Timepass Tips

Published Date
01 - Aug - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Aug - 2006
Timepass Tips
Back in 1999, I was one of the first few Indians to have an unlimited, always-on conn- ection. It was only 64 Kbps, nothing to brag about, but at least I didn't have to worry about phone bills! For a thousand rupees a month, I'd managed to break free of the shackles of copper wire, local call charges, and my parents moaning about how no-one could ever get through to our phone! What's more, I actually used to get 64 Kbps (8 KBps) download speeds, which was a lot faster than the 16 Kbps (2 KBps) I'd become accustomed to on dial-up.

Because it was 1999, broadband ISPs were still learning, I guess, and I soon discovered that my ISP had limited the download speeds, but had forgotten to do the same with uploads. The result? A mere 8 KBps for downloads, and a whopping 400 KBps upload speed!

I'm somewhat of an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) addict, so I was promptly on my favourite network, showing off to my friends. There were even people in America who didn't have 400 KBps upload bandwidth back then!

I found myself obsessing about my upload capabilities, not wanting to let it go to waste! I also knew that sooner or later some engineer at my ISP would awake from his slumber and prick my heavenly bubble. As it turned out, this scenario lasted about six months, and I uploaded more in those six months than I've downloaded since 1999. I also set up my site on my own computer, an FTP server, IRC bots to transfer and share loads of files, and absolutely anything that would use my upload capability.

"Upgrading my Ubuntu installation took two days on
my connection-I would classify anything above
20 MB as a heavy download"
Anurag Patel, Mumbai

But Why?
That's the question a colleague asked me recently as I was narrating tales of my days of uploading joy. To be honest, I still don't know… perhaps it is this unsaid character that's woven into our subconscious from Day 1: "Never let an opportunity by," "Waste not, want not," and various other little pearls of wisdom we're subjected to as kids. All I know is that, at the time, having the capability to upload at 400 KBps and not uploading anything seemed a crime!

Today, so many of us have unlimited, always-on connections with speeds between 64 and 256 Kbps that the phenomenon described above is more commonplace. I asked around and found I'm not special (as in "He needs special schooling!"), and hordes of people are doing exactly the same thing with their connections.

We all know that many of us are downloading illegally using P2P clients. Of course, most of it really isn't a waste of time and bandwidth, but very often, especially for people with 256 Kbps unlimited connections and above, you soon run out of things to download-you already have all the latest movies, you have all the music you like, now what? Some of the people I spoke to claimed to just start downloading whatever everyone else was downloading-especially the torrent users. "The advantage with torrent sites is that they list the latest uploads as well as the most popular ones, so all I do is choose a nice big file that interests me and set it to download," said a college student from  Mumbai on condition of anonymity.

"What if you already have those files?" I asked. "Then there's always enough porn to download," he replied.

It didn't surprise me when most of the people I spoke to said they downloaded porn when not downloading anything else. Then there was a student from a well-known college in Bandra, Mumbai, who said, "Well, actually, my bandwidth is used mostly to download porn, but when I'm not doing that, I surf casually looking for interesting software or a good print of a movie."

Pornography was such a popular choice, I almost didn't feel like adding it to this list of Timepass Tips-it seems more of a primary use for broadband! Anyway, one thing is clear, a lot of people (almost all male) spend a lot of time using their bandwidth to enhance their knowledge of  the private lives of the birds and the bees.

Open Source Psychopaths
It's really no secret that there are thousands of open source supporters who feel compelled to have Anti-Microsoft feelings. If not Microsoft, these people generally dislike all the big corporate software companies -Symantec, Adobe and the like. So it should come as no surprise that some of them spend all their free time plotting to take over the world from those they think have taken over the world!

One such friend of mine uses FreeBSD as his OS. He's in the US, but I have an account on his box. Imagine my surprise when I saw that he had queued up almost every trial version Microsoft has on offer for download at Microsoft.com. "Converting to Windows?" I asked. I should have known better: "Nah, just putting my 3 Mbps connection to some good use and doing my bit towards wasting some of Microsoft's bandwidth." Turns out there are a group of 30 or so of them, all of whom use open source operating systems, and all of whom set up scripts to download anything available at Microsoft.com when they're not doing anything-and oh, they all have 3 Mbps connections or faster! So if you're trying to download something from Microsoft and aren't exactly getting blazing speeds, you have my friends to thank for that!

