Networx – Free Bandwidth Monitoring Software (Getting the Most Out of It)

Systems: Windows Only (2000, XP, Vista, 2008 / Both 32 and 64 bit)

Donationware: Technically it’s free, but when you see the level of craftsmanship in this program, you will want to donate.

Website: Softperfect.com

networx-prevI recently changed ISPs to one with much more consistent service, but the trade off is that I now have a rather small bandwidth cap. As much as we hate them, bandwidth caps are probably in all of our futures. The important thing is to have control over and be informed of your usage (before the bill arrives). I needed a reliable way to keep track of my bandwidth, so I tested out several free bandwidth monitoring softwares. My ISP has its own online bandwidth usage calculated, but I wanted a redundant system (one which I could use to make sure they were honest in their tracking).  In my experiments, I found Networx to be the best. Its primary virtue is its ability to be as advanced as you need it to be. For my multiple computer home network, it has every feature I could ask for. Let’s take a closer look.

The software is so unobtrusive; it even lacks a full control window.  Instead, you can access all aspects of the software from the taskbar icon.

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A left click will give you a quick bandwidth summary/ a right click will show you the menu.

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Before we get to ridiculous number of features available in the menu, let’s check out my favorite feature.A right click anywhere on the task bar brings up a windows menu that has a “toolbars” option, if you go there you will find a new entry: Networx Desk Band. Activating this toolbar gives you a quick real time read out.

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I know what you’re thinking: But I don’t like red and white graphs! Well, you can fully customize that little read out; I’ll get to that a little later on.First, lets go back to that right click menu from the Networx taskbar icon.

Your first 3 options all work together:

Show Graph

– This displays a full size visual read out that you can place on your desktop wherever you want.

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Reset Graph (Only present if “Show Graph” is clicked first) – This option will clear the current data displayed on the graph, not unlike the trip counter reset in your car.

Enable Click Through (Only present if “Show Graph” is clicked first) – Will make the graph act as if it is not really there.You can literally click through the graph to select things. Be careful though, this means you can’t resize or move the graph window without turning off “Click Through” the same way your turned it on.

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Speed Meter

– This works sort of like a heart monitor for you bandwidth.You hit “Play” and for the duration you allow it to run, it records average, maximum and total transfer.You can then export it directly to a txt file.

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Usage Statistics

– You can access this menu from a double click on the icon.This will probably be your most visited window in the battle to keep informed about transfer totals. The first thing you will see is the “General” Tab:

Not much to do here, except see a quick summary of your total usage all in one place.

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The Daily Report – Here is where you can really begin to see detail present in this program.If you have this set up on the family computer, you can directly see what day of the month the highest transfer happened.If you are not a fan of the spread sheet, they also provide you a visual readout of the past week.

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Weekly/Monthly Report – The same data as the daily, but handily calculated for you either size increment.

Custom – The most powerful data aggregator in this entire software. You can give it the date-through-date specifics and it will automatically set up the graph in the most appropriate way.

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Dial-up Sessions – If you have a minute/transfer based dial-up connection, this tab is vital.It records every time you connect to your dial up provider, the date, amount of time spent, transfers, etc.You might think this is outdated, but you would be surprised how many areas still do not have broadband.

Hourly Rates – for you true statistics hounds out there, you can follow your transfer rates on an hourly basis.

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Export – Oh yeah, you can also export all of these charts to Excel for easy archiving.

Users – If everyone who uses the computer has separate logons, you can track the data per user.You know, easily figure out which roommate is the bandwidth hog.

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Quota

This is a handy system for letting you set the maximum transfer/duration.For me that is 50 gigs per month.I set it at 45 gigs, however, because it notifies you with a little pop-up window when you have met your quota.

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Settings

All of the settings for the program.Let’s go one tab at a time.

General – This tab has the settings for “Load on Windows Startup, Check for Updates”, And most importantly: Which internet connection is monitored. This is essential if you have multiple connections, or utilize a different connection for intra-network traffic.

