WinXP steals your bandwidth
And other items of interest
XP Roundup Windows XP helps itself to 20 per cent of your bandwidth, a useful tip at TweakXP reveals. But although this sounds like the sort of thing that could easily fuel paranoia (what's it doing with it?), it's more just a case of sloppy and wasteful configuration.
The culprit is the QoS (quality of service) packet scheduler, which is intended to preserve some available bandwidth for important applications and in order to maintain network performance. It does this for the best of reasons; in a business environment you probably don't want to have the system brought to its knees because Dave in support is busy warezing Emannuelle in Tibet (Would you believe it? This one really exists. Really.). But this doesn't necessarily apply if you're using XP at home and/or you just want to get a big file as fast as possible.
XP reserves that 20 per cent even if you've switched off QoS via the services program, but this default allocation can be adjusted or switched off by running gpedit.msc. You go to local computer policy, administrative templates, network branch, QoS Packet Scheduler, and then you can adjust the reservable bandwidth level upwards or downwards as you wish. Note that the details tab confirms that it does reserve that 20 per cent, even if you haven't configured QoS. More detailed step by step instructions can be found here. Note that this tweak doesn't seem to apply to Home edition, as several of you have pointed out to us. Sorry. If you want to learn more about QoS, and why it might be a good thing after all, the Microsoft MSDN documentation on it begins here.
On another topic, after our piece earlier this week on XboxGW's efforts to facilitate online Xbox gaming via Linux, in the interests of balance we should point out that you can also do this via VPN. There are several explanations out there, but the one here from MrHack, showing how you do it with XP, has lots of nice diagrams and plenty detail. Well done, MrHack.
Shortly after we published the XP disappearing files story, we felt an insistent tugging at our sleeve. It was Rick Downes of Radsoft, extolling the virtues of the X-file suite. X-file is, as Radsoft modestly says, a "rugged no-nonsense file system browser... [which] is part of a strategy to make the best out of a mostly wobbly operating system." Essentially X-file bypasses Explorer and provides you with very fast and powerful search and file manipulation tools.
The easiest way to explain it is to not explain it. Try looking for files the Microsoft way and your machine may crunch through your hard disk for a very long time. Do the same thing with X-file and bang, it's there. We were impressed, but we're easily impressed. As far as we can make out X-file comes as part of Radsoft's Extreme Power Tools, for which you'll have to stump up $80. But that gets you 120 tools, and free upgrades and new products for life. This intriguing approach to licensing is explained here.®