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This chapter is from the book

With something as massive as the Internet, complications can occur at any number of points. In fact, it may take significant amounts of time to isolate an Internet-related problem for that very reason.

Slow Connections

If your Internet connection is crawling at a snail's pace, several things could be going on, including any of the following:

  1. If you are surfing during the day and find Web pages loading at an excruciatingly slow pace, chances are, the Internet is bogged down with traffic. Given the time differences across the United States, along with the millions of leisure surfers who log on from home, the Internet may very well be clogged at all hours of the day. The only thing you can do is surf at odd hours, invest in a high-speed Internet connection for your home, or simply tolerate the sluggishness.

  2. For those of you who have the opportunity to take advantage of DSL or cable modem service, go for it. You get super speed, and you don't even have to tie up a telephone line! If you plan to do much surfing and there is anything less than a 56K modem in your computer, then you should seriously consider upgrading.

  3. If things are crawling along into the wee hours of the night, there may be a cut cable somewhere along the line. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about it, since it is more than likely halfway across the country. In such a situation, you will certainly feel the effects of masses of rerouted Internet traffic.

  4. Perhaps your connections are continually hit or miss. It could mean your Internet service provider (ISP) doesn't have a high-speed link to the Internet. If they don't plan on upgrading soon, you may want to shop around for better service.

Dropped Connections

If you keep getting those pesky "Do you want to reconnect?" messages, look into the following:

  1. Pick up your phone and listen to the dial tone. Is it crisp and clear, or do you hear crackles and static? A bad phone line can often kill a connection. If the weather is stormy and windy, check the lines again when things settle down. If you have always had problems with your phone lines, there may not be much anyone can do about it until the phone company decides to upgrade or service its underground cables.

  2. Sometimes older Windows 98 machines are almost hypersensitive to incoming calls if you have call waiting or even subscribe to some voice mail through your local phone company. Therefore, if the phone rings and the line is busy or goes unanswered, the call is forwarded to a mailbox at a phone company substation. Interestingly, when a call came in and was forwarded to voicemail, I would often get booted off the Internet. The hassle may not be worth giving up voicemail, but such a situation can occur. Luckily, Windows XP seems a bit better behaved in that regard.

  3. Check your modem's configuration. Many machines are set up to drop an Internet connection if it remains idle for a given amount of time. To learn whether this is the case for you, click the Start button on the Windows taskbar and then click the Control Panel. Click the Network and Internet Connections link and then click Phone and Modem Options in the See Also pane at the upper left part of the page. Open the Modems tab and look for an option under Call preferences that reads: "Disconnect a call if idle for more than ___ min." If this option is checked, you can either disable it by clicking it or adjust the time as desired by clicking inside the text box and entering a new number.

  4. If the disconnects persist even in the absence of either situation mentioned previously, check with your ISP to see whether others have reported a similar problem. A flaky modem at its end can cause plenty of grief on your end. After you have the answer to this question, you should have a pretty good idea of whether the problem potentially lies with your modem or your ISP.

Busy Internet Connections

If you keep getting busy signals when you try to connect, here are some suggestions.

  1. Get additional dialup numbers from your ISP to try in a pinch. A high number of customers dialing in at once can clog lines in no time.

  2. If that doesn't remedy the problem, call your ISP and inquire about the user-to-modem ratio. Some say that a 7-to-1 is ideal, so if it is significantly higher than that, you may want to explore alternatives or pressure them to add more modems.

  3. For night owls, surfing in the middle of the night may be all that is needed.

  4. Here again, cable, DSL, or ISDN access from home will eliminate the problem entirely. Certainly, it will cost you, but for those who need the Internet to work, there is nothing better, especially when you factor in the benefit of increased file transfer speed as well.

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