Setting Up An Internet Connection
Without loss of sanity and privacy
I know so many people who seem to have a lot of problems when they try setting up an Internet connection. Some are unfortunate enough to have been the victim of the endless and tedious free CDs that we all receive in our post now and again, or that fall off the front of a magazine, or that we have idly picked up from a local shop counter. The last thing you should do is use one of those to get connected. Really, you should know better! 99% of the CDROM will be stuffed with advertising rubbish and spy-ware that gums up our computers and makes us vulnerable to the advertisers on the Internet. This type of product should be banned, in my opinion. Not only is a CDROM totally unnecessary to get us connected, it is a downright infringement of our privacy. Not to mention the fact that it will impregnate your computer with registry entries and files that will make it virtually impossible to remove without a complete re-installation of your operating system. Watch out for the spam e-mail that you will receive as soon as you log on the World Wide Web, if you have installed the CDROM software.
Besides all this, you will be trapped into using a particular web site as a search point and, to make matters worse, you will find that the software has modified your web browser with all sorts of home-page advertising and a silly spinning logo up at the top right where the Microsoft or Netscape logo used to be. You can remove it, but it does require a registry edit, and that means strong coffee and trembling knees, even for the stout-hearted. You can create your own logo for your web browser. Make something original and pleasing to sooth the stressful wait while those unnecessarily large web pages load.
How can you avoid all this hassle? Simple DIY. Everything you need to set up a connection to the Internet is right there in your operating system. It doesnt matter which operating system. All the current Microsoft Windows operating systems have the necessary software installed ready for you to configure it and get connected. All flavours of Linux have the same type of setup and so does AppleMac. The principles are all the same, but the method varies from vendor to vendor.
For this article I am going to set out the method for getting an Internet connection set up on a Windows XP Pro operating system. The rules and actions for Windows XP Home and Windows 2000 Professional are pretty much the same. Windows 95/98 and Me are very similar and so, to some extent, is Windows NT4 Workstation. I am not going to include Windows servers as it is unlikely that you would be using a server operating system in a home environment. Plus, you should not set-up an Internet connection of this sort on a network server. Server connections must be secure and protected. The configuration process is far more complex and beyond the home or casual user.
Remember, we are going to do this without any ISP CDROM disks or a safety net. Just hang on tight and follow the instructions carefully and meticulously. You cant do any great damage and if you do get into a knot, it is fairly easy to back up by simply deleting the connection. Frustration is going to be the big demon in all matters concerning configuring computer services.
What you need:
You must have a computer! It must be running and you must have one of the Microsoft Windows operating systems, mentioned previously. You will need a modem, internal or external, (external is best as it is easier to reset if required. An internal modem reset will need a complete computer shutdown), or an ISDN TA, (terminal adapter, needed to connect to your ISDN2e box that BT fitted). The modem/TA will be plugged into the computer via a USB or Serial port connection. You should have the correct cables and connectors supplied with your modem/TA. Look carefully at the instructions and plug everything in. Power up the modem/TA and you should see it do a power-on-self-test. Basically, all the lights on the modem/TA will flash on and off and then settle down to a power-on light and a light that indicates its default bandwidth, (probably 56K for a modem).
Now comes the tricky bit. You have to install the modem/TA software connection to the computer. It may be that it has already been installed by your operating systems Plug and Play technology. That is, when you plugged it in and powered it up, the operating system recognised it and displayed a message telling you it had found the new hardware and was installing the supporting software for you. If it is successful, that will save you the hassle of doing it manually. If it doesnt you will have to go to Start>Settings>Control Panel>Add/Remove Hardware and double click on the icon. This will launch the Add/Remove Hardware Wizard. Microsoft operating systems are full of Wizards. They are supposed to be helpful? I leave you to judge that one. Once your new hardware has been detected, and providing it is a well known bit of kit and is fairly new, you should have no real hassles other than, possibly, having to supply a disk which contains the drivers for the hardware. The drivers are code which the operating system needs to act as a translator between the CPU (computer processing unit, the computer chip) and the modem/TA internal software. Once the drivers are loaded/installed you will be told all is well. If you are having problems finding a driver for your modem/TA from the list in the hardware wizard, locate the Universal drivers and load a 56K driver. It should work fine. You can download a specific driver from the vendors web site when we have you up and running further down this page.
Now you have the modem/TA installed its a good idea to run a quick diagnostic test to make sure it is working and there are no software problems. Go to Start>Settings>Control Panel>Modems in most Windows operating systems. In Windows XP the route is a bit more convoluted. You may have to navigate to the Printers and Other Hardware>Phone and Modem Options (!). Once you have found the modem icon or the appropriate icon, double click it and choose the Modems Tab. Then choose Properties and then Diagnostics Tab. You will see a button that is labelled Query Modem. Click it and the system will send a message to interrogate the modem/TA. Lights will flash on the unit and you should see a lot of strange text flow into the box on the screen. Thats it. As long as you get the text everything is fine. No text and you may have to re-install the driver or the hardware. Other information may be available in this dialog box. Such as, the port that the modem is connected to. If its a Serial/Com port, say Com 1, and you are having a problem, try setting it to COM 2 and try running the diagnostics again. It usually works second time around. It is possible to set both ports as a connection. You can also choose to turn off the modem/TA speaker if you dont want to hear that strange squawking sound that a modem/TA makes when it is conversing with the modem at the ISP.
