Email: Slowly Dying or Going Strong?

October 29, 2009 at 5:48 pm (broadband, Dial up, Technology) (, , , )

I read an interesting article today in response to another controversial article about the “death of email”. I find it humorous that the poor woman who was nearly persecuted for her article, never said email was dying, just losing popularity and prominence. I guess there’s still some dispute on that idea. But I disgress.

I think it’s interesting that no matter how wonderful and revolutionizing a new technological advancement is, four groups of people emerge. *Note: Sometimes this does not happen because this advancement dies off before adoption by the majority takes place.

1. There’s a small group of activists who are overly excited about how wonderful and convenient this new *fill in the blank* is, how it will dramatically change how we communicate/entertain ourselves/do business/whatever else you can think of! And before you know it, <normal device that is working perfectly fine right now> will be completely replaced by this new *fill in the blank*!!!

2. There is a larger group of people who are interested, skeptical, briefly fascinated, or bored who try this New Big Thing and make up their mind about it. And, regardless of whether they use it or not, still use the old way or the other way of doing things for some time. The adoption rate by this group is usually the deciding factor of whether this technological development will become commonplace.

3. There is an equally large (usually) group of people who know very little about this so called New Big Thing that everyone who’s anyone is using and don’t really care about it, and wait to adopt the trend when the hype (and often the price) goes down. They adopt this technological advancement after several years when all the kinks have been ironed out, and when they discover this is a more efficient method of doing what they do.

4. There is a small group of people who are utterly clueless and will continue using their “extremely out of date and oh-so-not popular” method of doing things and will be perfectly content with it. This group only adopts the thing when their technologically advanced friends or relatives coerce them into updating or their local provider no longer offers the old way.

Nuff said. This happened for cars, telephones, and tv’s and is still happening to today with broadband Internet services, smartphones, blue-ray and facebook.

Because of group 3, and especially 4, there are still people using rotary phones, dial-up, and hand-written letters.

If it wasn’t for group 2, and especially 1, we wouldn’t know about some great conveniences that have truly improved our lives.

The truth is, the new big thing has its place for the people who like new things and need the change. But there will always be room for the good old days and the traditional forms of transportation, communication, education, and entertainmentation… *ahem* I mean… (hehe!)

I still remember in middle school, the first time that my little world was shattered by a Group 1 futuristic hopeful who told me that telephones would soon no longer be used anymore. But by now these future-thinkers don’t phase me. So lets not get our undies in a bundle! Email isn’t going anywhere! Just like radio, newspapers, dial-up, and telephones. They still have a purpose to serve.

So… what group are you in?

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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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Tips for Buying a Dial-up Modem

July 1, 2009 at 11:52 am (Dial up) (, , , , , )

If you are planning to buy a new dial-up modem, you may feel a little overwhelmed at the large variety of modems available. You could just have a technician install a modem for you, and while this would certainly be the easiest route, it’s definitely more expensive. These tips will help you buy a modem that best suits your Internet services and make you a little more knowledgeable about modems in general.

Don’t buy a used modem. First of all, there’s no way to know if its actually going to work, and secondly, it could be missing installation instructions or a necessary driver software CD. Also, if the modem doesn’t work or is not compatible, it would be too much trouble to return it. A new modem may be more expensive, but you have more assurance that it has the latest technology and is less likely to malfunction any time soon.

Be sure it’s actually a dial-up modem. Nearly all types of Internet services require that you have a modem, but there’s a big difference between them. If you buy anything that is not a dial-up modem, it’s not going to connect to dial-up. Most modems will have “Dial-up” “Cable” or “DSL” in their name, but if you don’t know for sure, check the description before you grab it off the shelf.

Be sure it’s compatible to your computer. What version of Windows do you have on your computer? Or do you have a Mac computer? Is it a desktop or a laptop? Make sure you will be able to install the modem on the computer. You can buy external modems that are compatible with nearly all computers. They may be more expensive, but very helpful if you need the modem for more than one computer.

