. Using Dropbox has become somewhat inevitable and the selective sync option is a boon for users who need to save up on their bandwidth. You can just opt-out of syncing large files and just use the program to sync the bare essentials that you’ll need to work with everyday. Dropbox also lets you optimize the way it uses your bandwidth according to your needs. I recommend that you set a very low transfer rate.

TCPEyeDigital Inspiration recently wrote about a nifty application known as TCP Eye. This software lists the applications that are currently accessing the Internet and you can easily end the connection of a particular program by just right-clicking on it and choosing ‘Close Connection’.

Disable Automatic Windows Updates:

Windows Updates

Windows Updates also has the habit of downloading and installing all the updates without any user intervention. To change this go to Start→Type ‘Windows Update’ and in the left side of the Updates window choose ‘Change Settings’.

Change the setting from ‘Install updates automatically’ to ‘Check for updates but let me choose whether to download and install them’. Doing this ensures that you are aware about a pending update while you don’t waste bandwidth on it.  If you use a Laptop take it to a friend who uses an Unlimited connection and get Windows Updates. Also make sure that you update the obsolete applications to stay safe. If you use a Desktop, you can download Windows Updates to a Flash Drive (from somewhere else) and install it manually.

Tip:

Keep a Ninite Setup file containing the software that you use and run it at least once a month when you are on Public Wi-Fi or somewhere else. This automates the process of software updating and doing it somewhere else saves your precious bandwidth

Browse Sensibly:

Although we do a lot of tweaks outside the browser, using your Bandwidth wisely primarily depends on how you surf the Internet. Make ample use of Gears. In case you didn’t know what ‘Gears’ is, it’s a software that allows you to access certain Web Applications Offline. Here’s a Wikipedia definition.

‘Gears’ is software offered by Google that "enables more powerful web applications, by adding new features to your web browser. It allows some online files to be used offline".

- from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia

If you are on Chrome, gears is pre-installed and can be accessed by going to Wrench Icon→Options→Under the Hood (Tab)→Change Gears Settings. Gears can be configured to work with a number of Web Applications like WordPress, Gmail, etc. Configuring Gmail to work with Gears is a great idea since you can save on bandwidth every time you are looking to refer to an old email. Guiding Tech has a great article about getting started with Gmail on Gears. If you are not a big fan of Gmail’s Website, you can definitely use a desktop mail client and the experience will be great since Gmail supports IMAP.

Do not allow Flash to run automatically on webpages. The FlashBlock extension makes it easy to block flash objects on websites you visit. The object won’t be executed unless you click on it. This means more saving of power and bandwidth! FlashBlock is available for both Chrome and Firefox. Some sites slap a lot of Ads and eat-up bandwidth from your connection, to get rid of them just install the Ad Block extension (Firefox|Chrome) and block those sites which are filled with Ads while you still want to access them. ImglikeOpera is an add-on exclusive to Firefox. It’s just like FlashBlock but blocks images instead. If you’d like a particular image to load you can just click on it!

[Updated on 16th, January 2011] – Ashutosh Mishra suggested that using a mobile version of websites will considerably help you save bandwidth. For instance, If you are looking to log into pcgeekblog.com, type in m.pcgeekblog.com to use the mobile version. Many sites have a mobile page and it should work when prefixed with m.

I also feel that you should secure the Wi-Fi on your modem. A lot of users I know tend to use ‘password’ or ‘admin’ as the key for their Wi-Fi in which case a stranger outside can easily exploit your bandwidth. Check out MakeUseOf’s article about Securing your Wi-Fi connection.

Opera Turbo

Opera has an amazing ‘Turbo’ mode which makes browsing faster by compressing images and other objects on a webpage. This also means that you save a lot on Bandwidth. Give it a try and if you like, I recommend you stick to it.

Now, those are some methods which, In my opinion should help you save a LOT of bandwidth. If you know of another technique which is helpful let us know using the comments section below.