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Real speed freaks go DSL

By Rob Pratt

I'M A TOTAL BANDWIDTH HOG. I'd rather stream music from MP3.com or my home MP3 server--password-protected for personal use only, of course--than drop a CD in my boom box. I'm endlessly fascinated with Windows download-file dialog boxes.

My Internet speed secret is really no secret: DSL, baby. Since cable giant AT&T has totally lagged in wiring the area for cable-modem service, DSL rules in Santa Cruz County--and it's just as well. Cable modem service has some troubling security issues, and there's no real guarantee of data speed.

Getting a DSL line run into your home, though, has been difficult for the past few months. Reorganizing amid a spate of mergers and acquisitions while attending to a boom in demand for DSL installations, Pac Bell's Internet service divisions have been in a state of chaos, and until recently it took weeks and months to get a technician to your door ready to wire your house. Pac Bell now reports, however, that installation lead times are down to 30 days. Many local Internet Service Providers, like Cruzio or Tycho.net, offer DSL packages but ultimately rely on Pac Bell to do the actual wiring.

For computer wonks or bandwidth hogs willing to put in a little extra work, DSL offers the first realistic opportunity for home users to stake a claim to a piece of Internet real estate. With even a mid-level DSL connection (which should run in the neighborhood of $80 per month after $300 in installation, setup and equipment charges), a household can effectively run a local mail-server and web server for a unique domain. A student household of three or four people could register a cool domain, divvy up responsibility for running the local area network (LAN) and organize a fighting clan with enough connection speed to dominate online games of Quake III Arena.

Of course, all that requires a dedicated computer that acts as router, firewall, mail server and web server. But with an investment of time to learn the basics of Linux and ethernet networking, it's totally doable--and a decent accomplishment to add to your résumé.

(Rob Pratt, when he's not editing Metro Santa Cruz's arts pages, takes out terrorists in Rogue Spear and Deus Ex.)

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From the September 13-20, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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