Friday, April 07, 2006

APOD Desktop Version

One of my favourite websites is NASA's excellent Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD). Every day, APOD features an outstanding photograph or image of some aspect of "our fascinating universe". A succinct but informative explanation compliments each picture.

There is also a downloadable version of APOD available that automatically downloads a new astronomy picture every day and displays it on your computer desktop. The desktop version includes the image explanation, which is heavily hyperlinked for those seeking more information. It is therefore educational as well as aesthetically pleasing.

The APOD software is free and "as is". However, I've been running it for several weeks on my Windows XP system with nary a hitch.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

PCI Modem Connection Problem

Last weekend, my neighbour asked if I could help solve an Internet connection problem she was having. She could successfully connect using her dial-up account, but could not browse web sites or receive email.

After first ensuring that the computer was virus, spyware and trojan free, I tried pinging websites via a command prompt, but this was unsuccessful, even though the connection was still active. I tried disabling any programs that might be interfering with the connection, including the firewall and various scanners. This did not resolve the issue.

To check that it was not a problem with the ISP, I tried the account on another computer and found that it worked perfectly. I also tried another working dial-up account on the problem computer and encountered the same connection issue. Thus the problem was clearly on the client computer.

After some resolute googling, I tried altering the modem settings as described on several sites, but this did not help either. I installed a network card in the problem computer so that I could use my broadband connection to do a Windows update and install a more up-to-date modem driver. No joy!

Next, I replaced the modem with another that I knew was working correctly but the problem still remained. This really had me scratching my head! In fact, if I had hair, I probably would have pulled it all out!

Then I realized that I had not yet tried swapping the modem to a different PCI slot. Lo and behold, this simple procedure fixed the problem completely! I suspect some sort of conflict must have been causing the problem with that particular PCI slot. Updating the BIOS or doing some prolonged conflict hunting may have solved the PCI slot issue, but I decided to leave well enough alone (grin).

So, if you are having problems solving a modem connection issue, don’t forget to try moving the modem to another PCI slot. It may not solve your problem, but it’s certainly worth a try.