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Although high-speed Internet service is becoming much more common and affordable, dial-up is still the most common as of this writing. In many rural areas, dial-up is the only option. Additionally, if you have high-speed Internet service at home, but you take your laptop to a distant location such as a motel or a relative's house, your only Internet access might be through dial-up.
The first thing you need to do to troubleshoot a dial-up connection is to make sure that the hardware is connected correctly. If you are using a built-in modem in a desktop computer, make sure the telephone line is connected to the jack on the modem labeled line, or with a picture of a telephone jack, as shown in Figure 10.1.
Figure 10.1: Connect the phone line to the phone jack.
In addition, make sure that the other end of the cable is connected to the wall jack. If the installation has a surge suppressor with telephone line protection, the telephone line needs to be connected to the line jack on the surge suppressor, with another telephone cord connecting the surge suppressor's output jack to the modem's line jack. If there is a telephone, hook it up to the telephone jack on the modem; it's the one labeled Tel, Phone, or with a picture of a telephone. Sometimes, there is a problem with the surge suppressor. To test it, plug a telephone into the output jack on the surge suppressor and listen for a dial tone. If you get no dial tone, and the line jack is connected to the telephone line, there might be a problem with the surge suppressor. Bypass the problem by connecting the telephone line directly to the computer.
Try connecting a telephone to the telephone line and dial the access number and listen to be sure you hear a modem on the other end. If you do not connect to a modem on the other end, you might have to modify the telephone number you are calling to reach the access number. If the call connects but you do not hear a modem, you will have to find an alternative access number to dial.
Never connect a computer modem to a PBX business telephone line. The voltage is different from a regular telephone line, and it could damage the modem, or at the very least, lock up the computer.
If you still get no connection, plug a telephone directly into the wall jack to make sure the telephone line works.
Other items to check include the telephone cords themselves: make sure they're good. If you are using a PC-Card modem with a dongle in a laptop, make sure it's working. A dongle is a cable that plugs into the end of the PC-Card and has a telephone connector on the other end (other PC-Card devices, such as network adapters, sometimes use dongles as well). Dongles tend to be delicate, especially where they plug into the PC-Card.
If the modem or the COM port the modem uses was changed at any time after setting up the connection, the connection might not recognize the new modem. Attempt to select the new modem in the connection's properties, have the ISP software detect the new modem, or delete and set up the connection from scratch. We discuss connection properties and setting up and deleting connections later in this chapter.
Obviously, if the modem doesn't work properly, you're not going to be able to connect. Follow the instructions in Chapter 8, "Video, Sound, Modems, and Network Adapters," for troubleshooting modems.
There are a myriad of different problems you can have connecting to the Internet related to configuration. The first thing to consider is whether you use a program provided by the ISP, such as AOL, or if you are using Windows dial-up networking. The programs vary greatly, so if you do have a problem, you'll have to consult the program vendor. Windows configuration can, however, play a big part in connecting, even if you're using third-party software.
On the CD The Industry Contacts file on the accompanying CD-ROM has a section on ISPs.
If you're using a free ad-based Internet service, you'll probably have a difficult time getting anything beyond automated technical support.
The main configuration problems are related to the following:
Selecting the modem.
Dialing the correct numbers, including the area code if necessary, the code to disable call waiting, codes required to get an outside line, even calling card numbers.
Username and password.
Any other settings required by the ISP.
Access Internet connection wizards in these places:
9x: Dial-up Networking is accessible in Control Panel, and often in My Computer. Create new connections and access existing ones in Dial-up Networking.
2000: Create new connections using the Internet Connection Wizard. Although this can be started in several places, it is always available through Start > Programs > Accessories > Communications > Internet Connection Wizard. View existing connections in Network & Dial-up Connections, also accessible through the Communications folder.
XP: Create new Internet connections by using the New Connections Wizard, accessible through Start > All Programs (or Programs) > Accessories > Communications > New Connection Wizard. Access existing connections in Network Connections, also accessible in the Communications folder. XP also has a Network Setup Wizard, which allows some Internet configuration such as sharing an Internet connection with other computers and enabling or disabling the built-in Internet Connection Firewall (ICF). We discuss the ICF later in this chapter.
