Big file, slow connection

You’re out in the boonies, and you’ve got to send a huge file—100MB, let’s say—but you have no reliable, high-speed way to do it. Maybe the Internet connection you have is slow or intermittent. Maybe your carrier has blocked FTP service. Or maybe your e-mail service provider limits the size of attachments. Fortunately, you still have several ways to get that data where it needs to go.

The need for speed

The first, and most obvious, step is to compress the file so you know exactly how big a job you’re facing. For most of us, Allume’s StuffIt Deluxe (   ; March 2005 ) is the default tool.

The next thing to do is ask yourself how fast your connection is. If your upload speed is measured in kilobits per second, divide it by 8,192 to translate it into megabytes per second. Now divide your compressed file’s size (in megabytes) by the megabytes-per-second rate to find out approximately how long, in seconds, it will take to upload your file. For example, let’s say I have a 125-Kbps connection and a 100MB file:the upload should take 6,554 seconds—or about an hour and 49 minutes.

Alternative connections

If that’s more time than you have, you should consider other possibilities:

Cellular Service If your cell phone supports Bluetooth (or if you have an appropriate cable), you can use it as your modem (see Get Online with a Cell Phone ). Although cellular data speeds are usually slower than dial-up, some newer phones are faster. But you’ll need to have a data-service plan from your provider, which can be rather expensive.

You can also buy a PC Card cellular modem, which plugs right into your PowerBook’s PC Card slot. This option, too, requires planning ahead.

Hotspots Even the smallest, most out-of-the-way towns often have at least one cybercafé—and that means a relatively fast wireless connection. Look for signs in the windows of coffee shops, restaurants, airports, train stations, and bus or ferry terminals.

New Friends If neither the cellular nor the hotspot option is available, look for people. If you’re at an airport or a trade show, for instance, a nearby laptop user may have a faster connection than you. It never hurts to ask, and a new acquaintance may be willing to upload a file for you.

Free Computers Almost every public and university library has Internet-connected computers available to patrons; many of those connections are relatively speedy. You can also look for retail establishments that make Net-connected computers available to the public. I’ve found them at photocopy shops, computer stores, hotels, bookstores, and museums.

If you’re prevailing upon the kindness of strangers or using a free computer, you’ll need a way to get the file from your Mac to the second system. If wireless networking or Bluetooth aren’t options, an iPod, a USB flash drive, an Ethernet cable, or optical discs may come in handy (see “Be Prepared” on next page).

One file, many paths

If the arithmetic you did to find out how long your file would take to load tells you that you can theoretically send your huge file in a reasonable amount of time, FTP is one of the best options. But ISPs sometimes place limits on what you can do with FTP.

If you try to transfer your file via FTP but can’t, your provider may be blocking port 21 (probably in an effort to improve overall network performance). You can find out for sure by opening Terminal and entering

	telnet ftp.
	your_service_provider
	
.
com 21
(using the name of your service provider). If you see a connection message, port 21 is open; if nothing happens for several minutes (or if you see an “operation timed out” message), port 21 is blocked.

If that’s the case, try switching your client so it uses SFTP (which uses port 22 and encrypts your connection) or WebDAV (port 80), assuming your server supports one of those protocols. (Check with your FTP service provider.) If you’re a .Mac subscriber, consider putting the file in your iDisk’s Public folder; because OS X uses WebDAV to communicate with iDisk, that folder may be accessible even if FTP and SFTP servers aren’t.

Creative uploading

When FTP isn’t an option, there are other possibilities.

Online Storage Space If your ISP doesn’t offer FTP services, you can buy online storage space from companies such as Strongspace and LeapFile. Such services are accessible via a Web browser or an FTP or SFTP client.

File-Transfer Services If you can browse the Web, you can try a Web-based file-transfer service (see “File-Transfer Services” on next page). After uploading your file, you send—or, in some cases, the service sends—a message to the recipient with a special URL that the file can be downloaded from.

iChat Don’t forget that iChat AV lets you send files to the person you’re chatting with; simply drag and drop the file into your iChat window. If you can contact a friend via iChat, he or she may be able to forward the file along to its final destination.

E-mail Many e-mail systems place limits on the size of attachments. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to tell in advance what those limits might be—your ISP and your recipient’s ISP may both impose limits, and those limits may be per message, per account, or both.

If no single tool lets you send a file in its entirety, you can always divide it into smaller segments and then send each one singly. StuffIt Deluxe makes this easy: Instead of just compressing your file, choose Translate: Segment, and then select a file. Choose the desired segment size from the Segment Size pop-up menu (5MB is usually safe) and a compression format (StuffItX or StuffIt5, depending on what your recipient has) from the Format menu. Then click on Choose.

Don’t give up

It may take a bit of creative thinking and a bit of extra effort, but where there’s a will, there’s almost certainly a way to get large files to their destinations.

Online services such as SendThisFile.com can take care of transferring large files for you when e-mail won’t work.When you can’t send a big file in one chunk, use StuffIt Deluxe to break it into smaller pieces.
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