Using Dial-up for Travel

July 24, 2009 at 2:16 pm (Dial up) (, , , , , )

The Internet has increasingly become a necessity for work, entertainment and education, to name a few. Many workplaces have broadband connections and people are switching to broadband at home every day.

While broadband connections are convenient for fast access at home, many people who travel for work, retreat to summer homes, or go on vacations will have to pay for another internet service while they are away, or do without. The latter option is become more difficult as the demands for internet access increase.

There is a simple solution for these situations—dial-up Internet. Although dial-up has lost popularity to it’s broadband rivals, it is still useful (and sometimes the only option) for travel and vacation. There are many reasons why:

  • Dial-up is quick and easy to set up—just plug in one phone cord and create a dial-up connection on the computer.

  • Dial-up is also easily moved, since it works on any land line phone, as long as the username and password is correct.

  • There are thousands of access numbers available throughout the US, making dial-up one of the most broadly available Internet services.

If you decide to start using dial-up for travel, you must first choose the best ISP. Many dial-up providers do not have contracts or term commitments, which means you can quickly sign up and then cancel after a vacation or business trip. If you take this option, be sure you understand the cancellation process to avoid a misunderstand or a billing dispute when you get back from vacation.

Some dial-up providers offer a limited hours package for a few dollars or for free. If you travel often, this would be helpful alternative to signing up and canceling multiple times a year. Furthermore, if you keep the service year-round, you will have a back up Internet service you can use at home in the event of an issue with your broadband connection. Having a back-up is convenient and provides a useful troubleshooting tool. If you take this option, ask your ISP what the consequence would be if you go over your limited number of hours per month. Some companies will not allow you to connect after your limit, and others will charge heavy fees for usage over that limit.

Another important factor to consider is the access numbers. If you need dial-up for your vacation home or travel frequently to one or several locations, you can ask your ISP how many access numbers they have for that area. You must also check with the phone company where you will be using the dial-up to be sure the access number(s) will be local. Your ISP has no way of guaranteeing this for you, so be careful not to run up your phone bill because you forgot to check the access number.

Once you find the company that suits your needs, and you understand your terms of service and availability, you will have a stress-free, reliable, and convenient Internet connection away from home without paying a fortune for two services. You won’t have to worry about missing an important news event or email while on vacation again!

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Satellite vs. Dial-up Internet

July 21, 2009 at 1:17 pm (Dial up, satellite) (, , , , , , )

The increasing popularity of and demand for broadband Internet propels the goal of providing it to the entire U.S. Many rural homes across the country, however, have little or no access to DSL and cable. Both of these popular broadband services require costly upgrades or wiring and is not considered worthwhile for many rural homes—some for now, others, maybe always. Until then, two types of Internet are often available for these areas: dial-up and satellite.

Dial-up Internet varies greatly from satellite Internet. One obvious difference, and often the deciding factor for many, is the price. The total monthly cost of dial-up is between 10-20 dollars a month and usually the set up is free—assuming you have a dial-up modem and a local access number. Satellite internet, on the other hand, has a monthly fee of 40-350 dollars a month (depending on the speed/download allowance you want). The total cost includes the price of leasing or buying the equipment (dish, router, etc.), installation, and other fees, such as repair plans, technical support, or contract fees. Even if you get the cheapest, slowest plan, you will have to pay at least $100 up front to get started.

Even a far stretch of the possible expenses you’ll have with dial-up will not come near the price of satellite. A dial-up modem, for example, is typically between 20 and 50 dollars, but is usually already installed on the computer. If you don’t have a land line phone service, you can consider that into your monthly costs.

Another difference in these Internet services is the connection speed. Satellite is many times faster than dial-up, which is the only reason people are willing to pay so much more. Dial-up can usually not be connected constantly, and downloads are painfully slow. However, many satellite plans have download limits and your connection can be restricted to dial-up speeds as a penalty for exceeding those limits.

Connectivity can be an issue for both satellite and dial-up. Dial-up can have trouble connecting if the phone lines to your house are old or a considerable distance from the phone company’s central office. Static or other line noise can cause slow connections and frequent disconnects. Since satellite signals from the sky, inclement weather can cause disrupted or slow connectivity, which can be a problem for areas with frequent stormy weather. You can only get satellite if you own your home (renters must have permission to install a dish) and have a clear view of the southern sky. Just like with cell phones, you may not be able to get a good connection with satellite if you live in a wooded or mountainous area.

