Typically we are oblivious to how much our pc’s chatter over the internet even when we are not actually doing anything in particular. This is mostly due to being on high speed connections. Those of us old enough to remember 300 or 2400 baud modems will recall that efficiency was the name of the game.
And so it is with communication from shipboard. With 1200+ people on board there is a lot of contention for the satellite bandwidth. Judicious timing (5 AM seems to work 🙁 ) helps but in the end it matters what is going on in the background. Most of your bandwidth hogging issues will be from programs that want to call home and download updates. This affects Windows and Linux (each a bit differently but the effect is the same). As an experiment just look at the connection icon in your toolbar while not doing any browsing etc. If it is lit solid then one or more programs on your PC are wasting valuable and limited bandwidth.
Some things to do before leaving land:
- Disable auto OS updates (Windows or Linux). Most updates are multi MB in size, and you can surely live without them for a few weeks whilst travelling.
- Disable auto updates for anti virus software. Do an update before you leave to make you feel safer.
- Disable auto updates for Java. Java loves to download 9MB updates at least once a month!
- Uninstall programs you know that you won’t need. That way they won’t call home to look for updates.
- Switch Norton Personal firewall to ‘Ask Me what to Do’ mode. this will detect other chatty programs to deal with. Or just use the default ‘Block This Program’ option when asked. When in doubt whether to allow internet access, try using the Block option first.
Now that you are getting to use the full bandwidth for your actual needs, it is time to set up email and blogging in an optimum fashion.
- Outlook is the best option for handling email IMHO. Yes there are plenty of web based options but you have to be online for the full time that you are using them. At $0.50 or $0.75 per minute this adds up to a lot less drinks at the pool bar! By setting Outlook to collect your emails you limit your online time. Once collected, disconnect from the Internet, deal with your emails (delete or reply) then connect again.
- Outlook can be used to collect email from many POP and other sources. Examples are Gmail, Rogers.Yahoo, Hotmail, Sympatico etc. Set Outlook to only download email smaller than say 80kb. Anything larger you can decide whether to download or not.
- Set Outlook to only perform Send/Receive operations upon request. The default is once every 5 minutes, which can trigger lots of activity if like me you have 8 email addresses to check up on.
- Unsubscribe from chatty mail lists such as daily sale announcements (tigerdirect and NCIX are my favourites), weather reports, stock reports (depressing reading while on vacation anyway). You can re-subscribe when you get back.
- Windows Live Writer is probably the best blogging tool available, and it is free. The first time that you add a photo to a post, set reasonable defaults. E.g. limit the photo size to Small and then in Image Link To Options set the size to Medium. This will prevent your multi Mb photo files from being uploaded. At the bottom of the RH pane, select the Save Settings as Default so that you won’t forget for subsequent photos.