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Computing

From...

How you can unclog your Internet access

September 29, 1998
Web posted at: 12:00 PM EDT

by Steve Bass

(IDG) -- When the Internet dies, blame me, Steve "Bozo" Bass. At least, that's the word from members of the North American Network Operators Group. The responses came after I suggested in "Unclog Your Net Access" (link below) that readers tweak a Registry setting to speed up Internet access. NANOG members worried that, if readers took my advice, the Net would melt.

So they flamed me. They called me a bozo, accused me of being antisocial, and asked (rhetorically, I think) if I was an imbecile or a moron. (I like the bozo characterization -- it matches my hairline.)

Well, fuel up your flamethrowers, folks, because I'm about to do it again. I've uncovered more ways to unclog your Internet access. And I don't care who knows about it.

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As the Internet melts

First, a quick history lesson: In June's "Unclog Your Net Access", I explained how to lower a value in your Registry settings -- the MaxMTU -- so data packets arrive from the Internet faster. That's when the bits hit the fan. According to NANOG, if everyone online changed the setting tomorrow, the Internet would collapse (and maybe cause an earthquake in Pasadena). And I suppose it might. But then again, I also heard dire warnings last year that Web caching software might wreak havoc on the Net, and it hasn't.

Some Internet service providers I talked with are extremely concerned about computer users tweaking their MTU settings. However, just as many ISPs aren't at all anxious, with some even recommending the setting change themselves. Over 600 readers have written me (a record) about the subject, many raving about miraculous changes in their Web browsing. For example, Patrick Gallant of Calgary, Alberta, writes, "I tried your suggestion... HOLY COW, THIS BABY SMOKES NOW!!!" To be fair, some readers saw little or no increase. More on that in a sec.

Me? My Supra 56K modem slurps in those smaller data packets twice as fast at the lowered settings. I guess I'll risk a meltdown. But decide for yourself: Visit the NANOG site (link below), and look for messages cordially entitled "PC Bozo's World bites again."

For another perspective, check out Al's WinSock Tuning FAQ (link below). Then make up your own mind. But be forewarned: These sites raise geekspeak to a new level.

I want my MTU

Some readers have told me that they changed their PC's MaxMTU setting but saw only a small speed increase; others had to fiddle with the settings more than they would have liked.

For these people, TouchStone's clever $40 NetOptimizer program does the tweaking for you: It calls its own server, tries dozens of Registry setting combinations, and fine-tunes your Internet connection. It saves the old settings and then, with your permission, makes the necessary changes. Novices can comfortably use the program, and advanced users can play with the settings in manual mode.

I also like NetOptimizer's smart dialer. It makes sure I'm connected at the highest speed possible and continually monitors my online activity. The program also examines my modem and lets me back up my Dial Up Networking settings, a vital feature foolishly missing in Windows. TouchStone sells the NetOptimizer with a 30-day money-back guarantee, and the app works with Windows 9x.

If you're an America Online user, you too can make use of the MTU tweak. But you'll have to jump through some hoops, since AOL's software resets the MTU value every time you log on. But fear not: I tried a work-around from AOL guru George Gombos, and it did the trick. Check out George's terrific tips page (link below) and follow the directions under the "AOL MaxMTU Tweaks" section.

And the Internet meltdown? I'm not worried. An earthquake's bound to send California into the ocean first.

Contributing Editor Steve Bass is a licensed marriage and family therapist and the president of the Pasadena IBM Users Group in Pasadena, California.

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