DSL Experiences…

If you are thinking of getting a DSL link to your local ISP, then you might be interested in reading my diary of my DSL experiences.

late 1998
In late 1998 PacBell announces DSL services. A quick check of their web pages shows a DSL Availability form to fill in with your telephone number to check if you will be lucky enough to receive the service. I fill in my phone number and receive back a list of some providers in my area that will provide the DSL service. I select Earthlink.net from the list which takes me to Earthlink’s home page. A search of the site shows nothing about DSL. A note to support@earthlink.net yields a response of “we are working on it”

Jan 99
A search of Earthlink’s web pages finds a link to DSL service. A click on this link yields a DSL Access form to be filled in that will notify you when the service becomes available. I quickly fill it in.

4 Jun 1999
18:05 After 5 months, a note from Earthlink: “Congratulations! The telephone number you submitted to Earthlink has qualified for our DSL Market Trial in Southern California.” There is a request to fill out a form at their site. Hmm, didn’t I already fill out a form? Well OK, I’ll do it again. So I go to their web site and fill out an Earthlink DSL Market Trial Questionnaire. Strange, looks like the one I filled out in January.

30 Jun 1999
14:25 Ah ha. Another note from Earthlink. “We have qualified you for our DSL service for the Market Trial period, however, I will need to gather your current account information (i.e. username, name on account, current address and/or new expiration date on your existing credit card) with us in order to proceed with your installation cycle.” Must be a standard form they mail out. I don’t have an account at Earthlink. My account is at Netcom. They want my credit card information though. Hmm, no way via email. Well at least they included a telephone number. I call; contact person isn’t there and voice mail message says to use email. Well to heck with that, I leave a voice mail message to have the person call me.

6 Jul 1999
09:37 Nothing since the 30th of June. Hmm, I send another email message telling Earthlink that I’m not sending my credit card information via email but to call me. Drat, I miss the call back. I call back, same voice mail message as before. Hmm, we could go on all day about this. I try seven times, still get voice mail.

15:03 I send another email and stay by the phone. Success, I give credit card information, get two email address (one of which is my main userid) and they set up a temporary password of my choosing.

19:06 email from Earthlink, “Hello! I’ve processed your order for the DSL Market Trial and you will be contacted by one of the Pacific Bell representatives for the installation date.” Great, I think we are getting somewhere.

7 Jul 1999
Around noon — phone call from Earthlink DSL service “We need some information concerning your account”. Oh, oh, I wonder what the problem is? Call back toll free DSL service number and repeat the credit card information I gave the day before. They don’t need the userids as these are “in the database”. Well, how come my credit card information isn’t in the database?

Late afternoon — Phone message from PacBell. “Your DSL connection will be installed on 14 Jul between 8 and 5. Please be home or have someone available.” Cool, I can live with that — PacBell is really on the ball. One day on a DSL order and I already have an installation date.

9 Jul 1999
8:37 A.M. My modem line disconnects while I’m answering email. Bummer, dial again and get no dial tone message via my modem. Hmm, did this internal PCI modem go bad like my other one about a month ago? Try another home PC, again no dial tone message. Strange, I wonder if this has something to do with my DSL line? I call PacBell emergency repair service at 611. After traveling through the phone tree where I have to enter the phone number of the line that is having a problem plus a contact phone number, I get to a selection that says press “0” if you would like to speak to a technician. Great, yeah, let me speak to a human. I explain the problem and ask if perhaps it has something to do with my DSL connection? The tech says “no” and also checks the line and says “there is no problem.” Weird. “Do I still want a technician to come to my house?” “No cancel that” I say, “I’ll go try my modem again.” Success, modem works again.

9:07 A.M. PacBell technician arrives. Gads, that was fast. This tech says “no he is not here about a repair problem” but to get a reading on the data transmission rate of the DSL line. “They just did a switch over in the Central Office (CO) about a half hour ago.” Ha ha, so that’s why my modem went dead. I tell this tech “that I called emergency repair” and he says “the tech at repair should have known about the DSL switch over as it was a scheduled outage of the phone line.” Yeah, well another case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.

Tech checks out line and says I’m “really going to be happy about the data transfer rates.” DSL is limited to within 17,500 feet of a central telephone switching office, and must have a telephone line qualified to carry the DSL signal. I’m located about 15,000 from central office. Well good, maybe something is going correctly. Can’t find fault at PacBell about this except maybe emergency repair might have known about line outage. I guess they think you won’t notice a 10 minute outage of your phone line. You do if you happen to be online.

