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Road Runner user report: It's simply marvelous
technofile  by al fasoldt
Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
Simple gray rule

Road Runner user report: It's simply marvelous

Bit Player for Aug. 8, 1998

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1998, The Syracuse Newspapers

After many weeks of life in one of the Internet's fast lanes, I'm happy to report that my Road Runner cable-modem service has been outstanding. Time Warner deserves a lot of credit.

Unlike some of the other areas of the country where local branches of Time Warner have set up inadequate or trouble-prone cable Internet services, the Central New York operation has been running very smoothly. Service has been interrupted only a few times, and the local Road Runner Web pages look great and have a lot of useful information and links. E-mail delivery is fast and reliable, too.

My Road Runner connection is very fast. The last time I reported on my speed tests, I listed 658 kilobytes per second as the highest download speed I had reached. With a little more tweaking of the Registry settings that control the efficiency of the connection, I've been able to reach 841 kilobytes per second.

This is a phenomenal rate. A normal connection through the fastest modem provides only about 5 kilobytes per second, about one-half of 1 percent of the top speed I am getting via cable. Even a direct T1 connection is only about one-fourth that speed. If you have any doubts about the speed of the Time Warner service in Central New York, you can safely put them away.

I had also written previously about Time Warner's installation policy, which seemed to leave users with no choice of Web and e-mail software. Time Warner says this has never been the case, and that Road Runner subscribers can use their own choice of Web browsers and e-mail programs. I hope the folks who come to your house to install Road Runner software understand that this is, indeed, the official policy. (The mail I've been getting tells me there are some installers who have a different opinion.)

This is also a good time to clear up some of the confusion many of you have felt over what Road Runner is and how it works. Here are five basic facts about Road Runner:

    1. It's a normal Internet Service Provider. You get an e-mail address, a free Web site (as long as you do the work of making the pages) and a pathway onto the World Wide Web.
    2. It has its own news server, which carries far more news groups than a typical news server does. It's also very fast.
    3. You can access other e-mail accounts from your Road Runner connection.
    4. You can log onto America Online through Road Runner. This gives you a speedy connection to AOL at a reduced rate ($10 a month to AOL, which saves money because you're not using one of its modems for the connection).
    5. You can configure the Road Runner logon to make the connection automatically each time your computer boots up.

And it's also a good time to mention a serious gripe. The Road Runner connection software is very clever (even reconnecting you automatically when your computer wakes up from suspend mode), but it's not clever enough. When you restart your computer, Road Runner disconnects automatically, but the software then displays a modal dialog box—one that stops all activity—requiring you to click an OK button. This is worse than dumb; it's pointless.

If Time Warner fixes that problem, I'll give Road Runner a perfect score.

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