Getting started with dial-up is often as simple as a phone call and a configuration of settings on the computer, unless you order a disk to set up software. Dial-up can be set up on multiple computers and just needs a phone cord plugged into the back to get started. This means you can use dial-up while you’re traveling or on vacation. Setting up satellite could take several weeks with ordering, shipping and installing equipment. The time and cost of installing equipment and setting up the connection on satellite is clearly greater than dial-up.

Satellite Internet is a viable option if you require a broadband connection for your needs and can’t get DSL or cable, providing the pre-qualifications are met and no major weather obstructions occur too frequently. Dial-up Internet is a easy and affordable option for you if you don’t spend much time online and don’t want to bothered with fees and contracts, providing you have quality land lines and a working dial-up modem.

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Dial-up vs. DSL

July 10, 2009 at 12:45 pm (Dial up, DSL) (, , , , , , , )

If you are interested in switching to DSL Internet services, you may be curious to know what DSL is all about and how it compares to dial-up. For the purpose of this comparison, we will assume that by DSL, we are talking about ADSL, the typical DSL connection available that uses a phone line to connect. Here are a few of the basics.

For starters, dial-up and DSL both connect using your land line phone line. Simply put, a dial-up modem converts the analog communication your phone line uses into digital information needed for your computer. The same thing happens on your phone company’s end. Their modem converts the from digital to analog so it can travel on the phone lines. DSL, on the other hand, uses the same wires that your analog phone line used and bypasses the digital-analog-digital conversion dial-up must use.

Therefore, DSL transmits information much faster than dial-up, and works at a higher frequency (higher than can be detected by the human ear), and by doing so, it does not effect the analog communication (phone conversations, etc.) on those same lines.

The most obvious difference, other than the speed, is the price. The total monthly cost of dial-up is between 10 and 20 dollars a month with little or no additional fees including set up or equipment fees. DSL has a monthly fee somewhere between 20-100 dollars a month (based on speed desired and location), not including the price of equipment, installation, and other fees such as repair plans, technical support, or contract fees.

Most computers have a dial-up modem already installed on the computer, so there aren’t typically many equipment costs associated with dial-up. Other than a land line and a phone cord, that is the extent of the “equipment” and “installation” costs for dial-up.

Availability and transportability are two categories where dial-up exceeds DSL. Connecting to the internet with most dial-up services is available to any computer that has a land line phone. It is not confined to the home where the DSL modem is installed.

DSL is only available in very limited areas. DSL is rarely available in rural areas because they are too far from the phone company’s central office. The choices of connection speeds on DSL could cut in half based solely on your locations. Often, a few hundred feet means the difference of DSL or no DSL for suburban homes.

DSL and dial-up can be provided both by your phone company or through your phone company. While you can set up nearly any dial-up service with any analog phone service, DSL is usually only available with your phone company or a DSL company that partners with your phone company.

Many phone companies will not let any other DSL company use their phone lines, so this could even further limit or prevent you from getting DSL. If they do, further problems can occur in the process of communication during the activation period and the resolving of technical issues. Even with no complications, DSL usually takes at least several days to set up.

Dial-up has a very simple set up procedure that takes about half an hour or less (unless you are mailed a setup CD, which is often not necessary). Since it is so simple to set up, you can easily move the connection, set up multiple connections, and take your service with you when you travel or move. Rarely does your phone company need to be involved or even notified, other than to make sure your access number is a local call.

DSL is a fast, dedicated connection for those who require it for gaming, downloading, and streaming of videos, etc. Dial-up excels in price, availability, and simplicity for people who need to save money or don’t have many other options.

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Is Dial-up Fast Enough for You?

July 3, 2009 at 2:26 pm (Dial up, DSL, Internet surfing) (, , , , , , , )

Although dial-up Internet services were quite popular a few decades ago, some believe dial-up has become thing of the past. However, there are still many thousands who use dial-up as their primary home Internet connection today. Every day, there are people considering starting a new dial-up account, either to save money or because no other affordable option is available. Here’s an in-depth look at what dial-up should be capable of and some of the factors that effect a dial-up connection speed.

Let’s start with basic web-surfing. How long is it going to take to load a web page on dial-up? Although dial-up and dial-up modems have only improved in quality, websites as a whole have greatly increased their use of multimedia layouts, including video and audio features. This has resulted in dial-up Internet services loading webpages more slowly overall than they did even five years ago.

However, there are also ways that technology has made webpages easier to load using compression technology, etc. There are ISP’s, software programs, and even certain browsers offer tools that can effectually speed your browsing time. Some websites load parts of their page (like backgrounds and images) separately so that you don’t have to wait for the whole page to load before you can begin using it. Other sites, such as gmail.com, allow you to load the site in a simpler layout for faster loading on dial-up. All of these factors affect your loading time. Here are a few examples to give you an estimate for some familiar pages :

  • Google.com has a very simple layout with mostly white space and very few images. On a dial up connection speed, this page should load in about 5-7 seconds.

