6 Comments

Summary:

A few weeks ago I looked at Download Wizard. At about the same time, Josh pointed out to me Speed Download 3, another download wizard in pretty much the vein as Download Wizard. Speed Download 3 is a more mature product, and it has a few tricks up its sleeve that might make it more practical for some, but it’s also a more complex product, and the complexities might not appeal to all.

I’ve talked before about what I see as the strange approach made by the browser developers removing much of the useful functionality from the download manager. It still pains me to think that the best download manager built into any browser right now on the Mac platform is the one included with Internet Explorer.

Since I’ve covered the basics of what a download manager can do in my review of Download Wizard I won’t repeat myself here. Speed Download 3 (SD3) offers the same basic functionality – you can queue items up and control the number of simultaneous downloads and pause and organize the order the files that are downloaded. Speed Download 3 Main Window

None of this should be a surprise in a download manager. Where SD3 scores some additional points is in some of the extended functionality and features that make downloads easier and simpler, especially for large volume downloaders like me.

Multiple Connections

Speed Download supports so called ‘Download Acceleration’ – this uses a trick to supposedly increase the download speed. The way it achieves this is by opening multiple connections to the server and requesting a different section of the file. The acceleration works on the basis that for those servers which throttle bandwidth, four connections running at 16Kbps is going to be faster than just one.

The problem with download acceleration is that its abilities are often ineffective, limited and unfriendly. Let’s start with the unfriendly side first. Opening multiple connections to a server is, from an administrators point of view, extremely annoying. Most servers will be configured with a maximum number of connections that they support, and each additional connection you use takes one away from another user who has just as much right to use the server as you have. It’s a bit like taking up all four lanes of the highway instead of just one, and you can imagine how frustrating that would be.

Today, it is also less likely that you will find servers that limit bandwidth in this way. Bandwidth limiting was popular in the mid to late 90s when the Internet for the mass market was relatively young and the costs for connectivity for companies were high. By limiting bandwidth on a connection basis companies could improve the number of clients served at the expense of some speed, thereby making better use of the bandwidth they did have. At the time, most clients had nothing more than a modem and a 56Kbps connection, so it made sense to limit each connection to this maximum speed. That way you could eke out 600 connections instead of 300. The effects of the bandwidth limiting would then only affect those few users with fat pipes.

Today, connectivity costs, even for large pipes, are comparatively cheap and users often use xDSL or cable connections running a few orders of magnitude faster. It’s much more cost effective for most companies to supply the files as quickly as possible and then get rid of the user as quickly as possible to make space for new ones, than to try limiting bandwidth.

The ineffectual side is that download acceleration only works in some very specific environments and situations, and is completely limited by your connection speed. If all you’ve got is a 512Kbps ADSL it doesn’t matter if you open one connection or 200, you are not going to improve on the maximum speed of 512Kbps. You can’t fit more data down a pipe simply by splitting it into smaller chunks.

FlashGot

Got to Archive.org and you can obtain all sorts of wonderful things. I’m into live music shows at the moment, and you can get the recordings of some of my favourite groups, like Tenacious D.

Some of them are conveniently provided in a single Zip archives, but others are supplied on a track by track basis, which means downloading 10-30 files, each with their own link. Fortunately, SD3 supports the ability to accept multiple URLs – separated by a newline – and add each of them to your download queue.

However, better still, if you are using Firefox (or Mozilla) when you can install the FlashGot extension. Now you can select all the downloads you want and then select ‘FlashGot Selection’ from the Tools menu – the extension extracts the URL from each of the links in your selection and then automatically adds each link to SD3 for download.

Auto Filing

If, like me, you download a lot and find yourself having trouble finding it all then the filtering ability built into Speed Download 3 is immensely useful. Basically, you configure filters for specific file types (as identified by their extension) – SD3 will automatically put your downloads into the appropriate folders for you.

This makes it much easier to find the things you are looking for – for example, I work with a lot of PDFs and I’m constantly downloading them. My agent supplies statements in PDF format, I store my bank statements in PDFs, not to mention the numerous press releases, manuals and other files. It could sometimes be difficult to find them when lumped in with a few hundred other files in my downloads folder – now I can find them easily.

Browser Plug-in
Speed Download 3 Plug-in ConfigThe browser plug-in for SD3 is highly configurable. You can select the file types/extensions that you want SD3 to manage and be responsible for and it’s worked flawlessly for me within all the browsers I’ve used.

I have, occasionally, had problems where the configuration panel shows all file types disabled, although the plug-in itself seems to work fine, but an uninstall and re-install fixed the problem.

Multiple Queues and Schedules

You can create multiple download queues in SD3, so you could, for example, create them by priority or file type and then organize queued downloads accordingly.

Another nice feature is the addition of scheduling for a queue – you can, for example, set a queue to only download overnight, or to start only on specific days. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get this work how I expected it to operate, but that could be me misunderstanding how the settings work.

Yet another annoying aspect of the multiple queues is that although you can set a maximum number of simultaneous downloads on a queue, you can’t set a global figure. If you have three queues, each with a setting of one download, then three will occur concurrently. This rather defeats the object of being able to limit the simultaneous downloads. Speed Download 3 Queue Schedule

The queues are also used by the system to help control another feature of SD3; File Sharing.

File Sharing

A possibly odd inclusion in SD3 is the ability to share files with other SD3 users – primarily through Rendezvous but also over the Internet. This turns SD3 into a sort of peer-to-peer (P2P) solution for transferring files directly from one machine to another, but the target audience isn’t well defined.

On a local network it would make much more sense to use standard file sharing, or even the personal web/ftp server functionality to share files. I can’t see why you would use SD3 over standard file sharing; it doesn’t really offer any particular benefits.