Now you have a working modem/TA you are ready to configure the connection to your ISP.
First, make sure that there is no other application running on your computer. Check the Task bar. If you see another application, right click it and Close.
You will need to have your ISP dial-up number, account username and password to hand. If you dont know what these are, just telephone the ISP and they will give you this information. If they say something about not needing it because their CDROM does it all for you automatically, tell them that you want it anyway. Dont get into a discussion about the configuration of the Internet connection. They wont understand what you are talking about. Just palm them off with some guff and get the information you want. After all, you only need them to give you access to the Internet/WWW, after that, you dont need them at all. Your ISP is a simple gateway to the Internet, thats all. They have little else, other than advertising, to offer.
Now we have all the information, grab a quick coffee and then get settled to do the business! Lock the door and ignore all requests for access other than those from angels bearing drinks and snacks. Priorities dear reader, priorities.
With all things computer there is always a dozen different ways and routes to achieve the same result. I am going to set out just one way of doing the job. There are others, but I am going to show you the easiest and most practical method.
Right click on the Desktop icon named Network Neighbourhood or My Network Places. Choose Properties and you will see the Create New Connection icon or the New Connection icon. Double click it and a connection Wizard will start.
Now that you have the Wizard on the screen, choose Connect To The Internet. This will lead on to a dialog box that will ask you if you want to Choose From A List Of Service Providers, Use The CD I Got From An ISP or Set Up My Connection Manually. Choose Manually. Next you will be probably be asked which kind of connection you have. Choose to connect using a Modem. This will also be the choice for your ISDN terminal Adapter (TA). You will then be asked which modem you want to use (if you have more than one connected to your computer). You will probably only have one, so select that one. You will be asked to type the name of your ISP or the name of this connection. Its the same thing. So type something that you will recognise when you want to make a connection. Now you will have to type in the telephone number that your ISP gave you. Just type it right in without any spaces or hyphens. Next you will be presented with a dialog box that will ask you to enter the username and password for the connection. These are your Internet account details that your ISP gave you. Fill in the boxes and make any other choices that are presented to you. If you are using XP uncheck the Firewall checkbox. If you want to use the Microsoft software Firewall, leave the box checked. However, there are far better and more effective Firewall programs to use than the built in software that Microsoft provides. But, the choice is yours. Now you will be at the end of the Wizard and you may be asked if you want a shortcut on your Desktop. Make the choice and click on the Finish button.
Great! If all has configured properly its time to test your handiwork. Go to your Desktop and right-click on Network Neighbourhood or My Network Places. Choose Properties and you will see the connections that are currently setup on your computer. You probably only have this one. If you are on a network you will see your Local Area Network connection icon too. Double click on the icon named with the title you gave it during the configuration. The connection box will appear. Make sure that all is as it should be and click Dial. There will be a slight delay and then you will hear the modem dialling out to your ISP. If you muted the modem/TA speaker, you will be able to check that things are happening by watching the LEDs flashing on the front of the modem/TA unit. You will have a bit of a wait while the modems talk to each other and then you should get authenticated onto the ISPs system. Once that is done you will see a message at the bottom right of your screen that tells you that you are connected and what bandwidth you have been allocated. Start your browser and enjoy.
Notice that your browser is unaltered, you dont have to go to a special web page and you can use any search engine you like. You wont have any spy-ware lurking in your system and your ISP will have no control over you and your activities at all.
Just to whet your appetite (but beware)
If you have a small network at home or at your office, you can configure one computer to provide an Internet connection for all the others and set it up to dial up on demand when someone on another computer starts their web browser. This process is called Internet Connection Sharing and Demand Dialling. Quite a mouthful, but not difficult to set up. However, there are a couple of technical details that you will need to understand concerning protocols. So, be careful if you find yourself trying this out. You may end up losing the connections to your other computers and ruining the network connectivity. To be quite honest, ICS is not a particularly efficient method of multiple Internet connectivity. There are far easier and less fraught ways of providing that kind of service.
Get yourself a PopUp killer and a decent firewall. I suggest Zone Alarm Pro for the firewall. I also suggest that you get a copy of AdAware. It will protect you from spy-ware and other nasties that the bad guys will try and sneak into your operating system when you are on the Web. You can set your browser security to resist cookies and Java. But, that will severely restrict your experience and will stop all the fun animations and the like. So, dont be too restrictive, just get the right software to protect you, then you can free-up your browser and see and experience all the fantastic stuff that is out there in Web-Land. You can obtain all these applications by entering their names into a search engine, say Google for instance, and you will receive a list of URLs to contact where you can download the Shareware versions to try before you buy.
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