As I write this, there are three very popular methods of connecting to the Internet, notwithstanding your own connection at the office. These are cable modem, DSL service from the phone company, or good old-fashioned dial-up modem. The first two are usually referred to as high-speed or broadband connections, and dial-up access is usually made fun of.
With all the press and hype about high-speed service, you would think that this is all people run. Think again. As I write this, the vast majority of people in North America are still connecting through a dial-up connection. Make no mistake as Mark Twain might have remarked, the rumors of dial-up access's demise are greatly exaggerated. You may be among the majority who are still using dial-up; I'll cover that in detail.
Before we get started, make sure that you have all the information provided by your ISP. At bare minimum, this information will consist of a username, a password, and a number to connect to. You will likely also be given a default route, a DNS address (possibly two), and the addresses of your mail server (we'll get to that in Chapter 10). If you are ready, let's begin.