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
1. Check your communications port
Our featured file of the month is
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
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
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!