Power Tools: Getting a SLIP/PPP Provider

NetGuide, May 1, 1995

SLIP Into Something Comfortable

Instead of putting together a group of applications to configure your SLIP (Serial Line Internet Protocol) or PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol) account, you might want to consider one of the following kits or services. You'll spend more money, but in return you'll get an easier setup, since these direct Internet Protocol products usually come with built-in links to an Internet service provider.

PSI (800-774-0852) offers direct IP for both Macintosh and Windows using its Interramp software. For $99, you'll get the Interramp software and 29 hours of Internet access using PSI as a gateway. After that, fees vary, averaging around $2 an hour.

Pipeline (212-267-3636) offers free direct IP software for both Windows and Macintosh--along with Internet access--for various prices, depending on how much access time you buy in advance. The catch is that Pipeline's access numbers cluster around New York City. Those outside the area must use SprintNet, with fees that add an additional $5 to $2.50 an hour, depending on time of day. (At press time, PSI bought Pipeline; it was unclear whether these services would be merged.)

Spry Inc. (800-557-9614) sells a direct IP, Windows-only product called Internet In A Box for $149. Unlike PSI, Spry does not provide dial-in Internet access. All these companies permit you to run third-party software, and their packages come with electronic mail, FTP (File Transfer Protocol), Telnet, gopher, news and Web browser applications.

Of this group, PSI probably offers the best combination of value and support.

For even easier setup and configuration, there's always a pseudo-direct IP connection, or a connection that makes your computer feel like it is on the Internet, even though it actually isn't. The problem with a pseudo-IP connection is that you cannot run third-party software, such as Netscape or Eudora. However, pseudo-direct IP gives you real ease of use--nothing to configure and immediate Internet access. Netcom (800-353-6600) offers its Windows-only NetCruiser software free and Internet access for $2 an hour, plus various set-up and monthly fees depending on usage. You'll get e-mail, a Web browser, gopher, FTP and news.

Many universities offer free or low-cost Internet accounts to alumni. In addition, corporations with high-speed Internet connections often provide dial-up access to employees. Many communities across the world have also set up free-nets, providing free or low-cost dial-up access. Check the PDIAL list (see main story) for a free-net near you.

A final option involves getting an Internet connection through one of the commercial online services. Prodigy now offers access to the World-Wide Web, along with e-mail, FTP and Usenet news. America Online and CompuServe should begin offering similar access soon. For the utter simplicity of these options, you sacrifice speed and the ability to choose your own applications.

The future will bring rapid changes. Microsoft will offer direct IP with Windows 95, as will the next version of the Macintosh operating system (Version 8.0, code-named Copeland). IBM's OS/2 Warp already comes with direct IP, and retails for $90 (800-3IBM-OS2).

by David S. Bennahum