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Ubuntu Download Speeds Beat Windows XP's 515

Posted by timothy
from the aggregated-circumstances dept.
narramissic writes "Doing a download speed test of his Time Warner cable connection, James Gaskin discovered something odd, something that he is quick to note isn't a rigorous benchmarked lab test. The discovery: His Ubuntu machine 'returned a rating from the Bandwidth.com test of 22-25mbps over several tests' while the same test done from a Windows XP PC returned a rating of 12-14mbps. The two computers used in the test are 'almost identical: both off-lease Compaq small form factor D515s, part of the very popular corporate desktop D500 family. Both have Pentium 4 processors running at 2GHz. The Ubuntu machine has 768MB of RAM, while the XP box has only 512MB of RAM. Both run Firefox 3 as their browser.' Gaskin's question: Can a little extra RAM make that much difference in Internet download speeds or does Ubuntu handles networking that much faster than Windows XP?"
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Ubuntu Download Speeds Beat Windows XP's

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  • by Yvan256 (722131) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @04:54PM (#26474407) Homepage Journal

    If you can prove to people that you can download pr0n faster using Linux, they WILL switch!

    I'm kidding! I'm kidding!

    (or, am I?)

  • by thedonger (1317951) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @04:54PM (#26474409)
    The test was done on machines with differing configurations, so therefore is not valid. But interesting nonetheless.
    • by Fred_A (10934) <fredNO@SPAMfredshome.org> on Thursday January 15, 2009 @04:58PM (#26474503) Homepage

      The test was done on machines with differing configurations, so therefore is not valid. But interesting nonetheless.

      Yeah, I wasn't even the same *operating system* !

      I mean, apple and oranges !

    • by corsec67 (627446) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:01PM (#26474555) Homepage Journal

      True, but considering both computers should easily be able to saturate a 100baseT connection, shouldn't both configurations be able to saturate a 22Mbps link?

      This is different than the guy complaining that the computers can't fill a gigabit ethernet connection with a scp transfer while music is playing.
      The http that the speed test should be using doesn't have any encryption, shouldn't be using gzip, and it shouldn't be saved to hard drive.

    • by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:03PM (#26474619) Homepage Journal

      Not to mention the ultra reliable online speed tests.

    • by no-body (127863) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:06PM (#26474683)

      Right - different OS _is_ a different configuration, with that logic all OS benchmarks are invalid.

      That Windoze's TCP/IP stack is inefficient compared to Linux has come up before, so - yawn!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Right - different OS _is_ a different configuration, with that logic all OS benchmarks are invalid

        When the test is to compare different OSes, the OS is NOT part of the configuration. The OS is the variable that you are testing, which is SUPPOSED to be different. All the other possible variables, are the configuration, and those are supposed to be the same.

    • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:08PM (#26474723)

      Who gets 22mbps from a cable modem? Regardless, Im guessing either the ubuntu machine wasnt configured to use the ISPs web proxy but the windows one was or that the windows machine's antivirus was crippling the download.

      This is a really lazy test. Didnt swap out hardware, didnt try different networks, didnt try clean installs, didnt tell us what network drivers he was using, didnt try anything really.

      Also, there's no unique thing as "downloading." Its just TCP/IP. Why not try a share on the local lan? That simplifies things quite a bit. Or at the very least get off your ass and try a different ISP.

      I want to say I'm surprised something so shoddy got on the slashdot, but I really am not that surprised. Between the lazy posts and idle stuff somehow getting loose into other sections, slashdot has gotten pretty crappy lately.

  • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @04:55PM (#26474421) Homepage
    His window machine's contribution to a bot net is probably hogging some bandwidth.
  • amazing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dirtyhippie (259852) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @04:55PM (#26474431) Homepage

    Clearly, there is no more reliable test of network performance than a flash application running inside of a web browser. On machines that are "oh, more or less" identical (I'd really like to know what network card is in them, for example?). Sheesh.

  • by bugs2squash (1132591) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @04:56PM (#26474443)
    surely that is quicker than writing a /. article.
    • by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:03PM (#26474621)
      Let's not jump on the guy. He didn't write the /. article. He wrote a single-page blog post about something interesting he spotted. Maybe he's out swapping the RAM right now. Blame the Slashdot submitter and editors.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by noidentity (188756)

        Let's not jump on the guy. He didn't write the /. article. He wrote a single-page blog post about something interesting he spotted. Maybe he's out swapping the RAM right now. Blame the Slashdot submitter and editors.

