Transferring files from my desktop to my laptop with rsync (over a
point-to-point netowork connection) is extremely slow, maxing out at
around 50 kB/s and often dropping to 0. Both systems show hardly any
activity. Is this normal for rsync running over a network? There is a
rsync daemon running on the laptop. Network interface on the laptop is
xl(4), the desktop is rl(4).

I think that the link is OK, because transferring dumps with nc from the
laptop to the desktop can max out the connection (9000-10000 kB/s over
100baseTX full-duplex).

However, when I try nc to transfer a file from the desktop to the laptop
it is extremely slow, topping out at around 200 kB/s.

When I check with netstat, the qeues on the laptop are empty, while the
send-queue on the desktop shows a large value:

 Active Internet connections
 Proto Recv-Q Send-Q  Local Address          Foreign Address        (state)
 tcp4       0  40951      rfs.65000              ESTABLISHED

I've tried disabling the firewall on the desktop (laptop doesn't have
one) and enabling polling on both interfaces. It doesn't seem to make
any difference.

Are there any bottlenecks I could check for? Or is this just a case of
crappy hardware? The rl(4) based cards don't seem to have a very good
reputation. I've got an old 3com 905B card lying around. Would it help
if I used that instead?

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