VIRGIN AND OTHER ISPs
I'm now with my third ISP in the year I've been on the Web and have found that it's all too easy to be taken in by a "sound" offer. My first ISP, Global Internet, at the time didn't offer free Web space. Another problem was the inability to connect at peak times, like Sunday evenings. My second ISP, Sonnet Internet, offered multiple email addresses (subject to registration of Shareware software provided). It offered 2.5Mb of Web space and the staff was very friendly. But, what happens when you have a problem at 4:30pm on Saturday? You have to wait until 9:00am on Monday before anyone is available to fix it. My third ISP, Demon, was recommended by an ex-Pipex subscriber. I used Pipex on a work account and found it very good, but heard Demon was better. It offered 5Mb of space, 99 email accounts and 24-hour support. I once rang up at 4:00am and was greeted with a warm hello. I didn't have a problem, I just wanted to see if they were there. In the fierce IP market, you can demand a lot for your money. I know of people with access that costs up to #50 a month who don't get half the service I get for #10 a month. Yes there are drawbacks, but don't all ISPs have at least one?
Peter Tippetts; [email protected]
My advice to anyone seeking an ISP is to look for sites with 24-hour help and customer support: add to your list Virgin, BT and Mercury. Best value despite slowness in areas: Virgin and Mercury, with Mercury being slightly cheaper over a year - three months free takes the edge off that though. I unfortunately couldn't access Virgin, despite all the help. Perhaps my 586-133, 32MB RAM is a tad old-fashioned. Oh, and the ISPs who blame the modem; it's incredible. I have a humble Pace Linnet 34fx. No, I'm not bragging about my equipment, just the connectivity that often doesn't happen and the excuses from providers claiming I'm doing something wrong.
Piotr M; [email protected]
I picked up your April issue and was interested in the article about free email from Electronic Market. I emailed the company and received a floppy, which is all you need to run this free email. First Impressions is very good. It accesses quickly and dials a freephone number. It really is that simple, and totally free. It will be interesting to see if First Impressions generates enough revenue from advertising to keep the thing free. I've put a lot of my friends in touch with it and they've also had favourable results. The benefit to home users is you can chop and change your ISP, taking advantage of free offers, but keep a permanent and stable email address. Also for people on a budget, I bought my 33.6 internal fax, voice, data modem for 50 quid from Bowlers computer fair in Trafford Park, Manchester. I think that's pretty good value for money. I'm fairly new to the Internet, but one of the first things that struck me is that Americans don't pay for local calls so can surf all day. We Brits are somewhat disadvantaged. Do you think we'll ever get free local calls in the UK?
Mark Goodman; [email protected]
GROUP EDITOR KEN YOUNG REPLIES: The free phone calls debate gets kicked around a lot. Some cable companies offer it already to a single ISP, and BT denies any intention to go the same way. With US telcos now showing concern over Net users clogging up phone lines it looks unlikely the situation will improve. It's more likely that competition will drive down monthly costs of Net connection.
I'm just about to set up a Web site that I've spent a lot of time on and one of the main things I want to keep an eye on is publicity. I used to use digits.com as a Web counter, but they seem to be out of use for public use. I have no knowledge of other page counters so if anyone has any ideas, please mail me.
Robin Burke; [email protected]
INTERNET WORLD'S TECHNICAL GURU, STEPHEN HARRIS, REPLIES: There are lots of Web counters - some are remotely hosted and just require that you put a graphic on your page, whereas others are CGI programs that you can run yourself. My favourite CGI-based Web counter is at (www.fccc.edu/users/muquit/workh.html) along with a lot of other goodies. For a fairly full list of all the different counters available, check out (www.ca-probate.com/counter.htm).
Stephen Harris; [email protected]
What's the point of all these email addresses being given out? Like on the back of Golden Wonder crisps, I mean WHY??? Do they want me to email them saying: "What a mighty tasty bag of crisps. I'm going to turn over a new leaf. Where's my bible?" Ahhh it's stupid.
Fraser Skea; [email protected]
INTERNET WORLD REPLIES: Who ever said the Internet was created for a logical exchange of ideas? Email is what you make of it my friend - much like life itself. (Er, where's that on the Net - Ed?)
Further to James Parton's letter published in the May issue of Internet World regarding his transfer from CompuServe to Virgin Net, I too was looking for an ISP with a good pricing policy as the few hours CompuServe allowed for the monthly payment was soon used up. I took up the offer of three months free access and a fixed monthly payment for unlimited access and am pleased with the service. When I cancelled my membership to CompuServe online, following their instructions, I left the direct debit in place to allow them to collect any money due to them. They duly took #15-u68 in January and #11.97 in February. I felt they had been paid what they were due so I cancelled the direct debit and to my surprise received a letter from the collections dept in the States informing me I still owed them $12.31. Furthermore, they want a cheque sent by post to Columbus, Ohio. I wonder if any other CompuServe subscribers have had this problem when closing an account.