10 Jul 1999
Early morning — PacBell technician arrives. “What’s this about”, I ask, “the DSL check was made yesterday.” No, this isn’t about a DSL check, this is about a repair call. “What!, that was supposed to be canceled!!!” I tell this tech. Guess what, no record of a cancellation. I wish the tech well and tell him everything is fine and dandy with the line. He’s happy to get out of here so fast…

13 Jul 1999
Early afternoon — Phone call from PacBell with a reminder “that they will be at my house tomorrow between noon and 5:00 P.M.” Hmm, better than the first time which was between 8 and 5. Closing in on it.

16:47 A note from Earthlink: “Congratulations! The telephone number you submitted to Earthlink has qualified for our DSL Market Trial in Southern California.”  What, I already received this note on 4 Jun.

23:21 And another note from Earthlink: “Congratulations! The telephone number you submitted to Earthlink has qualified for our DSL Market Trial in Southern California.” I think maybe they are stuck in a mail loop.

14 Jul 1999
11:37 PacBell calls, “we are just leaving another site and will at your home in about a half hour — Are you available?” You bet I am, come on over. Just after 12 noon PacBell technicians arrive – these guys sure are on time. I receive an Alcatel 1000 DSL modem, a Kingston 10/100Mbps PCI Ethernet card, and a Alcatel DSL modem instruction manual. PacBell installs line splitter on phone line inside my house in my basement (splits the voice and DSL data channels into 2 lines), installs new 2 plug outlet jack in my “computer” room and hooks up the DSL modem to the DSL output jack. My existing modem is connected to the voice jack. Because I already have an Ethernet LAN, the tech tries to connect it to my Netgear FE104 hub, but alas, no signal through the hub. I need to get a hub rated at 10 or 10/100Mbps — the FE104 is rated at 100Mbps. PacBell tech says the “DSL modem can only use 10Mbps, hence the 10 or 10/100 rating requirement” — interesting tidbit of information.

Tech says I’ll probably just have to connect the modem directly to my Netgear FX310TX dual mode (10/100) Fast Ethernet PCI card until I can get another hub. Tech is pretty sure that my existing Ethernet card will work because it is rated 10/100 – if it doesn’t, I’ll have to replace with the Kingston card PacBell brought with them. I can’t connect to Earthlink today because I don’t have any software. Great, “I thought PacBell was bringing it”, tech says nope, “Earthlink should have sent it to you.” Well, this is dandy.

PacBell techs leave and I call the Earthlink DSL phone number. After verifying my name and that I’m on the DSL trial program I get the “We have been back ordered on software but we have a shipment going out later this afternoon — about 3 P.M. or so by Airborne Express.” Hmm, shades of “the check is in the mail.” We will see…

BTW, I ask, “Is the trial program still going to end on 29 Jul? The reason I’m asking as I’m not even online yet and the 29th is fast approaching.” DSL help says “you will have a full 30 days of trial from the date you start.” Well, that’s good news. I probably should have gotten that confirmation in writing, oh well. Also, I ask “do you have an email address for the people on the DSL trial program?” Sure enough they do. I also find out that about 200 are signed up for the trial program. Great, maybe we can start a mailing list or newsgroup.

Alcatel manual states that I can have up to 256 users connected to DSL modem — cool, that ought to be enough for my 3 LAN connected PCs.

Hmm, I wonder if Netgear makes a 10/100Mbps hub, I bet they do. Let’s check their web site. Success, looks like I need a DB104 hub as shown on the Network Starter Kits page. Add this to the list of things to buy and/or inquire about.

I wonder what Alcatel has to say about their DSL modems. Let’s surf over to their site and see what can be found. Hmm, first deliveries of these 1000 ADSL modems were in Oct. 1997 See this Press Release and this is about all I can find except for this description . Pretty slim picking’s here. Manual is better.

Well now I have a lot of questions that are unanswered. I think I’ll send an email to the DSL trial program email address and ask them. I ask about how I might use Linux as my server and connect the DSL modem to it rather than using one of my Win 98/NT machines. I also ask if I can use the Netgear DB104 hub and the FX310TX cards.  Because DSL is supposed to be 24/7 operation I ask if I can get my own domain and set up at home rather than at Earthlink. I need a domain so I can setup an autoresponder like I have at my Netcom shell account. I would also like to set up some email only servers like getweb, www4mail, and agora. Finally, I ask about a mailing list and/or newsgroup for the DSL trial participants. It would be nice if we could all share experiences.

