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DIAL-UP:

Connecting to the internet for multiplayer gaming purposes can be one of the most aggravating experiences in your life…warping, dropped connects, insane lags are just a few of the ugly things that pop up…Joystick configurations, video card hassles, crummy Internet providers all compound the misery. The purpose of this document is to shed a bit of light on the rocks - and make it a bit easier to identify the problems and select a solution.

What kind of SIMS? Do I have what I need?

The scope of this article covers TCP/IP inclusive flightsims like CFS1, CFS2, ATF Gold, USNF97, Fighters Anthology and WarBirds. The TCP/IP connect routines are built into these sims and do not require a 'third party' server or a 'DOS' operating environment or a 'network emulating' program to fool the sim into thinking its being operated on a traditional cable type network (e.g. kali or kahn). TCP/IP Multiplayer capability is a brand new feature in off the shelf gaming, and we can look forward to lots more SIMS that feature this unique ability to host multiple players in real time on the internet. Unfortunately, this is so new a concept, the documentation for connect specifics are scanty at best. In the past five weeks two new Multiplayer sims have been introduced, with many more waiting in the wings. Our prayers have been answered.

What The Games Want

The TCP/IP Multiplayer environment is very demanding. Your game is looking for an uncorrected and uncompressed data flow, and your normal Windows 95/98 Internet work/desktop environment normally prefers and defaults to the opposite. You are going to need to create a connect environment that supports the games need for unrestricted high speed two way data thru put. A high-speed modem and a Pentium speed processor combined with a good Video card is a prerequisite for success in Multiplayer. If you’re driving an old dog 486 with a 14.4 modem and a 1mb dram card; give it up now. Fast Pentium processors and quality video cards and modems are a mandate for acceptable Internet game play. Bring lots of ram to the fray too…you'll need all the hardware power you can muster to host a multiplayer session. The 'Bleeding Edge' is very hardware specific.

Configuring the Connection

With a Windows 95/98 based operating system the modem configurations can be a nightmare, particularly if you happen to be unlucky enough to have a Windows 95/98 PnP (Plug-N-Play) modem. What I'm ‘gonna do is outline a method that has been proven to work with most modem types, and provides you with a way to refine or tailor your connect without messing with the settings that already work fine for you when cruising the internet or running provider software such as MindSpring or AOL. What we're going to do is generate a new 'Dial-Up Networking' connection that will be used to connect to the Internet for game play purposes.

Surgery

  1. From "My Computer", select "Dial-Up Networking".

  2. Click on "Make New Connection".

  3. Name it “Game Connect”.

  4. Plug in your IP's phone number in the box, click next, and then "Finish".

  5. Now edit your new connection, left click the new Dialup Icon, select "Properties".

  6. Your current modem should already be highlighted, click on "Configure".

  7. Select 115200 for the connection speed. DO NOT check "Connect only at this speed".

  8. Click on the "Connection" tab at the top, then "Advanced".

  9. Put a check next to "Use flow control", then select "Hardware (RTS/CTS)".

  10. If "Use error control" is checked uncheck it. This will also turn off the compress data selection. Take note of the "Extra Settings" box; we may have to come back here; but leave it blank for now.

  11. Click on "OK".

  12. Now click on the "Options" tab.

  13. Only the "Display Modem Status" option should be checked. Make it so.

  14. Click on "Server Type". Type of dialup server should already be "PPP: Windows95”, etc..

  15. Next, in the "Advanced Options" box, check "Log On to Network", and then uncheck "Enable software compression" and 'Require encrypted password'.

  16. Finally, only “TCP/IP” should be checked in “Allowed Network Protocols”.

  17. Click on "TCP/IP Settings''

  18. "Server Assigned IP Address" should be checked.

  19. "Server assigned name server address" should be checked, and "Use default gateway on remote network" should be checked.

  20. Finally, uncheck "Use IP Header Compression".

  21. Click "OK", then "OK" again, then click "OK" one more time.

The ruff stuff is done. Reboot! This cures about 90% of the connect difficulties experienced with most connects for TCP/IP play on the Internet. If after trying this setup; you still experience difficulties; read on…maybe one of these discussions will shed light on what you are experiencing, and point the way to your "cure".