  • Yahoo.com, even with its busy home page loads in a user-friendly 35-45 seconds on dial-up.

  • CNN.com has many columns, headings, and images. Using a dial up connection, the home page should load in about 3 minutes.

These times are estimated based on a 56K dial up connection, with the consideration that no one ever connects at 56 kbps. Even the best connection will establish at about 50 kbps and often closer to 48, due to technology and legal restrictions. There are other several factors that can effect your connection speed. If you have an older modem or a poor phone connection, you’re actual speed could be closer to 28 kbps or less. You will notice the difference much more on downloads than on loading webpages.

How fast are downloads on dial-up? Small downloads are usually not a problem. A song, for example, is typically about 3 MB in a compressed format, which is what MP3 players and cellphones use. If you download a 3 MB file on a 56K dial up connection, it take about 8-10 minutes, or on a 28K connection, 15 or 20 minutes.

The latest version of Firefox, 3.5, is 7.6 MB, which would download in just over 20 minutes on a 56K connection, or about 45 minutes on a 28K connection. It is possible that your connection speed changes while you’re connected. Intermittent noises on the phone line can slow your connection speed or even cause it to drop. If you already have a slower connection due to poor phone lines (because you live some distance from the phone company’s central office, or you have aged phone lines with static or humming), you may need to make several attempts to download programs that are longer than 2 hours.

Suppose you want to download a large program, like an anti-virus program. The latest version the free AVG 8.5 is 63.1 MB. On a 56K dial-up connection, that would take over 3 hours, or nearly 6 hours on a 28K connection. Since most ISP’s have a maximum 4 hour disconnect, you will probably not be able to download anything larger than 40 MB on a 28 kbps connection. This same file would download in about a half hour on DSL. If you have dial-up and require an occasional large download, go to your local library or coffee shop with free wireless and download the file to a disk or flash drive. Then install it on your home computer when you get home.

Dial-up is not for everyone. Those who require fast connections for real time streaming that is necessary for watching videos and playing online games should look for a broadband connection. For those who just want to surf web pages, play small flash games, check email, and do some online banking, dial up will be sufficient. It might be slower, but unless you plan on being online all the time, the money you’ll save will be worth the wait.

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DSL: A Basic Introduction

June 23, 2009 at 11:34 am (DSL) (, , , , , , )

What is DSL? An acronym for “Digital Subscriber Line”, DSL is a type of broadband connection that typically connects through your home phone line. Broadband is any type of Internet connection that is faster than dial-up, or narrowband. DSL does inhibit the use of your phone line, allowing you to connect to the Internet and receive phone calls at the same time. DSL is an always on connection, so you are constantly connected to the Internet.

How does DSL work? DSL is usually provisioned by a local phone company or a company that partners with a local provider. The connection is typically established between your phone company’s central office, your analog phone line, and a DSL modem. This type of connection maximizes the use of telephone lines by eliminating the conversion from digital to analog, which is required for telephones, or digital to analog to digital, which is required for a dial-up connection.

Do I need a phone line to get DSL? Typically, yes. DSL is usually provided through your existing land line phone. This type of DSL will not work on a digital phone service (i.e., VIOP, cable phones, cell phones, etc.). Dry-loop DSL, or naked DSL is available in some areas and does not require an active phone service. You should check with your DSL provider for more information.

How fast is DSL? Your connection speed is typically directly affected by your proximity to the telephone company’s central office, which is why DSL is often not available to rural homes. The closer you are to the source, the higher speed connection you can recieve. DSL speeds usually ranges anywhere from 500-6000 kbps (kilobits per second). For a comparison, dial-up is usually a 20-40 kbps connection. Even the slowest download speed on DSL is sufficient for normal web-surfing, email, and most audio and video streaming, but if you are planning on using more than one computer, play online video games, or download large files frequently, you will want to get one of the higher speed plans available.

How much does DSL cost? Again, this depends on where you live and what is available in your area. Prices can range from $12-100 a month, including the cost of equipment, depending on what speed you want and what company provides your service. Keep in mind that the price you see advertised in brochures or online may not be available for you or is an introductory rate that will increase after the first few months. Also, if multiple plans are available, low prices are for slower, sometimes unsatisfactory connection speeds. Depending on your purpose for buying DSL, you may need to find a plan that offers higher speeds at a higher cost. Also watch for additional fees, cancellation fees, contracts, and extra equipment costs when determining your final price for your service.

