If you're on line a lot, you need DSL

DSL arrived again at our house a couple of weeks ago. It came in the form of a United Parcel shipment from Earthlink that contained a special dsl modem, some telephone filters and a set of instructions. I had tried dsl before but the system wasn't ready for me then.

DSL stands for "digital subscriber line," a high speed Internet connection offered over telephone company wires. I choose dsl instead of cable only because of potential problems that cable subscribers may encounter. Also, I choose Earthlink as my Internet Service Provider because I already was a dial up subscriber of theirs and thus could keep my existing email address. AOL and others also offer high speed broadband connections.

It had taken just a month for the UPS package to arrive after my initial call to Earthlink. During that time the telephone company conditioned their circuit to my home and made the necessary connections to the high speed circuits to Earthlink. Hopefully everything was ready for me to connect.

Because of past experience, I simply connected the dsl modem to one of our telephone wires and didn't worry about connecting it the computer. The dsl modem is just a small box that is connected between the telephone jack in the wall and the computer. Anxiously I waited to see if the little light would change from blinking orange to solid green, signifying a proper connection. It didn't. Puzzled, I placed a call to Earthlink technical support and was told that I first must disconnect all existing telephones in the house. I did and the little green light came on and I was connected.

To get the telephones working again, I had to install what are called "micro filters," little boxes that separate the dsl signals from the voice signals of the telephone circuits. Earthlink sent three of these inexpensive devices and I purchased three more from Radio Shack.

Next I connected the computer to the modem by means of a supplied network cable. It connects the modem to the Network Interface Card in the back of the computer. I turned on the computer, followed a simple set of Earthlink instructions, entered my username and password in a screen and I was connected.

What a difference from dial up. Web pages came down rapidly, much faster than usual. Email messages came flying into my Inbox. I was happy, except when I tried to reach the computer in the sky that hosts my web page. No connection.

Another call to Earthlink technical service. This time a technician gave me incorrect advice requiring a second call, another fifteen minute wait, and finally a solution. On my computer I use the free Zone Alarm firewall software to try to keep out intruders. Unfortunately, it also keeps out my connection to the "ftp" server in the sky that has my web page. Solution; uninstall Zone Alarm. Yep, now everything works. I have a firewall in another device so I still am protected from hackers.

Right now I am very happy with my high speed dsl connection. It always is "on." Click on the browser and the web page loads. Click on email and down come the messages. Another advantage of dsl is that I could cancel my second telephone number. Therefore, the additional cost for dsl minus the cost of the second telephone line is minimal.

Is high speed Internet for everyone? You will have to decide for yourself. If you or a family member downloads lots of pictures, plays interactive computer games or downloads music files, it can be essential. The installation went rather smoothly, with a little help from technical service, so this should not deter anyone from trying it. In the future, as more high speed Internet features are added, it will become more commonplace.

If you would like to hear more about high speed Internet, or other computer topics, visit "Coffee and Computers" at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. 'C' Street, any Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. Bring your questions or just come in and visit.

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.

Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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