        Come on man, it's proof, PROOF that Windows is half the speed of Linux. Who are you to question this informal result? I say we go to town with it and make everyone switch!!!11

  • TCP/IP Optimization (Score:5, Informative)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Thursday January 15, 2009 @04:56PM (#26474449) Homepage

    I'd guess it's some kind of TCP/IP optimization (the default size of packets, etc). It's set to one thing on Ubuntu, and another on Windows (probably for some historical reason or due to some old buggy driver).

    If that's not it, I'd bet pretty high it's a bad driver in Windows.

    It's quite likely that either Windows or Ubuntu is intrinsically faster for some reason, but I doubt the difference based on the way the networking stack is designed is anywhere near 10%, let alone 50% for a link this fast. On 10 gigE maybe, but not on a simple cable modem.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mcbridematt (544099)

      Its common knowledge that Windows has an inefficient TCP stack as far as higher speed broadband connections go.

      Unblocka [unblocka.com] and TCP Optimizer [speedguide.net] are two apps commonly mentioned on the Australian Whirlpool [whirlpool.net.au] forums.

  • A bogus test (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dark grep (766587) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @04:57PM (#26474465)
    Great, very scientific. Swap the OS on both machines and see if the results hold. Otherwise 'almost exactly the same' doesn't cut it. Do a real test - the way it is described here is bogus. It may excite the Linux fan boi's but no one else is going to take it seriously.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It may excite the Linux fan boi's but no one else is going to take it seriously.

      Linux fans aren't going to take it seriously either. There's no reason for them to avoid thorough, empirical testing when Linux usually comes out on top anyways.

    • by rbochan (827946) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:52PM (#26475473) Homepage

      ...Swap the OS on both machines and see if the results hold...

      Sure, then he'll have to buy another XP license just for the test.
      Is that you Steve?

  • by whtmarker (1060730) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @04:59PM (#26474527) Homepage
    The poster said 'i think ubuntu downloads stuff faster than xp but I'm not sure... the RAM is different.'

    So how did this make it to slashdot. Its not like anyone but the poster has the identical hardware to run the tests properly.

    @poster: If the machines are so 'identical' then swap the memory and run the tests again.
  • by rsmith-mac (639075) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:00PM (#26474543)

    You can't test two different machines with different cases and compare the results, that's not how the scientific process works. Both machines need to be tested against the same cases - then and only then will you be able to appropriately tell if the software made a difference.

    Anyhow, back on the subject, some of WinXP's default networking parameters are a bit conservative when it comes to high-bandwidth links that don't have LAN-like latency (particularly the TCP Receive Window/RWIN); a good but short description of this can be found at DSL Reports [dslreports.com]. So I wouldn't be absolutely shocked if once he corrects his methodology, he still gets similar results, although in general I find RWIN tweaking to be bollocks compared to the few people that swear it works. Vista and later OSs include self-adjusting network stacks that compensate for this and then some (Microsoft is rather proud of their sustained bandwidth over very high latency links), so I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.

  • by Un pobre guey (593801) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:01PM (#26474571) Homepage
    Anecdotally, I have also noticed that Ubuntu boxes tend to hog bandwidth, as compared to an XP box at home. When someone on the home LAN starts downloading or streaming something from a linux box, everyone else notices it immediately. The XP box is (inadvertently?) more polite about it. Still, if you're the only one pulling in the big byte loads, faster is definitely better.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by moosesocks (264553)

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but as long as you're behind a switch or a router, any one box shouldn't be able to "hog" bandwidth, unless it's threading transfers through multiple TCP streams or somesuch....

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lifyre (960576)

      I was having this issue. It was starting to irritate the family more than a little over the holidays. I found that it wasn't Ubuntu that was the problem, it was the BT client I was using.

      When I tried to use Deluge it would clog the entire network and we render the net virtually unusable to anyone, usually including myself. When I changed to utorrent through wine or azureus not only did I download significantly faster the other users didn't notice my downloading. I concluded that either I had deluge conf

  • by Above (100351) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:02PM (#26474583)

    It's the TCP implementations, and probably the TCP window size limits. Windows could turn in the same numbers if properly tuned.

    You want to read this article for all the in-depth details: http://www.psc.edu/networking/projects/tcptune/ [psc.edu]

    Windows has a default set many years ago, and never updated. Most of the Free Unix variants update every release, and some new variants even have fancy auto-scaling code. Any time you want to get over 10Mbps/second across any real latency with a SINGLE TCP stream you probably need to do some tuning, for some OS's the limit is much lower.

    ISP's run into this all the time. An uninformed admin buys a GigE in LA and NY, pops up an FTP server and wonders why he can only get a few megabits a second across the "crappy network". A few settings later and behold, the same hardware can saturate a full gigabit.

    Note, don't just go set your values really high, there are performance (memory used) tradeoffs....