15 Jul 1999
10:24 Airborne Express shows up at my front door with a package from Earthlink. Well I guess “the check really was in the mail”. My hat is off to Earthlink, I sign for the package and immediately head downstairs to my computer. I can hardly wait. Oh, oh, name on front of package is Greg Boyd. Who the h*** is that? I’m Gerald or Gerry. Gosh, hope that’s the only mistake. I tear open the package to find a CD-ROM with a big giant red DSL on it. Also in the package is a cover letter addressed to Mr. Boyd. Well, that’s better. Oops, footer shows Greg Boyd but my address. There is a 33 page 8-1/2 by 11 Installation Guide and another 1 page Earthlink Sprint DSL Installation Guide, a 1 page Internet Access Agreement, and a 1 page set of contact phone numbers. All right let’s read all of this first — I’m that kind of person.

11:06 I’ve read everything and the instructions appear to be well written. They include screen shots of what you should see in the installation steps for both Win 95/98.  I remove my Ethernet cable from the hub and plug into the modem and then boot my 350 Mhz Pentium II PC. Install the CD and installation begins.  First thing to install is TotalAccess 2.41 High Speed software. Click next, that installs easily. Then a prompt that states Dialup Networking or Virtual Private Networking needs to be installed. Click next and VPN is installed. Prompt to reboot computer. Click yes.

After reboot a new screen shows up that is the TotalAccess 2.41 High Speed Setup screen. This has 7 options: Setup High Speed, Setup Modem Accounts, Update Account, Connect to Earthlink, Phone Numbers, Additional Software, and Exit. Instructions say click on Setup High Speed. OK I do that and the New Membership screen appears. I fill out the membership new account form with name, address, city, state, zip code, and telephone number.  Click on next. Now I see the User Info screen. Enter my userid and password twice, click next and a download tab appears. Follow directions and select iVasion PoET Adapter #1. Click next. I then get a selection screen for what software I wish to add. Choice of Netscape 4.0 (which is checked, Hmm, I already have 4.61, so I better uncheck that box) and it asks me if I’m sure I don’t want to install a browser (well heck yeah, I want to use my existing one), Internet Explorer 4.01 (Hmm again, I already have 5.0), High Speed Connection on Startup (sure, why not, that box is already checked), configure existing web browsers (you bet, mine are newer, check that box), Quick Time 2.1.2 (sure why not, check that box), and Claris Home Page Lite 2.0 (sure, check that box also). Press enter and away it goes. Some additional prompts on software installation (the typical ones about saving in \Programs Files\…) and then “TotalAccess 2.41 has been successfully installed, Do you want to start surfing now”. You bet I do, click on yes.

Internet Explorer 5.0 starts up with Earthlink’s home page. I run through the configuration options to see what is new versus my old Netcom setup. Change startup page to my own default web page. Configure some other options. Ok close this down and bring up Netscape’s browser. Ah ha, Netscape is smarter than IE as I now have a new profile to configure. Configure a new one for Earthlink and setup my default browser page and my other options. Well let’s get with it. I surf by going to my favorite search engines and search for things. Hmm, access doesn’t appear to be that much faster or am I missing something? Surf some more, things start to pick up. Hmm, maybe the DSL modem or the connection needs some time to sync up or something.

11:40 All right, time to put this DSL modem to the test. I’m going to download something huge. I go to Microsoft’s web site and select Win NT 4.0 Service Pak 5 full download. This is 33.5Mb and the site says 4 hours plus with a 28.8 modem. I start the download via Netscape’s browser and watch the K/s screen. It starts climbing. After 10Mb of downloading it’s at 72.4K/s, 73 at 11Mb, 74 at 12Mb, 75 at 17Mb, 76 at 20Mb and 77 at 25Mb. It peaks at a maximum of 77.5K/s. The download takes 6 minutes and 37 seconds.  Wow!!! This is amazing, mind boggling. The most I ever see with my 56K modem is 3.4K/s so this DSL modem is 22-24 times faster!!! We are talking about 0.86Mbps versus T1 speeds of 1.5Mbps. Wow, PacBell tech wasn’t lying when he said I’d be pleased at the speeds. I am, I am… Need to see if I will ever approach the T1 limit. Earthlink promises downstream speed of at least 384Kbps and up to 1.5Mbps — well I definitely passed 384Kbps.

12:06 Time for another test. I think while this one computer is on the DSL part of the line I’ll try a modem dial-up with another PC on the same line. Start another PC and connect to Netcom via my SLiRP connection. Download mail, answer some questions.  No problems so far.  I use a combination of web searching via the DSL line and answering questions with the Netcom dial-up. Things work fine all afternoon.