How do I install DSL in my home? DSL comes in different forms for different purposes, so the installation process will differ. For most home DSL plans, you can expect to wait 5-10 business days for your phone line to be provisioned for DSL and you will need to buy or lease a DSL modem. You will also need to set up filters, splitters, a few wires and cables, as well as a router if you want to use a wireless laptop. You can refer to your DSL provider for more details and installation instructions.

The first step to connect with DSL is to find out whether it is available in your area. You can search online or check with your local companies for more information. When you do, find out if what companies provide DSL specifically to your house, then check for prices, speeds, contracts, and other plan details to find the plan that’s best for you.

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5 Tips for Speeding Up Your Dial-up Connection

June 16, 2009 at 11:25 am (Dial up) (, , , , )

So you’re stuck on dial-up for one reason or another, and there are days you’re about to go out of your mind. Many websites are being made with interactive banners and ads, streaming audio and video clips, and colorful flash programs that dial-up can barely load, or not at all. Here are a few things you may not have thought to try before. These tips will help you maximize your online experience.

Focus your surfing. Keep your browsing to one window at a time. Or, toggle between two pages. While your email homepage is loading, you can log into your bank account. Close any tabs and pages that you are no longer using as soon as you get the chance. Create favorites or bookmarks so you load the page you want right away. Some welcome screens and ad pages give you a small link to click of you want to skip it. You don’t always need the whole web page to load. Click the stop button at the top of the browser if you already see the part of the page you want. If you see the link you’re looking for, you don’t need to wait to click on that link.

Eliminate programs running in the background. Your anti-virus program or Window’s updates could be downloading updates when you’re trying to check your email. Your messenger program could be automatically connecting every time you go online to pay a bill. Try to install updates and download programs at a time that you aren’t trying to view web pages. Close the weather programs, messengers, etc., that require an Internet connection if you are not using them. You can often change the options in these programs to not start up automatically or change the schedule of the updates.

Save big downloads for when you’re not surfing. You can connect first thing in the morning and update your anti-virus, etc., while you’re eating breakfast or getting ready for work. When you’re checking your email or reading the news later, you don’t have to worry about sharing your bandwidth with your necessary updates. Let your large downloads run overnight and install them the next day. You can also save large files to a flash drive while you’re at the library or a coffee shop with free wireless service and install them when you get home.

Clear your caches frequently. Your Internet browser saves files, cookies, history, etc., every time you open a web page. This is handy for going back and forth between the pages you visited that day or week, but eventually your browser becomes bogged down with all the extra files. It’s good practice to completely clear out all your stored files every six weeks or months, depending on how much you surf on a daily basis. You should find these options on your tools menu of your browser.

Try a different browser. If you have a Microsoft Windows, your computer came with Internet Explorer and you probably surf with this browser. There are other browsers, most of them free to download, that are compatible with most websites. Your surfing speed could be transformed simply by using a faster browser. Some browsers come with accelerators and features that load web pages faster. Three of the most popular browsers include; Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera. Try all three or ask around to figure out which one is the fastest or best for your surfing needs.

There are more ways to boost your connection speed that you may find helpful. Your ISP may offer accelerators or different access numbers you could try. You may also need to upgrade to a better modem (V.92 is the latest) or replace your phone lines. You may also need to clean up your computer by uninstalling unnecessary programs or defragmenting the hard drive. Check with your local computer technician for more information.

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How to Find the Best Dial-up ISP

June 10, 2009 at 2:33 pm (Dial up) (, , )

Dial-up internet services are about the same connection speed regardless of which company is providing the service. Although some ISP’s offer accelerators, the connection speed still typically range from 20-50 kbps (kilobits per second) as a result of 1) the quality of the phone line, 2) the distance of the phone line source and the house, and 3) the type/quality of the dial-up modem.

Therefore, choosing a dial-up provider is important not because one is faster than another, but because the customer service, payment methods, terms of service, and other important features vary greatly from one company to another.

You’ve probably heard of several larger companies who provide dial up internet, like AOL, Earthlink, and Netzero. These companies have become a household name commonly associated with dial up, but they are not the only dial up providers. It would be easy to find and sign up for Internet service with these companies, but you could be making a mistake. Many larger dial up ISP’s have sent their customer service to outsourced call centers in order to save money. Some of them require you to sign up for a contract. Some charge fees for technical support or cancellation. You have to consider multiple factors when choosing the best Internet service, and this will take some research.

