What happens to network performance on Linux/Mac when you play audio?

What happens to network performance on Linux/Mac when you play audio?

Summary: I'm curious. What happens to network performance on Linux/Mac when you play audio?


I'm curious.  What happens to network performance on Linux/Mac when you play audio?  If there's no network performance throttling, does audio playback suffer?

According to Microsoft getting the balance right between multimedia and other intensive processes such as fast network transfers is tricky, so I'm curious to know if Linux and/or Mac suffer from the same issues as Windows Vista does, or have these problems been ironed out long ago?

I don't have the time right now to set up two Linux boxes with gigabit adaptors and I don't have two Macs (I can't remember off the top of my head which Macs come with gigabit Ethernet adaptors - I think that maybe most do) so I'm wondering if anyone else could try it out and report back to me.

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Networking

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  • Doesn't look like audio playback affects network performance on a mac

    You've posted this at an opportune time! I'm currently copying 42Gb from a Mac OS X
    server (an old G4) to a MacBook Pro. Both computers have Gigabit Ethernet.
    Unfortunately the hub they're connected through is only 100Mb so speed will be
    limited by the speed of this hub. Using iStat Pro, a neat widget that tells me all sort
    of things about the internals of my MacBook, I can verify that I am typically getting
    between 10 to 11 Mb/s of data into the MacBook Pro, whether I'm playing iTunes or
    not. I'll see if I can re-run this test on with a Gigabit hub later on and see if audio
    playback affects this at higher speeds.
    Nick Maxwell
    • I'd be very interested ...

      ... in seeing what performance was like with a gigabit hub ... :~)
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
    • Just plug the two computers to each other

      The MacBook Pro has an autosensing port so you don't need a crossover cable.
    • More testing confirms that Mac's not affected by audio playback

      So this first test was just something I happened to be doing at the time I read the
      initial post. I have now had the chance to do a couple more tests.

      1. Repeat the file copy on an all 1 Gb network. This time I am copying the same
      42Gb set of files from a MacBook Pro to another (even older) G4 (from 2001). I get
      between 14Mbyte/s and 23Mbyte/s throughput on this network at the moment
      (which has other devices on it) with an average of 19Mbyte/s regardless of
      whether iTunes is playing or not on the MacBook Pro. I suspect that the not
      particularly large increase in copy speeds is due to performance bottlenecks on
      the G4 side. Still that's way better than 5% throughput on a 1Gb network on Vista
      (that is about 5Mb/s by my reckoning) :-)

      2. I've just repeated the test, this time with two MacBook Pros connected via
      ethernet; no hub or other network traffic in the way. This time, I get an average of
      about 40Mb/s with a low of 20Mb/s and a high value of 47Mb/s. These values are
      given no matter if I listen to iTunes or not.
      Nick Maxwell
  • I have never noticed a problem with Linux.

    So out of curiosity I have 3 different audio players running (Audacity, Amarok and CD Player) playing different songs, and 3 instances of MPlayer playing different videos, 2 streaming and 1 DVD. While transferring 1GB of data from my work Windows XP box to my PCLinuxOS box. I am not noticing any significant "throttling" issues. Once in a while the transfer will hang for a second then resume, but I am guessing that could be due to the streaming media and drive lag?

    According to GKrellm, I am moving 1.2M/sec across eth0. ]:)

    Does that answer your question? :)
    Linux User 147560
    • And ...

      ... playback is good I take it?
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • Yeah, once in a while the DVD will hang for a second

        with all the other media apps running so it's not a realistic test. BUT when it's just the DVD and a large file transfer it never hitches. Of course it sounds like carp too! ]:)
        Linux User 147560
      • No problems on this end, either

        I gave my Myth box a nice test when it was first set up... watching two TV channels on one frontend (PiP), two different movies on a pair of other frontends (DVD ISOs on hard drive) and watching a DiVX video on the server itself.

        Not one bit of skip whatsoever on any of the systems.
  • Ksysguard...

    ...Adrian out of the box, KDE comes with [url=http://docs.kde.org/stable/en/kdebase/ksysguard/usingtheksysguard.html]KSysguard.[/url]

    One can drag drop any sensor to a worksheet and graph/plot the real-time output--gives TONS of detail.

    You should have your answer fairly quickly! :)
    D T Schmitz
    • OK ...

      ... I can see myself playing with this for hours ;-) Thanks!
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • What happens to network performance on Mac when you play audio?

    As far as I can tell Adrian , absolutely nothing . Currently I tested this on a PowerMac
    G-3 (400Mhz) , I Gigabyte of RAM , 4 internal hard drives , currently running Tiger ,
    with a whopping 1.5Mbps connection . I was using iTunes and listening to " Amazing
    , by Aerosmith" and downloading four giant files from APPLE . I didnt notice any
    degradation in sound or speed . This 10 year old Mac is truly " Amazing". It was well
    worth the money .
    • What about ...

      ... between two systems?

      But for a 10 year old system, that sounds like it's really paid for itself!
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • Nope

    But I'm not running gigabit Ethernet either (still have plain old 10/100 on my home office machine), so I don't have a comparable setup. I'm under the impression that even gigabit Ethernet is significantly slower than hard disk I/O, so I would be surprised to find that network traffic negatively impacted sound quality, and even if it did, the network traffic might still be more important, particularly on a work machine.

    That said, I don't have sufficient data on this issue to argue with MS, so I'll withhold judgment.
    John L. Ries
    • Forgot to mention

      I run Slackware Linux 12.0.
      John L. Ries
    • The HD in my MacBook limits my network transfers.

      When transferring files from my gen 1 MacBook to my current gen 2 MacBook the trasnfer occurred at approximately 300mbps which is about the transfer speed the HD was capable of in MacBench. Desktop systems likely have higher HD throughput.
  • Macs are smooth operators

    We have 250 Macs on our network. We let people stream music and video chat on this
    network and there's never been a problem. We use Cisco switches by the way.
    • I should also add. Airport Express streaming is reliable.

      I myself stream iTunes wirelessly to Airport Expresses in my house (all synchonized)
      while my family does other internet activities and there's never been a problem with
      performance of the network.

      I know other people who do the same.
      • did you understand what the problem was....or

        you are just a Mac fanboy.
        The problem occurs at high speed downloads, not at low speed wi-fi. I suggest you install Linux and reap its great benefits.
        Linux Geek
  • Highly unscientific

    Well, I just tried bouncing a 36 MB file back and forth between two adjacent machines on a 100 Mb/s network via [b]sftp[/b] with and without [b]amarok[/b] running a high-bitrate OGG playback of a Windham Hill guitar track.

    No playback:
    Put file: 7.2, 9.0, 7.2, 7.2 MB/s
    Get file: 4.5, 5.1, 5.1, 5.1 MB/s

    Put file: 6.0, 7.2, 7.2, 7.2, 9.0 MB/s
    Get file: 4.5, 4.0, 4.5, 4.0, 5.1 MB/s

    Since [b]sftp[/b] is compute-intensive (encrypted) I suspect that the heavy power-management of the laptop might be an issue; however, the CPU load never got much past 25% during the tests.

    I suppose I could try a longer file and see if it matters.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • 100 mbps doesn't count

      As you'll note, there is no throttling on 100 mbps networks when Vista is playing audio.