11.5. Dialing into the Internet
If your Internet connection comes piped in through cable, DSL, or over a small home or office network, your connection's always turned on. But if you're connecting through dial-up, whether at home, at an airport pay phone, or at a hotel, this section explains how to make the call, connect, hang up when you're through, and tweak any settings to make that process work more smoothly.
11.5.1. Starting a Dial-Up Connection
Once the New Connection Wizard preps your PC or laptop for a dial-up connection (Section 11.4.1), just loading your Web browser summons your modem. The awakened modem, still sleepy, asks if you want to connect, by displaying the window shown in Figure 11-7, bottom. Since few people summon their browser when they don't want to connect, click the Dial button to start dialing.
But if you prefer a speedier setup, you can automate the entire process. That lets Windows XP automatically connect to the Internet whenever you summon your browser or any other Internet-dependent program. Just follow the steps described next .
Right-click your dial-up connection's icon and then choose Properties .
Click the Options tab and turn off the checkboxes marked , "Prompt for name and password" and "Prompt for Phone Number."
Click OK to save your settings when you're through. That tells your PC to automatically connect whenever a program wants to connect with the Internet. If your ISP doesn't offer you a toll-free dial-up number, turn on the checkbox called "Prompt for Phone Number" in step 3 to undo the procedure and make Windows XP ask permission before dialing.
11.5.2. Disconnecting from a Dial-Up Connection
When you're through perusing the Internet and want to disconnect from the Internet, closing your browser or other Internet-using program rarely does the trick. Your Internet session stays running in the background, hogging the phone line and, if you're not calling a local number, racking up hefty long-distance charges. To force a disconnect, choose whichever of these methods seem handiest at the time.
Unplug the phone line from your PC's telephone jack and run. This method, used mostly by laptop owners , lets you depart quickly when the cab arrives, the plane starts boarding, or your carpool buddy starts honking in your driveway .
Right-click the connection's taskbar icon and choose Disconnect (see Figure 11-8, top).
Figure 11-8. Top: When you're ready to end your dial-up Internet session, look for the Internet connection's little icon on your taskbar, near your clock. Right-click the icon and choose Disconnect. The screen on that little pair of computer icons turns blue when you're sending or receiving information, providing a quick way to tell if the connection's working. (Hover your mouse over the icon to see your connection speed; anything above 50 Kbps is good.)
Bottom: Another, less- convenient way to disconnect is to right-click your dial-up connection icon in the Network Connections window and choose Disconnect.
Open the Network Connections folder (Start All Programs Accessories Communications Network Connections), right-click your dial-up connections icon, and then choose Disconnect.
Set Internet Explorer to disconnect when you close it: choose Tools Internet Options Connections tab Settings Advanced and turn on the checkmark next to "Disconnect when connection may no longer be needed." (This promised convenience rarely works, unfortunately , because other programs often use your Internet connection in the background.)
| LAPTOP LIFE |
Connecting from Anywhere
When you own a laptop, you can set up camp in a variety of locations. The best way for travelers to find a connection to the Internet is to be ready to connect in as many ways as possible. Here are your main options:
Wireless . If your laptop doesn't have built-in wireless connectivity, a wireless network adapter is a must. Many wireless adapters slide into a laptop's PC card slot (Section 14.2.3). Others plug into the USB port (Section 1.8.1), either protruding from the port like a stub or dangling from the end of a cable that plugs into the port. Wireless adapters let you take advantage of the hotspots (Section 11.1.1) that are found with increasing frequency in places haunted by laptoppers.
Dial-up . When wireless isn't an option, your next solution is a dial-up connection, hopefully one with a number local to wherever you are. Online services like AOL work well here, as many offer local numbers in most major cities. Also, ask your broadband service if they offer dial-up for travelers; Cox broadband, for instance, offers a limited- hour dial-up connection accessible via a toll-free call. In a pinch , dial-up subscribers can always call long-distance to their access number back home.
Broadband . If you normally use broadband but resort to a dial-up connection on the road, automate the dial-up connection process: Open Internet Explorer and choose Tools Internet Options Connections tab "Dial whenever a network connection is not present." This tells your laptop to connect through your speedy broadband or network connection whenever its available. But when broadband's out of reach, your PC automatically switches to dial-up, saving you from fiddling with the settings.
Network . Plug a network cable (also known as an Ethernet cable) between your laptop's network jack and any network jack you find while traveling. Jacks sprout from the walls and desks of hotel rooms, conference rooms, some libraries, and Internet cafes. Most laptops come with a built-in network adapter; if yours doesn't include one, pick up a USB network adapter (Section 14.2.2) to transform your laptop's USB port into a network jack. Not all network jacks connect to the Internet, but you may get lucky. (Be sure to use a firewall (Section 15.7) when plugging into strange networks.)
3G (Third Generation) cell phone provider . In the absence of an easy wired or wireless connection, your cell phone provider may help. Not all cell phone companies offer what you need3G serviceand those who do charge extra for the privilege. The best providers hand you a 3G PC Card that slips into your laptop and connects to the cell phone's serviceyou don't even need a cell phone. Others supply a 3G-compatible cell phone and laptop-connecting cable.
The 3G market changes quickly, and not all cities offer 3G connections. Before signing any new contracts with a cell phone provider, ask about their 3G options. You may need a different (or a second) cell phone company.
Share somebody's connection . Pack a "crossover Ethernet cable," FireWire cable, or "crossed USB cable" when traveling. When you find a friendly person connected to the Internet, create an on-the-fly network between the two PCs (Section 14.10), turn on Internet Connection Sharing (Section 14.6), and then piggyback on that person's connection.