Cable vs DSL: Pros and Cons YAU-PC

by Alan Zisman (c) 2000. First published in Toronto Computes, June 2000

Warren Li wondered:

I was wondering what are the differences between cable modems and xDSL? What are the advantages and disadvantages of both...also? are there any good cable modem tweaks to speed up my cable modem? I already have the mtupatch and Quest@Home installed...thanks a bunch!

Alan Zisman replied:

Briefly, cable involves sharing bandwidth... DSL gives you dedicated bandwidth, and so can be faster-- but I-net speed depends on so many factors?including speed limits set by your service providers, that I?m not convinced there?s much of a payoff to tweaking.

There's a good article on cable vs xDSL online from Salon:

For experimenting with speed-up tweaks, I?d recommend getting a copy of the free iSpeed from

John Cameron asked:

How can I set up my computer to display a periodic "reminder" message throughout the year ahead?    For example, a week before my wedding anniversary, a message will automatically pop up on the screen to give me a reminder.  Ideally, I would like to plug in all my known dates and when the first reminder should appear on screen.   Then, every time I switch on the computer, a reminder message appears (if such a reminder has been programmed).

Computer is a very new one, bags of memory, Windows 98 and WordPerfect (my preferred word processor).

I have looked in the HELP section under diary, reminder, dates etc, and found nothing applicable.

Alan Zisman offered:

Most recent versions of Word Perfect, include a  personal information manager (PIM)-- any of them should include calendar and reminder functions. Because this is not a standard part of Win9x, you won't find anything in the Windows Help system.

Corel Word Perfect Office 2000, for example, includes Corel Central, which the company's website describes:

Personal Information Management
? Plan your daily schedule, write reminders, organize reference information and manage corporate contacts
? Get to meetings on time?your appointment reminders can be equipped with sound alarms

Other versions of the product may include other versions of Corel Central, or other PIM-type products.

William Easson wrote:

My ACER 56k internal modem makes a disagreeable noise when it is connecting, so I tried your suggestion (Oct99, p.96) of typing in ATLO in the Extra Settings space. Mistake!; the computer would then not connect to my ISP, citing 3 possible reasons. I tried in vain to delete ATLO. After several frustrating minutes I finally clicked Remove under Modems Properties/General, then Add. That cured it; we're back to normal including the noise. Any other suggestions for reducing it?

Alan Zisman suggested:

Did you type 'ATL0' or 'ATLO'  i.e. a zero vs the letter Oh... it should be a zero?and in your message, you typed the letter ?O?.

And it goes in Control Panel/Modem/Properties/Connection/Advanced/Extra Settings (though you can get to the same point by other routes as well).

Finally-- it doesn't always work... that's the standard if your modem supports the Hayes control set... but while most do, some do not. In particular, so-called WinModems can be problematic. If it doesn't work, you may need to check with Acer--  knowing your specific modem model, and see if they document settings for that modem.

William Hurn wanted to know:

We are setting up a network in a school environment to teach the basics of internet usage.  The network will probably involve 15 computers initially.  I?ve heard about proxy server software and running multiple computers with the output of a single modem using Ethernet cards and a wire network.

My question is "how does the user on the wire network access the modem??  I suppose this user runs a browser but how about the "feel" of going on the net.  Does the user send dialing commands to the modem or does the server keep the ISP connection throughout
and the users just access the data stream?  If so, can different users access different web pages at the same time?

Alan Zisman claimed:

If you're using dial-up-access, the first user to try to open an I-net application will trigger Dial-up-networking on the host computer (the one that's physically attached to the modem).

Once the host computer is connected, the single connection will be shared amongst any/all users wanting access to the Internet.

This allows them all to be doing different things on different computers. Note that this means sharing the bandwidth of the single connection-- not as bad as it sounds if they're accessing relatively simple web pages... but if one computer starts a heavy download, or tries to access a video clip, for example, everyone else's connections will suffer.

You will get MUCH better performance in this kind of situation if you can set up a dedicated, higher-speed connections such as cable or xDSL.

In my school, we have about 40-45 computers connected to a single cable modem connection... there are often 30 computers at a time using the Net in my classroom lab, with reasonable access  rates-- but I'd hate to have more than 5 or so doing that via a 56k modem.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan