Walking around the Internet World in Los Angeles, it seemed that everything involving the Internet is free these days. Free DSL, free disk space, and heck - even free legal information. Yes, your eyes did not betray you. In a 24-hour/7 days a week chat room at USLaw.com, attorneys are giving something away for free. There must be a catch, right? Of course there is. What you get is general legal information, not legal advice. This means that there is no attorney-client relationship and hence no attorney-client privileges, so your little chat is not necessarily kept private.
But FreeDSL is good, isn't it? Well, in this case it really is - if you can actually get it, that is. On April 3 the Broadband Digital started the first phase of the rollout of their always-on, high-speed DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) technology for several thousand subscribers in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and Orange County. By the end of this year the service is expected to reach about 40 markets. FreeDSL service is available over existing telephone lines, which support two bandwidth channels - one for voice (telephone) service and another higher bandwidth channel that is used for delivering data at high speeds.
The basic FreeDSL service is free at speeds of up to 144 kbps, but you have to endure the advertisements plastered all over your desktop. You can also get the same speed without any advertisements, but this costs you $9.95 per month. Which is actually not a bad deal at all, considering that most people still pay $19.95 per month for 56 kbps dial-up access. For $19.95 you actually get 384 kbps at FreeDSL, that is almost seven times faster than 56 kbps! However, there is one tiny little detail: you must buy a DSL connection kit for $199 that includes the necessary hardware and software - unless you can refer 10 qualifying customers. In that case the connection kit is free as well. But before you can lay your hands on DSL, you need to subscribe at FreeDSL's Website and provide basic demographic and geographic information.
The biggest problem, however, is actually getting the service. You might as well forget about the fast lane to the Internet, if you do not live in a major metropolitan area. And even if you do, you may still not qualify. Like me, for example. I live in San Jose - in Silicon Valley, the heart of the information revolution. For over one year now I have tried to get Pacific Bell's much advertised DSL service, just to hear that I live about 700 yards too far way from their switch. Go figure.
On the left side of the Netscape 6 interface is a new feature called 'My Sidebar', a so-called 'mini' companion browser, that allows users to keep the online functions and information they rely on in one place. Also new is a Web search field in the main browser toolbar, and the ability to store multiple email accounts. Netscape 6 is available for free download from Netscape Netcenter. But users beware! It is only the Preview Release 1, and it still has quite a few bugs. After I installed Netscape 6 on my computer, it crashed a few times when I tried to access a Website. It also did not import my email address book from the old version 4.7, which is really annoying. I, for my part, switched back to Communicator 4.7. I'm waiting for the next release of Netscape 6.
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