Speed Demon

More than 16 million users in this region still use slow dial-up internet connections, plus broadband users might also not be logging on as quickly as promised. If you would like to whiz around the web a little quicker, read on...

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By  Chris Fernando Published  April 5, 2005

|~||~||~|More than 16 million users in this region still use slow dial-up internet connections, plus broadband users might also not be logging on as quickly as promised. If you would like to whiz around the web a little quicker, read on... How fast is fast? Before we put ourselves in your shoes and set out on our need-for-speed quest, we started off by bench-marking our actual online speed using independent bandwidth testing sites such as testmyspeed.com. Such sites essentially download large files and ping out data packets on to your PC and monitor both upload and download speeds. To ensure consistency, we tested our net connection using five such web sites. Test speeds varied between 55KB/sec and 550KB/sec on our broadband connection. This essentially shows that bandwidth quality in the region is still not too reliable and the ‘actual-versus-promised’ speed varies. With dial-up connections too, customers rarely get the promised 56Kbps. Your actual internet speed depends on a myriad of factors. For instance, a faster PC processes a download more quickly than a slower machine. Heavy traffic on the internet during peak hours may also slowdown your throughput speed. External factors such as the actual traffic on the web site, speed of the web server, and the content on the web page you are downloading also play a role in determining your overall surfing speed. Considering all these factors, we’ve rounded up a salvo of three killer tools to squeeze through those extra kilobytes. Ashampoo Ashampoo Internet Accelerator version optimises your internet connection for faster, more efficient performance. This tuning app improves various aspects of Windows’ performance by optimising its standard parameters. The default or standard settings that Windows uses are often less than ideal and sometimes these can be improved considerably. Instead of you having to tweak your dial-up networking (DUN) and TCP/IP settings, Ashampoo does the leg work for you. The tool’s automatic optimisation wizards fine-tune your PC settings. The improved speeds will vary depending on your line quality, connection type, the performance of your provider, and how well your computer was configured to start with. Taking into account all these variables Ashampoo can ramp up your bandwidth by anywhere from 15- to 30% (and even up to 50% on some configurations). It also throws in an Automatic Backup function to restore your original internet settings in case the settings go haywire or you’re not satisfied with the performance you get. Naviscope After having oiled our Windows internet settings, we turned to Naviscope version 8.7. Naviscope is essentially a local proxy and works by integrating tightly with your browser. This 615kb freeware tool is one of a kind. With powerful web acceleration and internet tools, Naviscope starts out by filtering out web annoyances such as ads from web pages, closes pop-up windows, blocks out backgrounds and animated text, and locks out cookies. It also automatically connects to web sites faster using persistent connections and caches DNS address caches for web sites you visit, so you save up to five seconds on resolving every time you visit one of your favorite sites. Furthermore, Naviscope shows detailed real-time browsing information and extensive download progress information so that you know exactly what’s loading on your browser. It also has a single-click network diagnostics tool that complements Ashampoo’s efforts, and pre-fetches web pages to allow faster downloading. When surfing the web there are periods of time when your internet connection is idle. For example, suppose you visit Yahoo and search for ‘cats’. Yahoo will provide a page with ten (or so) links under the ‘More’ or ‘Next’ pages. As you look through this list Naviscope will be already loading the next page of the search while you read the first one. When you click on the link to get the next page then, it will appear straight away. Then Naviscope will pre-fetch the third page, and so on. Dial-up users will find Naviscope’s resource bar handy too as with this you can limit page load times and bandwidth. Maxathon Maxthon 1.1 (formely My IE) is the new version of a powerful web browser and features a very customisable interface. Maxathon is based on Microsoft’s IE6 engine, which means the chassis is IE but the functionality and features are unique. Its ergonomic features, such as advanced tabbed browsing, let you surf multiple sites conveniently. The integrated download manager meanwhile makes downloading large files easy if you suffer from broken dial-up connections or would like to download in batches. Maxathon also lets you mercilessly block flash, floating and image ads thanks to its AD Hunter feature, which also lets you create you own content, pop-up and ad filter list for more accurate and customised blocking. This means what you get is pure clean content and web pages that fly. Integrated with a host of useful utilities, Maxthon eliminates the need to download dime-a-dozen additional tools. If that’s not enough, you can also download 400 additional plug-ins or over 300 skins to suit both your needs and mood. Simply put, the free 4.8MB Maxthon is IE on super-steriods. Extra tip: When using Maxathon or IE you can increase your browser’s cache size by clicking Tools/Internet Options/ Temporary Internet files/Settings. The larger the cache size, the faster the visited web page will load the next time you visit it. Similarly, the Advanced Tab in Internet Options lets you customise and control your browser to help speed up your surfing. Explore and tick (or untick) features such as install-on demand and multimedia options to step on the pedal further. MORE ADVICE www.speedguide.net www.bandwidthplace.com/speedtest www.dslreports.com/stest www.numion.com/YourSpeed/ www.beelinebandwidthtest.com www.testmyspeed.com SOFTWARE SOLUTIONS Ashampoo Internet Accelerator www.ashampoo.com Maxthon Browser www..maxthon.com Browser Plug-ins http://maxthon.tarapages.com/ Browser skins www.skinnable.com/maxthon/||**||

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