by Flip Michaels
56, 33.6, 28.8 + 14.4 = kbps?
Welcome to another season's vernal-equinox (meaning...green-equal nights)! I just couldn't wait to get my hands on the PC before the warm weather and sustaining sunshine set in!
This month's Cheat Sheet answers the common computer question, "k-b-p-what?" Kilobits per second, refers to the speed at which information moves in and out of your computer. The higher the modem speed, the quicker the information will flow through your computer. But don't be fooled, having the fastest modem on the block won't always guarantee a quick reception. There are many factors that can slow down the process. For example, data will only come to you as fast as the speed of the modem sending it to you. Also consider factors like: how many people are online at the same site/source with you, what other phone network traffic is present, and even the distance the kilobits are traveling, say, if you're in Flip, PA and the site/source is on a server in Nova Scotia. All of these situations determine the speed at which data travels, so even the fastest modem is subject to a decreased performance. Think of it like this! Hey, you may have a new Dodge Ram Truck, but at rush hour, you're not going to travel any faster than that ol' Fiat in the lane next to you.
Speaking of models, modem speed is currently available in 56, 33.6, 28.8 and 14.4 kbps. To go faster, you'll need something top-of-the-line. You may have heard of ISDN or Integrated Services Digital Network. The plain ol' telephone system doesn't handle large quantities of data, and phone companies realized this long ago. So, the ISDN spec was hammered out back in 1984 to allow for truly wide-bandwidth digital transmission using the public switched network. Under ISDN, a phone call can transfer 64-128 kbps (but you may need special ISDN service from the phone co.).
Coming up soon are two much faster competing technologies, cable and ADSL. Cable modem trials are underway as you read this. While each modem is different, cable modems can currently receive up to 4 MB/sec or better (100 times faster than an average 33.6!). Lookout for expensive hardware plus subscription services to follow.
ADSL, Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, uses standard phone lines (like ISDN) to deliver data upstream (from the user) at speeds of 640 kbps and downstream (to the user) at speeds of more than 6 mbps. Even better, ADSL only uses a portion of the phone line's bandwidth not utilized by voice, allowing for both voice and data transmission! The disadvantage seems to be that ADSL signals can only travel a few hundred yards, so extensive additions to the lines would have to be made. ADSL is still in the "developmental" stage.
New and available on the market right now is the code-named, 56 kbps "x2." x2 reviews are spewing out everywhere, with common comments stating that it is an improvement from the 33.6's. When something hits the market fresh, it is generally best to wait a couple of months for the technology to mature.
For newbie Net surfers you'll find a suitable radio links page at www.it2.i-2000.com/~ru/radiolnk.htm. Here you'll witness URLs for the BBC, live stations on the Internet, Radio Japan, Channel Africa, Deutsche Welle, Radio Australia, VOA, Kenwood, Sony, and even the NJ Antique Radio Club!
Looking for a creative screen-saver to put on that production room PC? Point and click your way on over to "Ratloaf" at www.sirius.com/~ratloaf/. Yes, Ratloaf has everything from the "Bible Saver" (verses scroll/graphics) for religious outlets to "FreshNews" (instant sports/weather/etc. update scrolls) for News/Sports/Talk formats. Plenty of variety, a couple hundred screen savers, all downloadable, and FREEEEEE!!!
For those of you with Microsoft Internet Explorers ("IEs"), your Web browsers have a security hole that could allow a hacker to delete file's from a users computer (plus affect some e-mail programs such as Exchange and Notes). Without getting too deep into the topic, users should head on over to www.microsoft.com/ie/default.asp to fix it. There you'll find detailed info and free, of course, downloadable band-aids.
Modem Tax Update:
The FCC has received a boatload of "resoundingly opposed" e-mail regarding changes in the way telcos can charge their customers. One close-to-the-mess source, asking to remain anonymous e'd me, "it is very, highly unlikely now, that the FCC, under a mandate to encourage Internet growth (read: to keep consumer usage costs down), will allow this kind of across-the-board rate hike anytime soon." You can continue to e-mail your comments to the FCC at firstname.lastname@example.org.