After avoiding it (or, rather, just not doing it) for years now, I’m now connected from home via broadband. The service started today–but it was apparently active yesterday, since that’s when I not only installed the equipment but completed the registration.

I didn’t do it for streaming video. Not that I’ll never watch any, but that certainly wouldn’t justify it.

I didn’t do it for P2P (which I don’t plan to use) or running a “server” from home (I can’t: the plan I signed up for uses a dynamic IP address).

I didn’t do it for downloading music–but I’ll admit that, if I can find sufficiently high quality, track-at-a-time purchasing makes a lot of sense to me to fill in a few hundred missing pieces in my collection without buying a few hundred CDs.

I didn’t even do it to make uploading Cites & Insights faster, although it will surely do that–after all, that’s a savings of maybe a minute once a month.

Certainly not for most of my internet surfing: Bloglines runs just fine at 52K, and most of the sites I visit work well with dialup.

I’d been considering it for “nuisance” reasons–if I just want to check a movie’s provenance or some simple fact like that, and the computer’s on, the 30 seconds for a dialup connection is a nuisance.

On the other hand, I knew I couldn’t keep my personal website unless I took AT&T DSL–and AT&T DSL’s pricing is unattractive.

What finally pushed me was simple, if stupid: The need to keep updating MS Windows and SpySweep and Norton Antivirus and the like. With MS Windows really wanting auto-updates that frequently run several megabytes–and SpySweep having fairly frequent and very large signature updates. (Oddly enough, Spybot doesn’t have big or frequent updates.) I was unwilling to have auto-update for Windows enabled on dialup–but that WARNING! popup each day on startup was a nuisance.

Second push: My wife’s finally at the point where she wants a notebook computer (she had a desktop at home, but never used it–she spends so much time at the computer at work that it wasn’t attractive), and it made sense to have wireless broadband. (I’ve been encouraging this for some time, but until she wanted it, we both knew prices would keep getting better.)

And, the tipping point: SBC, the local phone company, offered SBC Yahoo! DSL Express (the “low-speed” DSL, 384Kb upload, 1.5Mb download) for $14.95 a month for the next year–with wired ethernet router included free, wireless router for $50. Offer good through 6/30.

“What the heck.” I ordered it 6/12. The equipment (the CD, router, and half a dozen DSL/phone line filters) arrived 6/18. Email said that DSL service would begin 6/20, and at first said I shouldn’t do any installation until then. But then a letter said “Go ahead and install; you can finish registration when service begins.” So I did the installation yesterday–and, somehow, registration went just fine. (My guess is they turned the service on at the end of the day Friday.)

It’s a wireless router from a relatively obscure company, but I’ll leave it “wired” to my desktop: Since I needed the Ethernet connection to get it configured, I don’t see the point in spending $ to add a WiFi adapter to my 3-year-old PC when the wireless router is sitting three feet away from the PC. As soon as my wife buys a notebook, all we’ll need to do is load the SBC software and set up the WiFi connection. (Yes, I did know enough to change the default network name, turn off broadcast, and make sure WEP is enabled.)

As I was installing, I thought about how much easier XP has made this whole process. For example, I’d never set up the Ethernet card that I assumed was part of my computer. When I plugged the router’s cable into my Ethernet port, it didn’t establish a connection. I brought up the control panel, noted an Intel PROSet Ethernet-100 option in networking, double-clicked on it, and…well, that’s all there was. Ethernet was working.

So now I have both hardware and software firewalls (since I had a three-year-old Norton AntiVirus and two-year-old Norton Personal Firewall, both with up-to-date signatures, I picked up a 2005 Norton Internet Security package to upgrade both: with rebates, it’s cheaper than renewing the signature subscriptions!), three layers of spyware protection (Norton’s added its own), more spam protection than I can really use (since I still don’t use Outlook Express)–and, to be sure, much faster downloads. (As soon as I installed Norton Internet Security, it wanted to download 8MB of updates–which took about a minute.)

