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January 09, 2022

When Zoom Freezes Over – Free Way to Find Out Why

“Is it my internet connection or hers?” Mary asked me. I ran a speed test with her browser and the connection looked OK.

“It’s happening again,” Mary said again. Another speed test looked OK.

“She says it only happen when she’s zooming with me!” This time it was an accusation. And this time the speed test failed.

I’m the nerd of the house and I’m responsible for all such failures. There’s gotta be some way to know whose internet connection is flaky, I thought; billions of federal dollars are about to be spent on better broadband here in the sticks. How will we know if we’re getting what our tax dollars pay for? Will our connections be good enough for work at home, remote schooling, and telemedicine? Will we be able to zoom with our grandkids? That’s when I first thought about zoomready and started coding.

Zr.1.10


zoomready is an application which runs full time quietly on your computer monitoring the state of your connection. If you want to know how the connection is currently or has been historically, just bring the zoomready window to the front. If you are having a problem teleconferencing or with your internet connection in general, zoomready will help you (or your local nerd) diagnose the problem. zoomready watches five aspects of your connection.

  1. Latency – how long it takes a single packet of information from your computer to get to somewhere on the internet and a response to work its way back.
  2. Jitter – how much latency varies second by second. High jitter means poor audio and video quality.
  3. Download speed.
  4. Upload speed.
  5. Failure frequency and duration – time when there is no internet connectivity at all for more than five seconds.

Turns out Mary’s problem was not poor service from our Internet Service Provider (ISP); it was our WiFi. When I moved her computer to my office, zoomready told me that the connection was more than zoom ready. Turns out there is radiant heating in the floor of her office and, under some circumstances (when the heat is on?), it interferes with her WiFi connection. Once I knew this, I used a cable and an Ethernet connection to the router for her office rather than WiFi. zoomready is useful for figuring out where in your house you can best zoom. A few other uses:

  • determine whether it is your connection or someone else’s which is causing freezes and disconnects. If your zoomready stats are good and have been during the last hour, the problem is with someone else’s connection.
  • measure whether your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is delivering the level of service you were promised including peak periods.
  • determine whether a hotel connection or other temporary connection is good enough for teleconferencing while there’s still time before you go online.

You can download the installer for the Windows version, the only one written so far, by clicking here or download the exe only, if that's what you prefer, by clicking here. You may have to contend with virus blockers or Windows itself warning that the app is unrecognized. More detailed installation instructions are here. There is now a website for zoomready and other free open source connectivity tools I've been working on: freecheckip.com.

The documentation is here. This is the cheat sheet. If you’re a fellow python nerd, the source is in my Github repository https://github.com/tevslin/zoomready. Feel free to clone it and make better versions.

zoomready has a usefulness model but no business model.  It doesn’t ask for your personal information; and, other than making some web requests from your computer (see the documentation), it doesn’t provide anyone with any information about you. It doesn’t run in a browser so no cookies are stored on your computer. It has no ads.

I called the product zoomready as a compliment to the software which has defined our pandemic experience; but its ratings are applicable to whatever teleconferencing service you actually use.

If you find bugs in zoomready – I promise there will be some to find - or have suggestions for improvement, please either comment on this post or raise an issue on Github.

I’ve blogged about other free software which helps us make our internet experience better:

Now Available – Worldwide and Local Current Starlink Performance

Another Free Way to Tell if Starlink Broadband Will Work at Your Location

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