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Lighten Up 6 September 2002 Edition
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It's time for your weekly dose of more idiotry from the deepest, darkest depths of the Web.

Writing Aardvark is thirsty work and I really wish I had one of these to make the imbibing of my beverages just a little more exciting.

It is sometimes said that the Internet has become the haunt of people who really don't have a life. Perhaps this site is proof of that allegation -- sure looks like it to me.

Rural Modems (Part 1)
As I mentioned earlier this week, I've been reviewing a couple of dial-up modems which are supposedly desiged specifically for rural users who find it difficult to get (or sustain) a decent connection to the Net.

The first of these units I looked at was the Maestro Woomera which retails for around $400+GST. The test unit was kindly provided by The Electric Box Company.

So why would anyone want to fork out nearly $450 to buy a modem when you can pick up an internal modem card for a little over $60 these days?

Well the sales pitch is that the Maestro Woomera offers "more stable internet connections and in most cases a faster connection rate" -- but is this really the case and even if true, is it worth paying seven times as much for?

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Well regular Aardvark readers will know that I have had a lot of problems with noisy phone lines out here.

Telecom did send out a couple of guys who fixed some faults and made a few adjustments that produced a huge improvement -- but then, a week or so later, it rained and everything went to hell in a handbasket again.

I'd say that my lines are a good test of any dial-up modem and you can tell from the lack of hair on my head just how frustrating it can be when your connection is lost half-way through a large download - four or five times in a row!

So does the Maestro Modem help?

I have to say it's a whole lot better than the cheap GVC external modem I was forced to use after my USRobotics Courier modem died a while back.

The GVC would either drop carrier or simply stop receiving data after anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes into an online session. To get it to perform that well I had to force it to not use the V90-level connections, but instead limit itself to no more than 19.2Kbps.

By comparison, the Maestro has allowed me to stay online for as long as I want -- one recent session extending beyond 24 hours.

Just as impressive -- it was able to do this while maintaining a 24Kbps connection which is just as good as my old US Robotics modem -- a unit reknowned for its performance and tenacity on noisy lines.

The Maestro doesn't just work well -- it keeps you constantly informed as to exactly how well it's doing. The inbuilt backlit LCD display shows the current connect speed, the "quality" of the connection, the signal level, and the impedance of the line.

It wasn't quite smart enough to cope with my horrendous lines without a little help though.

"Out of the box" it insisted on trying to establish a V90 connection and succeeded at a carrier speed of around 46Kbps-48Kbps. However, you could watch this speed drop off over a period of 5-6 minutes until it had fallen right back to 33Kbps -- at which time it (or the modem on the other end) simply gave up because too many errors had been encountered.

Forcing the modem to establish its initial connection at 26.4Kbps however, meant that it didn't attempt a V90 session and thus a far more robust connection was obtained -- even though it would eventually fall back to 24Kbps.

It was also very enlightening to watch the "signal quality" deteriorate each time it rained. Likewise, the line impedance appears to change slightly from call to call, suggesting that my lines are still in need of some attention and that not all my problems are due to that plague of the rural Internet community -- poorly maintained electric fences.

How about that styling though? You'll probably either love it or hate it. Personally I think it's quite funky and probably well suited to a home environment -- but it's not the type of thing that would look at home in a rack of other gear.

The bottom line?

For me (and I suspect many others in my position), this modem is certainly worth the price being asked. It undoubtedly lives up to the claims on the brochure and offered me both improved speed and what appears to be a bullet-proof connection.

I notice also that The Electric Box Co is offering these units with a 30-day money-back guarantee -- so if it doesn't work for you then there's no risk. Clearly they have confidence in this product.

Next week I'll be looking at the Dynalink Rural Modem and comparing it to the Maestro. Does it also live up to the claims made for it and which is the better value?

Have your say.

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Security Alerts
Microsoft reveals security hole (NewsFactor - 02/09/2002)

Microsoft plugs critical Office holes
(ITWorld - 22/08/2002)

Security flaw hits Windows, Mac, Linux (NewsFactor - 7/08/2002)

PGP Outlook plugin has major hole (TheReg - 12/07/2002)

IE scripting flaw uncovered (TheReg - 12/07/2002)

Virus Alerts
Worm spreads through KaZaA network, again (TheReg - 22/08/2002)

Apher worm: From Russia (ZDNet - 22/08/2002)

Kowbot worm targets Kazaa network
(VNuNet - 01/07/2002)

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