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QUESTION: Hi, Ted--

The website seems to have lost our thread here. It's taken me a while to respond as I was experimenting with your suggestions. My latest revelation is that a different computer with a different ethernet chip (Intel PRO/1000 CT vs. the former VIA PCI 10/100) does greatly improve the reliability of my internet connection. But the second computer has its own limitations (both software and hardware), so I'm trying to network the two together using a second router and the wireless dongle I got as a first attempt to solve the internet access problem (you won't be surprised to learn that Verizon's junk-grade wireless router couldn't get a useable signal here from about 25 feet away - hence, the long ethernet cable). Anyway, the LAN connection is equally shaky, presumably because it's relying on the same defective ethernet chip in the main computer. You never suggested it, but can I replace the ethernet chip with a better one? Or is it hopelessly buried somewhere on the motherboard? If so, would a second wireless dongle, allowing me to completely avoid the ethernet adapter, work in such close proximity to the first? I also have a Zonet USB/Ethernet adapter, but haven't found a way to convince WinXP to recognize it.

It seems like there's a solution out there, but it sure takes a while to find it! Thanks for your help & patience--
Fred Granlund

ANSWER: The VIA chips are very low quality, no wonder you are having trouble.

Yes, if you have a free PCI Express slot you can buy a gigabit Ethernet card and install it in your PC.  It will show as a second Ethernet interface under windows.  You can right-click on the primary Ethernet interface and select Disable.  I think you would be better off doing this than continuing to mess with the wireless, since the signal strength is so bad.  Certainly it will cost a lot less.  Just return the wireless dongles and exchange for an Ethernet card.  Most any of them on sale will be fine just make sure they list XP support on the box.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Oddly enough, Frys doesn't offer a gigabit Ethernet card, but they have two choices for a 10/100Mb card (undoubtedly fast enough, given Verizon's lame DSL signal) from D-Link and Trendnet. The specs look the same; neither mentions XP specifically, but both claim to support "all popular operating systems." Is there any significant difference between them that you're aware of?

ANSWER: Of course Fry's has gigabit Ethernet cards, here are 2 SKU's off their website:

Frys # 3047219
Frys # 7570296

The Fry's website is one of the worst in the industry, do NOT buy anything there, go into
the store and ask.  I'm not going to even explain how I arrived at the 2 SKUs above
because I do NOT want you using that site.

Make sure your system has a PCIe slot first.  If it is a very old system it
may only have PCI slots but the PCI buss isn't fast enough for gig Ethernet.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Jeez. . . navigating the shark-infested waters of online shopping for networking gear in mind-boggling. . .

I doubt that my PC (custom-built back in the '90s and updated several times but not recently) has the latest hardware. It doesn't, for example, accommodate SATA drives. How would I recognize a PCIe slot? And if we're back to the 10/100Mb adapters, is there any difference between the two models Frys admits they have? Or do you think they have something better in the store? According to speakeasy.net, Verizon's download speed is only 5 mb/s, anyway - so I probably won't need a gigabit any time soon.

Answer
There were very few gigabit Ethernet cards made for the PCI bus.  One that I have used is the Intel Etherexpress Pro/1000.  I doubt you will find it new as I think Intel exited the Ethernet card business.

You don't need gigabit for the speed it is just that the ports on the modem are likely gigabit and gigabit talks to gigabit easier than gigabit talks to 100baseT.  Gigabit is supposed to clock down when it detects 100bastT but many of the cheap chipsets have problems.

Too bad you don't live in Oregon I have a basement full of old machines that are SATA/PCie that are decommissioned pulls from various customers that I haven't gotten around to hauling to the computer scrapper yet.

VIA didn't do the on-motherboard 10/100 chipsets on anything that they manufactured in the 90's as I recall, you must have done a motherboard upgrade at least once on the thing.  But, your machine today is likely end of line, nothing but the case would be usable with modern hardware (not even the power supply)  I would strongly recommend looking for a Windows 7 system while you still can get them, Windows 8 is an abomination and coming from an XP environment you will hate it.

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Ted Mittelstaedt

Expertise

I will answer questions on the following kinds of High Speed Internet connectivity; ISDN, Frame Relay, dedicated T1, higher speeeds such as DS3/OC3, wireless such as 802.11 and DSL. No questions on dialup V90 or Cable access. I can also answer questions on many types of Cisco routers, and a number of other brands of business routers as well.

Experience

I am the technical manager of Internet Partners Inc. an ISP.

Publications
I've written a book titled "The FreeBSD Corporate Networker's Guide" published by Addison Wesley

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