Dennis Warne; [email protected]
GROUP EDITOR KEN YOUNG REPLIES: Come on all you CompuServe users, tell us what you think. Is Dennis just a menace or a victim of an online con?
WHATTA MISTAKA TO MAKA
With reference to your May site listing, Get Yer Kit 'Ere, I'd like to point out an inaccuracy. With reference to Software Warehouse, you stated that "the site features a virtual shopping basket system, though it doesn't yet provide a secure order form for submitting credit card details". This is wholly inaccurate. The site has always featured such a function throughout its 15 months of activity. Here at tw2 (the company that develops, maintains and hosts the site), we have a long-standing commitment to the development of online transactions , of which SSL-based encryption is key. When we launched the initial version of the site in February 1996, we ensured that customers could trust the site to protect their personal details. It was more important to develop that side than to complete the development of our custom-written virtual shopping basket, which was added last summer. The article brought some attention to the extent of the movement in the computer industry to drive online sales - highlighting the variable success and often questionable methods. Software Warehouse's site has proven that given the right audience profile, marketing strategy, commitment and products, Web sites can become a revenue stream.
Stephen Morris; [email protected]
GROUP EDITOR KEN YOUNG REPLIES: Apologies for the inaccuracy Stephen. Like you, we are watching the online shopping scene with great interest and welcome comments from anyone who has spotted some exciting or innovative activity.
Thanks for publishing my letter Speedy Access in the June issue. One complaint: where's my name? How can I benefit from having a letter published in the world's best Internet magazine? So, here's attempt number two: You asked for comments about Virgin Net. I've been with Virgin since December. Getting started was simple, and the free 24-hour help line has been excellent (apart from the 20 minutes wait to get connected each time). The staff are knowledgeable and have successfully talked me through several glitches. OK, now the bad news. 10Mb of free Web space is an excellent addition to Virgin's offering, but the server is so slow. I've had so many complaints about the speed of my mainly text-based Web site that I'm considering changing to another provider. The usenet Virgin groups show that my experience is by no means unique - browse through the posts to see what I mean. Perhaps you could pass a message on for myself and others in the same boat? Come on, Richard Branson and Alex Dale: you say your primary marketing tool is "word of mouth", yet you seem not to know the management dictum that one bad comment outweighs 10 good ones. The word of mouth coming my way from erstwhile friends of Virgin suggests you should pay more attention to the concerns of your committed customers. I don't want to have to put "ex-Virgin" on my signature file. Keep up the good work with your excellent mag.
Chris Hawkes (that's CHRIS HAWKES!); [email protected]
GROUP EDITOR KEN YOUNG REPLIES: Thanks Chris. How could we have forgotten to mention that your name is Chris, Chris?
COMMENTS ON VIRGIN NET
As an addition to John Gorst's letter in the June issue, I phoned Virgin in mid January for their software to take up the three months free trial. As I was already running Turnpike, the documentation suggested I'd have problems and advised me to call support. I did and was advised to move Turnpike's winsock out of the Windows directory. This already was, and I phoned back. The best they could offer was for me to remove Turnpike completely. There wasn't much chance of me doing that as I'd not long paid for it. They promised to call me back when they had an answer for me that didn't involve such drastic measures. It took them three months to leave a message on my answer phone, about a week before the free trial would have ended. I know that Turnpike is a pig of package, but does it really need three months to work a solution?
Martin Watson; [email protected]
I have a radio show and Web site (www.roughguides.com/ charlie), where we put up each week's play list within a couple of days of each Saturday show. We note any relevant Web sites for surfers to pursue and recommend albums of the month, quarter and all-time. I'm still ambivalent about the content of much of the Net, which seems to be burdened by the equivalent of Sunday drivers clogging up the roads without any function or aesthetic value. Many of the entries remind me of local newspaper display ads, devoid of flair, wit or wisdom. Have we simply joined them and/or can you see ways we could be better, more interesting/useful? I'd appreciate your comments.
Charlie Gillett, London
GROUP EDITOR KEN YOUNG REPLIES: I don't know anyone who goes into a library and finds more than 10 per cent of the books interesting. So I don't understand why people expect the Net to deliver a higher percentage. Just like good TV shows, the best (sites like yours) will stand out and be talked about, and with the technology improving all the time, things can only get better.
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