Knowing how many gigabytes a month you’re using can be important if you have a metered internet connection, or your ISP measures your bandwidth and charges you if you go over. I know many Universities in the US have implemented bandwidth-overage charges (which students decry as unfair and stifling) to help combat bittorrent P2P filesharing, which will sap even a wide broadband connection. So, whatever your reason, you may want to see what applications are using bandwidth on your PC. The following instructions are for Windows XP / Vista.
The solution is to download and install NetLimiter 2 Monitor, a free application for bandwidth monitoring. If you like it, and want the ability to shape your internet traffic (limit the bandwidth used per application), you’ll need to pony up and buy the full version. Note that it uses the Win PCAP libraries to capture internet traffic, you may need to install them if you don’t already have them.
The main monitoring tab shows you how much you’ve uploaded and downloaded per application, in real time. For example, in my screenshot I refreshed the firefox tab I was working on, so you see Firefox using 99% of the activity. Steam, a gaming platform from Valve, is always chittering to their servers, so you see a .01 kbs from them.
The statistics tab is where it gets useful, telling me I’ve downloaded 95 GB this month, and uploaded 49 GB. You can also click on an application or time period and get detailed statistics across either of those dimensions. Fantastic!
Don’t download the Hitman movie with Bittorrent when Apple will give it to you free on iTunes. Just hit “Browse” on the Quick Links on the right side of the main iTunes home page. Then, select “Movies” and “Thriller.” You’ll see the title “Hitman” for free, just 1.1GB away:
You might not want to watch it, Rottentomatoes gave it a 15%.
In a three-part rant about peer-to-peer technologies (1, 2, 3), Mark Cuban demands that peer-to-peer technologies “die a quick death” in order to”speed up [his own] internet connection.” He suggests that “Google Video is a far better solution for audio and video distribution than any P2P solution” and that cable companies “charge for upstream bandwidth usage.”
Guess what–I already get charged for all the bandwidth I use, either up or down. When Verizon strings a fiberoptic cable to my home, I’m getting a certain amount of fixed capacity into the greater internet at large. If I want to trade a little upstream capacity for greater downstream capacity, that’s my call! Have you ever noticed that downloading over http is typically slow because there are 100s of clients and 1 host? If I download the same information over bittorrent, I can sustain 12Mbs because everyone is a server–including me. Distributed protocols, such as the ones powering Amazon Dynamo or bittorrent, are more efficient, cost effective, and fault tolerant than single-server models.
Reactions around the blogosphere indicate that Mark Cuban’s thoughts on P2P are nonsensical rubbish. Mashable calls him “a guy who does not understand how P2P works, and yet he wants it shut down.” Ars Technica notes that “if users who are currently saturating their connections with BitTorrent start saturating their connections with Google Video content, the end result is more or less the same.” And a slashdotter comments, “Just imagine how fast the internet would be if there were no content to view. After P2Ps gone, get rid of all these freeloading websites, emails, etc. and it will be blisteringly fast.”
My guess is that billionaire Mark Cuban has a slow, shared cable internet connection at home, the modern equivalent of a party line. This might lead him to confuse his own slow internet connection with a greater systemic problem. What he should be complaining about is why Verizon hasn’t strung fiber in his area yet.