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Any experts on web stats out there?

March 28th, 2006 by Nicholas Reville

We’re seeing something odd in our webstats for downloads of Democracy Player: we get almost as many ’206 Partial Content’ status codes as we do hits to the installer files. This seems like a very, very high ratio. It would seem to suggest that a lot of downloads are being interrupted or cancelled part way through, but we haven’t heard that complaint from anyone. Anyone know why this might be happening?

Here’s one theory: when you try to get the installer in IE, the default SP2 settings will say ‘IE blocked this page from downloading a file’ since we use javascript to start the download. Does that blocking count as a ‘partial download’?

18 Responses to “Any experts on web stats out there?”

  1. Andy says:

    I have no idea, but I would guess that download managers (GetRight, etc.) which download mutliple parts probably cause a lot of “partial content” errors.

  2. Jim says:

    For each 206 you should grab all of the entries around that time for that IP and chart the details.

    Grab all of the IPs that had a 206, put them in a (plain text) file one per line, prefixed with a line with the word “begin” and postfixed with a line with the word “end” (w/o the quotes, of course) and then pipe the contents of that file to whois.cymru.com port 43 with netcat.

    Ie, something like:

    cat file.txt|netcat whois.cymru.com 43 |tee results.txt

    That will let you know several details, including the ASs and names of the registrants of the netblocks the downloaders are on and the physical locations of the netblocks. If you replace whois.cymru.com with peer.whois.cymru.com you’ll find out who those netblocks peer with, according to the BGP tables.

    Together, those results should help track down whether there are any specific choke points.

    You may also want to increase Apache’s timeout setting, but that probably won’t help. I beleive the default is 300 seconds, but that is 300 seconds to wait for the ACK to the last packet, not 300 seconds from the start of the transfer.

    I’ve certainly seen a lot of timeouts downloading large files across modems, as well as across inercontinental links. Congestion points, such as overloaded peering sites, can also cause partial downloads.
    The data from the above steps should go a long way towards diagnosing any specific problems.

  3. TeK says:

    206 errors occur when someone starts to download something, hits stop, and then reloads the link.

  4. Jason says:

    Your theory is spot-on. Probably.

    A user gets a 206 message back if they’ve sent an If-Range header back to apache, basically the browser is saying it wants to continue downloading something it’s got in its cache by requesting a specific byte range of a file.

    So when IE hits your meta-refresh it requests the Democracy_Installer.exe URL, but the wise and powerful SP2 decides that you’re trying to force a download without user consent and cancels it. But it already requested the URL so the browser has a cache object for that file and tried to go from there, no different than if you had hit “cancel” in FF the when you’re prompted to download and then change your mind and click on that link on the page.

    Download.com does JS browser detection and jumps you through a tiny pop-up window to make the download look direct to IE, but good grief…

  5. Nicholas Reville says:

    Thanks, Jason– that’s really helpful.

  6. Jason says:

    anytime…

  7. Ben Davies says:

    A quick heads up: On FireFox, when I went to download Democracy, I noticed that the page attempted to download the file twice. Obviously, I cancelled the second one. Maybe this might be the culprit?

  8. Thomas Valen says:

    Hi !

    Just a simple question – is version 0.8.2 going to be released, like, ever? With Your promise of many, many bugfixes I have set my personal Now-I’ll-download-and-install-it-limit to that version number and I can hardly wait, the amount of vidcasts I have already subscribed to ever growing, but for weeks now You guys seem to be stuck at 0.8.1.

    By no means is this supposed to be criticism, I merely meant to ask if You are having problems, You know?

    Regards

    Thomas

  9. Nicholas Reville says:

    Hi Thomas, we are right on track with 0.8.2, but we don’t want to rush it out. We hope to have a release in the middle of this week, but it depends on how testing goes.

  10. Thomas Valen says:

    Ah, I see. Thanks for the update!
    Of course sufficient testing is vital, good thing You’re taking all these precautions. I hope everything goes well and we (as I am sure there are many users or potential users waiting) will be able to download the new version soon.

    Man, I’m excited, from all I’ve seen and heard people like Leo Laporte say about Democracy, it’s one fine program. It’s Christmas time all over again… ;-)

    Thanks for all the work You’re putting into it!

  11. Pete Holmes says:

    I saw the same thing similar to one of the comments above. Went to download the update, but IE bailed out about halfway, and I had to start again.

  12. I think a lot of people start downloading then cancel. Then restart again it could be as sinple as that.

  13. M Schultz says:

    I find your website difficult to use. Some instruction would be useful. What do all the colored numbers in the left column mean? There is no contact on the home page.

    M Schultz

  14. Robbie says:

    I am not an expert downloader. I hit Run, not Save, to download, and stopped it as soon as I realised my error. So you’ll most likely get a ‘false’ 206 reading from me. regards, Robbie, Colchester, UK

  15. katie says:

    What I think it has to do with is that the download is much larger than people expect, possibly/probably combined with a large number of Mac Firefox/Mozilla/etc. users of your site.

    You don’t say how large the download is on the download link, and most downloads of this sort, particularly PHP systems, are far smaller than your file, since you include the python and bittorrent stuff. Personally, on OS X Firefox, I attempted to unzip the file at least twice – getting premature EOFs – before bothering to open up the Download Manager and notice it was still going.

    My guess is that if you posted the size of the download, you’d see a lot less of it.

  16. Geoff says:

    Speaking from my personal experiance downloading your player my Internet Explorer took 3 attempts to download the file. The first 2 download attempts lasted about a second (downloading no more than a few Kilobits) and then popped up the ‘download complete’ msg. Of course the download was not complete so it took a few trys to actually get it to start downloading. This is something I’ve noted before with IE.

  17. Nicholas Reville says:

    we’ve just made some changes to the download page that should make things work better in internet explorer… is this working for everyone now?

  18. when i tried to open the file from where i saved it,i got an error message.but when i opened it with the mozillas download manager,all went well….i can’t help other than report this so that you can use the info

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