I didn’t exactly resist broadband. I just wasn’t willing to pay big bucks for it and didn’t much see the need for my data requirements. On the other hand, paying $5 less for broadband than I’m paying for dialup (which will continue until I find a new home for my website) was hard to resist.

One note: Anyone know where the SBC Yahoo Browser comes from? It’s not IE; it’s not FireFox; it has a “Mac” feel to it. I’m guessing some Mozilla spinoff, but the “About” tab is no help at all.

A semi-negative consequence: I won’t be doing any more timing tests for how dialup-friendly hot websites are. I’m losing the dialup connection as soon as possible (actually, SBC includes dialup support as part of the DSL subscription).

Will I crave faster speed down the road? I’m aware that the limit on my DSL speed is a software limit; for $10 a month more, I can raise the download speed to “up to 3Mb,” and I believe that speed will continue to rise. If we ever need it, we’ll pay for it.

No big deal here. Just noting that one of the remaining 40% dialup holdouts has dropped in.

6 Responses to “Broadband”

  1. Bill Drew Says:

    I liked this write up about your broadband experience. We can only get dialup in the rural area I live in in New York State. I will point to your article from my blog.

  2. walt Says:

    Thanks, Bill. I almost edited it this morning to clarify my thoughts about XP: That is, I think it would have taken a *lot* more effort to get Ethernet working in previous Windows versions.

    The only mildly unnerving parts of this:

    1. Norton tells you to turn off XP’s firewall before installing NIS. If you’re relying on XP’s firewall (I wasn’t, since I had a previous Norton Personal Firewall) and don’t have a robust hardware firewall, that’s dangerous: the time it takes to install NIS is plenty of time for a cyberattack.

    2. The “dance of the guardians” was a little difficult to cope with, with SpySweeper windows popping up from time to time during both DSL and NIS installs–but it’s comforting to know that nothing can wind up in my startup queue without my knowledge. (Actually, one registry value that NIS wanted to set was prevented, I suspect by Spybot registry-locking techniques, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem.)

    3. I find it unfortunate that the software for this wireless router, apparently like the software for most wireless routers, doesn’t ***suggest*** that you change the network name away from the brandname that every wouldbe WiFi freeloader will know. Not to suggest that router makers are subtly promoting freeloading, but that’s the effect.

    Here’s a question, if I have a knowledgeable reader out there: This is a dynamic-IP-address account. But the modem/router doesn’t have an on-off switch (and SBC explicitly says to leave it on for at least 10 days so they can optimize the circuit). Do I wind up with the same IP address as long as the router is powered up and connected, or do I get a new one each time the computer is powered up (which re-establishes the LAN)? (I really am an ignoramus on this sort of thing.)

  3. Seth Finkelstein Says:

    Go to:

    Look at the bottom of the page. It’ll tell you your IP address.

    You appear to be located in … based on your IP of …

  4. Anna Says:

    I use PowWeb to host my website, and it costs about $105/yr, including the domain name registration service. Right now they’re running a special with free setup and domain name registration for $94 (14 months). I’ve been very happy with the service.

  5. walt Says:

    Oh, I know where I’m going to set up a new site, although it’s not quite as cheap as powweb. The address for this weblog will give you a clue; I just need to contact Blake and work this all out after ALA. And allow a couple of months after that for the new site to be on Google’s radar, before shutting off the dialup account.

    That process will involve some interesting choices, such as whether I allow certain nearly-hidden documents to disappear altogether… (and whether the new site should be a mirror or dark archive for C&I, for that matter). Too much to think about right now…

    And, Seth, I should have thought of that: I can do my own tests over a couple of weeks. (I know the DNSSTUFF site already: it comes in handy at work once in a while…) If I care, of course. Since I can’t legally and don’t want to use my computer as a server, and since the router presumably shields my actual IP address, I’m not sure it much matters.

  6. Eli Says:

    No technical advice … simply, welcome to the world of broadband.

    If you want to put your pipe through the paces, check out the Internet Archive’s Feature Films collection:

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