Monday, April 18, 2011

The Equipment, Not The Service

Yeah, I know. I probably shouldn't talk about my parents like this. The truth is, though, they're not exactly the most tech-literate folks around.

Of course, neither am I, now that I bring it up. But I do know enough about how such things work to recognize when things may be related to equipment rather than service. There are, after all, times when services must slow down or stop completely so that providers can maintain their ability to provide their products. At the same time, equipment across the board, be it public, commercial, or private, ages at a specific rate that sometimes varies depending on a variety of factors, including what the equipment was designed to do.

Why do I bring this up? Well, it comes down to video, which is something I wrote a bit about back in March of this year as having made it a little hard to be a written-word fellow like myself.

In this case, however, I'm thinking more about how streaming video works. As it happens, my parents subscribe to a streaming video service, from which they can get content from a variety of sources. Lately, my dad has been telling me that he's been experiencing frequent issues with buffering while trying to use the service. At first, I was inclined to believe him, as I simply didn't have any other answers to mention.

More recently, though, I've come to the conclusion that these buffering issues may have more to do with their computing and routing equipment than with the service itself. This is mainly as a result of since having had a chance to do a little comparing with my own equipment.

For purposes of this comparison, we're talking about a five-plus-year-old computer running Windows 7 set up with a wireless router versus a two-year-old system running Vista and no wireless networking. Otherwise, both systems are set up relatively the same, with the same sort of Internet connection from the same local provider.

In the process of making this comparison, which has been over the course of about a week, there have been a handful of videos released online that I've tried to first watch on my parents' Win 7 machine, only to give up after encountering frequent buffering that have later played with very little, if any, buffering at all on my own machine with a slightly newer chipset in it.

I will admit that this is hardly what one could call the most scientific observation I could make, simply for the fact that there are too many variables that I know about, and probably more that don't come to mind right away. Browser choice, for example, or the originally intended purpose of the computer, just to name a few, and I'm not even sure if those things would have any effect on video streamed to, say, a Roku to be viewed on a television.

At the same time, though, the differences in experience are enough to make me wonder if these issues are more because of equipment than because of service, simply because it seems unlikely, at least with the cursory methods I'm using at present, that there would be as big a difference between viewing a video on my parents computer as opposed to my own if it were a matter of service.

As noted, though, this is an entirely non-scientific observation here. I could be entirely wrong and not even know it. Only time will tell, of course, and perhaps consulting with someone with a better eye for things like this than mine.

Until then, keep on reading, folks!

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