There are several things you should look at if you want to maximise your connection speeds. The first thing to do is check your serial port to make sure it's up to scratch. If you've got a relatively modern PC you'll probably be OK - these tend to be fitted with a 16550 buffered UaRT serial port chip, which is happy with fast comms. Older PCs have the 8250 or 16450 UaRT, which is less adept. You can use the DOS utility, MSD, to find out which type of UaRT you have. If you have the latter, consider upgrading by buying a 16550 COM card which costs around #15.
Next in line is your Sportster modem, which should be able to connect at 33.6Kbps rather than 28.8Kbps, giving a speed gain of about 17 per cent. More recent 28.8 Sportsters need no upgrading at all to connect at this speed, dubbed V.34 Plus, but older ones need a new EPROM to upgrade the modem's firmware. This costs about u30. You'll also be able to avail yourself of US Robotics' new 56Kbps x2 technology when it arrives in the first quarter of 1997.
You should also make sure the modem is correctly installed under Windows 95. First of all, pay a visit to www.usr.com/home/software/dl07.htm and download the most recent modem INF configuration file for the Sportster - MDMUSRSP.INF. Copy this file into the Windows/Inf folder and then re-detect your Sportster modem using the Control Panel Modems applet. Windows 95 always errs on the side of caution when installing a modem and sets the maximum connection speed at half of what's actually possible, so check this out - load the Modems Control Panel applet, click on Properties and set the maximum speed to 115,200. Make sure hardware handshaking is turned on (in the Connection, Advanced dialog). You might like to tweak the FIFO buffers, setting them to maximum as well.
You should now have a modem capable of 33.6Kbps, currently the fastest connection speed possible on the PSTN (public switched telephone network). But a correctly configured fast modem does not guarantee fast performance - you may have a 33.6Kbps connection to your service provider but what happens beyond that is another matter. You'll always be at the mercy of the Internet's finite bandwidth and if the Net happens to be busy when you dial up, you will have to take your turn like everyone else. In fact, even having a fast digital connection such as an ISDN or T1 link to the Internet doesn't deliver guaranteed throughput.
It's a bit like a Citroen CV and a Ferrari Testarossa crossing London in the rush hour. The fact that the Ferrari has a maximum speed roughly three times that of the Citroen is irrelevant when you're going nowhere in a traffic jam. Check out NetMon, which is a replacement for the Windows 95 modem status lights. It displays a moving graph of your modem's send and receive performance and graphically illustrates the lumpiness of normal Internet connections. And a final tip - a much more practical solution to poor Internet performance is to vary the times that you access the Net. Try to do it before noon, when the US is waking up.
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