  • Hilarious!
Here are some of the wackiest quotes I got when asking how people trash their time and grab their bandwidth:
"For about a month, it had to be visiting the Digit Forum after its shift to vBulletin, when you guys didn't enable gzip compression! 300 KB a page was a real waste of bandwidth!"
All readers should know that this has since been fixed, and it was only for 12 days that we had this problem!
"I download homosexual porn, zip it, and rename it to one of the latest software releases. I then share it on P2P networks-just doing my bit for the fight against piracy."
 "All I seem to do online is browse through Amazon.com, looking for good books. When I find one, I head over to my favourite torrent sites or an IRC network and get the e-book!"
"I use P2P 24x7, and download everything I can. But it's not what you think… I'm actually looking to build a huge repository of viruses, and I get a new one almost every day via P2P, which one day I shall unleash on my college computers. Why? Because they overcharge students, reserve half the seats, and I know more than my computer professor does about computers!"
"When I'm really bored, I open up wikimapia.com and add some bogus and funny places in India. The most recent one I added was a friend's house-only I added it in on top of a sewage pipeline!"
Online Gaming
Gaming is turning out to be a very popular use for broadband. Though most of us are more likely to go to places like Yahoo! games, an increasing number of Indians are getting addicted to online MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games). If not that, then it's multiplayer First Person Shooter (FPS) games-Counter Strike is the clear winner here for India. Most of the people I spoke to were obsessed with Counter Strike, and wanted even more servers to play on. Broadband connections bring with them a wonderful "value-added service": the local LAN setup you get within your neighbourhood! With a population density ants would be proud of, Indian metros are generally divided into areas of dominance by ISPs. So chances are that the ISP you have a broadband connection from is also supplying everyone in your local area, which translates to a nice LAN setup for gaming-with blazingly fast ping times and the opportunity to be famous amongst peers you actually meet!

With broadband, no longer do we need to avoid pages that contain the word "streaming", as in streaming audio or streaming video. An increasing number of people are now able to watch video or listen to Internet radio. One such person is Anurag Bhateja, MD of Bhateja Computers in Chandigarh and a self-confessed Net freak. "I love funny Web sites and videos. I watch online trailers and read about the entertainment industry in my free time. I also love sites such as StumbleUpon.com." He says he's been inspired by the articles of Pawan Duggal, noted cybercrime lawyer: "I am totally against piracy and pornography, and am working on a site that will educate people about Internet crime."

Another Digit reader (and another Anurag) is Anurag Patel, an IT Professional from Mumbai, who has an always-on connection. "I feel like my bandwidth is being wasted if I am not doing something with it. I recently upgraded my Ubuntu installation, which took almost two days. When I am not doing anything like that, I spend time on YouTube.com, or look for developer documentation. I also waste a lot of bandwidth downloading from RapidShare.de, from links that other Digit readers on Yahoo! Messenger keep providing-even though most of them are useless for me, because I'm on Linux." For those of you who don't know about it, RapidShare has become a popular place for people to share almost any sort of file with their friends.

Another popular way of using bandwidth is Internet radio, especially from within programs such as Yahoo! Messenger or Winamp. A Digit reader from Delhi, a college student who asked not to be named, uses Winamp for streaming video. "Since I have a computer that my sister and father also use, I cannot really use my broadband to download the things I want, because they might find it on the hard drive. Instead, I use Winamp's Internet TV Library, which has everything from music videos to porn. I also visit adult sites that offer free streaming video."

"A 256 Kbps unlimited connection is fun. I got this
connection four months ago and have already
downloaded about 37 GB"
Anurag Bhateja,

Downloading Software
Most of the people we spoke to were frequent visitors to sites such as ZDNetIndia.com, Download. com and Softpedia.com. And most of them didn't even feel the need for software, and didn't have any task they needed to accomplish-they just wanted to know what's out there.

"I've downloaded about 30 GB of multimedia-related software in the past four months-just to try them out," says Anurag Bhateja. And he's not unique in any way: most people are doing exactly the same with their broadband pipes.

"I didn't even know there was software that could automatically sort my music collection for me until I saw the category on Download.com. I downloaded about five of them, tried them all, chose the best one and then promptly found a crack for it-an evening well spent online," says the student from Delhi who was quoted earlier-rather cheekily, I might add!

Using World Mapping
Google Earth, Google Moon, and WikiMapia (www.wikimapia.com) seem to be the most popular choices for people who dabble in online mapping. A lot of the people I spoke to spend at least an hour a week on Google Earth and WikiMapia, adding places they know to the community Web. Though it's absolutely pointless for most of us, it still seems fun for some people to put their homes on a world map!

Clogging The Pipes
As you can see, there are many different ways in which people use (read waste) bandwidth and time online. Some of these are actually good, because we can learn from them-and I don't mean the porn!

From my little survey, which was only conducted with a little under a hundred people I know online or from the Digit Forum (https:// www.thinkdigit.com/forum), I found that a lot of people do their downloading at work, where most people have broadband access. They then burn CDs/DVDs, or transfer the data to external hard drives or USB drives to take home. This may become cause for concern to employers, because a lot of people seem to be using company-provided bandwidth for some very illegal uses-but that's another discussion for another time.

At least some people I spoke to seemed to have found constructive ways in which to utilise bandwidth, such as downloading and then learning how to use new software. A few even believe that bandwidth should be conserved…

I'll leave you with a quote from a call centre manager in Mumbai: "Sure, I download pornography and warez, but only what I need and when I need it. I'm against this whole 'leech every last Kbps you can' thing. If everyone only used what they needed, there'd be more to go around, and bandwidth would be cheaper!

"We save water, we don't waste food, and we suffer in the heat to conserve energy-why can't we conserve bandwidth the same way? After all, what's more scarce in India than bandwidth?"

Now that's food for thought!  

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