By Columnist
msnbc.com
updated 8/15/2006 7:56:13 PM ET 2006-08-15T23:56:13

How fast is my high-speed Internet connection — and can the new breed of wireless modems achieve similar speeds?

I'm asked that a lot so I chose it for today’s first question —from Dave Williamson who says he hails from "Everywhere, USA."

I hear a lot about individuals eliminating home telephones and relying on cell phone service for all their needs.

My wife and I have gone this route because it’s our only option. We travel full time in a 40’ motor home. 

Outside of satellite systems which cost an arm and a leg, the cell phone as a modem is our only link to the Internet.

Our connection speed shows 230.4 kbps, and is still slow compared to broadband standards.

Is there any way to increase to broadband speed utilizing the cell phone connection method?
Solve this dilemma, and a lot of RV’ers will love you.

Dave, this isn't what you’re going to want to hear.  It sounds like you’re using close to the fastest speeds available on a wireless connection.

I suspect your data service is EV-DO which stands for Evolution-Data Optimized.

By definition, EV-DO service is capable of up to 10 times the peak data rate of the next best public wireless solution or a maximum download speed of 300 to 512 kilobits per second. Your 230.4Kbps speeds are typical of an average EV-DO connection.

It turns out that EV-DO is much faster than other current wireless standards including GSM/GPRS/EDGE or 1xRTT networks. But, it is slower than some (Cable, DSL) wired broadband home connections.

The good news is that in the near future wireless network download speeds will be faster. As networks improve they should be capable of speeds two or three times what is currently available.

EV-DO is also known as WCDMA when employed by some other cell phone carriers — like T-Mobile and Cingular.  Both companies are rumored to be rolling out their high-speed wireless data networks in the near future.

James Hundley ofLaVerkin, Utah wants to know if there’s anything he can do to reverse the effects of spyware and unsolicited programs running on his computer:

I made the mistake of trying Bearshare and Limewire two years ago. Never recorded a single song.

Now when I go to turn off my computer it says other people are logged on.

How can I stop this theft of my files?

There are a few things you can do, Jim.

First step would be to use a spyware detection program. There are many available on the Web for easy downloading and use. If you’re running Windows you might try the free Beta2 download of Microsoft’s Defender software and follow the instructions.

Hopefully, that should help. It’s not a bad idea for all computer users to run anti-spyware to see if there’s anything nasty is going on — whether or not you’re experiencing similar problems.

If that step doesn’t completely solve your problem next up would be to visit your computer operating system’s Control Panels (easily found in Windows XP’s start menu) to check the list of programs that are running on your computer. If there are any you don’t recognize or want any more you should try to remove them.

Finally, if there are some titles that you’re sure you want to delete — and you can’t do so using the Control Panel — then I would try using the Windows Task Manager to try to stop certain processes from running.

This is not a step to take lightly. You need to know which processes are critical to your computer and which are controlled by those nasty spyware programs. It’s usually best left to experts.

The last resort — and the most drastic — would be to wipe your computer’s hard drive completely clean and start all over again. I’m hoping the spyware software will do the trick.

Alan Clarke ofOshawa, Ontario, Canada has a simple question for me:

What is the best PDA to get?

If all you need is a phonebook and appointment keeper, something inexpensive, like a Palm Z22 ($99) will fit the bill perfectly.

If you also need to carry all your songs, photos, games and videos on one device then you need something a lot more elaborate like the Palm Life Drive mobile manager ($399) or one of the HP iPAQ handhelds ($299-599).

Then again there are now many PDA functions built-into modern-day smartphones from a number of manufacturers.

I suggest you decide what features you need — zero in on the devices which will deliver those features — then search for the best price. 

Good luck.

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