CompuServe is case in point. Too of-
ten much redialling is needed before connection is established, and not infrequently connection is impossible. When you do get through, response-times are often so bad, especially on Internet uploads (sending files), that the system times out (but other ISPs checked at the same time are fine, so telecomms are not the cause). That means lot of connect-time, and thus charging, for no purpose.
Worse, when the system times out it takes so long to disconnect that you can have quick lunch while you wait. That time is also charged.
Still worse, if you take the Gordian Knot approach and cut the connection by flicking the modem off, or rebooting, there is no guarantee that CompuServe will see that as disconnection and stop its meter. It relies on getting the ‘right’ signal from your modem. So you may get lumbered with phantom connect-time on top of the inflated time already clocked up.
This (more or less) is the 21st century; we should know something about computers; and it sometimes happens that systems fall over, lines get cut, or connections are lost in circumstances that cannot send ‘right’ signals to fusspot software. Therefore any system should react as users would expect when the carrier signal is lost. It should not depend on special semaphores.
Salt is poured into the wound when CompuServe informs you that refunds for useless and inflated connect-time have been discontinued. If all that were not enough, even when you do connect to CompuServe and manage to get its former excellent service, you cannot run at 56kbps. CompuServe’s New Zealand modems run at only 33.6kbps — but it tends to choke at that, which compels you to reset to 28.8kbps, and even that is spotty.
One wonders if CompuServe, which is owned by America Online, which is merging with Time-Warner and EMI to become Net superheavyweight, is serious about Enzed.
The Minister of Consumer Affairs says it looks as if CompuServe has fallen foul of contract law (because it bills for service it does not provide, and draws line on refunds), and the Consumer Guarantees Act (for non-commercial users). The MCA also says there is potential issue of misrepresentation under the Fair Trading Act because CompuServe documentation says, amongst other things, that it does not suffer the overloading problems associated with the Internet where commercial performance standards are not universally applied.
When these performance, capacity, bandwidth and billing issues were mailed to CompuServe’s New Zealand wing, its entire response, signed by its marketing manager, Ricky Berg, was: “I confirm receipt of your email. Cheers.”
I wish people addicted to MS-Word would realise that when they send emails in Word format most of them are junk, because they contain both the text and big pile of Word’s formatting rubbish. They should use their browsers for creating email, so that all they send is text.
I now receive these horrors regularly, mostly from large, well-known company. One consumed 31k, but had only 6k of text. The other 26k was formatting. Far more unfriendly was the 132k monster from an MP that contained mere 7k of message.
Even worse, when Word addicts do not switch off their undo buffers you get all that stuff too.
You can either let the junk fill your disk or waste time getting rid of it. Whatever you do, it is pain—and it burns connect-time.
It is good netiquette to remember that email recipients may not be like you: huge company with pockets deep enough to buy the e-planet.
We think 56 kilobits/sec makes quick modem. But, as silicon Crocodile Dundee might say with sneer, hauling out what consortium in the US has been testing: “That’s not modem. *This* is modem.”
“This” runs at 2.4 gigabits per second — about 45,000 times faster than your 56k snail. It could slurp up the 18Gb of top-end DVD in about seven secs.
But on fibre-optics you can top that — if you are Lucent Technologies — with nonchalant 160 gigabits/sec, which is about 3,000,000 times faster than your 56k slice of continental drift. It could gobble 10 18Gb DVDs per second.
Off the net
More from the incorrigible Mik Towse (UK): “VirusScan message: Windows 98 found: Remove it (Y/N)?”
Nobilangelo Ceramalus is writer, desktop publisher, graphics designer, webmaster and image processor.