How to make your broadband connection faster

How to work-around the problem of router-induced high latency, using a Linux home router.

Modern internet routers contain so much buffering of packets they defeat TCP’s congestion algorithms. The end result is high latency on your broadband connection.

If your home router runs linux, you can mitigate this latency using QOS (i.e., traffic shaping).

My home broadband connection is rated at 12Mbps down, 1Mbps up. Using the CBQ script from the Linux QOS howto (linked above), I set the upload speed parameter to 3/4 of my available bandwidth, and the download speed parameter to 13/16. Suddenly I could surf the web while bittorrenting! This was impossible before.

new Debian release!

A new version of Debian stable has been released! My firewall machine, entropy, is currently running the “old” Debian stable (etch). Sometime soon I’ll update to the new stable release, Debian 5.0 Lenny.

Just for reference, here is how I will update:

edit /etc/apt/sources.list, change all occurrences of etch to lenny, then run these commands as root:

aptitude update
aptitude install apt dpkg aptitude
aptitude full-upgrade

when it is done, then I’ll have to reboot to start using the new kernel. It will be interesting to see how long the upgrade takes.

Entropy is an HP Vectra business workstation with a 90MHz pentium (i586!), 128MB of RAM, and a 4GB hard drive. The RAM and hard drive sizes would have been incredible when the computer was new; I slowly increased them over time as they got cheap. Entropy would have shipped with 8 or 16MB of RAM, and possibly a 1GB hard drive. I acquired the machine in 1999 for $100. I wanted a second machine so I could try out connecting two machines together via ethernet. I used it as a development workstation for a brief period! I believe it would have been new around 1994. I hope to retired it sometime this spring. My goal is to get a brand new, energy efficient machine so I can run one machine constantly instead of the 3 or 4 I run now.

gnome programs and gnome so far

I’ve been looking for some programs to restore functionality I lost when I left kde 3.5.

glipper is an ok clipboard history application. although each entry only gets 99 characters.

liferea is almost as good an RSS Reader as akregator-kde3 (and MUCH better than akregator-kde4).

evolution is a mixed bag. it’s great for contacts, calendars, and imap, but LDAP won’t work, so no corporate address book, which is going to be a problem. I’m not sure how I’m going to deal with that yet, but I suspect I’ll end up using thunderbird and evolution simultaneously (after disabling thunderbird’s calendar completely)

one thing that has been nice about being in gnome is firefox! it’s nice to click on a link in an email again and having it open, instead of having to copy it from thunderbird and paste it in konqueror. plus when I want to use google maps, well, I already have firefox open instead of having to open firefox first.

another nice thing in gnome: the desktop in general is snappy and responsive. kde4 feels slushy by comparison (at least on my hardware). I can’t really compare to kde 3.5 any more, I’ve been running kde4 too long. but gnome feels more responsive than kde4.

so the experiment continues. Things I still need to investigate:

A way to add feeds to liferea from firefox like I used to be able to do with konqueror and akregator. (this is really a pretty minor, rare requirement, but it was one of the things that irked me about kde4 when it mysteriously went missing, both with ‘updated from 3.5’ configs, and with fresh empty configs)

random wallpaper applet so the background changes periodically from my huge pool of pictures

photo app for doing red-eye correction and possibly photo managing, to replace digikam

ldap lookups in evolution is still a sore spot.

my desktop at work has an additional problem; a couple keyboard mappings i put in don’t work, and I’m not sure why yet.

the strangest thing about gnome are the notifications. the new email and calendar alarms are perfect. they look similar to the ones from outlook (but better) but don’t interrupt your typing; so you see them, but you can keep typing on what you were doing with no interruption. that part is good. the bad part is the notifications from pidgin are too subtle; just a flashing icon on the panel, no pop-up like from evolution, so it’s easy to not even see it. there may be some options though, I haven’t looked yet.

kde vs. gnome

I can’t believe I’m typing this.

I’m logged in with gnome as my desktop.

I’m going to use it on all my computers for the next few days or a week and see how it goes.

KDE4 bothers me this much.

KDE4 keeps getting better, but I believe it will take at least another year to reach the polish of KDE 3.5. and I’m finding that in ubuntu, gnome is actually MORE polished than my beloved KDE 3.5!

A big draw, and pleasant surprise, has been evolution. last time I tried evolution, it sucked. that was about 5 years ago. These days I’ve been whining that there are no good Linux GUI email clients. Kmail sucks, in 3.5 or 4.0, its performance with IMAP is abysmal. Thunderbird is fast, but will not cache IMAP messages (plus its calendar sucks, with obnoxious notifications that are hard to dismiss). Evolution seems willing to cache IMAP emails, runs fast, and the calendar seems to work great (at least, I was able to import my calendar files seamlessly; the true test will come at work when I try to sync my work appointments to it).

Everything I’ve tried in gnome so far seems very smooth, polished, and lightning fast; this is on my old old workstation at home, where kde 3.5 runs acceptably but with flickery redraws, and kde4 is a tick slower than that.

the gnome clock even kicks kde’s clock’s ass! the gnome folks took all the ideas from the kde clock, improved on them, and ran with it. one click on the gnome clock gives me a current calendar, a list of appointments for the day, and current time and temperature in as many cities as I want.

and there is even a memory usage gauge on my gnome panel, something I was having trouble finding in kde4.

still some questions I need to answer: does gnome’s file manager work as well as konqueror or dolphin? does it support ssh, like the fish IOslave in kde? and I need a new RSS Reader for the gnome desktop to replace akregator. and then there is digikam, with the best red-eye correction I have yet found; I wonder if g-spot or f-spot or whatever the gnome photo collection program is called can match that. although, there is of course no reason why I can’t run digikam on my spiffy new (possibly) gnome desktop.

I thought I would have trouble replacing kdepim (kmail, korganizer, and kaddressbook) but evolution seems to handily take care of that.

we shall see.

debian

so debian etch is totally rocking.

It was a fun experience just reading the installation manual. The manual was impressive, I’ve not seen a work which conveyed so much information in so little words. Let me explain what I mean by that; I, as an expert Linux user, found the directions extremely helpful, easy to follow, with just the right amount of hints along the way. However, a Linux newb would be hopelessly lost. almost every phrase in the manual evoked whole volumes of knowledge, which it was assumed, nay, required, that the reader already possessed. :) No wonder Debian has the reputation of being elitist!

At the end of the directions, the manual stated I now had a running Debian system, albeit somewhat lean. I’ll say! upon first boot, and logging in, I noticed the kernel was using about 5mb of ram for itself, and all running applications were taking up about 10mb! yep, only 15mb of ram for a full blown, non-embedded linux system. that was with a system logger and cron daemon running.

Then I installed the things I planned to actually use the computer for: a caching DNS server (bind9), ssh daemon, and typical stuff like zsh, screen, and darcs. The darcs install went ahead and pulled in exim, an SMTP server.

after I got screen going, with a couple zshs, and those other servers, ram usage ballooned all the way up to 22mb. 😀 Boy do I feel silly now, with the 1gb swap partition I created for this setup!