The Internet can be frustrating. We know there is a growing wealth of information and services waiting for us on the Web, but because of slow and unreliable connections, we can't always get to it as efficiently as we'd like. Products promising to speed up standard Internet connections abound, but few can actually live up to their often extravagant claims.
Here's a solution the snake-oil salesmen aren't offering: Kiss Software's Modem Wizard 4.0, a connectivity utility that lets you tweak your Internet connection and verify transfer rates. It also detects and fixes some network and modem problems. Best of all, Modem Wizard doesn't rely on hocus pocus; it doesn't promise to speed up your Web connection. What it does is optimise your existing hardware and software so that it runs as efficiently as possible.
And the latest incarnation of Modem Wizard -- while still using automated wizards to help new users get on their feet -- now gives experienced users greater control by allowing manual access to more advanced settings.
At $49.95, Modem Wizard is a great tool for those who want to maximise their dial-up connection speeds. But users of broadband services might not be able to justify the cost, since many of Modem Wizard's key features do not apply to cable or ISDN modems.
Spy on your modem
Modem Wizard's interface is well constructed and allows for easy transition between the three sections of the software: the Net Monitor, the Modem Wizard itself, and the Connection Manager.
The Net Monitor provides a glimpse behind the scenes of your Internet connection, giving a running tab of the kilobytes sent and received during a session, as well as handy access to the IP addresses of visited Web pages and a count of how many "hops" it took to get to them. The monitor also lets you calculate the "true speed" of your connection, using a test download, and displays your own IP address. (If your ISP uses dynamic IP settings, your address can change with each connection.)The Modem Wizard can run tests on your modem similar to the ones that Windows runs itself. But unlike Windows, the Wizard can actually fix some of the problems it discovers. The Wizard can also test your current dial-up networking settings if you're on a standard dial-up connection.
The Modem Wizard's Optimize feature makes sure your modem and system settings are tuned for maximum connection speeds. For instance, it automatically aligns the maximum transmission units between your modem and your ISP, theoretically resulting in faster connections. It also checks MSS, RWIN, and NDI cache settings, and tests transfer rates for FTP uploads and downloads -- useful for verifying your connection speeds.
The Fast IP feature, which memorises the IP addresses of your favourite Web sites, can also help to boost surfing speeds by converting URLs into IP addresses. This takes the load of this task off the Domain Name Server at your ISP, effectively shortening the time it takes to access a Web site by bypassing the DNS.
For dial-ups only
Although Modem Wizard 4.0 has added support for broadband Internet connections such as cable and ISDN, many of its tools won't work with anything but a dial-up modem. For example, a new recovery feature allows you to save and back up your modem's dial-up networking settings -- useful in the event of a hard drive crash. But this feature would not save the network settings for my cable modem.
Likewise, the Connection Manager let me set many useful preferences for dial-up connections, such as backup numbers to use in case the primary number is busy. But the manager let me create only a generic profile for my cable modem connections.
Overall, if you're using a standard dial-up modem, Modem Wizard is a very useful addition to your hard drive. With a good mix of automated functionality and options for advanced users, the program provides a solid solution for keeping your Internet connection running smoothly -- without the burden of empty promises.
Phone: (02) 9899 5888