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Monday, October 2, 2000
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Improving the Net result
By Vipul Verma

The Internet is gradually touching every part of our life. Right from sending and receiving e-mails to shopping online, itís all happening on the Net. However, in order to access the Internet, you need to connect using a computer, modem and a telephone line. Though at many places there may not be much problem yet in a majority of cases there are a lot of slips between the cup and the lip.

The most popular and the common method of connecting to the Internet is through the dial-up networking by using the TCP/IP protocol. This involves the use of normal telephone line. Normally, you can often find people complaining that their Net connection does not work properly or is very slow. For most of the time you can blame the telephone department for poor condition. But at the same time by taking care of a few things you can really improve your Internet experience.


Illustration by Sandeep Joshi

External modem v internal modem: Normally, it has been observed that the problem of Internet connectivity, i.e. slower connectivity and also frequent disconnection are most common with those who use internal modems. Technically there is no difference between an internal modem and an external modem as both use similar chipset and thus should perform equally well. However, it does not happen. Then why does the internal modem under perform? The example of a laptop can justifiably answer this question. All laptops/notebooks use internal modem and give tremendous Net performance. So internal modem is not a bad hardware. Could the problem be related to the design of the hardware (internal modem) or its functions?

The first problem related to the hardware (internal modem) could be of onboard controllers. All high-performance modems, whether external or internal, have on-board controllers to process commands, handle error-correction and data compression. Modems without onboard controller, sometimes called Win modem or Windows modems, pass on the entire processing to the PCís processor. This in turn slows down the computerís performance, especially for on-line gaming and multimedia applications. Flash memory is one sure sign that a modem has a controller.

Another important aspect is related to the digital signal processing. Normally, the internal modem, which a person buys, are soft modems that load all digital signal and controller processing on the PC. This actually slows down the computer and at the same time may also seriously affect the performance of the modem and any other applications running while online.

If planning to buy an internal modem, then make sure that the modem has onboard controllers and also that it performs digital signal processing. Avoid soft modems, if they do not have these features.

Correct version of modem drivers: Another problem that could be associated with the under performance of the Net connection is of incorrect version of the modem drivers. Normally, while installing a modem the driver would not even merit attention. Since a majority of the modems are imported so modem drivers, which come along with them, are general drivers that could be used anywhere, worldwide.

The standard of telephone lines, and also the ISPsí support, may vary from country to country. It may be possible that an ISP in Singapore might support V.90 feature while this may not be available with an ISP in India.

If a modem driver, which supports V.90 protocol, is installed then Internet connection might give some problem. This is despite the fact that V.90 protocol has a downward compatibility and theoretically, should not affect the Internet performance, as the modem would use the available protocol.

Practically, it has been seen that modem drivers with V.90 protocol do not work smoothly with non-V.90 protocol ISPs. Ideally, one must check with the ISP about the protocol up to which the support is available. If this support is not available, then use another driver instead of a driver with V.90 protocol. Consult the manual of the modem for more information on the driver, if there is only one driver available or contact the vendor for more details.

However, if things do not work out, then it is advisable to disable the V.90 function of the modem.. This will take care of problem temporarily.

Check your telephone line condition yourself: If the telephone line is not in a good condition, then good connectivity to the Internet merely remains a dream. For checking the line by using a 33.6 kbps or a 56 kbps modem, restart your computer. After opening, click on Start > Programs > Accessories > HyperTerminal. Double-click HyperTerminal icon. This will open a new connection window on the computer. In the connection description window, write, "line check" as the new connection name and click OK.

This will open a new window by the name of Connect to. In this window leave the phone number blank and go to Connect using field below. Click on the down arrow and choose "Direct to com X" where "X" is the com port on which modem is installed. Then click OK. This will open up the com X properties window.

In this window, go to the Bits per second field and click on the down arrow, Choose 57600, use rest of the default settings in this window and click OK. You will now see a blank window with a blinking cursor. Type ATZ and press Enter, the word OK should appear in the main Hyper Terminal window. Now, type AT&FDT and your ISPís number in continuation and press Enter.

For example, if your ISPís number is 172222, then dial AT&FDT172222 and press Enter. The computer will now dial the ISPís number. On connection, the user will be prompted for log in name and password. Fill in both these entries and press Enter. Some activity will be visible on the hyper terminal screen for roughly 15 to 20 seconds. After this one gets disconnected automatically and get "No Carrier" message. Now type AT&V1 and press Enter. Information about the last modem connection would be displayed in a window.

This window will actually give full information about the connection details, line quality, compression protocol and V8bis 56Flex. Though other fields are self-explanatory, look for the line quality number. Typically a number between 0 Ė 20 is the best on a 56K modem. If the number corresponding to the line quality is much higher than 30, then this means that one might not get a reliable 56K connection.

In case, the line quality count is less than 20 or even up to 22 or 23, then there is every reason to cheer. However, if the line quality count is more than 30, then do something about the lineís condition. There are a couple of measures that can be adopted to improve the line quality.

If you have other devices, like telephone extensions, fax machine or answering machine installed on the line being used to connect to the Internet, then try removing them from the line. These devices increase the load on the telephone line, which ultimately affects connectivity. Secondly, if the telephone line has has developed cracks, chang it with a good-quality copper wire.

In order to gauge the improvement, you can repeat the above-mentioned test after removing the extensions first and then after changing the telephone line. This would clearly show the Net results. However, if these measures do not give the desired result, then you can contact the telephone department or change your ISP.

If the modem fails any of these tests, then before looking out for any other solution, try to sort out the basic modem problem first. This may eventually improve the Internet experience.

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