Tip o’ the Week 365 – Throttling applications’ network perf

clip_image002If you ever wonder why your home network is apparently bogging down, the blame may not be just down to your broadband provider. As we increasingly use multiple devices on the home network, any one of them may be causing issues for all the others.

If you’re using an ADSL connection, the Asymmetric nature means that preference is given to data download, with only a portion of the available bandwidth allocated to uploads, since most people are browsing, streaming and downloading files more than they are serving data or putting things into the cloud.

One of the downsides to ADSL is that when you do need to upload a lot of data, it has the side effect of hammering the download speeds too. It’s even worse if something you don’t especially care about is killing your download speed through unexpected uploads, or you need to use something that requires decent upload speeds – like a Skype call or an Xbox Live session – and you get poor performance because something else is hogging your bandwidth.

clip_image004OneDrive is a bit of a culprit – in an experiment, the Network Speed Test app was used in normal run of things, and saw ~18Mbps download and .77Mbps upload, which is fairly healthy.

clip_image006Starting a big upload by dropping a video file into the OneDrive folder on the PC, and allowing the sync process to get going (verified by the icon in the system tray changing to show a couple of sync arrows, and the pop up balloon saying what’s happening), and things changed radically; a paltry 600Kbps download and just 150Kbps upload speed. A tell-tale is the network delay – or latency – which rose from <50ms to >700ms, which will make anything that needs real-time communications very difficult.

clip_image008If you think your network performance is terrible, start by looking in Task Manager – CTRL+SHIFT+ESC – and if you think the Send vs Receive stats in the network performance tab is a bit skewed, then click the Resource Monitor link at the bottom of the window… and look at the Send / Receive columns under Network, to see which application is causing the trouble…


clip_image012Fortunately, the OneDrive app has the option of imposing upload limits; look in the system tray for the OneDrive icon(s), and right-click then choose Settings. Note that you might have separate OneDrive personal and OneDrive business icons; they can be tuned separately.

Under the Network tab, you can put a value in for KB/sec (that’s Kilo-bytes per sec, rather than the Mega-bits or Kilo-bits per second of the bandwidth measurements above – remembering, of course, that 1 Byte = 8 bits, so 1KB = 8Kb), which will throttle the upload speed used by OneDrive sync. Hover over the OneDrive icon to see the

The “Adjust automatically” option sounds hopeful, but still appears to favour upload speed over download requirements, though there may be more long-term monitoring going on. If you’ve identified OneDrive sync as the culprit to your poor performance, you can also pause it for a period of time – handy if you’re on conference calls with Skype and you want to give all of your bandwidth over to that.

Still, back to the experiment: after setting the limit to 25KBps as above, there’s still plenty of uploading, but not as bad an impact on the downloads…


Tip o’ the Week 364 – F is for Function

clip_image001PC keyboards have always had Function Keys, just as mainframe terminals did before them – thank IBM for cementing F-keys on the modern keyboard, though. Even Apple Macs had function keys, though the latest fad is to replace them with a Touch Bar – among other things that were replaced.

Some terminal keyboards had up to 24 function keys, with the idea that different application would have various commands assigned to each. The modern multi-tasking, graphically-oriented operating system has largely done away with the clip_image002need for function keys, but certain commands persist and are supported widely – ALT-F4, for example, will pretty much always close a Windows application. CTRL-F4 will mostly close a window or tab.

F1 usually means “help”. F2 tends to rename the thing you’ve selected. F3 normally does a “search”. F5 usually refreshes whatever you’re viewing.  There’s more.

If you’ve a Surface Book, check out Paul Thurrott’s commentary from a while back, and if you’ve any other Surface device you might find the doubling up of function keys and other regular keys causes grief at times, as having the toggled “Fn” key locked on (so as to use the F-key functions) will nullify the other functions printed on the same keys. Losing access to the key that mutes your speaker or presses play/pause might be a minor annoyance, but forfeiting the Home, End and PgUp/PgDn keys can be a right pain if you’re editing text or moving around a spreadsheet. There’s no easy way of avoiding this, other than just being aware of whether you have the Fn key toggled or not.

Somewhat obtusely, Surface Book/Pro fans may not realise that the Fn key doesn’t just toggle on and off, but can be used in conjunction with other keys to provide spot functionality – the most useful being the Fn+Del and Fn+Backspace key combinations, which change the screen brightness up and down. Certainly more regularly useful than the keyboard brightness settings that share the F1 and F2 keys. This nugget was found in the Surface Book user guide, published along with guides for other Surface devices, here.

One of the best hidden function key combos to remember, though, is the F4 key within Office applications – it repeats the last thing you did, from colouring some text to lots of other stuff. If you’re applying formatting, for example, rather than using the Format Painter command in Office apps, you could simply set the format on one paragraph/cell/whatever, then select another one to apply the same formatting just by pressing F4, and you can continue to apply the same settings by selecting some more/pressing F4, etc. Magic.

Tip o’ the Week 363 – Erasing past mistakes

clip_image001[4]Using a Windows PC with Office presents many opportunities to make it easier to do things repeatedly – from shortcut keys which speed up regular tasks, to remembering things you’ve done before or accessed recently, so you can easily repeat them. Sometimes, however, they remember stuff you do mistakenly, and thereafter clutter up the system that’s supposed to simplify the way you work. Now, it’s time to look at ways of erasing those mistakes.

Custom Dictionary

clip_image003[4]Following the ToW #362, a reader asked how to remove misspelled words that are accidentally added to Word’s custom dictionary – if you’d like to edit that, within Word, go to File | Options | clip_image005[4]Proofing, then click on Custom Dictionaries… and then

select the default dictionary and click on Edit Word List…

clip_image007[4]Outlook Auto-complete cache

When you type a name into the To: line of a new Outlook email, the autocomplete cache will offer you a list of previously-used addresses. If you got the original address wrong or someone’s email address has subsequently changed, you may want to remove the suggested name.

In order to do that, when you’re presented with the list of suggestions, either use your mouse to hover over the name you want to ditch, and click the X to the right, or use the up & down arrow keys to move the selection and click the X or press the Del key. You could also clear the whole list, or switch it off entirely – see here for details.

clip_image009[4]Windows Run list

If you’re a habitual user of the Run command in Windows (press the WindowsKey+R) to enter commands, then you may rue mistyping one that sticks around getting in the way, as it is presented to you next time you’re doing something similar. To fix this Most Recently Used (MRU) list, it’s a bit more involved:

  • Start Registry Editor (WindowsKey+R / regedit, natch)
  • Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\RunMRU
  • Find the entry you want to fix from the list of values on the right, and either edit or delete it

clip_image011[4]Explorer recent files

Windows Explorer (WindowsKey+E) shows a list of recent files and folders, which is a handy thing if you want to quickly access things you use regularly, though if you accessed a file in error, you may not want it hanging around in the list. To remove a file from the list, just right-click on it and select to Remove from Quick access.

The Frequent Folders and Quick Access views in Explorer are essentially the same thing, so if you see a folder there you’d rather not have, just right click it and choose Remove from Quick Access or Unpin from Quick Access.