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TL;DR: Need a URL that can show a very non-technical, near technophobe, whether they have dropped packets.

So me and some non-local relatives chat via Skype. While I was visiting, I swapped out their weak router, reflashed it, and they seem to have a good signal. But, Skype seemed bad. I ran some ping tests and it seemed they were dropping packets from the router (over the PPPoE modem) to their ISP. Unfortunately I didn't have enough time to swap out their modem.

Though non-technical, they insist the problem is on my end.

From their point of view, it sort of makes sense. As non-technical folks, they don't do ping, and they don't see ping drops. They mostly do either normal webpages (where a dropped packet or two doesn't make much difference) or videos with a lot of buffering, again, where you don't see the drops. Only on Skype where you have the real-time-ish requirements do you see the issue, and it takes two to tango, so easier to make us "fix" our side then theirs.

So, local Skype call? Did the NSA make all Skype calls go over the Internet rather than local LAN? If so, then Skype would go through the ISP and would be a good test. If not, I probably get just one shot at this before confusing them, and I'd rather not use up my bullet that way.

Is there a streaming protocol that doesn't buffer much? Maybe a live TV broadcast, which has both heavy bandwidth and real-time technical requirements? They have VLC, though I'd have to hold their hand with any real technical "Open Network Stream" work.

Mind you, I know various ways to get to a command prompt (they have both Windows and Mac computers, plus random iOS devices) but seeing a bunch of "cryptic" ping replies probably won't convince them much. It needs to be something less geeky.

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Hop around and look for ketchup squirting out from under your feet. –  Daniel R Hicks Nov 21 '13 at 23:04

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Make them skype the echo test account. Thats should test as close to the actual problem as possible.

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I was going to suggest mtr, but this is a much nices answer for non-technical people. +1 –  Hennes Nov 15 '13 at 23:04
    
Sounds good, I may make accept this as the answer, but echo is audio only. I'd prefer a higher bandwidth answer. –  Rich Homolka Nov 17 '13 at 0:47
1  
@rich then one option wouldc be just to call someone else with video. –  Mattias Åslund Nov 17 '13 at 4:54
    
Yeah, I think that's it. I thought there was a stream-ping test URL someplace. Just trying to get them to call someone else is an issue :) –  Rich Homolka Nov 17 '13 at 18:06
    
Post their handle here and they might get 500 calls to them instead. :D –  Mattias Åslund Nov 17 '13 at 18:40

If you believe its packets being dropped, from a command prompt, do a pathping, it combines traceroute and ping and can help identify if and where packet loss is occurring.

For example, have them type:

pathping yahoo.com

It will run a traceroute from their machine to yahoo.com and then ping each hop along the way. The out put will let you see where there is latency and packet loss.

Note: This command can take a while to run depending on the number of hops.

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Thank you. But this is too low level for them. I need a "click this link" level of saying yes/no packet drops are occurring. Then they may call their ISP to fix it. –  Rich Homolka Nov 15 '13 at 20:33

A very simple to use, free tool - MTR (Matts Traceroute), or the Windows equivalent "Win MTR" will show the path to a given host along with packet loss and times, so anyone can easily see where packet loss is coming in. It can be run from a GUI, so its easy to use.

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I think you can have them run start -> cmd -> ping google.com

I have restaurant personnel regularily read ping results to me ("What does the ping statistics line say?") without too much trouble.

If you really don't liken this solution and you need a website telling them they have a problem: run Netalyzr and have them read "Network Access Link Properties" -> "Network performance".

Tell them this is a health check for their connection - and thus it takes a while to run.

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