17:35 Well, a couple of questions are answered. DSL line is definitely fast, I can use DSL and dial-up at the same time, the Netgear FX310TX Ethernet PCI card is OK, so I guess all I have to do is buy a new hub. Installation was a “no-brainer” and worked almost flawlessly except for the selection of programs to download from the DSL installation CD.  I need to find out how to get my name corrected in Earthlink’s records — minor annoyances.

16 Jul 1999
Morning — general surfing, nothing of importance to comment on. DSL connection starts easily on boot up of PC.

14:58 More testing to check speed of downloads.  I go Microsoft’s NT download site and download the following:
NT Zero Administration kit 5.78Mb — 1 min 6 sec or 89.7K/s
NT Resource Kit 6.88Mb — 51 sec or 138K/s — Whoa! really getting up there!!!
NT Media Player 1.36Mb — 10 sec or 107K/s — again great speed
Conclusions: The more you download or the longer you stay online, the faster the download.

20:10 Decide to install DSL on another of my network PCs to check again the installation. This is on a AMD K6 233 MHz Pentium that I built. This is my main Linux PC but I also have Win 98/NT on a separate drive. However, Win 98 was just about a bare installation (no upgrades).  This time things go wrong. Not the installation per se, but the choices. When I get to menu choices about a browser I decide to back up to the selection menu. However, the installation of components begins before it allows me to back up to the browser choices. I select the Netscape 4.0 and proceed forward again. After finishing installation and rebooting PC, I can’t connect to Earthlink. So I try the installation again. However, this time it passes by the TotalAccess 2.41 installation and goes directly to the Setup High Speed screen. Run through all of this again including browser selection and reboot. Still can’t connect to Earthlink. Hmm, OK how about time for another test. That is, from scratch. So I delete Win 98 and reformat drive.

23:02 Start reinstall of Win 98. Add my external Zoom 56K modem, configure Netgear FX310TX network card, add my Matrox Millennium high resolution driver for my 21 in. monitor, add Iomega drivers for Zip drive, and Drive image program. Make an image copy of my drive and store on a separate partition — just in case I have to do this again it will only take a few minutes by restoring the image rather than re-installing everything.

23:40 Start DSL install program again. This time it says I don’t have a Network card installed. Check Win 98 Network and sure enough even though Netgear drivers are installed the Netgear network card doesn’t show. Configure that and reboot.  Start DSL installation again. This time, success, straight install and I connect first time to Earthlink. Well how about some more testing? I decide to install every update to Win 98 via the Windows Update program, some 100Mb of them! Some of them can only be installed one at a time before a reboot but some can all be installed at once. The largest amount I can install at once is 77Mb. This takes 8 minutes!!!  I don’t have a speed of download because the Windows update feature doesn’t show one. Anyway, all I can say is “Fantastic, the DSL is a success.”

17 Jul 1999
00:30 Complete Windows 98 updating. Time elapsed for a reinstall of Win 98, configuration of drivers, and some software installations, DSL installation, and Windows update of more than 100Mb — 1 hour 28 minutes. Well I’m impressed — time for bed!

09:34 Well, let’s check startup of PC and connection to Earthlink via the PC that I configured last night. PC boots and automatic startup to Earthlink fails. I see that 3 programs have failed to start — TDIAL, MSPREX, and NetAccess — Oh, Oh, wonder what the problem is. Reboot PC and success. Hmm, I wonder if a cold boot is the catch. I’ll check it again tomorrow. No problems for the remainder of the day…

18 Jul 1999
08:34 Bootup all 3 PCs on my LAN. Two of them have the DSL software installed but as my Netgear hub has NOT been changed out, I can only use one DSL connection to the Alcatel DSL modem direct from my Ethernet card. So actually my LAN is really only sharing 2 PCs. I connect to Earthlink with the PC I configured yesterday. No failure of the programs to start — so I guess it’s not a cold boot problem. Must have been a minor “glitch.” No problems for the entire day.

19 Jul 1999
Nothing to report except to say everything works fine all day.

20 Jul 1999
12:19 Finally purchase new Netgear DS104 – 10/100Mbps hub for my LAN. This will replace the 100Mbps FE104 model that doesn’t support the Alcatel 1000 DSL modem. I connect all three PCs to DS104 hub and use the crossover cable to connect DSL modem to 4th port on hub.

