Q. Every time I dial a computer bulletin board system, Internet
provider or some other online service, I never get a 56-Kbps connection, even though I use
a 56-Kbps modem and am dialing into a 56-Kbps service. Sometimes I get 33.6-Kbps
connections, but usually it’s 28.8 Kbps. Why?

A. If you must dial one digit to get an outside line, you’re going through a
private branch exchange phone system, which performs a digital-to-analog conversion and
drops V.90 speed to V.34 speed. V.90 is the international standards name for the 56-Kbps
protocol; V.34 applies to the slower rates you mentioned.

Check with your modem manufacturer for updated drivers or flash upgrades to ensure your
modem follows the correct protocol.

Q. It’s that time of year when I’ve got to order a bunch of desktop
PCs. I don’t know what Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 5.0 will be like, and
I’m not sure Windows 98 is suitable. What minimum configurations should I buy now to
be ready for either?

A. We won’t see NT 5.0 until late 1999, so minimum specifications could change.
Microsoft Corp.’s current specs for NT 4.0 are Pentium or faster processor, at least
16M of RAM (32M recommended), 110M free on the hard drive, CD-ROM drive or network CD
access, VGA or higher-resolution display adapter, and Microsoft mouse or compatible
pointing device.

Windows NT runs slowly on Pentium or Pentium MMX processors. I recommend you buy
Pentium II processors with clock rates of at least 266 MHz. Performance takes a big leap
from the 0.25-micron manufacturing process for 333-MHz and faster Pentium IIs. The BX
motherboard also gives a bit of a boost, but only 350- or 400-MHz processors are available
with the BX chip set [GCN, April 20, Page 1].

I always double Microsoft’s RAM recommendations, and I’d say 64M is the
minimum now. For NT 5.0, you’ll want 128M. Memory chips are inexpensive, so make
certain your systems have enough slots to add memory later.

As applications balloon in size, 6.4G hard drives should be your absolute minimum.
Anything larger than 10G is superfluous for most office work. An 8.4G drive is ideal.

You might be tempted to get the DVD-ROM drives beginning to appear, but variable-speed
24X to 32X CD-ROM drives will do nicely.

Make sure each system has an Accelerated Graphics Port X2 card with 133-MHz bus, which
will give better performance than a PCI accelerator. Just 4M of video memory is
sufficient; 8M is overkill unless users will videoconference or give presentations on
their systems.

Add speakers to Microsoft’s list. Sound is a valuable feedback tool for your

The Sneaker Sleuth is on the case. Got a baffling bug? Sneaker.Net’s author,
GCN Lab manager Michael Cheek, will answer questions about common computer problems. Send
your query to If your question
appears, you’ll receive a GCN T-shirt.

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