April 14, 2006

Downloads away!

Software tools are such funny things. Sometimes they work fine, sometimes they give the appearance of working fine and sometimes they don’t work at all. Sometimes you put up with a few idiosyncrasies in the app because you believe that the app is overall sound and then you discover that the app is nothing but idiosyncrasies :p

Take the case of DownloadStudio from Conceiva. In my early days on the Internet way back in the nineties, my download manager of choice was Net Vampire. I would rave about Net Vampire to all and sundry and would install it on every machine that I worked on. Somewhere along the way, I switched over to FlashGet which at one time I believe was also known as JetCar (don’t ask me why :p). I used FlashGet till about a year ago when I began looking around for a new download manager – mostly because FlashGet didn’t integrate well with FireFox and the solutions around for making FlashGet work with FireFox didn’t seem to always work that well. That was when DownloadStudio came into the picture.

Now I must start off by saying that I’m a sucker for a nice looking interface :p DownloadStudio had a really spiffy interface and it seemed to do everything under the sun (and I’m a sucker for all-in-one tools too – it’s the little boy in me still hankering after that Swiss Army Knife :p). So I fell in love with DownloadStudio at once. It did integrate with FireFox and it seemed to work fine and so I used it for a few months without any problems. A few weeks ago however, my Internet connection started becoming really flaky. Downloads would fail all the time and would have to be resumed and the download manager became a really important tool. That was when I began to notice the cracks in the pretty facade of DownloadStudio (DS).

For one thing, DS would not retry a failed download even if it was set to retry indefinitely – it would simply give up after the first failure. For another, if I had a half-complete download and I changed some of the download properties (for instance, instead of downloading the file as 5 different segments, I set it to download as one segment), it would start the download all over again. Yesterday was the straw that broke the camel’s back – I had a 60MB download that I was nursing along forever. It would download 500k to 1MB and would fail and I’d have to hit retry again and then after a few minutes, it would fail again. At about the 50% mark, I decided to change the downloading from 5 segments to one segment – my mistake. It started the download all over again, argh! I had had enough, I began looking around for a new download manager.

After some searching, I came across Download Express and its big brother Mass Downloader from MetaProducts. Both the products integrate well with FireFox and what is even better, they can download multiple files at multiple segments and seem to have no issues with restarting after an error like DS does. In fact, I was able to download the 60MB file that I’d been trying to download the whole day in about four hours with no user interaction at all except for one minor change. I had set the job to stop on 10 retries and that’s what the job did after downloading about 20-30MB. I then set the retries to unlimited and the job completed just fine. Guess the pretty apps aren’t always the most reliable ones :p

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Tags: Internet, Software, Technology
Posted by Fahim at 8:39 am   Comments (1)