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Can your computer handle high-speed cable access?
technofile  by al fasoldt
Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology 
Simple gray rule


Can your computer handle high-speed cable access? 

An ftp download via cable modem. Click the photo for a larger version.

    Click this image of a CuteFTP window for a full-size version, in which you can easily see the transfer rate in the status bar at the lower right. The transfer is going at 373 KB per second. Image courtesy of Robert Fasoldt, a Road Runner subscriber in the Tampa Bay area. (And, yes, he's my brother.)

Technofile for April 5, 1998

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1998, The Syracuse Newspapers


Getting onto the Internet by modem is fairly simple, and even the oldest Windows PCs and Macs can handle it. But the new ultra-high-speed cable Internet connections that are coming this summer require newer computers. Is your PC or Mac up to the task?

If you have an older PC or early-model Mac, the answer may be no. But anyone who has a PC or Macintosh bought new in the last three or four years should have no problems.

Time Warner, which will be offering cable Internet access in the greater Syracuse area starting this summer, has listed basic requirements for PCs and Macs. Like every other attempt to list qualifications, the one Time Warner has put together lumps a lot of requirements into a short list. So let's put it into English. I'll also list a few things you will not need at the end.

PCs:

Your PC should have a 486 processor, Pentium processor or Pentium-class processors. (Pentium-class processors are sometimes called "586" or even "686" chips.) Your PC must be running Windows 95 or Windows 98. (Time Warner did not say if Windows NT 4.0, the heavy-duty version of Windows, would qualify; I'm assuming it would.)

The computer's speed, also known as the processor's speed, must be 66 MHz or faster. (An exception: If you have the slowest Pentium, a 60 MHz model, you're OK.) Much more important than the speed of the computer is the amount of memory, or RAM, it has. The minimum is 16 megabytes, but that's not really enough for fast Internet operations (or any other kind of serious computing) under modern versions of Windows. If your PC has only 16 MB, add 64 MB before getting a cable connection. (Two 32 MB memory chips should cost about $80.)

Your PC will also need a lot of free storage space. This is called drive space and is not related to the amount of memory the computer has. Time Warner says the PC should have 110 megabytes free. If your drive is already filling up, buy a second drive or a larger main drive before getting cable service. (A new 3-gigabyte drive should cost less than $150, and you can find a 6-gigabyte drive for less than $200. A gigabyte is roughly 1,000 megabytes.)

Macs:

You'll need any model Power Mac or an older Mac that uses a 68040 processor chip. (Old, single-unit Macs usually won't qualify.) Processor speed is just as important in Macs as in PCs, so beware of the earliest Power Macs. They're sluggish even with seemingly fast processor chips.

Time Warner says your Mac needs to be running System 7.5.3 or later and use Open Transport. Macs should have at least 24 megabytes of memory (twice that much is better) and need the same free disk space as PCs, 110 megabytes. If your Mac is short on disk space, add a second disk drive or upgrade the main drive before getting a cable connection. Most Mac drives are more expensive than PC drives, but you can get the same low prices as PC owners if your Mac uses an EIDE drive. (Check the manual or call a Mac computer shop.)

What don't you need for cable Internet access?

You don't need a phone line. You'll be accessing the Internet though the cable.

You won't need a modem. (Note, however, that if you use your computer to do any faxing, you'll either have to keep your modem or switch to one of the Internet fax services.)

You won't need to have an account with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) or with America Online. Time Warner's service, called Road Runner, replaces most, if not all, the functions of your ISP.


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