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Graph – Settings to tweak how the graph output functions.This is really for power users who want control over aspect of their graph.

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Graph Colors – This may seem trivial or nit-picky, but on some monitors you may want to adjust the colors of the graph for optimal resolution.High contrast is an option in every aspect of most operating systems for those who need it for accessibility.Or, you may just want to make it look pretty.

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Notifications – This tab’s settings tell the software when you notify you of certain things.It can tell you if your connection falls below it’s usual transfer rate, or if it exceeds a predetermined speed.You can also customize how exactly it notifies you, a tone or a pop up, ect.

Advanced – There is one truly important feature in here.In this tab you can set what day your billing cycle begins on. I’m lucky, my bandwidth resets at midnight on the first.For some of you, it might be on the 14th or 21st, etc. DO NOT FORGET TO SET THIS, OR YOUR TOTAL BANDWIDTH USED FOR THE MONTH WILL NOT BE ACCURATE!

If you have multiple computers using the same network, you will need to install Networx on all of them, and tick the box under “Synchronization” or else YOU WILL ONLY BE TRACKING THE DATA TRANSFERRED FROM THIS COMPUTER.That will not be an accurate measure of the total usage.

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Trace Route

– This is a power user feature.Your average user will never have a need to track a packet from your computer to a source IP.

Ping

– This works the same way as the command line ping.You enter a location to ping, and it will tell you the millisecond duration of the test transfer.

NetStat

– This is pretty useful, it lists every program or service that is accessing the internet, or has rights to do so, and where it’s sending from and to.

Conclusion

So that’s about all you need to know to keep up with your bandwidth use by utilizing Networx. If you have a different favorite Bandwidth tracker, let us know in the comments below.I am on month 2 of using Networx, and have had no problems, if you have, also let us know.At the end of my first month of use, there was a 458 megabyte discrepancy between my Networx report and my ISPs total report.I attribute this to the Xbox360 updates and purchases along with my iPhone app downloads.

TipsFor.us Giveaway – iPod Touch Winner Announcement

Congratulations to “Dan” from KS, winner of the iPod Touch from TipsFor.us. Dan was one of more than 100 entries, but he was one of only a few who took advantage of all three entry methods (Form, Facebook, and Blog post). Obviously, it paid off for him.

Many thanks to all of you who entered. Stay tuned for future giveaway announcements, as we plan to host several more giveaways on TipsFor.us. What might we give away next? Maybe some RAM, a Macbook, or maybe some California IOUs? 🙂

ipodtouch.jpg

TunesBag Stores and Shares Your Music Online – Free Invites

tunesbag-logo Currently in beta, tunesBag is a free browser-based media player that allows you to (legally) upload your music, play it online, and share with other people.

Think of tunesBag as an online version of iTunes that grants you access to your full audio library from any computer with an Internet connection. Since it’s entirely web based, it lacks features such as CD ripping and iPod syncing, but that’s not really the point. What it does offer is the ability to sit down at any computer and immediately have your full music library at your disposal.

Here’s the main window. Hard to believe this is all running in a browser, huh?

TunesBag - Main Window

Uploading Your Music

tunesBag offers several ways to upload your music files, including a browser-based uploader, an installable Desktop Uploader (currently Windows only), via e-mail, and directly from elsewhere on the Web.

TunesBag - Upload Options

There’s currently no hard limit on how much you can upload, though they do ask that you contact them if you plan to upload more than 5-7 GB of files. tunesBag supports MP3, M4A, WMA, and OGG. Audio files laden with DRM are not supported, sorry.

The browser uploader allows for multiple-file uploads, plus creating a playlist for the uploaded files.

TunesBag - Browser Uploader

The Desktop Uploader (Windows only) has some more advanced features. Those of you with existing iTunes or Winamp libraries will appreciate the ability to upload your existing library (or just selected playlists). No such love yet for us MediaMonkey fans, but perhaps the developers could consider it for future releases.

