Monday, November 6, 2017

Internet Bandwidth: More computers = less for everyone

This is the first post in an occasional series on factors affecting internet access in public libraries. This information should apply anywhere where internet is offered.

Many libraries in Alaska face slow internet. One common reason is because there are too many devices (computers, laptops, smartphones, etc) for the amount of bandwidth a library has.

When you buy internet for your library, say 3x3 Mbps, that speed is delivered to your library wall. It is then available to be split up among your library computers and anything connected to your library’s WiFi network. 

Assuming that there are no tweaks to your network, you can find out how much bandwidth is available to each computer/smartphone/tablet connected to your network with this formula:

(bandwidth purchased) x 1024) / (total number of devices connected to your network) = current level of kbps per user

For example, let’s say that you purchased 3x3 Mbps for your library and you have two public computers. Each user would get:

(3x1024)/2 = 1,536 kbps per user – This speed for the two computers is excellent and should allow people to do most activities, including movie streaming, if you allowed that sort of thing. 

BUT. Let’s say you have a WiFi network and you also have five people out in the parking lot with smartphones or laptops. Now our calculation looks like:

(3x1024)/7 = 438 kbps per user – Here you have the same bandwidth delivered to the library wall, but because you have seven people working with it, each user only has 438 kpps worth of bandwidth. This is bad. It’s below the Edge Initiative’s recommendation of 512 kbps per user in order to deliver basic web browsing and e-mail. It’s very likely that all seven of your internet users are going to have unhappy experiences. 

Some libraries only have 1.5x1.5 Mbps for internet. What does their bandwidth look like for those two public computer users and five wifi users? Here’s the sad calculation:

(1.5*1024)/7 = 219 kbps per user.  At this speed, a typical cell phone photo of 4 MB would take two and a half minutes to download. It is unlikely anyone on this network is having  a positive experience. Yet the ISP has delivered their promised 1.5x1.5 Mbps to the library. 

If this is the source of your bad internet, your main two choices are 1) Buy more bandwidth (if you can afford it) or 2) Limit the number of devices that use your network. You could also tweak your network to block some usages or prioritize one computer’s access to bandwidth, but this won’t get you as much relief as either limiting devices or getting more bandwidth. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can offer advice on limiting or tweaking. If you are a library, you may also contact the Online With Libraries (OWL) program for advice on tweaking your network.

If you have questions or comments on this post, we'd love to hear them.

Reference:  

Edge Initiative Article
Benchmark 9: How much bandwidth does my library need?
By Samantha Becker, Sofia Leung, and Robert Bocher


Guest post: Damon Stuebner on the film Report from the Aleutians

On Friday, November 10, the APK will host three showings of the award-winning World War II film Report from the Aleutians by filmmaker John Huston at 1, 2, and 3 pm. LAM film and video specialist Damon Stuebner shares some background on the film. -Claire

Damon Stuebner during filming of his documentary about the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Storis.
Report from the Aleutians is the official U.S. Army film documenting the combat operations and daily life of soldiers serving in the Aleutians during World War II. While he is not officially credited, Hollywood filmmaker John Huston wrote, directed, edited, and narrated Report from the Aleutians.

Prior to the war, John Huston was Hollywood’s go-to-man for fixing poorly written scripts. His first venture into directing feature films won him two Academy Awards for the film, Maltese Falcon (1941). At the start of the World War II, Huston enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the recently established U.S. Army Signal Corps - Motion Picture Unit as a lieutenant.

Huston was quickly promoted to captain after receiving his first assignment to film at a remote Aleutian outpost on Adak Island in Alaska. Capt. Huston and his small film crew spent 6 months on Adak living and working out of the same tent and filming in all types of weather conditions. His chief cameraman, Lt. Rey Scott (a well-regarded Hollywood cinematographer prior to the war) received a medal for flying nine combat missions over Kiska in six days. While filming bombing missions himself, Huston had several close-calls. On one mission, enemy fire killed the gunner standing next to him. On another mission, the bomber that he was filming in crashed and caught fire upon landing.

Title card from Report from the Aleutians via Wikipedia.
Along with Huston’s narration, Report from the Aleutians also featured his father, Hollywood actor Walter Huston, as co-narrator, and bomber pilots who had flown combat missions over Kiska played themselves in voice-over roles.

The U.S. Army wanted Report from the Aleutians to be released as a short film, but Huston insisted that the film be released in its original form as a feature length documentary. The film won a New York City Film Critics Circle Award (1943) and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary (1944). The film lost to Divide and Conquer, directed by famed Hollywood filmmaker, and Huston’s commanding officer, Major Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life).

Huston also served as chief cameraman for the joint U.S./British Army film Tunisian Victory, and he shot newsreel footage during the Allied Invasion of Italy.

Report from the Aleutians was the first of three films Huston directed for the U.S. Army. His second, Battle of San Pietro, became the standard for how Hollywood makes war films even today. While billed as a documentary, it was largely a re-enactment of how U.S. forces, despite being greatly outnumbered and having taken heavy casualties, captured the San Pietro Valley in Italy. His third film, Let There Be Light, which examined the effects and treatment of “combat fatigue” (now known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), was deemed so controversial by the U.S. Army that it was listed as classified until 1980, when it was released to the National Archives. Today, film critics consider Let There Be Light to be one of Huston’s greatest films.

After the war, Huston returned to Hollywood as an actor and director. He appeared in 54 films and went on to direct 47 motion pictures, including such Hollywood classics as The Treasure of Sierra Madre, The African Queen, and Moby Dick.