My Internet connection is unstable and I get lag during chat. How do I improve this?

Latency, or inactivity, is determined by several factors:

  • Your “cyber distance,” or the path of servers your data takes
  • The volume of traffic on the Internet
  • Planned or unforeseen regional or national network outages on the Internet
  • Your internet speed

Another important factor that affects the quality of your connection is “lost packets,” or data that gets lost during transmission over the Internet.

There are several ways to troubleshoot lag:

  • Remove any line splitters between your modem and the wall jack.
  • Turn off data compression from the modem control panel. (If available)

If these steps do not improve your connection, try locating where lag or lost packets are occurring by running a traceroute and reviewing the resu4Help. To run a traceroute, go to a DOS prompt and type the following: tracert >> trace.txt. Run several traceroutes to get a good sampling of your connectivity.

Once you’ve run several traceroutes, the file “trace.txt” should appear on your desktop. Open it with Wordpad or Notepad to see a list of every “hop,”‘ or connection between your computer and Mplayer’s web server. Check for asterisks (*), as they indicate either packets that were lost or “timed-out.” If you see excessive packet loss or one particular location that seems to have trouble consistently, e-mail this file to your Internet Service Provider to alert it to the problem and determine if it can be fixed.

You should also look for excessive spikes in the ping times. An optimal connection should be below 400 ms by the end of the route. If you see portions of the path that spike up compared to the other hops, this too can be handed and investigated by your Internet Service Provider.

In many cases, your ISP may not be at fault, but its network operations department can usually address the problem.