The 'Handshake' is King

Getting a good high speed "handshake" (your "connected at" speed when your modem connected to your IP) can be a heartbreaker…many modems; particularly PnP “Windows” modems can be extremely stubborn to convince that you want a FAST handshake speed. Getting a fast handshake (115200bps) is crucial to the quality of game play in CFS1, CFS2, NF97, ATF Gold and Fighters Anthology. SIMS with lower graphics workloads like WarBirds can tolerate (even improve in stability) a lower connect handshake. Most PnP modems normally default connect to your IP at 62K or less with compression and EC enabled; no matter what you did with your Windows 95 connection preferences. For these; you must perform a 'lobotomy'…remember the "Extra settings" box? (Step 10, Surgery) We can put an initialization string in here, tailored to your modem type to defeat it's natural inclination to confound your efforts at getting a fast non corrected and non compressed two way data stream with the other computer. For some; just adding "&F2" (without the quotes) is all that's required. For others; "&F1&K0&M0" (those are number zero's, not letters) do it. You can try some of these setups plugged into the "extra settings" box that have worked on various modem types.

Alternate 'Extra settings' strings:

&F2
&F1&K0&M0
&F&N10
&F1&C1&D2
&F2&K0&Q0

There are others…if you are lucky enough to have a "big name" brand modem, help can be had on their Web site for strings that work best with that particular brand of misery. For most; &F1 or &F2 or &F3 will load the modems default NON-error correcting and NON-compressing protocol stings. Check you modems manual for pointers.

Other Tricks

Still can't get the connect speed up? You can try selecting a different modem. Some PnP Windows modem types have a 'proprietary' lock on your comm port; and will not allow you to share the port with a different modem configuration or a second modem. If you are one of these poor souls; this won't work at all. (Sorry!!!) For a huge number of others, switching modem types in the modem setup dialogue is all that's required to kick the connect speed up to 115200. Here's how to set up the preferred Optional Modem.

Adding a Second Modem Configuration

(Strongly recommended!)

  1. Go to the control panel and select modems. Click on ADD. Do not let windows auto detect; you will select the new modem from a list.

  2. Next; from the list; select the "28.8 Standard" modem, found under "Standard Modem Types". Assign it to your normal comms port (if you have one of those nasty PnP Windows modems, you won't see your normal comm port here) and click "Next" and "Finish".
  3. Now you'll go ahead and highlight the newly installed modem and click on properties, and set maximum speed to 115200. DO NOT put a check next to "Connect only at this speed".
  4. Now click on the "Connection" tab at the top of the screen; and then click on "Advanced". You'll note that there is no error control; and no data compression...and that flow control is set for "Hardware" (RTS/CTS). Leave it that way!!!
  5. Click out; click "OK", then click "OK" again, and finally click on "Close".
  6. Reboot!
  7. Now, go to Dial-Up networking and select your game connect Icon, and select "Properties". In the window at the bottom select "Connect with..." and select your 28.8 Standard modem. Bet you you’ll connect speed is 115200. If it isn’t, read on…

The IP Nightmare: Are you getting what you are paying for?

Your provider is a crucial key to success with TCP/IP connects, and this connection to the net must be EXCELLENT. Folks; I hate to be the one to tell you this, but your $19.95 generic provider can be just fine for cruising the web…but just not cut the mustard for internet Multiplay. Quality Multiplayer connections require a Quality Internet Provider.

Due to sheer load and traffic burdens in some areas this can sometimes mean that the 'Big Name' providers are not the best choice. There are a huge number of not-so-hot providers out there!!! To make matters worse, some of these providers can have connect routines that override the user selected modem defaults or be of such poor quality that a non error corrected connect is impossible.

If you just can't seem to get the connect speeds up; or the game play is fraught with disco's and warps no matter how you configure, check your provider out carefully. Does he have an older T1 connect to the net? Are you trying to connect and play through a provider like CompuServe, AOL or Prodigy? If so; get another provider, or get used to being dropped; discoed; hung in the game, and messing up the play for anybody you try to connect with. (Note: CompuServe has recently upgraded its parent system; connects are greatly improved! 10/18/97).

