Faster internet dial-up ..?

“Dial-up subscribers can now surf the web up to 3x faster with the XYZ Accelerator” shouts an advertisement in one of Cape Town’s daily newspapers, dated February 16, 2007. The ad then went on to explain that for an extra fee a month (apart from you normal dial-up subscription) you can activate this additional speed for your e-mails and other downloads. Although the ad does not specify I assume it’s not a reference to ISDN, but your normal run-of-the-mill “last mile” to your PC – a plain old copper wire connection.

Now, it’ s not the first time a claim about accelerating your dial-up connection has been bandied about to dial-up subscribers. What ‘magic’ some configuration settings are supposed to work, is debatable. I’m one of those few (a dying breed, no doubt) who still have a dial-up connection and I fail to see how anyone can “speed up” my internet service. I’ve got the fastest (latest) dial-up modem in the universe and, being technically-minded, have thrown the book (literally) at improving the speed at which I am able to surf.

Just Google “dial-up internet connection” and you’ll end up with enough information to squeeze the last bit (byte?) out of your connection. Some of the information is quite technical but for those who do not want to fiddle with all sorts of settings, downloading software that will do this “trickery” is your best (and safest) bet.

Be careful though, there’s software out there that will hijack your internet connection. Ask someone who knows a bit more about the subject to help you out. Do it once and your connection will be optimised. It will save you those extra few rands for the rest of your digital life.

Want to go faster?

If you are determined to speed up your internet connection, then you should consider setting your dial-up out to pasture – to disconnect as it were. If you only use your internet connection to download e-mails, you are using the right option. Except when one of your well-meaning relatives from the UK or elsewhere send you the 50 pictures
they took of the birth of your first grandchild. It could take a while to download…..
However if you’ve had enough of this slow connection nonsense and want to go faster, and further, and higher (er..sorry got carried away a bit), the choices in South Africa will cost you a bundle – even the cheapest offers are not so cheap, if you look at what it gets you…

Yes, but How?

Apart from the “tweaking” of your dial-up modem which will hardly give you a noticeable boost to your internet speed, there are mainly three recommended options, namely

  • ADSL (Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line ) Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line is a technology for transmitting digital information at a high bandwidth on existing phone lines to homes and businesses. ADSL is asymmetric in the sense that it uses most of the channel (bandwith of your wire) to transmit downstream to the user and only a small part to receive information from the user. In other words, ADSL will make sure that the data coming towards your computer (downstream) is given priority over data passing from your PC to the network (internet).
  • GPRS / HSDPA(Wireless) General Packet Radio Service(GPRS): A GSM data transmission technique that does not set up a continuous channel from a portable terminal for the transmission and reception of data, but transmits and receives data in packets. It makes very efficient use of available radio spectrum.
  • High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA, also referred to as ‘3G’): (Sometimes known as High-Speed Downlink Protocol Access) is a 3G mobile telephony protocol in the HSPA family, which provides a roadmap for UMTS-based networks to increase their data transfer speeds and capacity. Current HSDPA now support 1.8 Mbit/s, 3.6 Mbit/s, 7.2 Mbit/s and 14.4 Mbit/s in downlink.
  • ISDN (Dial-Up) Integrated services digital network. A service that allows digital communications over standard phone lines and offers two 64Kbps (kilobits per second) bearer, or B-channels (128Kbps). It requires a special TA (terminal adapter) on your PC. Although it is “old school’ technology by now, it is still an option that is relatively cheap – depending on your needs. Eventually (hopefully) broadband will become more affordable in South Africa in the future, but if you need to only do the basics such as e-mails and occasional browsing, consider this option.

Wireless Home Networking ….

Still got cables trailling through the ceiling of your house or alongside skirting boards to connect your PCs to one another in your home? Well, the price of PCI-wireless cards has come down considerably that it has become a viable (not to mention affordable) option to link your PCs.

Another method of linking your PCs is to make use of Bluetooth USB Dongles. They go for about R79.00 nowadays. Install them (run the software) and you can set up a network between PCs using the Bluetooth LAN option. Of course you need a dongle for each of the PCs you want to connect to. It’s very nifty if you want to share printers and other peripherals (additional, plug-in hardware).

Buying a Personal Computer (PC)?

Don’t be fooled by ads for cheap computers. I’ve noticed there is a tendency by computer hardware suppliers to advertise only the price of the hardware (the box) – they don’t point out that the price for the Operating System (OS, such as Window XXXX) is not included. Some even “forget” to point out that the price EXCLUDES the monitor.

Before you jump into your car to buy the “best deal of your life”, phone the shop and get the name of the salesperson and ask him/her if the price advertised includes the price for the OS. If they are not sure, don’t even bother going to the store – chances are the price advertised is just to lure you into their shop.

Remember: Ask them if a licenced (with genuine Windows logo) disc is included in the price. Traders whose deals are above-board will even display the Microsoft Hotline number in their shops.