XP bandwidth brouhaha

The newness of Windows XP lends itself to confusion. Reader Tom Gleason sent me an example, quoting websites that claimed XP needlessly consumes 20% of your PC's network bandwidth. Like a lot of online talk, this is misinformed.

The newness of Windows XP -- with its sometimes addled approach to licence restrictions, copy protection and security -- lends itself to confusion. Reader Tom Gleason sent me an example, quoting websites that claimed XP needlessly consumes 20% of your PC's network bandwidth.

Like a lot of online talk, this is misinformed. Windows 2000 introduced QoS (quality of service) features using an admission control service and the Internet Engineering Task Force's RSVP signalling. XP doesn't support these two protocols but provides its own QoS components. The QoS packet scheduler dialogue box in XP Professional shows a default "bandwidth limit" of 20%. This created a buzz on the web to the effect that XP artificially withheld a fifth of your bandwidth, even if its packet scheduler was turned off.

Not to worry. There's no restriction unless your network specifically supports XP-style QoS and it's requested by an application, such as a streaming media player. Even then, by default only 20% is set aside. (See Tech TV's website).

But it is worth looking into QoS, because some applications can benefit from increasing it or, conversely, terminating it. For example, high-speed internet access through the DirecTV satellite service will not work unless XP's QoS is disabled. (See DirecPC Installation Instructions).

Reader Frank Brown sent me a completely different concern about XP, relating to VNC (Virtual Network Computing), a free remote-access application I described last week (see Your virtual network).

Microsoft's XP licence agreement says: "Except as otherwise permitted by the NetMeeting, remote assistance and remote desktop features described below, you may not use the product to permit any device to use, access, display or run other executable software residing on the workstation computer, nor may you permit any device to use, access, display or run the product or product's user interface, unless the device has a separate licence for the product."

That means using any software other than Microsoft's to view an XP desktop from Windows 2000 or any other operating system would violate the company's licence agreement, in case you care.

"I use VNC extensively to manage several hundred desktops daily," Brown says. "So for me this is a big deal, and a good reason to stay away from XP until I see significant value added compared to Win 2000. So far I haven't."

I'm interested in hearing any surprising facts you've discovered in your own experience with QoS, XP or any other Windows technology.

Readers Gleason and Brown will receive gift certificates for a free book, CD or DVD of their choice for being the first to send me a tip I printed.

Send tips to Livingston. He regrets that he cannot answer individual questions.

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