August 05, 2014

Internet Data Usage & Free Apps

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It's been about 6 weeks since I switched my home internet service from DSL Unlimited Internet to Exede Satellite Internet with a 15Gb per month package. I had also switched my cell phone service from AT&T to Verizon for various reasons already explained. This Verizon package gave me 10Gb of data per month, free calls and free texts for $60 per month.

That left me with a total of 25Gb's per month of data, single person household.

I never realized how much free internet data I was getting with my local provider's DSL service. They recently stopped supporting DSL thus passing it off to two other companies for connection issues. I am thrilled with all aspects of the Exede Satellite system. I guess to prepare me for internet service on the road I am now finding new things to do to reduce my data usage to keep under the monthly limit without having to pay more.

I am pretty computer knowledgeable. I am not a programmer, nor IT support but over the 20 years of using computers I know enough to be dangerous I guess. So what I found out recently as today, a few easy ways to decrease "wasted" usage that was easy to understand. I also found some surprises.

Hopefully some of this information will help those on the road having trouble keeping within their data limits. Also for any people at home that have a data limit, even your smart phones may find something here that can help you out.

I will try to explain this in basic terminology.

Facebook is the number one data sucker due to the way they cache all of the photos and videos from other Facebook users and advertising. This is even if you spend very little time on Facebook and don't watch any videos. After you log into your personal page, the data activity has started and a lot of it in the background that you are unaware of.

Watching videos, movies, or YouTube also is ranked high if not #2 in the data use business. I have learned to watch many of my music videos on YouTube after midnight because between midnight and 5am I get unlimited data. There are are just certain times I like to see my bands live on stage with loud volume coming though those computer external speakers. Now I have to do that after midnight or sacrifice during my other internet activity.

I don't watch movies on my computer nor do I download large files except those system updates. Yes, I had the box checked to not only check for updates daily but also download them automatically and let me give the permission for installing them. I kept the box checked that my system would check for updates daily but I un-checked automatic download. Now I will get a notification that an update is available and I can program that to download and install between my free data hours of midnight to 5am.

I've found some pretty good advice from computer geeks more knowledgeable than I am and have implemented most of what they said.

The first thing I did was go into my browser properties, found the apps page, searched for and installed 2 different apps that prevents all of the news, Facebook, ESPN and any other sites from automatically loading and playing videos at the time you go to their site. Yes you can click on those screens to shut off automatic play but they always seem to come back to auto play after a period of time.

So, I found and installed Flashblock and AdblockPro.  Both of these are free and you can find them as apps whether you use Safari, Google Chrome or Firefox. Since I don't use a PC nor IE I cannot speak for that browser.

Just to make sure Facebook was under control, I logged into my Facebook account, looked to the upper right corner and clicked that "down arrow" then highlighted "settings". On the left side of the screen after that page loaded, I clicked on the Videos icon and made sure that 'AutoPlay' was turned off.

Now with those 3 things you have prevented a lot of what I call "wasted data usage".

My problem was I was always use to having 15-20 tabs open on Google Chrome at times, that uses data. I can only read one screen at a time, so now I am starting a new habit of using one tab at a times. Those multiple tabs being hard to pass up because it's convenient. I also closed my 4-5 Excel spreadsheets I would always leave open....after all I am a known Excel spreadsheet junkie ... but those took up a little data just sitting open all the time. So now I only open them to update or read them.

For Mac users, I went into the Apps folder and clicked open the Utilities folder and brought "Activity Monitor" to my dock. This will do various things such as track all internet network usage since the last time you booted your computer to on. I then moved the columns to the way I wanted to see them such as Recvd Bytes first then Sent Bytes as the 2nd column. I also sorted that column by clicking the down arrow on the column, large to small so I can see what programs are running and using the most data by listing those on top if they are using the most data.

After closing tabs, closing files that were sitting open and not used, I saw that only the required system files were running in the background. I see now, that my two largest users are Google Chrome and my Mail program, just as it should be.

Apple has their own malware program installed where it will monitor your hard drive at all times. People that have PC's that I talked with today recommended two free programs to monitor for malware and delete it. Those were Malwarebytes and Spybot Search and Destroy. Neither of those programs were not for Apple computers.

If you have malware running in the background, it is using your data. A lot of the time you will not know it's even on your computer. Have someone with some knowledge run those malware programs because you have to be careful of not deleting programs by mistake that your computer or operating system needs to run.

The biggest spike in my usage in 6 weeks was the day I connected my TV through my wireless Directv modem to my Exede internet service. I did not even watch a movie on demand, no YouTube, I just made sure the connection worked. I was thrilled that I had connection. I could watch movies On Demand now, or YouTube on a larger TV screen. I then turned off the TV, put my computer in sleep mode and went to bed. The next day while working outside and not having either on, I burned 1.7-1.9Gbs.....I was shocked. I figured it was the constant updating of movies or system upgrades by Directv.

I called Directv and explained my problem, they had no answer. I couldn't find anything on the Exede forums either. So I unplugged the TV modem. I track my usage on a spreadsheet that feeds a graph so I was able to see by day what was happening. After unhooking the Directv modem I was back to normal usage of .4-.6 Gb of use. .5 is right on target for 15Gb's in a month.

I can honestly say with a family of 4 or even just a couple using the internet for normal use, I don't see anyway at all you can stay within a 15Gb to 20Gb monthly limit. That leaves you with 3 options ... control  and watch usage like I am doing, pay more money for more Gbs or shutdown during prime time hours and do your major downloads during your free data periods IF you have one.

Hopefully this rambling has not confused or scared you and there is something here that can help you. Feel free to email me with any questions you may have and I'll try my best to answer them or post them on a forum to get an answer from the experts.

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