[AccessD] A sad tale of wifi hotspot interference

John Colby jwcolby at gmail.com
Sat Oct 1 00:34:53 CDT 2022

As some of you may know, I use my phone's wifi hotspot a lot.  I have
Verizon and each line (phone) gets 15gb of data before being severely
throttled, as in ~800kbit / second down.  Understand that my phone itself
is not throttled, I have unlimited data directly on the phone.  Once
throttled, just opening anything in the browser on the computer becomes
excruciatingly slow.

I don't watch youtube or other videos on my computer, doing so on my phone,
exactly because of the above facts.

For two months running, I was hit with wifi hotspot throttling about mid
(billing) month.  WTF over?  I went on a quest to figure out why.  Using
task manager, and from inside of there using resource manager I discovered
that in any browser, videos often start playing as soon as I open many
different web sites.  Usually these are advertisements, though not always -
I browse a lot of news sites and they want to feed me video to go along
with the text.  I use mostly Firefox and so I figured out how to turn off
automatic launching of video.  That helped immensely, but did not entirely
fix the problem.

Believe it or not, Dropbox was a major contributor to the problem.  The
updater (for updating dropbox itself, not the files stored in dropbox) is a
data consuming pig.  According to folks on the dropbox forum, since 2016
(at least) people have been complaining about this, without any meaningful
response to the complaints, other than "you agreed in the EULA to let us
update dropbox anytime and as much as we want."

According to some folks, the updater.exe can consume hundreds of megabytes
a day.  I can't personally validate that claim but I will say I see dropbox
consuming hundreds of megabits / second essentially non-stop for long
periods, so I have no reason to doubt that it adds up to a number like that.

Dropbox simply refuses to add any "manual update" option.  I can turn off
the services and set them to manual, but the updater.exe still runs, even
though it is not visible in the startup stuff in task manager.  The only
way to disable it is to close it in task manager, then rename the exe.
Reboot and... all is now quiet on my hotspot WAN.

My Verizon billing cycle starts around the second and so I will get a fresh
15gb of data.  It will be interesting to see if these measures solve my
problems.  I will say that before this investigation I had a non-stop 600
kbit / second of wireless data traffic, and now I have zero continuous.

Oddly, even editing a message like this in GMail causes continuous spikes
of data, probably due to constant crap that gmail does as I write an
email.  Stop typing and the data spikes stop.

I used to think that 15gb was a lot.  Not any more.  I now open task
manager and keep an eye on the wan usage while on my hotspot.  Throttling
is a royal PITA.  If there is no constant data being used by one of these
data hogs, then ordinary browsing is easy and fast.  Not so much when some
app is grabbing 600k of my (throttled) 800kbps.

If any of you have run into this and have other helpful suggestions please
do chime in.
John W. Colby
Colby Consulting

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