Testing your internet connection

A friend of mine asked a great question recently:

“How do I speed test my smart TV?” 

Great question.  Living in the internet age and in IT- two sites immediately come to mind, and might likely be the top two out there: Ookla’s http://speedtest.net and http://pingtest.net  .  They work great on PC’s and Macs, and have lots of partners that make local servers available for your testing.  There’s one problem: they both require Adobe’s flash player, and pingtest requires Java to measure packet loss.

Flash is only readily available on Windows, Mac or Linux. Some browsers make Flash a lot easier to deal with: Chrome on a PC or Mac embeds Flash player, and manages updates so you don’t have to; Metro Internet Explorer 11 and Edge also include an embedded version of Flash. Adobe doesn’t support Flash outside of Windows, Mac or Linux. No Flash for Apple’s iOS or Android; No Flash in most embedded devices, like the browser of a PlayStation, or a Smart TV web browser.

(Android users, yes, you can still download an out of date player for Adobe’s Flash on Android, but it’s not supported on most Android browsers anymore)

Java is another troubling one: while Java touts itself as being used in billions of devices, the type of plugin needed on pingtest.net, a browser applet, is really only available on PCs Macs, or Linux.

So what to do? HTML5 should be the answer; but it isn’t quite there yet.

On embedded devices, my current favorite HTML5 speed test site is http://speedof.me. It works well on a variety of different browser, and sports a desktop and mobile mode. It also reports a basic ping time, listed as latency.

What really needs to happen moving forward in the future would be a standardized testing protocol, because testing at the end-user device, especially if that device is Wi-Fi, can lead to assumptions. Packet and speed inconsistency can, and often is caused by poor Wi-Fi connectivity, but what if it’s the internet connection wiring in your home? How about the terminating device the internet connection, such as a router? What time is the issue happening? Random, or consistent timing?

As embedded devices lose support for Flash and Java, HTML5 needs to improve to cover the gaps. Speedof.me, while quite good, doesn’t seem to show the full throughout of faster internet connections. And there’s still no good non-flash based site to handle packet loss, or jitter, which is the variability in multiple pings to the same destination.

All manufacturers that make embedded devices, need to include more advanced types of testing directly in their platforms, where possible Speed test Apps are essential in any platform that can’tload Flash.  HTML standards need to support more advanced methods of testing connectivity, directly in the browser.