  • Uh.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mikkelm (1000451) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:06PM (#26474677)

    Only on slashdot can you have front page articles featuring original "research" done with no controls, no baselines, dissimilar base conditions, and sample bases of one single result, and have the headline speak conclusively in favour of the observed results.

    If it makes FOSS looks good, that is. This is worse than digg.

  • Forget RTFA... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Darundal (891860) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:06PM (#26474691) Journal
    ...lets start with RTFS. Everyone here who keeps bitching about how this isn't a decent test obviously missed the bit of the summary where he admits it isn't, and he isn't asking if Uubntu is faster than Windows. He is specifically asking whether the difference is in the machines themselves or the OS.
  • by mugnyte (203225) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:07PM (#26474703) Journal

      One machine has a Hello Kitty sticker on it and faces West. Irrelevant? WE REPORT, YOU DECIDE!

      Maybe the tester is too close to a mental energy vortex...

  • by RichMan (8097) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:11PM (#26474807)

    possibly due to tcp window scaling

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TCP_window_scale_option

    ubuntu does it. Windows XP does not.

    The TCP window scale option is an option to increase the TCP receive window size above its maximum value of 65,536 bytes. This TCP option, along with several others, is defined in IETF RFC 1323 which deals with Long-Fat networks, or LFN.

    -rant mode, how I found out about it.
    The secure side of the Presidents Choice banking web site is royally hosed by a machine that tries to use tcp window scaling. Why can't a web service provider, one that should be extra careful about security understand a standard concept.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by amorsen (7485)

      The problem is usually that they decided to be extra careful about security and bought a PIX.

      You'd think Cisco knew something about networking, but that knowledge certainly hasn't made it to the PIX/ASA department.

    • by Kremit (632241) <kremit AT wrpn DOT net> on Thursday January 15, 2009 @06:19PM (#26475895) Homepage
      I'm a sysadmin at Ohio State, and a number of old firewalls (really old OpenBSD version plus badly-written pf scripts, still in use!) have the same problem. The connection through them breaks when any computer using TCP window scaling over "2" (Windows Vista, Linux) tries to connect to a server behind the firewall. So, yes, window scaling will either make the connection blazing fast, or will block certain users if a bad router/firewall is on the route between the computer and a server.
  • by trippd6 (20793) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:30PM (#26475087) Homepage

    I've spend a lot of time looking at this type of problem. I had a customer that wanted to transfer data at greater then 10 mbps across the internet, across the country. Lets just say with windows this is impossible.

    The problem has to do with TCP algorithms. I found the ones in windows are optimized for common cases. Linux has multiple TCP/IP algorithms you can choose from. Most are significantly better the one used in windows.

    The "problem" with TCP is it has to assume that packet loss equals network congestion. This is a good thing for an over-loaded network link. As the link fills up, it starts dropping packets. As the computers on each end of a TCP connection see this packet loss, they start "Backing off". They slow down their transmission rates until the packet loss is gone. In most cases they back way off, and then slowly increase the speed until they start seeing a little packet loss. The methods they use to determine what is congestion, how much they slow down, and how they recover from it greatly effects total usable bandwidth.

    The bottom line: TCP Algorithms greatly effect transfer speed, and no algorithm is good for every situation. Linux gives you flexibility in this area (And by default uses a better one), and windows gives you zero.

    To test raw bandwidth, you have to saturate a link with UDP data, and count how much data is received. This is pretty pointless as its not the useable bandwidth, but it does tell you the "raw" potential. The problem is the "raw" potential can be subverted by a small amount of packet loss.

  • by ivanmarsh (634711) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:34PM (#26475181)

    The Linux TCP/IP stack is more effecient than the XP stack.

  • by FredMcCord (957990) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:35PM (#26475193)
    Dell XPS M1530 Intel Core 2 Duo (2.16ghz) 3 gigs RAM Dual Booting Windows Vista Home Premium AND Ubuntu 8.10 http://www.bandwidth.com/tools/speedTest/ [bandwidth.com] Six tests per OS. Vista: Download/Upload 7616/2795 7865/2724 6407/2755 10050/2800 12320/3925 15854/2905 Ubuntu: Download/Upload 12939/5897 8849/12122 15373/18646 20040/17093 8461/14969 17885/13807
  • Moderators... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Brain Damaged Bogan (1006835) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:40PM (#26475267)
    <rant>how the HELL did this garbage become a slashdot article? there was a time when slashdot actually screened out the crap and provided real tech news... if we wanted Digg we would go to Digg, we want "News for nerds, stuff that matters" </rant>
  • Same with databases (Score:3, Informative)

    by nwf (25607) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:40PM (#26475283)

    We used to regularly benchmark Oracle on the same hardware running Linux and then Windows Server. Linux always won. Not by a huge margin, more like 15%, but saving money and getting better performance is win-win!

