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Bandwidth leachers

21 November 2008

This may be my last blog post this month, because i just got a notice saying that I was running out of bandwidth, and unless my wife gets a fat bonus or something , we probably won’t be able to afford any more.

Our bandwidth usage seems to go up every month, and it seems that one reason for this is that an increasing number of web pages are displaying live video as soon as the page opens, instead of waiting for you to click on it to start the video.

David MacGregor warned about this earlier this month when he said:

I don’t know how many of you work the online media for news, but I access quite a few newspapers and sites world-wide, and I was amazed to find that suddenly 70 megs appeared as unexplained usage. This happens it seems to a number of folk, but without my computer guru I would never have discovered why. So just in case someone else has the same problem, watch out for those unwanted videos that appear in online national newspapers, especially London Telegraph and its blogs. Today three unwanted 20 mg videos had apparently auto downloaded while I went for a break but had left a site to download. Apparently lucky folks overseas get unlimited broadband. Wow! I wish.

The other day I noticed that an advertising video was playing while I was reading Yahoo e-mail. That make Yahoo e-mail a lot more expensive than snail mail. At least with snail mail you only pay to send the thing, you don’t have to pay for every second you spend reading it!

That also seems counterproductive — presumably the advertiser is paying Yahoo to play the video, even though, if I’m reading my mail, I’m paying no attention to it. So I am paying Telkom and the advertiser is paying Yahoo, but neither the advertiser nor I gain any benefit.

Perhaps what we need is for browsers like Firefox to include an option to block live videos in much the same way as they block popup ads. Or at least to give a warning of sites with live videos, so that you can navigate away from them as quickly as possible.

I automatically navigate away from sites that playing unsolicited music, though by the time one dos that much of the damage has been done and a fair bit has been downloaded, and my desktop computer doesn’t have speakers, so that can be going on for quite a long time before I realise it.

Anyway, just be aware that some of these “free” webmail sites, like Yahoo, may be costing you a great deal of money while you read your mail.

And if I don’t blog, or read or comment on other people’s blogs for the rest of the month, that’s why.

And if you have video or sound on your blog, PLEASE make sure you include an “opt-in” option for people to play them if they want to.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. 21 November 2008 3:18 pm

    Thanks for this Steve. I’ve passed on your comment about Firefox to my guru. Right now, I watch on NewtMinder like a hawke, and whenever I see a video without a start I hit the block button. I was shocked to read about Yahoo email.

  2. 21 November 2008 3:24 pm

    Another bandwidth gobbler are photos. I try to be economical with size on my blog, but some sites are a shocker, so I am always ready to hit the stop loading button.

  3. 21 November 2008 4:25 pm

    Most video these days runs at the behest of JavaScript. With the NoScript add-on for Firefox, I almost never see a video unless I click on it. For me, all JavaScript is turned off unless I specifically turn it on for a given site either permanently or temporarily.

    NoScript and Adblock Plus are my two favorite add-ons for Firefox. I’m in the US, so I get unlimited bandwidth usage, but I imagine the combination of those two probably cuts back how much I’m downloading by quite a bit.

    This may sound a bit trite, but you can take control of your web use!

  4. 21 November 2008 5:15 pm

    Fr Andrew,

    Thanks for the tip — I’ll look out ofr the Noscript one.

  5. 21 November 2008 7:56 pm


    Flashblock is another essential add on.

    Someone mentioned adblock Plus (make sure you get plus)

    Also customizegoogle is another addon that allows you to block ads in Google (and does a bunch of other stuff)

    I have used all three of these for several years. I can vouch for their safety and usability.


  6. 21 November 2008 8:14 pm


    I’ve been trying the Noscript thingy, and it seems to block Flash as well.

  7. 21 November 2008 8:32 pm

    Hope you get to read this. 😉 And then there is the wife, who sees a colourful little icon that says, “To download the latest dizzle-dazzle software, click here.” I consider that the Internet frequently is not Africa-friendly, or should one say it is Africa-dismissive, in several ways. We struggle even with our broadband at times, while a great many people in Africa still have dial-up (I recently tried the public library in Sutherland. That was close to “desperate”). Incidentally a friend of mine, a webmaster and journalist, discovered that the BBC was using his broadband to transfer BBC news items he had downloaded to other computers.

  8. 22 November 2008 3:11 pm

    I second the use of FireFox with the Adblock Plus and NoScript plugins. Apart from dramatically speeding up your browsing experience, they save a ton of bandwidth.

  9. 22 November 2008 3:16 pm

    This is a really good point. When browsing the internet with my phone in particular I find this to be a big problem.

  10. 28 November 2008 3:23 pm

    Hi Steve,

    So sorry to hear about the bandwidth woes! Perhaps I could donate a few megs!?

    I have been posting quite a lot of QIK video to my site lately, from what I can tell it uses marginally more bandwidth than an image when one loads the page (i.e., it fetches a static image from QIK and some HTML script to make certain parts of the video appear active for links). But, of course the moment that one clicks on the video to start it, well, that’s where you had best have a LOT of bandwidth to spare! I have seen that an average video (of about 2 minutes in length) takes between 6-8MB if played.

    Fortunately Megan and I have moved into our new home and so decided to reconnect the Telkom line and ADSL… For the last 6 months we’ve been living of a 1GIG MTN 3G card! Yikes! It was difficult to survive with that cap. Now we have 5 GIGs of ADSL plus 1GIG of 3G that we can use when we travel.



  11. 28 November 2008 3:47 pm

    Hi Dion,

    Well I discovered that one of our problems was that my son downloaded an upgrade of his animation program, and that was a couple of Gigs right there, more in fact.

    We have a cap of 3 Gigs, and this month have bought an extra 10 — that’s about R700.00 extra. And if we’re paying that to not watch advertising videos while reading mail, it really is a bit much.

    I’ll be interested to see what Noscript does to next month’s bandwidth.

  12. Kyralessa permalink
    20 December 2008 8:19 am

    Flashblock is what I use with Firefox. It’s handy, because it shows little “play” buttons so you can still see a video you *want* to see, but avoid videos that just want to drag your eyes away from the page’s text.

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