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September 15, 2010 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Help me streamline my bandwidth usage. A lot.

My recreational web browsing is capped at 50 MB a day. It's not the end of the world: most of my time online is spent at text-heavy sites like MeFi, and if there's a YouTube video I absolutely have to see, there's always my iPhone. But even with background bandwidth hogs disabled and images and Flash turned off, those MB still add up fast.

(The reasons for the limit are as complicated as they are tedious, and ultimately irrelevant: I want to work within the restrictions, not circumvent them.)

A browser like Lynx would be perfect, but sadly not an option. What tweaks can I make to Firefox (or Chrome) to ensure I'm downloading as few unnecessary bytes as possible?
posted by Zozo to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps disabling prefetching in Firefox would help?
posted by chorltonmeateater at 9:12 AM on September 15, 2010

Turn off images in firefox! Tools | Options | Content and uncheck Load images automatically
posted by reptile at 9:15 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

RSS should save bandwidth compared to actual web sites - especially if you don't update the feeds too often.
posted by kickingtheground at 9:15 AM on September 15, 2010

Turn off images in firefox!

OP has images turned off:

background bandwidth hogs disabled and images and Flash turned off,

Kickingtheground has a good answer. RSS should be pure text, which is about as little data as you're going to use.

Another option would be to set up a server at a remote site that zips and compresses the text, and sends it back to you.

Wikipedia has a list of text based browsers (though I understand you may not be able to use them)
posted by fake at 9:25 AM on September 15, 2010

Seconding the suggestion to use RSS.
posted by schmod at 9:35 AM on September 15, 2010

I'm not on firm ground in my knowledge of this, but it's my impression that firefox add ons like adblock-plus, noscript, request policy, etc can save on bandwidth by blocking stuff that hogs bandwidth (eg big pic ads, java, and flash). You then okay them on a case by case basis if you need to see something using such a script on a particular site. I use them but not for saving bandwidth. Perhaps someone else can confirm whether they work for that.
posted by Ahab at 9:40 AM on September 15, 2010

- Read MeFi via recent activity or RSS
- Use Gmail via the HTML-only option
- Use a text-only RSS reader [i.e. one that doesn't pre-load images, or with images turned off] generally for reading as much as possible. I use a standalone one called NetNewsWire for the Mac but I'm sure there are ones for the PC.
- Be aware of "AJAX-y" web sites that are preloading and prefetching data while you're viewing whatever page you're on [Google Maps is the most obvious one of these, but a lot of news/blog sites do this]
- disable javascript
- take the reload button off your browser toolbar or use something like Check4Change which will automatically tell you if a page has changed [not sure about the mechanisms for this, may be loading MORE bandwidth, but it's a neat idea, check first]
- change all helper applications to "Always Ask"
- Some more tips here including add-ons like "Firefox throttle" and this post which talks about using your cache more effectively

There are some hacky lynx options for firefox but they involve loading the page and then reloading it for lynx. Not optimal.
posted by jessamyn at 9:41 AM on September 15, 2010

Both readitlater and instapaper let you save links for later. The iphone apps for both will download the content for later reading. This might be useful if you've got more bandwidth on your phone plan.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:41 AM on September 15, 2010

Thanks, all. This is great stuff. Keep it coming!
posted by Zozo at 10:10 AM on September 15, 2010

Onspeed is a decent paid service that acts like a compression proxy. I never used it with images turned off but I imagine it will work and compress the HTML as usual. A similar, older, though free compression proxy is Toonel.
posted by Iosephus at 10:30 AM on September 15, 2010

If you've found a page you are interested in, using Google, instead of clicking on the Google link, do the following:
1. Right-click on the 'cached' link instead and choose to 'Copy Link'
2. Paste the link into your address bar and then add '&strip=1' to the end and then hit Return.

That should return you the text-only version of the cached copy. I am sure there is some add-on or something to do this automatically.
posted by vacapinta at 10:35 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you have access to a server and someone who can help you install a proxy script? Some Proxy scripts like CGI Proxy support a "text only" option as well as GZIP everything, which the browser decompresses automatically.
posted by jwells at 10:54 AM on September 15, 2010

Also, if you like/use an RSS reader and have sites you want to visit regularly that don't offer RSS feeds, using a service like Feed43 or FeedYes to turn normal pages into RSS feeds, that might help too. (Feed43 is more powerful, but requires HTML knowledge. FeedYes is easy but has less customization.)
posted by gemmy at 11:09 AM on September 15, 2010

I know this is annoying, but please can you say why Lynx is not an option?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:30 PM on September 15, 2010

Does your 50 MB roll over days? That could potentially help a lot.

Also, use a monitoring tool, like NetLimiter Monitor, if you don't have one already. This should be especially helpful if it's your whole internet connection that's capped, not your web browsing, since you can keep tabs on how much data apps suck up.
posted by nrobertson at 9:25 PM on September 15, 2010

AmbroseChapel: Lynx doesn't play nice with the proxy server limiting the bandwidth.
posted by Zozo at 9:46 PM on September 15, 2010

Ad blockers can stop at lot of bandwidth from 3rd party sites even when imgs/flash are disabled.
posted by flif at 11:16 AM on September 16, 2010

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