The 9x wizard is rather simple. The 2000 and XP wizards are also simple, although they offer more choices. Early in each wizard, you'll be prompted to select a modem. If there is no modem installed, or the modem is dead, Windows will attempt to detect and install the modem. Install or troubleshoot the modem before starting the wizard. If there is more than one modem, make sure to choose the correct one.
The main issues with dial-up connections are dialing the correct numbers, using the right username and password, and setting up any requirements from the ISP and local telephone company. To see a connection, open Dial-up Networking or Network Connections. You should see all the dial-up connections on the computer along with an icon to add a new connection, as shown in Figure 10.2.
Figure 10.2: Dial-up Networking in Windows Me.
Right-click a connection and click Properties from the menu that appears. You'll see a page like the one in Figure 10.3. (The dialog boxes that appear vary among the Windows version, but they are similar.)
Figure 10.3: A connection's General properties page in Windows Me.
Some of the other tabs in this dialog box have settings that might prevent connection if set improperly. Look at Figure 10.4. This page is very useful if you use the computer in different areas where other numbers need to be dialed. Click the Area Code Rules button, shown in Figure 10.5.
Figure 10.4: My Locations.
Figure 10.5: Area Code Rules.
Area Code Rules can be a very important page now that more and more areas require 10-digit dialing for local calls. The settings are self-explanatory. Another important page is the Dialing page, shown in Figure 10.6. The three option buttons at the top of this page don't affect the capability of connecting, but setting them correctly can make the difference between an unhappy and a happy computer user:
Figure 10.6: Windows Me Dialing page.
Never dial a connection: Selecting this button means that Windows will never dial a connection unless the user chooses to connect.
Dial whenever a network connection is not present: This is the setting to choose if you want to always be connected whenever Windows is running. This is great for high-speed Internet, and occasionally useful with dial-up, but it can also be extremely annoying to the user, especially when using a laptop that is not connected to a telephone line, high-speed line, or wireless network source.
Always dial my default connection: This setting will cause the computer to dial the default connection whenever the user opens a Web browser (such as Internet Explorer) or clicks an Internet link in a document, whenever the computer is not already connected to the Internet. Many people like this setting, although some don't.
These three settings also appear in Control Panel > Internet Options on the Connection page. Internet Options is also accessible from the Tools menu in any Internet Explorer page.
There are times when you'll be setting up new connections. Here are a few tips that can help streamline your experience with 2000's and XP's wizards:
2000's and XP's wizards give you the option of setting up a new Internet account, and 2000's gives you the option of transferring your existing Internet account to your computer (2000's is shown in Figure 10.7, XP's in Figure 10.8). These make use of Microsoft's Internet Referral Service, which can't list every ISP available in every area. Forgo these options and use the choice to set up your account manually unless you want to use MSN®.
Figure 10.7: Choose the third option with Windows 2000.
Figure 10.8: Choose the second option with Windows XP.
Figure 10.8 also shows an option to use the CD provided by the ISP. If you want to use the ISP's CD, there is no reason to use the wizard. Simply insert the CD and run the program.
When running XP's wizard you'll be prompted to enable the ICF. It is a good idea to enable this for any direct connection to the Internet, as long as no other firewall is running on the system. If you dial up to an ISP or have one computer that connects to a DSL or cable modem, this is considered a direct connection. We discuss firewalls later in this chapter.
Dialing rule settings are accessible from the Phone and Modem applet (or equivalent) in Control Panel, and from buttons in the wizards and the connection pages. These rules purport to give the user control of exactly how the computer dials numbers, including the appropriate area code, calling card numbers, and other codes. These settings are supposed to be in effect for any connection on the computer with the "Use area code and dialing rules" (or equivalent) check box selected, as shown in Figure 10.9.
Figure 10.9: 2000's wizard page with the “Use area code and dialing rules” check box selected.
In 2000, it sometimes doesn't seem to matter how you have Dialing Rules configured and if you have the connection configured to use them; the rules will often be ignored.
If you run into the problem of dialing rules being ignored in 2000, and you're sure that everything has been correctly configured, try rebooting—it sometimes helps.
Dialing Rules also allows you to set up separate rules for different locations as shown in Figure 10.10; select the one you want for your location.
Figure 10.10: Configure a separate set of rules for each location.
