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  PC-Net's PC News - August 2002
 
Don Watkins

Five Ways to Faster Online Speed

By Don Watkins

 
 
 

 

May 1999--Last month, we looked at eight ways to improve your modem. This month, our pursuit of speed continues as we look at five more ways to accelerate the online experience.

1. Check your communications port
Our featured file of the month is CTS Port Utilities. This program tests the communications ports on your computer, which serve as the gateways to serial port communications. You may have the best phone line, a top-of-the-line processor, and the fastest modem technology offers. However, if the communications ports on your system are not up to snuff, the results can be disappointing. If you're interested in checking the connections, this program belongs in your tool box.

2. Test your line for 56K capability
I've covered this before, but I can't stress it enough: If your phone line is not capable of 56K connections, nothing else will make a difference. I have experienced intermittent 56K connections and wondered was happening, so I tested my phone line with 3COM's Line Test tool. I found my phone line is not fully 56K capable, which saved me additional testing--and kicking the computer. You can find information about this tool at 3COM's Web site.

3. Fine tune your connection
If you're looking to tweak your connection to the absolute maximum, you have to be willing to invest the time necessary to test, then change settings, then retest, then change settings, and so on. There are tools available to make the process easier. Before diving into the tools, I suggest a visit to SpeedGuide.net. Much of the information is for Road Runner cable modem users, but I found useful information about the various parameters of the devices and programs associated with your connection, There also are links to more information. (You can never have enough information, can you?)

Net Monitor, from Touchstone Software, offers both automatic and manual adjustment of the various communication parameters. If you're looking for something that offers one-button convenience and a sleek graphic appearance, download their 30-day demo version. Those who prefer to manually tweak these parameters should consider a testing program. For checking the status of connections, you can't beat iSpeed. This program can access an FTP site of your choice (see the frequently asked questions [FAQ] link on the Web site for some FTP site suggestions) and reports connection speed in characters per second. It maintains a history of prior connections for comparison and allows the editing of the more common connection parameters. This program is worth it for the testing capabilities alone.

4. Trace your connection
An Internet connection travels over many nodes between destinations. How can you check the rest of the connection? Such tools as Ping and Tracert, which are included with Windows 95/98, are useful for this. They run from the command prompt. For information about how to use these programs, click on Start | Programs | MS-DOS prompt and type PING /? or TRACERT /? If you're like me and prefer a graphic interface, you have other options. My favorite tracing program, Neotrace, has a slick interface that's almost as much fun as a game. It displays the hops a connection takes, as well as the time it takes to make each hop. This can be valuable when tracking down a problem between the two points on a connection--or just see how your Internet service provider (ISP) routes your traffic. For instance, I found my ISP regularly sends my connection halfway across the country before jumping out to other servers on the Web. So if I plan to download a file that's available on numerous servers, I know that it's best for me to choose a server in the area where my ISP has sent my connection, rather than choosing a server that's may be physically closer to where I live, but further away on the Web.

5. Monitor your connection
Net Medic can monitor your entire connection, provide recommendations to resolve conflicts and--in some cases--automatically correct problems. The Net Medic site offers a demo version of the software that you can download.

Once you have your Internet connection fine tuned, stay tuned. Next month, we'll look at some ways to use your connection and find out how to use metasearching tools that act as your magnet as you make the proverbial search for the information needle in the datasphere haystack.

Until next month, stay connected!

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