Over the Internet it seems an odd thing to support. It’s obviously open to abuse and I for one wouldn’t want to open up my machine, on any port, for this kind of access. That said, in the right environment, I guess it could be useful for transferring final art files from say Quark Xpress or InDesign to your commercial printer or publisher, taking the place of the old file transfer systems like iSDN Manager from 4-Sight when ISDN was the big thing for design agencies to transfer their files.

OK, maybe I can see who it’s aimed at, but I still think it is a major security risk, and I’d much rather they provided the functionality disabled, rather than enabled, by default. Installing a file sharing system that is enabled from installation is just asking for trouble, especially when the vast majority of users won’t use the functionality anyway.

Conclusions

Speed Download 3 is a great application and the combination of the integration with the browsers through the plug-in (itself highly configurable) and the filtering and other features makes it a great download tool.

I like the filtering functionality, the integration with FlashGot and the super-configurable plug-in. I don’t like the indistinct configuration and preferences, like the simultaneous download and scheduling settings.

If there was one thing I’d like to see added, it would be the ability to put specific file types into specific queues. For example, downloading ISOs into a special ISO queue that ran overnight while still allowing me to download archives and other content immediately. This though would require some improvements to the way the multiple queue system works and is configured.

You can download a free copy of Speed Download 3. Licences for the software cost just $20, or $15 if you have already paid for another download manager.

  1. MCslp » Blog Archive » Speed Download 3 Review Tuesday, April 12, 2005

    [...] that make downloads easier and simpler, especially for large volume downloaders like me. Read on for the full article. This entry was posted [...]

  2. Yazsoft (The Developer) Tuesday, April 12, 2005

    Mr. Brown,

    Thank you for your feedback; we appreciate the time and interest you took in reviewing Speed Download 3.

    There are a few things noted though that aren’t quite accurate and I will take the liberty of clarifying. The fact that you overlooked these things serves as a hint to us to better document them, and we will.

    1) Segmented Downloading (multiple connections).

    In theory, the way you describe multiple connections working is correct. However, with Speed Download 3, we have developed and implemented a unique mechanism that greatly enhances how SD 3 works in that regards. The process is called incremental downloading. When you download a file, Speed Download 3 will no longer simply open X number of connections at once to get the file. Rather it will start off with only 1 connection and check to see if the remote server has the ability to support more connections. If so, then SD will open another connection and so forth until the file is downloaded completely. This mechanism ensures optimal performance in terms of Speed but also in terms of perfect harmony with the remote server. Mind you, as you correctly point out, most servers online today have so much bandwidth that even without incremental downloading, SD will pose no problems for them. Regardless, in our pursuit to fine tune the process, incremental downloading in Speed Download was developed and put to work. We have received great feedback from many users including Network administrators that have seen much better compatibility between SD 3 and their servers.

    2) File Sharing.

    Your concerns about security are well respected but I can assure that we have thought of this and that by default, the file sharing mechanism in SD 3 poses no risk. By default, the file sharing feature is on in SD 3, however, NO ONE can access anything if you don’t go into the file sharing preferences and set which user has the right to do so. By default, no users have the ability to view, download, or upload to any other SD 3 machine. You have to create authorized users and give them permissions to connect to your SD3 machine first. In addition, the port used for file sharing is controlled by the user. We set port 2550 by default, but you can change that port to anything you like. Hence, one cannot take for granted that port 2550 will always be available. In designing the file sharing feature, we took into account a lot of factors including the security factor and flexibility factor. You can customize SD3 file sharing in many ways and all transfers are auto-resuming; something that most users won’t do without.

    Our target market for the file sharing is any Mac OS X user that would like to have a centralized utility for anything and everything that has to do with fast, reliable downloading. Our users include graphic designers, network administrators, and more that use SD as a powerful, reliable, and affordable tool to distribute updates, software, etc to their users or peers, whether locally or remotely. Since SD is already the users default download manager, there is no need to install any other file sharing tools or open up any further ports resulting in even tighter security.

    Of course, you can always go into the Speed Download preferences and turn it off. However, from a security perspective there should be no concerns while using SD’s file sharing.

    Your feedback regarding improvements and features that you would like to see in future versions of Speed Download have been noted.

    Again, on behalf of everyone at Yazsoft, I thank you once again for a great review. We happy to read that Speed Download 3 serves you well and we hope it does the same for all your users.

    If you have any other comments, questions, please feel free to email me at any time at info@yazsoft.com

    Kind regards,

    Mark Forrester

    The Speed Download Team

    The fastest and most advanced download manager for Mac OS X

    http://www.yazsoft.com
    info@yazsoft.com

  3. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for taking the time to provide such thorough feedback ;)

    Could I add one more request to the ‘future functionality’ that I’d meant to put into the article?

    I use lots of machines and what would be really great is if I could run SD3 on a server and have individual machines pass their requests through that server. That way, I could still get maximum throughput and control even if I was trying to download through multiple machines.

    Since SD3 includes the file sharing, you could have it transfer the file over to the local SD3 on the clients.

    Just a thought ;)

    MC

  4. Mike sprinkle Friday, June 16, 2006

    How does “speed download” work. how does “speed download” speed up download.

    wont to know if there are security problem

  5. Speed Download uses your internet connection more efficiently. It does this automatically and hence, there is nothing manual to do. As for security; SD is a very secure product. It uses its own username/password mechanism as an added shield in case the ones set by the system get compromised.

    Note: the latest version of SD, is now at version 4.0.3 which is a major upgrade over the 3 series. SD4 now includes a full featured FTP client, encryption, and lots more. Feel free to check it out. We hope you’ll like it as much as we do.

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