- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2002

They've been wrasslin' with the question of broadband access up on Capitol Hill recently, and over at the Federal Communications Commission as well. The final outcome may not be 100 percent certain, but this much can be said: better and faster Internet access is a good thing.
For almost four years now, it has been a very good thing for me, via my cable TV company. They ran a line into our apartment, hooked up a special modem and presto, I was surfing the Net at about 1.224 MB per second, about 23 times the rate of my 56 kbps dial up modem.
Is it worth it? You betcha.
That would end the discussion there, except for two things. One, the cable modem supplied by my carrier offered little in the way of protection once I hooked up a wireless home network. This could leave me vulnerable to hackers as well as lead to some other problems, but more on that in a moment.
Second, the cable company bless their hearts was renting the modem to me for $10 a month, which was a good deal for them, but not so hot for me.
Here's why: Assuming the modem cost $150, or even $200, my monthly fee paid for that modem within about the first 18 months of doing business with the firm, maybe a little more, or perhaps a little less. After that, the rent is pure profit for the cable firm. (It's safe to assume, by the way, that whatever the retail price of a cable modem, the cable company got their units at a nice discount, shortening the payback time and increasing their profit.)
Last fall, I got word that my cable company would allow me to hook up another, better modem. Between the time my odyssey in cable Internet land began and now, a new standard called the Data Over Cable System Internet Specification, or DOCSIS, emerged. This standard included better security to keep my computer safe from hackers and my home wireless network from reaching out to other cable subscribers in my local "loop," a problem I once had with the old cable modem.
Thanks to the folks at Best Data Products (www.bestdata.com) in Chatsworth, Calif., I was able to borrow a Smart One CMX 110 cable modem, which is currently offered for $130 from the firm's Web site. Installation was simple: All I had to do was cable the cable company and have them "provision," or link, my modem's network address to my account on the system.
As with my older modem, the CMX 110 features an Ethernet port that can connect directly to an Ethernet connection on a computer or a router such as I have on my wireless home network. Either way, another connection is made with the main computer and then I'm able to surf at warp speed, or pretty darned close.
I wish I could say something profound about the Best Data Smart One CMX 110 cable modem, of how I had a problem but was able to overcome it with tech support from the firm. But I can't because there were no problems. The modem was and is a "plug and play" solution for my high-speed Internet access needs, and has worked, nonstop, for several months now without a hiccup. I've thrown all sorts of demanding downloads (and uploads) at the modem without hassle.
If you have a cable Internet connection, and if you want or need your own cable modem, you could not do better, I think, than to get this unit from Best Data. It's worth checking with your cable company to verify compatibility, but that shouldn't be an issue in most systems.
March Mac Madness? Not really. I'm becoming quite attached to my Mac after about 10 days of doing most everything on this platform. One thing I failed to mention is that OS X users will want to get their hands on a very useful book by David Pogue, a multifaceted gentleman who knows his way around a Mac 3OS X. "The Missing Manual" is in bookstores for $25 from O'Reilly (www.missingmanual.com). The book offers an expert guide to the ins and outs of the operating system. It told me when nothing else could how to get the time display in the menu bar to work on a 12-hour (a.m./p.m.) clock instead of a 24-hour one, and "Appendix A" will help old Mac hands find out where everything in the old "Apple menu" of System 9 (and earlier) can be found under OS X.
If, like me, you plan to be serious about using the Mac and its newest operating system, you should be serious about getting this book in order to save aggravation and grief. I highly and happily recommend it.



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