DSL: Getting the connection

By Steve Antonoff, ITworld.com |  Networking

There are only two lights on the Speed Touch USB. One is labeled USB, the other
ADSL. After 20 minutes, both lights went out. I tried switching over to PPPoE. No
change.

A check of the manual and some research on the Web revealed that the USB port is
limited to a half an amp of current. The Speed Touch USB is right at that limit. A warm
boot failed to bring the USB port back to life. Only a cold boot -- either power or the
reset button -- would. According to the documentation I found, this indicates that the
USB is probably overloaded and shut down.

I was able to keep the USB device up for about three hours once -- by not touching
my computer's keyboard or mouse, and letting Win2K function as the NAT for the rest of
the computers. As soon as I moved the mouse, KABLAM! The USB turned off again.

Oct. 6 was a Friday, so naturally, all of this occurred on the weekend. I called
BellSouth as soon as possible to switch to an Ethernet device. Despite the fact that
I've already gotten one DSL device running, BellSouth insisted that only a professional
installer can install the Ethernet variety. (What am I, chopped liver?) I agreed to pay
the $150 for the installer to come out and install the DSL/Ethernet bridge.

Of course, when the installer showed up a few days later, he didn't want to touch
the Windows 2000 machine. I directed him to one of the Windows 98 computers. He merrily
installed Ethernet drivers on the single-CPU Windows 98 machine, attached the computer
directly to the Alcatel Speed Touch home bridge, got it running, and left. I then shut
down the software on the Windows 98 computer, disconnected the bridge from the
computer's Ethernet card, and connected it to my Ethernet switch (swapping from a
straight-through cable to a crossover cable). Since the EnterNet software was already
installed on the Windows 2000 server, I fired it up, created a new connection, and
configured the NAT. All the other computers now have access.

So far DSL service has been less than 100 percent reliable (we've had two four-hour
outages already), but vendors are rolling out the service so rapidly that that's to be
expected and, almost, forgiven.

Based on my experiences, I recommend:

  1. If your ISP allows you to do a self-install of an Ethernet-based bridge, go
    for it. (Earthlink/Mindspring does.)
  2. If your ISP offers a USB device, think twice about it.
  3. Get the service: be prepared for some outages, but enjoy the speed. As Tony the
    Tiger says, it's grrrrrrrrreat!

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