TunesBag - Desktop Uploader

Another cool feature of the Desktop Uploader is that you can use it to completely restore your original audio files back to your computer in case of catastrophic hard disk failure. In this sense, tunesBag functions as a backup for your original files.

TunesBag - Uploader Restore

General Usage

After you have uploaded audio files, tunesBag will analyze them for you and create acoustic fingerprints to help you fix any missing or incorrect elements, such as the album name or cover art. This is a pretty handy feature, and tunesBag will present to you multiple options in case there’s a potential conflict.

TunesBag - Fix Meta Tags

While playing a song, you have control over playback using the transport bar at the bottom of the page, including options for volume, repeat, and randomize.

TunesBag - Transport Bar

Just like with most media players, you can search and sort your music library by genre, artist, or album. You can also create any number of playlists that you like.

TunesBag - Sorting Library

Whenever you hover over each Title, you can bring up a menu for each song by clicking the arrow. This presents a number of options, such as adding that song to a playlist, commenting, sharing, editing Meta information, and deleting. You can also download the original audio file.

TunesBag - Menu Options

Only the original owner can actually download the original audio file, but this brings up the issue of file sharing.

Sharing

Since tunesBag runs completely online, it seems only natural that the ability to share files should be inherent to the way it works. It is… to an extent.

You can share individual files or full playlists in just about any way imaginable: by e-mail, via social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, or through a direct link to a sharing page. You can also add friends and view their music directly within tunesBag.

The important aspect here is that friends can only stream your music (and vice-versa) – they cannot download and keep the original files. While I am definitely not a lawyer, the streaming-only nature of tunesBag should keep it protected from the likes of the RIAA. tunesBag is a legal service in Austria, the country in which it operates.

See for yourself – Want to listen to that Apocalyptica album that I uploaded in one of the above screenshots? Sure, just click here.

Invitations

While in beta, tunesBag is completely free. While they may eventually offer premium services, hopefully a free version will always exist.

The private beta requires an invitation to join. We have 18 invitations available for TipsFor.us readers. To receive an invitation, just ask for an invite in the comments below. Be sure to leave your valid e-mail address in the e-mail field. We’ll contact you as soon as possible. As always, first come, first serve!

iPod Touch Giveaway Ends Tonight

If you want to try your luck at winning an iPod Touch, act fast! The TipsFor.us iPod giveway ends tonight (Sunday, 12 July 2009). All submissions must be received by 11:59 PM (PST). Thanks to all of you who have submitted so far. We’ve had a lot of interesting and creative submissions so far. Just be sure to include the correct code word in the entry form – a number of you added an incorrect word, and those entries must unfortunately be deleted.

Keep in mind that you can triple your odds of winning by both becoming a fan of TipsFor.us on Facebook AND also by writing a blog entry linking to our original giveaway post.

We’ll contact a winner on Monday, and that person will have 48 hours to respond before we choose a new winner. Don’t miss this opportunity! Good luck!

ipod-touch-win-me

Reminder – iPod Touch Giveaway

iPod-Touch-slim If you haven’t heard by now, TipsFor.us is giving away a brand new iPod Touch 8 GB.

There are multiple ways to enter the drawing, so be sure to take advantage of all of them in order to increase your chances of winning.

The contest ends on Sunday, July 12.

Good luck! The unopened iPod package has been sitting on my desk for over a week now. I’d love nothing more than to tear open the box and claim it for my own! Instead, I must continue to show great restraint and give it away to one of you lucky readers.

Don’t miss this opportunity to win this lovely gadget – the giveaway ends in one week!

iStat Pro is an Awesome Free System Monitoring Widget

icon-istatproFor Mac OS 10.4 or higher: iStat pro is a system monitoring widget that has it all.

iStat proMain site

Like any system monitor worth its salt, iStat pro displays vital information about your:

  • CPU
  • Memory
  • Hard disk(s)
  • Network
  • Temps
  • Fan speed
  • Battery (for laptops)
  • Uptime and System load
  • Running Processes

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Unlike some other system monitoring tools for Mac OS X, iStat pro runs in the Dashboard instead of in the System Menu or the Dock. To me, this is preferable because I can quickly send it completely out of the way when I don’t need to check any system stats.

