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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Measurement Lab - test your Internet connection

Google now offers a range of tests to check your Internet connection. Recently, it had partnered with a range of independent research institutitions to launch Measurement Lab, a central location that links to these tests.

There are two main sets of tests: for end users and for researchers. For end users, you'll find a list of tests, e.g. for network speed, problems in broadband connections, and BitTorrent traffic manipulation.

The test that will probably most interest techies is the Glasnost test for BitTorrent traffic manipulation, or "shaping". BitTorrent is a common method for downloading large files. It has its legitimate use, but it is its illegitimate usage for downloading movies and software that has most authorities concerned.

In response, many ISPs have been known to meddle with BitTorrent traffic. Through "shaping", these ISPs attempt to limit the bandwidth available, thus hindering the flow of downloads.

With the Glasnost test, you can now check whether your ISP is shaping your BitTorrent traffic to your detriment. The test is relatively painless. Through your web browser, a Java applet is run which simulates BitTorrent data transfers. If you get the "all clear", then your ISP is probably not shaping your BitTorrent traffic. But if you get any red warnings, then there's a chance that something is happening behind the scenes.

Besides the Glasnost test, I tried using the other ones, but all of the servers that operate them appear to be overloaded. As a result, I either had to join very long queues or the servers simply refused to let me get on. Hopefully, this situation will improve with time.

But for now, I'll be content with the Glasnost test.

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