Multiplayer is in a large part now possible due to improvements in provider access capability to the Internet…the type of link he has to the net is crucial! Make sure your provider has a T3 Connect to the Internet. Some services offer a T3 connect to the net for a surcharge. Most providers that offer a T3 connect only will charge 4-5 bucks more per month for it, or apply a time limit…Gents; ITS WORTH IT! Anything less and you'll never be happy with the game play.

Windows 95...arrrrrrrrgh!

Nothing can be more aggravating than those confounded continual “protocol errors' message dialogue boxes. If you’re even a little bit suspicious about what was a good connect attempt gone awry; reboot the machine. Many times I've made radical changes to connect protocols and simply could not connect…And a simple reboot cleared it up. Often; for no apparent reason 95 does take a dump on the Winsock or connect protocol with the modem and refuses to connect. REBOOT!

Probing Ever Deeper….

Checking the Comm Port Settings. And then there are the funny things that lurk in the background…like your comm port speed.

Open up your Device Manager (my computer, control panel, system) and have a look at your modem's comm port settings. ‘Betcha its speed is still default set at 9600! To move the speed up to 115200:

  1. From Device Manager Highlight Ports (COM&LPT), and double-click.
  2. A drop down list appears; highlight your modems port (usually Com1 or Com2).
  3. Select 'Properties', then click on the port settings tab at the top.
  4. Open the bits per second window and check 115200. Leave the 'Use FIFO Buffers' box checked in 'Advanced'.
  5. Click 'Ok'; then click 'Ok' again.
  6. Reboot!

All we want to do from device manager is 'open the gate' a little wider by channeling up to a higher port bps thru put setting. We only want to adjust the Bits-Per-Second from here, and not mess about with anything else. Some machines have staggered with the FIFO settings modified… only change them as a last resort!

Comms tools we can all use

NetMedic is a shareware program that quickly sorts out the connectivity issues we all must deal with; and offers a diagnostic/quick fix subroutine that puts your hardware's connect profile (comm port settings, etc) where they should be for an optimum connect. You can get the 30-day FULL FEATURE trial free by clicking here. This program is most highly recommended! Once the program is installed, simply make your 'standard modem' connect to the Internet and start the program. It will sort though your hardware configuration and if it notes any bottlenecks or slowdowns located in your hardware configurations; it can automatically repair them. Once the 'auto correct' subroutine has finished, turn Error Control and Data Compression back off manually in the Dial-up Networking properties dialogue box for the connection you are using.

More IP Headaches

Even with the best of IP's out there the connect can be lousy. Local conditions; problems with up line routers and plain 'ole jammed-up servers from traffic conditions can conspire and combine to frustrate your efforts to set up a good connect routine. The key is knowing when the conditions causing the problem are on your end or beyond your control…and sometimes its best to 'just call it a night'. For the more inquisitive out there; there's a way to look for what might be causing the problem, provided you were able to get a connect from your temporarily mobbed IP. While connected to the Internet; open the `Run' command dialogue from the `Start' menu.

Type in: TRACERT ###.###.###.### (# being the exact IP# of the person you are trying to connect with).

You'll be astounded and amazed by the amount of info you can gather on the route your connection is taking.

Follow-On Connects

Another cute trick is recognizing the modem spool up tones…often when a connect with one protocol is followed by a connect attempt with a new protocol, the results are a lousy or failed connect…As an example; I connect to EarthLink using a program based connect protocol which is entirely different than my Internet connect protocol. When I start a connection to the Internet after having used the EarthLink connection; my modem starts up with the tones I recognize from the previous EarthLink connection. I have to stop the connection, and restart it to get the correct Internet strings into the modem! Stay alert!

NF97/ATFG/Fighter Anthology Notes

Being Windows 95 based, these three latest releases have excellent TCP/IP connectivity features. However, game play has been noticeably improved by using the "Standard Modem" configuration as outlined above. Using a connection that has Error Control and Compression enabled degrades performance in the sim. If all connected players are using the 'standard modem connect' routine I've outlined significant reductions in warping and lag have been noted.