Okay, so it displays system stats. Is that all?

Nope. For starters, one cool aspect of iStat pro is that it displays your external IP address under the Network section. Pressing the i key (provided iStat is the active widget) will copy that external IP to your clipboard, which is handy for network admins.

istat-pro-prefsYou can also customize the stew of the widget. Want only certain elements (such as CPU, Temps, and Memory) to display? No problem, just turn off the others in the Preferences.

Want the stats widget to display vertically instead of horizontally? Yep, it can do that.

Want to rearrange the order of the elements? Just drag-and-drop.

Dislike the default color? Just pick from any of the nine included colors. There’s bound to be one you like.

If you’re totally hardcore about system monitoring, you can buy the iStat for iPhone app ($2) and check your Mac’s system stats remotely from your iPhone or iPod touch.

Hotkeys

For you hotkey aficionados, here’s a list of the available hotkeys for iStat pro, taken directly from the manual.

c – Show or hide the CPU section
m – Show or hide the memory section
d – Show or hide the disks section
n – Show or hide the network section
p – Show or hide the processes section
u – Show or hide the uptime section
b – Show or hide the battery section
f – Show or hide the fans section
t – Show or hide the temps section
s – Swap between tall and wide skins
i – Copy external IP to the clipboard
g – Update external IP
1 – 8 – Change skin colour

iStat pro is freeware/donationware from iSlayer.

TipsFor.us Giveaway – Win an iPod Touch 8 GB

Important: this contest is valid for USA residents only. Our apologies to our readers outside the US.

iPod Touch

TipsFor.us is giving away a brand new iPod Touch! It’s beautiful.

This lovely gadget has 8 GB of storage – enough for roughly 1,750 songs, 10,000 photos, or 10 hours of video. It has a glorious 3.5-inch widescreen multi-touch display with 480-by-320-pixel resolution.

The iPod Touch is far more than just a music player. You can view photos, watch movies and YouTube, surf the web, check e-mail, play games, browse the App Store, and even read Amazon Kindle books. See all features here.

Feeling adventurous? You can also install Skype/Fring on your new iPod Touch to make calls and send text messages.

Did we mention that it’s beautiful? Just look at it.

iPod Touch4

HOW TO ENTER

There are several ways to enter, but only one of them is required.

rss-button-smallAll you have to do to enter is subscribe to TipsFor.us, either via e-mail updates or through our RSS feed. We have just added a code word to the bottom of our articles. The code word is only visible in the e-mail or RSS feed, so you have to subscribe. If you don’t already use an RSS reader, we suggest Google Reader.

Once you see the code word – and you will see it, complete this short entry form, which includes a few questions about your technology interests. No personally identifying information will be shared with outside parties for any reason.

The entry form includes a place to enter the correct code word. Without it, your entry will be deleted. One lucky entrant will be chosen at random.

Earn Additional Entries

Not satisfied with just one entry? Good for you! Here are two additional opportunities to increase your chances of winning.

1. Join our Facebook fan page – Become a fan of TipsFor.us on Facebook and earn one additional entry. If you are already a fan, then your additional entry is already counted.

2. Blog it – Post an entry on your blog with a link to this promotion and earn one additional entry. We will count trackbacks/pingbacks as additional entries. If a trackback/pingback does not show up, simply leave a comment below with a link to your blog post.

Contest Rules

This contest is open until Sunday, July 12 at 11:59 PM. Winning entrant will be chosen at random. The winner will be notified by e-mail on Monday, July 13 and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. Open to US residents only. This prize is not exchangeable for cash value.

Thanks for reading, and good luck!