  • TCP Window Scaling (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bert64 (520050) <(bert) (at) (slashdot.firenzee.com)> on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:58PM (#26475587) Homepage

    I believe XP has tcp window scaling turned off by default, whereas modern Linux kernels and Vista have it turned on.
    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TCP_window_scale_option [wikipedia.org]

    This can make a massive difference if there is more than a tiny amount of latency on the line...

  • by Spatial (1235392) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @06:14PM (#26475837)
    I know Comcast has a thing (Powerboost) where it gives you double download speeds for the first x minutes of a download. Could that be at work here?
    • by MP3Chuck (652277) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @06:51PM (#26476229) Homepage Journal

      I'd mod you up, but I feel compelled to reply ... since I'm amazed nobody has mentioned this.

      I just signed up for Time Warner 'net myself, and when the dude was checking the signal he mentioned something about how there's a 25Mbit "boost" that people get at random. I didn't get a chance to ask many questions about it, but he said that it wasn't just an ISP-level cache ... you're actually given 25Mbit of bandwidth for a breif amount of time. That could very well be what we're seeing here, as the numbers seem to align.

  • by wtarreau (324106) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @06:22PM (#26475929) Homepage

    Window scaling is disabled by default on windows, which limits TCP sessions to 64 kB, hence the per-session bandwidth on high-latency links such as DSL.

    10-12 Mbps is typical of a DSL link with a 50 ms RTT (=ping time). 64 kB is 512 kbit. 512 kbit / 0.050 s = 10240 kbps = 10 Mbps.

    I've already seen tuning guides on the net explaining how to enable window scaling on windows, though I'm not that much interested ;-)

    Willy

  • by lukas.mach (999732) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @06:33PM (#26476039)
    Fine, what is this then:

    Windows (Cygwin):

    $ ping -n 20 www.google.com

    Pinging www.l.google.com [74.125.39.147] with 32 bytes of data:
    Reply from 74.125.39.147: bytes=32 time=12ms TTL=245
    [...]
    Ping statistics for 74.125.39.147:
    Packets: Sent = 20, Received = 20, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
    Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds: Minimum = 11ms, Maximum = 41ms, Average = 16ms

    Ubuntu:

    lukas@9a:~$ ping www.google.com
    PING www.l.google.com (74.125.39.147) 56(84) bytes of data.
    64 bytes from fx-in-f147.google.com (74.125.39.147): icmp_seq=1 ttl=245 time=15.3 ms
    --- www.l.google.com ping statistics ---
    22 packets transmitted, 1 received, 95% packet loss, time 21003ms
    rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 15.321/15.321/15.321/0.000 ms

    Happens on my network no matter what I change - cables or notebooks, Vista runs ok, Ubuntu sucks big time. The only non-standard thing is that I have wired connection with manual IP address (connected by Linux based Asus router).

    lukas@9a:~$ lspci | grep Eth
    00:19.0 Ethernet controller: Intel Corporation 82567LM Gigabit Network Connection (rev 03)
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @06:53PM (#26476255)

    Can a little extra RAM make that much difference in Internet download speeds

    This is too easy to test by swapping the memory between the two machines to actually pose as a question on Slashdot. How lazy can you be about this?

  • Der. So does Vista. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by swordfishBob (536640) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @07:41PM (#26476793)

    XP's TCP/IP stack is much the same as NT has been using for quite a while. It takes ages to ramp up the TCP window size. It makes for terrible results on "speed tests" unless the test is quite a long download.
    Vista is much more aggressive in increasing the receive window.

    Run a throughput monitor of some sort while performing the test - preferably one that graphs throughput against time.

  • my results ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ianare (1132971) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @09:17PM (#26477621)
    comcast cable modem, on the same computer (dual boot), tested with www.speedtest.net :

    winXP x64 sp2:
    • 9178 kb/s
    • 9470 kb/s
    • 9088 kb/s

    ubuntu 8.10 x64:

    • 11052 kb/s
    • 12077 kb/s
    • 11579 kb/s

    huh, weird.

  • by sonofusion82 (1038268) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @09:42PM (#26477783)
    Modern Linux kernel 2.6.17 and later has TCP auto tuning, so it can better adapt to the network and saturate it. http://www.psc.edu/networking/projects/tcptune/#Linux [psc.edu] Windows XP default TCP window size is too small and needs registry tuning for it to be optimized high speed broadband connections. Just google for WinXP TCP tuning. Or try comparing with Vista as it has better TCP/IP stack.

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