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Option-Click AirPort Menu for Network Details

If you hold down the Option key while clicking the AirPort menu in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, you'll see not just the names of nearby Wi-Fi networks, but additional details about the selected network. Details include the MAC address of the network, the channel used by the base station, the signal strength (a negative number; the closer to zero it is, the stronger the signal), and the transmit rate in megabits per second showing actual network throughput. If you hover the cursor over the name of a network to which you're not connected, a little yellow pop-up shows the signal strength and type of encryption.

 
 

Fast Modems Rule

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In the last year we've seen the rise of several varieties of fast modems, which I jokingly call "v.everything" modems because they seemingly support every standard protocol in the telecommunications world, including such arcana as v.22bis, v.42bis, v.32, and v.32bis, none of which I'm going to explain here. I could do so, and if there's enough clamor I might consider it, but it's not that interesting and the major magazines have all done a decent job of it in the past. In addition, I feel you shouldn't give a hoot what protocols your modem uses; you should ignore it entirely because all modems should support all protocols. As we'll see, that's unfortunately untrue.

In any case, as enthusiasm grew to a fever pitch, I decided that in the interests of science I should review several of the most popular modems so I could pass on my findings. I chose two modems based on several criteria: price, features, company reputation, and the pitch of the online fever. The modems are the Practical Peripherals PM14400FXSA and the SupraFAXModem v.32bis. The Supra modem sells for around $360 discount, and the PPI 14400FXSA (they should shrink that name) goes for about $50 more, but you should find either affordable, assuming you can afford that much at all.

The testing took some time, and during that time I experienced numerous tangential problems: the night the demon fax machine from hell called every 15 minutes but could not connect, a trip or two to Macworld, and the ultimate decision about which modem to keep. As such, this review expanded to include information and opinions that arose during the testing.

 

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