WarBirds 1.11 & 2.0 Notes

(And most other 'server' Multiplay SIMS)

SIMS and games that are played on servers generally suffer from traffic loading problems endemic to the massive numbers of people present. WarBirds and AirWarrior are excellent examples of this genre of Multiplay. These systems have a server that 'hosts' you along with everyone else. The server is generally running at a much lower bps than you... as an example; the WarBirds v1.11 server runs at only 9600 bps! What you need to play on these types of SIMS is a lower connect speed, as this improves the reliability and stability of the connection to the game server. In all other respects; the connection guidelines noted above work extremely well, the only variance being your modems 'connect at' speed. Your connect speed, if set much higher than the servers handling speed (i.e.; you are connecting at 115,200, the server is running at 9600) often results in a poorer quality connect than optimum. For these types of server hosted high-population SIMS, back the connect speed down to 19200 or 38400 to compensate for the slow system you are playing on. These servers need a reliable connect; not a fast one. Remember, server hosted high population games and SIMS are operating under an immense handicap; hundreds of players very quickly degenerate play quality!

Telephone Lines

Another area that can be checked (and rarely is…) are your telephone lines. Now let me explain a bit further: you actually have two sets of telephone lines. The first are the lines OUTSIDE your home running from the telephone poles to your house. The second set is the set of wire that are actually INSIDE your home.

Outside Lines

Most local telephone companies want to help you obtain the telephone best service available. Most have a special “trouble number” that you can call to report problems with your outside telephone lines (in Georgia, for example, the number is 611). Here is what to do:

  1. Find out what the problem number is for your area and call it.
  2. Let the telephone company know that you want to report a possible problem with your outside telephone lines.
  3. Tell them that you have a standard 56K modem and that you are having problems with your connection (dropped calls, static, etc.). Ask them if they can come out and check the lines running to your house. Most telephone companies will do this part for you absolutely FREE, but check with your local telephone company first.

Typically, they will call you back in two or three days, and let you know what problems (if any) were found, and what was done to correct it.

Inside Lines

These are a bit more troublesome to troubleshoot, and it is here where you will end up having to fork out some money to try and find any problems. I recommend these steps, especially if your home is five years old or older.

  1. Again, contact your local telephone company and explain to them what the problems are, and that you’d like to have them come out and check the lines INSIDE your home.
  2. Make sure you find out how much they charge to do this before you have them come out. A lot of the telephone companies will bill the charges to your telephone bill, thus avoiding you having to fork out money right away.

Grooming

Telephone companies use "grooming" to maximize the use of their cables that feed from the serving central offices to a consumers' location. For example, today you might be connected to a specific cable assigned to a specific pair of wires. In order to free up facilities for new subscribers, the company might move you to a different cable and re-route it to your facility, adding length (dangerous for high-speed transmissions). And you might now be sharing the cable route with other high-speed circuits like DSL and/or T-1 lines.

The higher number of high-speed circuits, the slower response time for dial-up access. This is the reason that access is slower during certain peak periods and that sometimes your service seems to degrade over a long period of time. The telephone companies perform this grooming in order to provide the best service with the least amount of new construction, and it is an ongoing maintenance procedure.

File Sharing

Check your dial-up connection to ensure that file sharing is turned off. If file sharing is enabled, a fair amount of overhead is eaten up advertising a PC as a file server on the Internet.

Lightning

If you do contact the telephone company to send out a technician, have the repair person check your lightning protection module that is installed at the entry into the home. If it is corroded or damaged, it will significantly reduce your connection speeds.

 

DSL:

Most people assume that moving to DSL would put the days of dropped connections and slow Internet experiences in the past...There are some really basic methods of maintaining the best possible DSL connection. I'll start with the easiest trick of them all --- anybody who can flip a switch can do this one:

DSL modems occasionally lose what is called "synchronization". When this happens, e-mail doesn't work. When you try to get on the Internet, you can get frightening --- and completely unhelpful --- on-screen messages that tell you what you already know: The dang thing doesn't work. Almost 90% of the time, all you have to do to restore service is to switch off the DSL modem and any router you may have connected for 20-30 seconds, and then turn them back on.

