Ionic Column - April 1998
by David Parry
Englishman David Parry lived in Tokyo from 1980 to 1994 and was a member of TPC from 1986. Currently based in Düsseldorf and working as a translator, he returns to Japan electronically via the Internet. A frequent contributor to this publication, he was Newsletter Publisher from late 1988 to early 1990 and began the Ionic Column in 1992. For reasons best known, this column even won a prize and an honorable mention...
At the end of last month's column I was wondering whether I would be going to CeBIT, but in the end there was simply no time. As I mentioned before, it is a very strenuous affair, with a four-hour drive in both directions and a hurried scuttle through as many of the halls as one can manage in about seven hours. I could cover the Tokyo Data Show in one day without too much effort, but CeBIT needs at least two days to see everything, with around 15 large halls with perhaps three to four times as many exhibitors. The hot topic this year was telecommunications, so I hear.
And telecommunications could be a big topic for me soon. A short while ago I get a brochure from Telekom, asking if I would like to be a beta tester for ADSL, aka cable modems, for nine months. Is the Catholic a Pope, I muttered hastily, feverishly filling out the reply postcard. Now I just to wait and see if I am accepted. I very much hope so.
I have been thinking about finding another online service to supplement Compuserve, primarily to have faster ISDN access. Compuserve currently only manages modem speeds on ISDN (28.8 kbs), so I wanted to find a reasonably-priced ISP. That was a problem in itself, since German rates for Internet access are relatively high, but I felt it might be worth it if I get the full ISDN speed. The Telekom ADSL deal is a dream come true.
A short while back I saw a message on one of the Tokyo BBS - or to be more exact, the list servers for former Tokyo BBS - talking about a cable modem service in Tokyo for 5,000 yen a month and asking if it was worth it. "It's a steal!" I shrieked, wishing that I could get cable modem over here and at that price. The Telekom deal is 48 DM a month (about US$30), plus some telephone charges, plus a free cable modem, plus free installation of the cable. You do need to have a well-loaded Windows 95 PC with plenty of disk space and RAM, plus a sound card and an Ethernet network interface card (NIC) for the cable connection, since ADSL uses the same coax cable as for cable TV.
The main problem in setting all this up is to have enough physical slots in the PC, plus interrupts to spare for a sound card and a network card (the cable modem is external and plugs into the network card).
Now you're talking
The project is intended to test a wide range of multimedia services, so you need a sound card and an MPEG software decoder (the latter can be provided free by Telekom). What do you get? Streaming video as if you were watching TV, on-line audio without any hiccups and with CD-ROM, quality, and lightning-fast data downloads. ADSL stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, so there is a big difference between the upload and download speeds. Uploading is at a stately 128 kbs, or twice the speed of ISDN, while downloads are at 20 times the speed of ISDN. The connection has to be to within a mile or two of the exchange, and it slows down if you are sharing the line with other people on the same loop, which is quite likely due to the way it is wired en route. But it is still very fast.
Obviously, this scheme ties me to T-Online and all its foibles, but I could live with that, especially at the concessionary price quoted. It would mean that I could download even the largest of files from T-Online at lightning speed. Given that I have finally got the ISDN card working and did some file transfers with an agency in Stuttgart at highly gratifying speeds, I look forward to the turbo version. Subjectively speaking, a direct ISDN transfer was just a bit slower than copying a file to the floppy disk, but it was more than acceptable to watch a file that took up most of a floppy disk being sent in around 30 seconds. That kind of things does wonders for my phone bill, even more than the current round of price reductions by Telekom.
Talking of price reductions, the liberalization of the German market last January has not yet had much impact on the public, since the new service providers all target business users. To put it another way, I have not had a flood of letters and phone calls from eager salesmen trying to persuade me to change over. The new providers and Telekom are both offering their biggest reductions for long-distance and foreign calls, neither of which are that significant for me now as a result of Compuserve. But the presence of these competitors has put pressure on Telekom to lower its prices. Too bad that local calls are largely unaffected.
Now I'm talking?
A fast Internet connection would make a big difference for Internet telephony, and I will see if that is included in the package. Now who do I know who has their system set up to answer my call? Answers on an e-mail postcard, please.
Whether or not I get ADSL, I still plan to set up the Boomerang dictation system on my PC before too long. The limiting factor is that the person who has to transcribe my dictation from the sound file I send to him or her needs to have a fast Windows 95 PC with plenty of RAM and disk space, and that is the problem at the moment.
I mentioned in the last column that I was preparing for a showdown with Adobe over my "no upgrade possible" copy of PageMaker 6.0, but suddenly a package arrived from the USA, inside which I found my upgrade to PM 6.5. Many thanks to Compunique!
I love the Matrox Millennium II card, but it is a real bore running Windows 3.1 without RAM Doubler. Windows crashes far more often, the HP LJ5 driver often fails to load, and I get the "System resources running low" message after a while. Never saw the latter while RAM Doubler was installed, so it was obviously doing something useful. At some stage I plan to reinstall Windows 3.1 completely to get rid of the accretions and to reconfigure it from scratch. I wonder if some of the loading problems are due to a hard disk problem, but the diagnostics all give it a clean bill of health.
Next month I hope to be able to report further on ADSL. Maybe Christmas will come twice this year?
Comments or feedback or more information?
Contact me on Compuserve on 100575,2573 (DAParry@compuserve.com)
© Algorithmica Japonica Copyright Notice: Copyright of material rests with the individual author. Articles may be reprinted by other user groups if the author and original publication are credited. Any other reproduction or use of material herein is prohibited without prior written permission from TPC. The mention of names of products without indication of Trademark or Registered Trademark status in no way implies that these products are not so protected by law.
The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group
Submissions : Editor
Tokyo PC Users Group, Post Office Box 103, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo 150-8691, JAPAN