You can edit the rules by selecting the location and clicking Edit. This applet gets rather deep in levels of dialog boxes you can edit. On the Calling Card page, in addition to being able to use some preset calling cards as shown in Figure 10.11, you can add additional calling cards by clicking New and editing the page shown in Figure 10.12.
Figure 10.11: Calling card use in 2000.
Figure 10.12: Adding a new calling card in 2000.
Make sure that Dialing Rules are being used by listening to hear if enough digits are being dialed. If you have configured your laptop to use a calling card from a hotel room and the system ignores the settings, you could fail to connect, call someone else's room, or dial long distance without a calling card and most likely be charged an astronomical amount of money by the hotel.
Because general networking is beyond the scope of this book, this section covers only direct broadband connections to the Internet, and not connections through a local area network (LAN).
Generally, broadband Internet connections are made with ISP software. This software can vary widely; therefore, most troubleshooting should be done with the assistance of the ISP's technical support department. However, Windows XP allows broadband connections without the use of ISP software, as shown in Figure 10.13.
Figure 10.13: Selecting a broadband connection in XP.
Using XP's broadband feature is desirable any time the ISP's software becomes troublesome. Regardless of whether you're using the ISP's software or XP's feature, you'll get a connection dialog that could be similar to a dial-up connection dialog. Sometimes a "phone number" is displayed, usually 111-1111. As mentioned earlier, the most common configuration problems in this type of connection are incorrect use of username and password, and the Caps Lock function being toggled on in the event of case sensitivity of either.
The two most popular types of consumer and small business broadband connections are Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) and Cable Internet.
DSL: DSL transfers data across regular analog voice telephone lines at a different frequency than voice conversations, allowing voice and data to flow simultaneously. To keep the Internet signals from interfering with voice, fax, and even dial-up signals, DSL filters must be attached to every telephone jack on that telephone line (or one heavy-duty filter used for all the other jacks). Don't forget to install filters on every device connected to the telephone line except the DSL modem. This includes fax machines, computer modems, alarm systems that dial the telephone, and utility (water, gas, electricity, etc.) meters. The individual DSL filters should be connected between the telephone jack and the device. Figure 10.14 shows an assortment of DSL filters.
Figure 10.14: An assortment of DSL filters.
To connect DSL to your computer, use a standard telephone cable to connect the wall telephone jack to a DSL modem (or DSL router). Do not use a DSL filter on this connection. The modem connects to the computer either with an Ethernet cable to an Ethernet adapter (see Chapter 8) or to a USB port (unless the DSL modem is an internal expansion card). Any of these cables or devices represents a potential point of failure. If you rule out everything else, it is likely that the modem (or router) is the problem. Make sure the modem is powered and connected, and that all cables are intact. You can also check the telephone line by unplugging the telephone cable from the DSL modem and plugging it into a telephone. You should hear a dial tone with no interference. (The interference comes from the modem, not the telephone line.)
If DSL is being used where there are multiline telephone jacks, make sure the DSL modem is connected to the correct telephone line.
Cable Internet: This makes use of cable television cables, which already have a great deal of bandwidth. A television cable gets connected to a cable modem that connects to the computer either through an Ethernet cable to an Ethernet adapter (see Chapter 8), or through a USB port. Because televisions and VCRs have tuners, there is no problem with interference. Cable modems simply tune to a frequency not used by television channels.
Here are some items to check when troubleshooting suspected cable Internet hardware problems:
Check for a damaged television cable.
Did anyone install or remove a cable splitter? Cable modems can be finicky. If the signal is too strong or weak, the Internet connection might fail. Splitters reduce the signal strength by a factor equal to the number of extra outlets in use.
Make sure the Ethernet or USB cable is good. The Ethernet cable in most cases must not be a crossover cable (see Chapter 8).
Check the cable modem for power (or if the modem is an internal expansion card, check its status in Device Manager.
After connecting or reconnecting a broadband modem, you'll have to wait for the ready light or equivalent to indicate that the connection was made, often by the light glowing steadily and not flashing. This usually takes a minute or two. If it doesn't indicate a connection, the problem could be the modem or the telephone/cable line. Call the ISP.
There are a great many Web pages with useful information for troubleshooting broadband connections. Search for DSL troubleshooting or cable modem troubleshooting.
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