The next tip starts with what will probably be a new term for you: MTU. The computer world has always done its part to make you feel dumb by combining letters in brand-new ways. MTU stands for Maximum Transmission Unit. And knowing how to adjust the MTU can be a big deal if you are not computer savvy. To understand MTU you need to know that data travels on the Internet in "packets". If you send an e-mail to your buddy, the note is broken down into bite-size chunks, and these are then sent out in a stream. You can set your computer to adjust the size of each packet. And that can make a world of difference. While the process of doing this is simple in itself, it takes a long-winded explanation. I found an excellent site on the Internet that will take you through the process of deciding whether your computer is set up correctly to maximize the MTU. If it isn't, you'll learn how to adjust that packet size. Go to http://www.dslreports.com/faq/5793 and follow the instructions. Download DrTCP (52.5KB) from the site, a neat little program designed to help you set the best MTU setting for your computer.

Next we'll discuss people who use a wired home network to share their DSL connection.

 

HOME NETWORKS:

Many people have asked me how long a run of cable they can use and still have a reliable connection. Usually they are worrying about the wrong thing. Unless you live in a 12-bedroom mansion it's unlikely this will be a major problem. You can go 250 to 300 feet without a problem. And if you do live in a joint like that, do the economy a favor and hire somebody to fix your computer. You're too rich to bother with wiring yourself...lol.

The most common problem with this kind of network wiring (using what is called a CAT5 cable) is usually a "kinky" one. Sharp bends in the cable can create problems --- everything from a fatal break in one of the wires running inside the main cable to a tight crimp that messes up (but does not kill) the connection. So be gentle with your cable.

Finally, let's talk about "slow" DSL connections...These are always a shock to new users, and the problem often ends up creating a feeling that this new-fangled technology has betrayed them in some way. I mean, they sprung for DSL and suffered through the cost and installation, because they were sick of slow dial-up connections. The first time their DSL seems "slow", they panic and holler.

The first thing to keep in mind when it comes to DSL is that the problem is often the Web site you're trying to visit...The second thing to remember is that the Internet itself "slows down" at various times in a specific area due to the number of people trying to do the exact same things that you are trying to do: surf the Web, dude! Possible causes for this slow down also include the fact that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) may be experiencing problems (AOL users should be used to this by now...lmao). If the slowdown is temporary or confined to a specific Web site, just be patient and don't worry.

On the other hand, if your connection is always slow, the problem might be in your house itself. Interference from other gadgets can cause problems with a DSL connection. And this is the time to worry about the kinks in the wiring that I mentioned above, bad wiring in general, even spurious signals emitted by something as small as a near-by fluorescent light bulb or that 2.4GHz cordless telephone you just spent mega-bucks on.

Experiment by turning off suspect devices. Make sure that the digital telephone filters that are provided as part of your DSL "kit" are installed. These are the DSL filters that attach to each of the telephones in your home. Make sure that there is one installed on EVERY telephone line in your house. Even missing one can cause a nightmare. In fact, if you don't mind spending a wee bit extra and doing some manual work yourself, install a new DSL Wall Adapter Filter. These replace the telephone jack coming from the wall itself with one that includes a DSL filter built right in. Another potential problem could be the home alarm system you have installed. The wiring for it can cause problems with a DSL connection, so if you aren't sure, contact the company that is providing you with the home security service and ask questions about the wiring and it's potential effect on a DSL connection in your home.

The truth is, tracing down the reasons for a slow DSL connection can be a real witch hunt...But if you work slowly and try to change one thing at a time you'll eventually get there. The same site I mentioned above for the MTU settings also has a good page with lots more information. Go to http://www.dslreports.com/faq/258 and take a look around...

That's it!!! I hope these tips help...

Michael Priester

AB_Lt_Cmd_Riker

Commanding Officer

ABSquad

 

 

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