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Jan 30

Speeding Up

It certainly seems like we’re moving towards a downloadable future. The Steam library is huge (as is my Steam backlog). All three consoles have large downloadable libraries. The PSP, DSi and 3DS have plenty of games available for download. Sony’s goal for the upcoming Vita is to have the option to buy every game either via physical media or download. Don’t get me started on music and videos.

There are some problems with this glorious future. One is the move towards bandwidth caps. Another is throughput. Increasing download sizes just make this problem worse. Yet, games sizes, at least will just keep getting larger for AAA games.

Recently, I realized that I had a throughput problem with Playstation network. I would get great speeds for a while then it trickle down to take an uncomfortably long time to finish. This hadn’t been a huge problem since background downloading has been around for a while. Then when you’re done, you can either tell the PS3 to turn off when done with download or you can start up Folding at Home and let it shut down after it finishes protein folding. However, recently I’ve had some downloads that lasted longer than overnight or folding. After checking with some online friends, I found that most had been praising PSN for it’s improved performance.

I had been using the built in wifi on the PS3 (802.11g with WPA2). I decided to try using the same connection that was giving me much better results on the Xbox 360. It’s my wireless-N bridge connected to a gigabit switch. Since I was out of ports on the switch (and wanted more for future use), I grabbed a new 8 port gigabit switch from Monoprice.

Most geeks know that Monoprice is the place to go for cables. I’ve tried some of their hardware in years past and found it a bit cheap and junky. In the last year or more, they’ve been upgrading to provide more and better hardware. The first new item I tried from them was a HDMI switcher. It was inexpensive, but not cheaply made. It worked well and still does. Then I tried some of their earphones. They’re good, but don’t jump into the great category unless you go by price.

So how is the switch? Do you need dynamic configuration and packet shaping tools? No? Then it’s great. It’s fast and compatible. More importantly it let me hook up the PS3 to try it out. For some reason I expected the PS3 to automatically switch to ethernet if you connected one. This is not true, at least it’s not true if you had to manually set up your wifi on the PS3. So I had to go into the settings, network settings menu. Then I let it try to automatically connect. That worked. Now it was using the switch to the bridge. Sure enough, streaming data got better, PSN store downloads were faster and more stable.

So I guess the problem was the built in wifi on the PS3. Before I turned it wifi off, I was digging through the network menu. There was a connection status screen. I noticed the signal strength was varying wildly even with no user activity. Now I get download speeds on par with the Xbox. Just something to keep in mind if you’re having problems.

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