NOTE: Pacbell gave me the crossover cable because the techs saw that I had a LAN. The crossover cable is required when hooking up to a network hub. It is described in the Alcatel 1000 DSL modem manual (but only the 4 wire crossover). The pinouts are as follows:

Modem to Hub            Modem to Hub
Using all 8 wires:        Using only 4 of the 8 wires:
1-3                                1-3
2-6                                2-6
3-1                                3-1
4-7                                6-2

I boot all 3 PCs on LAN. Everything starts OK. Two of the PCs connect to Earthlink via the DSL software, the 3rd PC I use to dial-up Netcom as this is my primary ISP. Amazing, the hub does work so I guess PacBell was correct when they said get a hub rated 10/100Mbps. Also amazing that 2 PCs actually connect to Earthlink through the same DSL modem. Kind of like the new Windows 98 SE Internet Connection Sharing Option without any software except that which was installed for the DSL connection — I’m impressed.

Thanks PacBell and Earthlink…

21-25 Jul 1999
My LAN and connections through the DSL modem have worked every day without fail. I’m logged on from 8 to 12 hours. Haven’t actually decided to leave the connection up 24/7 as I really don’t have a need for this yet. This will probably be the last entry in this diary unless something happens that I may want to report.

04 Aug 1999
Late afternoon. Receive a letter from Earthlink stating that my “Earthlink Sprint mailbox account” is now active. It lists my secondary userid and password. I guess Earthlink is probably wondering why I haven’t used it and encouraging me to do so. I use the primary userid everyday and never have used the secondary.

06 Aug 1999
Late afternoon. By USPS Priority Mail I receive a package from Earthlink. The package is 8-1/2 inches square and about 1/2 inch thick. Fancy purple and black on one side and orange and purple on the other. “The Future is in your hands now” reads the Earthlink Sprint DSL title. Inside is a letter addressed to “Dear Gerald Boyd”, well they have my name correct now, and thanking me for choosing Earthlink Sprint DSL. A copy of my userid and password is enclosed. Also is a 50 page booklet tield “Getting the Most Out of the Internet” by Sky Dayton, founder and CEO of Earthlink. I also find a new fancy version of the DSL CD-ROM, a new PC travel version of the DSL software on CD-ROM for your laptop, a 3-1/2 floppy installation guide, a 3 page foldout DSL installation Guide, an Earthlink Internet Access Agreement, and a TOS (Terms Of Service) for Earthlink DSL Internet Access. Pretty spiffy stuff here. I guess this is the “finished” product that will be sent to all new subscribers of the DSL service. I read it all, like I said before, I’m that kind of person.

It appears as though I don’t need to change anything from my original installation, I just now have some additional material and the brand new travel version of the DSL connection software.

01 Aug 2000
Well it’s been a year and no doubt if your are reading this you probably wonder what has happened in that time. I’m happy to tell you that everything is fine and dandy with my DSL line. Download speed is always about 1.3Mbps. The WinPoet version 2.0 upgrade cured all other remaining problems that I had with the software (periodic disconnects, slow resumption of connection after periods of inactivity, etc.). ELN DSL users can download WinPoet 2.0 with Total Access Upgrade or the stand alone WinPoet 2.0 here. Other DSL users see resources below.

30 Oct 2000
Earthlink has removed the direct download sources (listed above) and you now have to use this link for Winpoet 2.0 (Windows and Mac) and Winpoet upgrades.

06 Oct 2001
You now have to Signin first in order to get to the download sources for Windows (WinPoet 2.1) and Mac (MacPoet 1.2). The TotalAccess 2.4.1 Installation and Upgrade and Winpoet 2.0 Installation guide is located here: Guides and Installation .

Things are still going remarkably well. Speeds are impressive — download: 1254 kbps and upload: 106 kbps.

17 Feb 2002 through 25 Feb 2002
Starting on Sunday, 17 Feb 2002, my DSL connection speeds dropped off to modem speeds. DSL Reports Speed Test

    ** Speed 47(down)/8(up) kbps **
    About modem speed!
    Logging result

I could not download my e-mail from either Earthlink or my Expita.com domain. I resorted to dial-up access to complete e-mail downloading and Usenet reading. On Wednesday, 20 Feb 2002 I called DSL support but found out that Los Angeles area is experiencing “latency” problems and there is no ETR (Estimated Time of Repair). On Friday 22 Feb 02, I called DSL support, still no ETR date. Also called Earthlink billing to get an adjustment on my DSL bill. I will not be charged for the next DSL billing cycle (March 6th through April 5th) — Earthlink was nice enough about it.

Earthlink DSL has 20 free hours of dialup “roaming” access. So if I don’t exceed this I might end up with “free” internet access for 1 month. However, I’d much prefer my “old” DSL access speeds rather than relying on dialup.

As of 26 Feb 2002 it appears as though the “latency” problems have finally been solved.

    ** Speed 1254(down)/106(up) kbps **
    (At least 25 times faster than a 56k modem)
    Logged resul.



Some resources I used: