In October 1996, I bought a Multimedia PC package running Windows 95 with a Cyrix 6x86 133+, 16Mb Ram, an Aztech sound card, Aztech 8x CD-Rom, S3 Trio graphics card and a PC Tel HSP 336 deluxe internal modem.
As an Internet novice, I took up a free trial with CompuServe and not being impressed with the speed, I decided to try AOL. This disappointed me even more and I was told by AOL technical support that I would not be able to achieve any more than 2400 because I was using an HSP modem and my processor was not powerful enough.
Not wanting to be put off, I looked through your magazine for another ISP (NetDirect) which informed me I should have no problem connecting at maximum speed.
The support I got while attempting to set up and configure a connection was excellent, but still did not resolve the problem of speed until I complained to my PC supplier (PC Science of Leeds) that I had been sold a dummy.
PC Science was quick to respond saying that all my problems would be solved by installing updated drivers for the modem and modem port, which they promptly dispatched.
I am now able to connect to NetDirect first time, every time at a speed of 28800. Why not 33600? I am still not completely satisfied with the speed of access to some Internet sites and I have noticed that my processor is working flat out for most of the time when transfers are being made. This makes it virtually impossible to run other applications when downloading files.
Would performance improve significantly if I either upgraded the processor or if I replaced the modem with, say, a US Robotics model?
Internet World technical guru Stephen Harris replies: Host signal processing (HSP) was a way of making modems cheaper by offloading a lot of the work from the modem onto the CPU. Of course, this puts a lot of load on your CPU and, as you have noticed, can cause the CPU to spend 100% of its time pretending to be a modem rather than working on something productive such as running Word.
I'm surprised that AOL only achieved 2400 baud. Perhaps your drivers are out of date? The latest ones are available from (ww.pctel.com).
With 56K modems costing around #150, and 33.6K modems costing even less, it's definitely worth looking at replacing your modem with a proper one.
MADE IN SPAIN
I enjoy the odd issue of Internet World and find the articles, general editorial, and letters most interesting. Hearing about what's going on in the world is a problem in having no locals to chat with here in Spain.
One item in your July/August issue on Europe was of particular interest as I'm not in the UK very often. I have read that Spain has more ISPs than the US, the UK and a large part of Europe combined.
Despite what one may hear, generally the ISPs in Spain do a fine job. Mine was able to help considerably when setting up with a combination of UK hardware, US software and dealing with the new connect problems in a foreign language.
Regarding CompuServe, it may still be a leader in the UK and the US for email, forums and all the other services, but it has lost so much goodwill and standing from many of the members I introduced, they are fading fast with those I'm still in touch with.
Your July/August issue was the first one I've bought. I must say I am impressed, and as a relatively new surfer will continue to subscribe to your magazine.
In your letters section, you asked for opinions on CompuServe. My computer came with the necessary software to get me online with CompuServe. I thought I would give it a try, particularly because of all the freebies it offered.
As I reside in Germany, I rang the help desk to get further information on local access numbers. I was then put in touch with the German branch and given a phone number to dial.
After about eight hours of fun, spread over a couple of weeks, I happened to be looking at the bills section and to my horror I had been charged a total of $190. Why? Because the line I had been given cost several dollars a minute to be on!
The worst thing was that this money was being debited from my MasterCard account without my being informed. Luckily, I've managed to stop the payment, but the German branch has now sent me a letter requesting payment.
CompuServe won't get a thing without a court battle. Perhaps if CompuServe reads this letter, someone might want to contact me, but in the meantime it might want to consider the legality of thieving from someone's account.
However keen I am to be on the Internet, even I am not stupid enough to willingly pay hundreds of dollars for the privilege.
A nasty experience, which no doubt will be a problem for some time to come. Nobody ever warned me of any problems, I was even told the phone call would be at local rates.
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