December 25, 2008

You Can Never Have Enough Bandwidth. Ever.

On most days, I don't consider myself a real bandwidth hog. Most of my online activity consists of e-mail, Web browsing and the occasional YouTube video. I'll use FTP to upload and download files to my Web site or the server at the office, but nothing too intensive. Practically the most-intense things I'll do would be uploading videos to YouTube or sending photos to SmugMug or Flickr. I can practically guarantee that Comcast doesn't blink an eye at my activity. But on the rare occasion I hit a wall on bandwidth, and see slowdowns, it reminds me I don't have infinite throughput - just like I don't have infinite storage capacity. (See: Terabytes and Terabytes of Data At Home. Petabytes Next.)

Tonight, as we were winding down from Christmas and putting the twins to bed, my wife and I realized we finally had some time to relax. After a holiday rush and full days, we surprisingly haven't had too many hours to take in entertainment. So I checked in on the TiVo, and headed back to Amazon Unbox to give the service another chance. We found one movie and set it up for download.

Not done, I hit "Input" on the TV, and checked the Apple TV, finding two films to download. One started to download immediately, and the other was queued up.

Meanwhile, the TiVo light glowed red to record a program at 8. The blue light signalling a download from Amazon stayed lit. As no program was done, I checked and found a Law and Order episode on one TiVo which I could transfer from the bedroom unit to the living room unit. We're watching that now as the films download.

If that wasn't enough, I opened up my laptop and... shock and surprise... none of my Web sites are loading. But that won't stop Apple's Time Machine from doing its regular backup to my Time Capsule in the other room.

So, in tally, my bandwidth is being hogged by:
  • 1 movie download from TiVo/Amazon
  • 1 standard definition television show download via TiVo
  • 1 high definition movie download on Apple TV
  • 1 standard definition TV show transfer between TiVos
  • Backup from my laptop to Apple's Time Capsule
Even if I have top of the line broadband access here at home, it's no surprise we saw failures on the Web and inaccessible e-mail, as I had flooded my available pipe. Even though I'm not a P2P or BitTorrent junkie, I can still find a ceiling.

So, is the fault mine for hitting the "order" button too many times on the TV? Should I buy once at a time, in order, to do a favor to the cable company, or should I push the limits and always expect more?