99. Making the most of dial-up
By Andrew D. Wright
Dear Mousepad. I live in an area where all I can get is dial-up Internet
service. Is there a type of modem that will give me faster connections?
Are there some settings that can help me download faster? I usually
connect at 21.6 but a friend a few houses from me connects at 34.2 all the
time. We both have the same machine.
Leitches Creek, N.S.
Dial-up Internet access converts data into sounds that are sent over the
phone line then converted back to data. Any other noise on the phone line
will interfere with this process. When you connect, the modem negotiates
the fastest speed it can reliably send and receive data.
If you have more than one phone outlet where you live, try hooking the
computer up to a different one. Some phone outlets are wired up better
than others. Use as short a cord as possible from the computer to the
phone outlet and don't split off the phone line before it reaches the
computer. You want a simple, direct connection from the computer's modem
to the phone outlet.
The ideal modem is a 56K v.92 hardware modem. 56K is the theoretical top
speed of the connection. The v.92 standard (which is not supported by all
dial-up service providers) allows for better compression of information
and faster upload speeds. A hardware modem tends to be better made, better
performing and more robust than cheaper software modems or win-modems.
Check that you have the most recent drivers for your modem. If your
computer was made by a large manufacturer like Dell or HP and the modem
came with it, check the manufacturer's site for updated drivers by looking
up the computer's model number.
If your modem is not original equipment you may need to look at the modem
circuit board for a manufacturer and model number you can use to find new
drivers on the Internet. Try to get drivers from the original manufacturer
of the modem when possible. Failing that, you can usually find reference
drivers from the maker of the modem chipset. Look at the largest chip on
the modem to identify the maker of the chipset and get a part number for
Initialization strings, or init strings for short, are very powerful tools
for fine tuning a dial-up connection. Do a search for your modem and "init
strings" to find some init strings for it.
These init strings are a chain of commands for the modem to follow. They
are entered in the Advanced tab of the modem properties in Windows.
Finding the init strings for your modem that will work best for your
particular situation will be a case of experimenting with different
strings and judging the results.
Typically, getting a better connection over bad lines means init strings
that disable faster connection features in favor of slower but more
reliable connections. For example the v.44 compression of the 56K v.92
standard might be reduced to the v.34 compression used in 28.8K
connections. If less data is lost in transit and has to be sent over again
the slower connection speed can actually mean faster downloads.
Some modem init strings:
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Originally published 31 December 2006