Saturday, January 22, 2011

Today is Bandwidth Freedom Day

I blew through my 5GB standard data allowance on T-Mobile last month in about 4 days.  Mostly thanks to tethering and T-Mobile's blazing fast HSPA network.  Once throttled back to EDGE, I found the usability of my laptop on a tethered connection nearly unbearable.  Despite that throttling, though, I'm finishing out the month having consumed about 8 GB total.

But when you need speed, it's miserable not to get it.  And so I've been doing some diagnosis of how to better optimize my connection.  Whether it's through the tethered connection or when I'm in flight using GoGo, I'm finding that my MacBook consumes insane quantities of data.  What's sucking up all that data: it's lots of stuff that goes on in the background such as my continuous online backup and synchronization software including Plaxo, Evernote, and Dropbox.

That's all fine at home with my 50MB broadband connection or in an office with high speed internet, but it's killing me on the road.  So today I've invested in a little piece of software (Badly named "Little Snitch" that can selectively strangle your data consumption by application and port).

You can set rules by application and port and they can be shut off when you shut down the application.

Even after just 3 hours of using it on my flight from JFK to SFO, I've found it to be very effective.  The things I care about in real-time - web pages loading and e-mail sending - happen much faster.  Once I get home, I just quit the application and it un-throttles all the back-up and sync services that normally consume so much bandwidth.

If you move around a lot between good connections and bad ones, I highly recommend it.

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