curl ootw: -Y, –speed-limit

(Previous options of the week)

Today we take a closer look at one of the real vintage curl options. It was added already in early 1999. -Y for short, --speed-limit is the long version. This option needs an additional argument: <speed>. Let me describe exactly what that speed is and how it works below.

Slow or stale transfers

Very early on in curl’s lifetime, it became obvious to us that lots of times when you use curl in order to do an Internet transfer, that transfer could sometimes take a long time. Occasionally even ridiculously long times and it could seem that the transfers just stalled without any hope of resurrecting and completing its mission.

How do you tell curl to abandon such lost-hope transfers? The options we provide for timeouts provide one answer. But since the transfer speeds can vary greatly from time to time and machine to machine, you have to use a timeout value that uses an insane margin, which for the cases when everything flies fast turns out annoying.

We needed another way to detect and abort these stale transfers. Enter speed limit.

Lower than speed-limit bytes per second during speed-time

The --speed-limit <speed> you tell curl is the transfer speed threshold below which you think the transfer is untypically slow, specified as bytes per second. If you have a really fast Internet, you might for example think that a transfer that is below 1000 bytes/second is a sign of something not being right.

But just measuring a the transfer speed to be below that special threshold in a single snapshot is not a strong enough signal for curl to act on it. The speed also needs to be measure below that threshold during --limit-time <seconds>. If the transfer speed just incidentally sometimes and very quickly drops below the threshold (bad wifi?) that’s not a reason for concern. The default limit time (when --limit-speed is used without --limit-time set) is 30. The transfer speed needs to be measured below the threshold for that many consecutive seconds (and it samples once per second).

If curl deems that your transfer speed was too slow during the given period, it will break the transfer and return 28. Timeout.

These two options are entirely protocol independent and work for all transfers using any of the protocols curl supports.


Tell curl to give up the transfer if slower than 1000 bytes per second during 20 seconds:

curl --speed-limit 1000 --speed-time 20

Tell curl to give up the transfer if slower than 100000 bytes per second during 60 seconds:

curl --speed-limit 100000 --speed-time 60

It also works the same for uploads. If the speed is below 2000 bytes per second during 45 seconds, abort:

curl --speed-limit 2000 --speed-time 45 -T sendaway.txt

Related options

--max-time and --connect-timeout are options with similar functionality and purpose, and you can indeed in many cases add those as well.

Manual cURL cURL

The HP Color LaserJet CP3525 Printer looks like any other ordinary printer done by HP. But there’s a difference!

A friend of mine fell over this gem, and told me.

TCP/IP Settings

If you go to the machine’s TCP/IP settings using the built-in web server, the printer offers the ordinary network configure options but also one that sticks out a little exta. The “Manual cURL cURL” option! It looks like this:

I could easily confirm that this is genuine. I did this screenshot above by just googling for the string and printer model, since there appears to exist printers like this exposing their settings web server to the Internet. Hilarious!


How on earth did that string end up there? Certainly there’s no relation to curl at all except for the actual name used there? Is it a sign that there’s basically no humans left at HP that understand what the individual settings on that screen are actually meant for?

Given the contents in the text field, a URL containing the letters WPAD twice, I can only presume this field is actually meant for Web Proxy Auto-Discovery. I spent some time trying to find the user manual for this printer configuration screen but failed. It would’ve been fun to find “manual cURL cURL” described in a manual! They do offer a busload of various manuals, maybe I just missed the right one.

Does it use curl?

Yes, it seems HP generally use curl at least as I found the “Open-Source Software License Agreements for HP LaserJet and ScanJet Printers” and it contains the curl license:

The curl license as found in the HP printer open source report.

HP using curl for Print-Uri?

Independently, someone else recently told me about another possible HP + curl connection. This user said his HP printer makes HTTP requests using the user-agent libcurl-agent/1.0:

I haven’t managed to get this confirmed by anyone else (although the license snippet above certainly implies they use curl) and that particular user-agent string has been used everywhere for a long time, as I believe it is copied widely from the popular libcurl example getinmemory.c where I made up the user-agent and put it there already in 2004.


Frank Gevaerts tricked me into going down this rabbit hole as he told me about this string.