Consider your installation procedure. Is it an external or internal modem? If you have a laptop, installing a modem inside it would be very difficult. Even on a desktop, installing an internal modem would not be recommended for novice computer users. An external modem is simple to install, and only requires you to plug in the modem to a USB port on the outside of the computer, and maybe run a CD. Even a beginner can install an external modem. Also, an external modem can easily be moved if you switch computers frequently or use dial-up while traveling (e.g., college students who make weekend and holiday trips home can take their modem with them). 

Consider extra features. Some cheaper modems may not have the features you need for your dial-up plan. For example, if you want to add an Internet Call-waiting feature to your dial-up plan, you must first have a V.92 modem. You may want to have a V.92 modem anyway because it has the latest technology that could nearly double your Internet connection speed.

Consider the cost. There may still be some brands that offer the same features, but cost less than others. If they all have the features you need, save money and get the less expensive modem! You may also find that some stores have the same product for a cheaper price than others. Of course, the Internet is a very popular place to find the latest gadgets at a great price. If you decide to buy online, be sure to consider shipping time and costs, and check the company’s return policy.

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Dial-up Modem Gone Bad: Fix or Buy?

July 1, 2009 at 11:44 am (Dial up) (, , , , )

Dial-up Internet services depend on a number of things to work properly: The Internet service provider, the access number, the phone company, the phone line to your house, the jack, splitter, surge protector, phone cord, and computer in the house, and of course, the dial-up modem. Unfortunately, the dial-up modem can often be the culprit and not be so easy to detect. Modems, like cars and other technology, can begin causing problems or cease working entirely without warning.

There are several possible reasons your modem would not work properly, or at all.

  1. Your modem is not installed correctly or the software is malfunctioning.
  2. Your modem needs to be updated with new driver software.
  3. Your modem is out-of-date or its software is corrupted.

Here are some solutions to fixing or replacing your modem (and how to decide which is needed), should any of these scenarios be the cause dial-up connection errors or frequent disconnects.

Reinstalling your modem. You may simply need to reinstall your modem. If you have a newer version of Windows, i.e., XP or Vista, you can usually reinstall your modem quite easily. First, open your Control Panel, then “Phone and Modem Options”. Then click on the Modems tab and select your modem from the list, “The following modems are installed” and click Remove. Then restart your computer. Windows will detect your modem and either install it on its own, or a “Found New Hardware” Wizard will appear and guide you through the installation.

Some modems cannot be reinstalled without a driver CD, so this should only be done if you are sure that this is the original modem that came with the computer and that you were not provided with a modem driver CD upon purchasing your computer. If you bought your modem separately, you probably have the drivers CD. Keep this handy as you will need it again when you reinstall your modem.

Suppose you are not sure if you had a driver CD. You may decide to try a reinstall anyway because it does not cost you any money and could be the quickest way to fix your modem. Be forewarned that your modem may not reinstall correctly and you could worsen the situation during re-installation. On the other hand, if it wasn’t working anyway, you have little to lose as you can always buy another modem.

Updating your modem software. You may wish to update your modem software if you have an older computer or if you have successfully reinstalled your modem and you still have problems dialing up to the Internet.

You may have difficulty with this step if you are not familiar with computer technology. In order to update your modem software, you must first know what type of modem you have. Your modem name is listed in the same place where you remove your modem for a reinstall (see above). You may also have this information with your computer’s manual (providing the modem came with your computer) or your modem’s manual.

Once you know what make and model you have, you can browse online for your modem website to download any software updates for your modem. You may also need to download the original drivers for your modem if you tried previously to reinstall you modem and can’t get it to reinstall properly. You may need to see a local technician for help with this step.

Buying a new modem. Unfortunately, sometimes your modem cannot be repaired because it is too out of date to accept upgrades or the software is too corrupted to be repaired. This is typically the case if the above two steps don’t work or you have an older computer. This can be a good thing. Newer modems are more reliable, not too expensive (usually $20-50, as compared to $50-150 for broadband equipment), and may help you get faster speeds due to newer technology.

In any of these scenarios, you may be better off to buy a new modem anyway. It could even save you money if you have to take your computer to a technician. Why pay more to fix an old modem?

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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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