Connection Problems

You may experiences problems when trying to view the multimedia examples. Here are some pointers of what may be wrong and what you can do about it. I am assuming here that you have installed the RealPlayer G2 (earlier versions will not work with most of the material) and that you have checked that the installation was successful by playing material from other sources.

When clicking on any of the examples your RealPlayer G2 should start. However, it may be not be on top, check the task bar (in Win95) and double on the Player icon to bring it to the top (if necessary). In 'normal' viewing mode, the bar at the bottom of the Player window provides information about the connection, buffering, and playtime.

If all goes well, the "connecting ..." message quickly changes to a "buffering ...." message and in the lower right corner you see a meter indicating the state of the so-called preroll (the information that needs to be downloaded before the show can begin). Once this meter fills, the preroll is done and the play begins.

However, you may experience that

The basic problem is that the connection to the server is too slow. And what you can do about this as a user is limited -- apart from getting a dedicated T1 line for your home .... :-) However, consider the following aspects:
 

System Resources

Make sure that you run other (non-essential) applications at the same time. Just Netscape and the Player would be ideal. Also, Win95 does not always cleanup after applications are closed. If you are in the habit of letting your station run pretty much all the time (as I am), it is useful to restart your station every few days. This will make sure that no memory is ineffectively tied up.

Dialup (DUN) connection

All examples require at least a 28.8 modem. However, most ISPs also offer 56K service, and you should consider upgrading your modem. Depending on the modem, this may just require a software upgrade to the new unified 56K (the V.90) standard.
But no matter what modem you have, there are ways to get more out of it by "tweaking DUN". More on this, at the bottom of my ISP advice page.

Actual connection speed is always lower than 28.8 (or 56K) and the video stream is produced a lower actual speed is assumed, say 20 instead of 28.8. However, when the actual speed falls even lower (and this happens not infrequently), trouble starts. In general, then, you should be fine with a 56K connection viewing the examples produced for 28.8. But you are living on the edge, if 28.8 is your formal maximum. A DUN meter helps you monitor what the actual connection speed is. If the connection is really slow, wait for a better time ...

Configuration of your RealPlayer G2

Under Options/Preferences/Connection you can determine the size of the buffer. The more you buffer, the longer it will take to start, but the better the chances that play will not be interrupted in the middle. So, patience at the beginning may reward you. However, the amount that you can buffer depends on the memory you have available (see 'system resources' above).

Server

As of Dec 4, 1998, we are using both a regular web (httpd) server and the Basic RealServer for all examples. The normal web protocol (http) is not well suited for serving streaming media since it does not recognize the time line, i.e., it may not serve the 'packets' in the order they are needed by the RealPlayer. This causes delays. With connection at full speed, sending the data packages in the wrong order does not make a noticeable difference, but when things are slow in the first place, this aggravates the problem. So, we may not notice any difference when connecting from the Hunter campus, but there are differences when connecting via a modem.
 

Routing problems

So, moving to a RealServer is an important step and I hope that I will be able to move shortly on this. However, what this step will not be able to cure are congestions at the "hunter.cuny.edu" domain. All servers at Hunter are connected to the Internet via CUNY/CIS using one half of a T1 line only -- which regularly creates bottlenecks. This does effect viewing these examples from off campus, but would not affect on campus access.

While the Internet connection to CUNY/Hunter worked fine during the time I first developed these materials (Nov 24-28, 1998), the connection was extremely slow from about the evening of Nov 29 to Dec 2 -- even late at night and early in the morning. At the same time, I had no problems connecting to sites in Germany and viewing video material from across the ocean. When you experience a slow connection, try to locate the bottleneck by using the following commands from a DOS prompt (in Win95):
tracert maxweber.hunter.cuny. edu
tracert urban.hunter.cuny.edu
You will see the different hops involved in establishing the connection between your computer and the Hunter servers. If the connection works well you should see numbers in the 200-300 range, high numbers or even "*" indicate relay problems. In the Nov 29-Dec 2 you could see high numbers for the hop between the router at CUNY/CIS and the router at Hunter. Tracert does not tell you which of two connection points is the 'guilty' party.

If any "router" along the route does not work properly, there is nothing you can do -- not even a T1 line can save you. Any connection is as good as its weakest link.