May 31 2007

Particls – Expensive for a Free Service

Published by at 3:15 pm under Australian Startups,particls,web 2.0

I’ve been reading a lot of hype over the past few days about Particls, which is an Australian startup. I’ve visited the site a few times, but couldn’t really grasp the benefits. I finally figured the best way to check it out would be to download it and just have a play. Anything that could filter the content of my RSS feeds and prioritise items sounded like a good thing.

Without really reading too much of the guff that came with the installation I made a couple of vital mistakes, which I think potential users should be aware of.

The program itself wasn’t a particularly large download – a little under 3 MB. Another application was required – I think it was Microsoft .NET? So I downloaded that one too. It went smoothly and was reasonably quick.

I had exported all my RSS feeds into an XML file from Google Reader, and thought I’d upload them to particls, as well as add a few words that I wanted to monitor. That seemed to go fairly well and the engine started ticking away, analyising each feed, and then each item in the feed to determine the score, age and whether to keep or reject each item.

Periodically, I would check the progress on the event logging window. It was then I noticed something strange. The feed adapter was trying to subscribe to every (non secure) page I had ever visited! This included my blog admin pages, general websites and many (front and back end) pages for dLook and Obits. With the secure pages (like internet banking, Google Analyitics, Yahoo! Overture), the feed adapter merely tried to scan them, not subscribe.

I thought I should investigate the options. And sure enough the default option was to “Scan History”. Now, I understand that this could be a very beneficial way to discover a user’s interests, but it uses a heck of a lot of processing time (and I’m assuming bandwidth).

Particls Event Tracker

This went on for literally hours. Despite changing the history option to false, still it continued (I’m assuming because the process had already started). Perhaps I was presented with the option of turning this feature off, but I really don’t think so. So before you do ANYTHING look for this option and turn it off.

Particls History Options

Then about 6 hours later, I got a bit of a shock when I received an email from my ISP saying that I’d gone over my 25 GB download limit (the first time I’d ever gone over 20 GB), and that every MB would be charged at an additional 15c. I’ve since found out that running Particls chews up around 300MB of bandwidth per day, so if your downloads are limited in anyway, you should use extreme caution. I don’t know what sort of bandwidth the initial setup uses – I’ll have a vague idea when the daily usage report is done at the end of the month.

Then, for one reason or another, I didn’t shut my computer down last night. I usually do, but I had a few things open. I didn’t realise that just shutting the Particls screen didn’t stop it running. Uh-oh! There goes another another 600 MB (and $90). An expensive exercise, and one I’m not in a hurry to repeat – not until this bandwidth issue gets sorted.

From the short glimpse I had of Particls running, however, it did seem pretty nifty. Not real keen on the ticker (a bit too distracting), but the pop ups looked effective.

13 responses so far

13 Responses to “Particls – Expensive for a Free Service”

  1. Neeravon 31 May 2007 at 4:47 pm

    Who is your broadband ISP Meg?

    That kind of charging behaviour sounds like Bigpond to me and I would advise you to change to another broadband ISP, there are many which are cheaper, faster and offer better than Bigpond

    I would suggest because I’ve used them for over 5 years myself, but if you want to do research on the topic yourself head over to

  2. Megon 31 May 2007 at 4:54 pm

    Hi Neerav

    Yes, it might be time to look at options. Will check out Whirlpool, thanks.


  3. Craig Overendon 01 Jun 2007 at 4:39 pm

    Ow, ow, ouch. Back in my Windows days I used netmeter to monitor my bandwidth usage. It lets you see real-time what’s happening and I think has alerts too. Can be useful for monitoring if some bot has hi-jacked your machine aswell. :)
    Get it here
    Definately go for another ISP.

  4. Willon 01 Jun 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Hi Meg, I’m not sure who your ISP is – but if you’re using Firefox, the very nifty “NetUsage” extension is very handy for keeping an eye on your bandwidth quota usage if you’ve got a supported ISP (all the major ones, as far as I can see).

    I have mine sit above the Search Bar, and if quota usage suddenly outpaces my quota, I can shut down bandwidth-hungry applications.

    Check it out –

    If you don’t use Firefox, some ISPs offer alternative versions for other browsers, but it’s probably a lot harder to find.

  5. Megon 01 Jun 2007 at 4:45 pm

    Hi Craig

    It’s on the to-do list. When I get the $135 bill for the total excess I’m sure it will hurt more :( Will look into the net meter – thanks.

  6. Megon 01 Jun 2007 at 4:51 pm

    Hi Will

    I do predominantly use Firefox, so I’ll look at that one too.

    I can log on and monitor usage through my ISP, and they do send out warnings – I just had NO idea that an application could chew through so much bandwidth. Perhaps if I had a real time meter then I would have realised sooner, rather than later!

  7. HMTKSteveon 03 Jun 2007 at 1:39 am

    That amount of bandwidth is simply too high for such a program. What is it doing?

    I do a lot of web surfing during the day but I don’t think i have ever done that much in a day.

  8. Megon 03 Jun 2007 at 1:52 pm

    Searching, processing and analyising I guess. It IS a lot of bandwidth (haven’t been game to turn it back on yet)

  9. Svetlana Gladkovaon 07 Jun 2007 at 2:11 pm

    Meg, it is really a sad story, I did not realize myself it could use bandwidth like this, it actually works better with me, maybe that’s because I only have a number of websites I visit every day and I rarely go to the websites outside of this circle.
    In my case the problem is actually with my PC memory because I only have 1 Gb here and it looks like Particls is really memory-hungry. And while I run quite a lot of other applications I sometimes have to completely quit Particls not to make my work too slow.
    Anyway thank you for sharing this experience with Particls.

  10. Megon 07 Jun 2007 at 10:22 pm

    Hi Svetlana

    Glad it doesn’t use so much bandwidth for you, but sorry to hear it is so memory hungry. 1 GB of RAM is what I have too – I would have thought that was adequate for most applications.

    I do suppose these issues are something that will be improved on in time.

    Nice to hear from you :)

  11. Svetlana Gladkovaon 07 Jun 2007 at 10:29 pm

    Meg, it is a pleasure to read your blog and comment here. Well, 1 Gb of RAM must be enough UNLESS you run simultaneously IE 7 and FF 2 with 5-10 tabs in each of them PLUS Photoshop PLUS a bundle of MS Office apps PLUS messengers that’s only barely enough :)
    But anyway when I get an additional Gb of memory I will use Particls full time without the need to quit it from time to time.

  12. Megon 07 Jun 2007 at 10:53 pm

    That sounds a lot like what I run (including MS excel, publisher and word) – add in an accounting program, (but no messenger)! Mind you, I haven’t really tried with Particls too.

  13. Svetlana Gladkovaon 07 Jun 2007 at 11:23 pm

    Well, it does not work perfectly fine with all the selection of apps, that’s true. The only thing is know for now that they address the problems they promise to solve (I have been tracking Particls since their private beta). So let’s hope they will solve these two big problems for us because it looks like we really need help in coping with all our RSS feeds and other web content :)