Fortunately, some of this research has been done for you. There are several websites that list the top rated dial-up providers, including the lesser known ISP’s who are more concerned about doing you a favor than making a lot of money. Here three websites who show the facts for a variety of Internet services:

Of all the prominent ISP comparison websites, these have a wide selection, quality up-to-date information, and easy navigation.

These sites show all the basics at a glance—price, ratings, features, and special offers. They also link to reviews, which can be very handy when weighing your options. Wouldn’t you want to know what company has the happiest customers? What did an actual customer say about the ISP that interests you? Keep in mind that solitary negative (especially heated and derogatory) reviews could be an isolated situation that bears no relevance to the average user.

Another benefit of using an ISP comparison website is that most companies offer a discount to new customers, and these websites often directly link to that site’s promotional web page for easy sign up. You will not only find a satisfactory ISP, but you will also save money!

Choosing the best ISP may be a process of trial and error. These websites will help make the best choice the first time. They also provide some information about dial-up and Internet service in general if this is your first time choosing your own company.

There are many companies who sell dial-up, and just because everyone you know has Earthlink or you grew up on AOL doesn’t mean you have to be one of their customers too. Take advantage of a competitive market and find the service that’s best for you.

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Choosing the Best Dial-up Provider: 10 Factors to Consider

May 29, 2009 at 3:24 pm (Dial up) (, , , )

Dial up internet services are about the same connection speed regardless of which company is providing the service. Connections typically range from 20-50 kbps (kilobits per second) as a result of 1) the quality of the phone line, 2) the distance of the phone line source and the house, and 3) the type/quality of the dial up modem.

Therefore, choosing a dial up provider is important not because one is faster than another, but because the customer service, payment methods, terms of service, and other important features vary greatly from one company to another. Here are ten important factors to consider:

Reviews. Check the website and other sites that review the ISP. What do current customers say about this company? Keep in mind that solitary negative (especially heated and derogatory) reviews could be an isolated situation that bears no relevance to the average user.

Rankings and promotions. There are many websites who categorize internet services based on their service quality of various dialup providers. Search for companies that are in the top five of several ISP comparison websites. Also, these sites will often link to the ISP’s current promotion specials.

Access numbers. A data transfer number, or an access number is what the modem uses to connect to the internet. Most ISP’s have a large variety of access numbers to choose from, but just like telephone numbers, many of those would be long distance and your phone service would be charged per minute of online time. The telephone company can verify whether or not an access number would incur a toll charge.

Monthly/yearly prices. Be wary of hidden fees, contracts, or price changes after a certain amount of time. For long-term customers, yearly payment plans are sometimes available at a discount. Some dial up companies offer a great starting rate but become much more expensive after 1 to 5 months, or they do not provide convenient features or quality customer service that more expensive plans offer. Saving money is important, but a frustrating, low-quality service is not even worth their cheap rates.

Payment types. Customers preferring to pay by check or money order need to check whether those payment forms are available, as some ISP’s take only credit cards. Most companies, however, accept debit cards, and therefore may be a sufficient substitute to paying by check.

Terms of service. Some of the legal jargon will rarely apply to the average user, but many companies list possible additional charges, grounds for termination or limitation of services, or expresses the right to monitor their customer surfing habits. Being well aware of these issues can aid in making the best decision and create a clear understanding of the rights and limitations the company allows. Signing up for an ISP indicates the consumer agrees to the Terms of Service, regardless of whether they have been read.

Software requirements. Some ISP’s require that you use their dial-in software, sometimes even their browser and email client to use their service. While fewer clicks and matching layout can be appealing to those who are new to the computer and Internet, proprietary software from an ISP company is often bombarded with advertising. Also, these memory-consuming programs can slow or corrupt the computer even long after the service has been cancelled. Set up software is simply unnecessary. Accelerators and internet call waiting programs, however, are necessary to download if you choose to add such features. They can be very helpful and convenient, but sometimes conflict with other software already installed on the computer or require additional phone and modem features.

Customer Service. What are the hours of operation? Are there long hold times or complicated phone menus? Where are the calls actually directed? In order to save money, many dialup providers outsource their call centers. The personnel usually have poor training, limited and scripted information, poor communication skills, and strong accents that are difficult to understand.

Technical support. Many of the same questions from above apply here as well. Keep in mind that some companies charge for tech support calls. The fee could be per call or even per minute.

Cancellations. What is the process and requirements to terminate the service? Is there a contract or cancellation fee? Is there a satisfaction guarantee? Don’t sign up for any service until these questions are clearly answered and understood.

There are other factors that affect any prospective customer’s decision based on what options are available, what need the ISP will meet, and what funds are available. These questions and facts cover many of the important factors of a satisfactory service.

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