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Loving Bandwidth

Allow me to gush for a minute. I upgraded to Verizon FiOS broadband a few weeks ago, and just experienced my first "wow, that's fast" moment.

The trouble with having a ridiculously fast connection (15 Mbps down, 2Mbps up) is that it's difficult to make use of all that bandwidth. Web browsing is noticeably faster, for example, but it's not a dramatic improvement over DSL because it quickly becomes limited by the latency of making requests to the web server(s).

The largest improvements will be seen during large file transfers. On my old DSL plan (768Kbps down, 128Kbps up) I was limited to about 100KB/s download speed, and rarely saw over 40KB/s in practice. When I got FiOS and started seeing speeds of 150KB/s or (rarely) 300KB/s, I was excited, but knew that these speeds were still fairly slow.

Today I discovered a server that can send me data almost as quickly as I'm able to receive it. I'm trying to get a Java web browser plugin on an OpenBSD machine — a surprisingly complicated process that requires me to download and build the Java runtime environment from scratch (don't ask) — and learned that I can download from Sun Microsystems at 1.4MB/s (screenshot). Yes, that's megabyte, not megabit. Three quarters of my theoretical maximum bandwidth.

I remember when it took about 15 minutes to download a megabyte of data over a modem. Today it takes less than a second. Marvel at the relentless march of progress.

Tiny Island