Internet and broadband: common technical issues
Broadband technology has brought masses of information to the fingertips of millions, at speeds and prices that we could have only dreamt of just a decade ago. Most of us plod along quite competently on the Internet, but as a result of it coming so quickly, we are stuck as soon as there is a problem with the Internet connection itself.
The following is a list of some of the common problems in the internet-related field. By no means a definitive list, it highlights and tries to solve some of the issues you may have.
How do I choose an ISP?
Choosing an ISP can be a pain, due to the amount of choice these days. In short, there are just a few things you need to consider:
- Type of connection - does ADSL, cable, satellite or wireless suit you and your location best?
- Speed - is it worth forking out for super fast web if you don't need it so quick?
- Download limit - Don't get stuck with a 200 MB download limit. That's just crazy in 2007
- Price - going back to that 200 MB download limit - an extra $10 a month could provide some comfort and stress-free surfing.
- Extras - what do you get? If it is wireless, is the wireless modem provided? If cable, do you need to pay expensive connection fees?
How do I stay safe while surfing?
There are a number of safety considerations that come with connecting to the Internet, and certain rules to follow:
- Use a firewall! It does what its name suggests, by stopping viruses such as Trojan horses or other nasties from spreading
- Anti virus protection - although programmes like Norton Anti Virus do a good job, there are free programmes available for download, such as AVG, that will perform the same role, periodically searching your computer for harmful viruses and 'quarantining' them
- Be very cautious when handing out private information online, especially credit card details. You can speak to your credit card provider about extra safety measures. Cyber criminals are constantly one step ahead of the authorities
- Avoid file-sharing or peer-to-peer networks unless you are sure your computer is well protected
How do I stay safe using wireless networks?
There are extra considerations to be had if using a wireless connection, especially Wi-Fi in public places. Things you can do are:
- Change your router's name and password. It's not difficult to find out what the default passwords of different manufacturers are. Too many people make this crucial error
- Consider an alternative to Wireless Equivalency Protocol (WEP). WEP (for encrypting your computer) will keep out amateur snoopers, but is not hard to crack. Alternatives such as Wi-Fi Protective Access (WPA) could be used
- Check for snoopers using your Wi-Fi gateway. You can also download 'packet sniffing' software to do this
- Use passwords! As well as putting a password on your computer, you can put passwords on individual folders
Why is my computer so slow when surfing?
If you have an old, single-processor computer with little RAM, then it'll be slow compared to newer models. But there are reasons why supposedly faster computers may suffer, even if you think you have a fast computer and a fast connection.
- Are you surfing at peak time? If so, you will be sharing bandwidth with neighbours
- Do you have a lot of windows open? If you have a lot of multimedia-heavy windows open, especially if they are downloading or uploading, you'll be slowed down
- Spyware - this malicious software may have snuck onto your system and be running without you knowing it, using up your RAM as it goes. Download a free search and destroy programme to check for it
- Programmes running on Start-Up. You may have certain programmes that automatically begin when you turn your computer on, which will slow you down. On a PC, go to start, all programmes, and scroll to start up to see what you do and don't need to be running
- 'Fragmented' hard drive. After much use, you may have files saved all over the place, which will cause searches to be slow. Use the tools provided by Windows or Mac to fix this
- Files on the desktop - if you have masses of files stored on your desktop, this will slow you down considerably
- An almost full hard drive - if you have more than half of your hard drive filled up, consider getting an external hard drive - they have dropped massively in price and will speed your computer up by storing files you need less often
- Left over files, window files and temp files. Go to 'run', type cleanmgr.exe and these can be cleared off!
What's wrong with this page?
Sometimes, loading a web page is stopped dead in its tracks. If you're sure your connection is fine, follow these tips:
- If you are told the domain name server (DNS) can't find your page and you are adamant you've written it correctly, try it again, twice
- With a 'not found' message, the page may be temporarily missing because of miscoding at the target site. Try it another day or let the company know via email
- Sometimes a page you've visited may be coming from your or the proxy server's cache. Click 'refresh' at the top for the latest version.
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