Given that we are fumbling toward a video-enabled Web, moving large video files around should be increasingly ordinary. Services like Netflix streaming have invested in streaming movies because they want to get out from under their $300 million yearly postal bill (says Nightline). All sorts of new home technologies are trying to address the problem of moving big HD video files around the many machines in the bourgeois home. Verizon is investing over $10 billion in fiber infrastructure because they think we’ll want to move around really large files.
But all is not smooth and easy. Zune is trying to sell me downloadable TV episodes yet my new XBox 360 is already full. And I think I bought the biggest one? (Can’t remember.) Let’s consider something incredibly simple: clicking on a link in a web browser to download a large file.
Yes, it’s amazing how difficult it is to move around a large file! Here’s a test: I’m using a wired ethernet connection from my University office with a fast new computer and 760 GB free on my disk. You’d think: “no problem.” (Or maybe “Bring it on!“)
Let’s try to download a 1.7GB file using a variety of methods. That’s really not a very big file. A Superbit edition DVD from Columbia Tri-Star is at least 4.3 GB for 90 minute movie in plain old DVD format (not Blu-Ray). The movie “Ice Age 2″ in Blu-Ray is 22 GB. So hey, not a very hard test, right?
Web browsers, however, are not up to the job. Google Chrome and whatever version of Internet Explorer I have can’t download files over 2GB because of a limitation in Windows. Firefox built in a workaround to the limit, but it took me 3 hours to download the file and then I couldn’t open it because it had errors. Errors?! What is this, the dawn of Fetch? The early days of FTP? I’m getting CRC error flashbacks.
So I tried some specialized downloaders with interesting results.
Here’s the summary:
Internet Explorer: FAIL (1)
Google Chrome: FAIL (1)
Firefox: 3 hours, then FAIL (2)
downthemall: 7 hours, then FAIL (3)
flashget: 12 minutes
(1) – due to HTTP download limit (probably in Windows?)
(2) – downloaded with errors, file unreadable
(3) – I think it fails while trying to preallocate space on disk — hard to know what it is doing
C’mon web browsers. Let’s get it together here.
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