Optimizing Dial-up Connections
Article:  Andy Collinson
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Here are some basic ideas to help you boost your internet connection.

Modem Basics
When you use the internet, your computers modem will be connected to a modem at your Internet Service Provider. After dialing, the modems will talk to each other and negotiate the connection, carrier speed, compression and protocol used. This is known as a handshake.

Connecting using Microsoft Windows
Using Windows 95/98 dial up networking is the software used to establish your connection. When complete a small icon is displayed in the system tray, similar to the one below :

windows modem

Double clicking on this icon will bring up a window usually showing the carrier speed (line speed) of your modem. This assumes that you have the correct driver for your modem and correct initialization string, if not it will display the serial port speed (the speed at which your modem is communicating with your computer).

Connection via Unix or Linux
There are many desktops and varieties of Linux. SuSe 7.2 uses KDE2 as the standard desktop. With kinternet will see the icon below, once a connection to the ISP is made:
connection icon

Right clicking this icon and choosing view log will reveal detailed information about your connection. Here's part of my log below :
modem log

The modem initialization string can be seen, as can the serial port speed, compression, protocol, transmit and receive speeds.

Connecting with KPPP (dialup)
If you are using Linux with the KDE desktop then the program KPPP can be used to configure your connection. The link below deals with configuring KPPP on Redhat Linux, the configuration for different distributions should be very similar:

KPPP Howto

Real Time Benchmarks
To benchmark your download speed in real time, click one of the links below :

Bandwidth Speed Test
Modem Speed Test

The bandwidth speed test result is a bar chart with typical figures for modem speeds on one side of the chart and your throughput on the other side. The result may vary from time to time and can be affected if your ISP suffers from congestion. You are better running several checks at different times of the day and averaging the result.

Your modem, be it an internal or external modem works by taking the serial data from your computer and converting it (by modulating the data) into tones that can be transmitted through a telephone line. Similarly, these tones are converted back (demodulated) into data again for your computer. Hence the term modem, MODulator/DEModulator. The modulated data signal sent down your telephone line can sometimes be adversely affected by certain types of telephone; to see if it makes a difference on your line, unplug all your telephones, redial your ISP and run one of the speed tests again.

Sometimes a slow connection may not be due to your ISP or modem but down to global internet congestion. The following link charts global internet traffic as an index from 0 to 100, where the higher the index, the better the traffic flow :

Internet Traffic Report

When you click the above link, you can click on the world map and get a traffic report and statistics for any country in the world. If the index is in green, then everything is OK, amber or red then performance is impaired.

Data to and from your computer is sent in small blocks or packets. The size of these packets of information can have a large effect on overall performance; too large a packet and the data can become fragmented, it will reach your computer via numerous different routes, too small a packet and throughput will be slow. The size of the packet is determined by a property called the MTU or maximum transmission unit. You can download programs that optimize the MTU and these can give a substantial increase in performance. I would recommend Rob Vonk's Easy MTU program, click the link below to visit his site:

Rob Vonks Easy MTU

Download Accelerators
As the name suggests you can use software programs that try to speed up your internet connection. The average telephone line has a speech bandwidth of around 4kHz. When data is sent down the line, it does not occupy the full bandwidth, so there is "room" for more data. The download accelerator programs work by downloading the same data simultaneously from multiple sources, making full use of your telephone lines bandwidth.This can and often does have a pronounced effect. I use Download Accelerator obtainable from the following link:

Download Accelerator