ABC Nightlife 19 October 2001

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Internet access and problems are the common questions we hear of on both the on-air radio spot and in day-to-day work. During the Nightlife show on 19 October we heard from a few people with some typical problems.

The !0000 e-mail myth

Rosie called in with a tip on how to avoid e-mail viruses. By putting a false entry into your address book, you can help stop the spread of viruses that highjack your address book to spread. Sadly it doesn't work, a detailed explanation is available on the about.com website.

Whenever you receive an e-mail that claims to be from an authority, check out the details on some of the terrific websites that cover urban myths and hoaxes. Snopes is the best general site and V-Myths the best for exposing virus-related myths. Have a look at these sites before passing on an e-mail about syringes stuck in cinema seats or the scarey new computer virus that will destroy your life.

Scandisk on startup

Scandisk is the program built into Windows that checks for hard drive errors. Windows 98/ME will run it on startup when the computer has not been shut down properly. Nicholas was finding Scandisk running whenever his computer starts.

Windows 98 does have a number of bugs that can cause this problem. The simplest solution is to go to the Windows Update webpage and download the critical updates as well as the specific updates relating to the large IDE hard drive patch and the Mapped Drives Patch.

It is also possible that the hard drive has problems. Running Scandisk in thorough mode will test the surface for any defects. Bad Blocks on a hard drive usually indicate it is time to get a new hard drive.

Modem dropping out

One of the most irritating problems encountered on the Internet is a modem that constantly drops out. Sam was finding that his Internet sessions are constantly being disrupted.

Like most problems, finding what is causing the problem is a matter of elimination. The first thing to do is to disconnect all other phones, faxes and answering machines that are connected to the same line and then see if the problem goes away. If it does go away, then try re-connecting the devices one by one, eventually you will find what is causing problems. It may be that you just have too many things on the one line.

Listen to the phone line, is there crackling and static on the line? Modems hate that interference and will disconnect if there is too much noise. If you are getting these noises, contact Telstra to check your lines. Over the years we've seen everything from water in conduits to currawongs nesting on poles causing these sort of problems.

It could also be the computer or the modem. Try someone else's modem or get a technician in to have a look at your computer settings. Unfortunately it can be a long process identifying the cause of a unreliable Internet connection.

Independence Modems

Tony called into ask about "independence modems." We'd never heard of these and suspected it was some marketing gumph. It turns out that we should have been talking about impedance modems. Impedance is another factor that affects the speed and reliability of an Internet connection.

The modem Tony was talking about is the Maestro Woomera. It has been developed to deal with poor quality phone lines by memorising the characteristics of the phone lines. In the right circumstances this can give an improved connection to the Internet.

Next Talkback session

Once again, our apologies to those who could not get through on Friday. We'll next be on ABC local radio across NSW at 11.30am on Saturday 11 November. Nightlife is to be advised.

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