Making Yourself @Home
Why is high
speed cable Internet service like the musical "Oliver!"?
It's an "artful
dodge" for Web surfers frustrated by the dialup experience - and lets you
"consider yourself @Home" on the World Wide Web.Unfortunately, quickly "reviewing
the situation" might make you conclude that you've got to "pick a pocket or
two" to pay for cable's premium service.
Don't let that
scare you off, though; if you're really going to use the Internet over the long
haul, @Home is probably worth the $39.95 or so per month, plus tax, price. For
that, you get unlimited high speed access to the Internet - 24 hours a day,
with no dialup process through which to wait. You also get three e-mail
addresses, five Mb of space with which to set up your own Web presence, and
news and chat groups capability.
My @Home test
service came from Shaw Cable, but it's also available from other cable
operators depending upon your location. Installation, usually priced at $99US
or so (but which goes on sale sometimes), saw two people show up at my door - a
"Cable Guy" and a "Computer Person."
The "Cable Guy"
tests your signal to ensure it's up to snuff, then installs a splitter and runs
a conventional cable to your PC. While the "Cable Guy" is getting strung out,
the "Computer Person" sticks an Ethernet network card into your computer and
connects it to a cable modem.
cable's hooked in, the software gets installed and the system configured for
your account. The process took about 45 minutes and the system has worked very
well for the most part.
Not that there
haven't been some problems; nothing's perfect. I've heard of people complaining
about connection conundrums, slow downloads, and a general lack of support -
legitimate concerns, all. I experienced the first two issues - but to be fair,
it didn't happen as often as it has with various dialup accounts I've used and
was probably due as much to "Net congestion" as anything.
As for customer
service, I had no reason to call them, so can't comment about that.
On the whole,
I've found the @Home experience very pleasurable. I figured I'd like the speed,
and I do - but it's the constant, instant access to the Web that I really love.
It's great: the Internet is always there, a virtual extension of your computer,
as if the entire World Wide Web were a gigantic, interactive CD-ROM.
The speed is
usually very good. @Home claims it rockets along at up to 100 times faster than
a conventional modem, though that may be somewhat hyperbolic for real world
purposes. Still, it's fast enough that web pages usually load far more quickly
than with a 56K modem - and file downloads are far less of an ordeal as well.
I retrieved the
25 Megabyte "Star Wars, Episode 1" trailer, which I would never have bothered
with using a modem, and was pleased to see it zip onto my hard drive in about
ten minutes. Later, however, the system was so bogged down that I ended up
killing another try at downloading it after a few hundred K. I can't blame
@Home, though; it was more likely because everyone on Earth was grabbing a copy
of that marvelous movie preview.
value, @Home offers a nice selection of local content. Most of it is easily
accessible on the Web anyway, however, but it's handy to have it all gathered
into one central location.
where you are, local info can include links to local radio and TV stations,
area newspapers and magazines, events, movie, music, restaurant and theatre
listings, and various government services.
You can also
surf local info for each @Home service area. My family used that to help us
plan our vacation trip.
hometown stuff (and non location-specific content) is quite extensive, and you
may use it often. I don't think it's enough reason to get the @Home service,
there are plenty of other reasons...
I use the
Internet a lot, and @Home has really spoiled me. The speed is great, but
it's even better being able to hit the Web site of any company or product I
need to research faster than my modem can even connect - and not having to
worry about using up my allotted hours and running up extra charges.
It all adds up
to a delicious cyberfeast that, in keeping with the "Oliver!" twist on this
piece, will keep you saying "Please sir, may I have some more?"