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EXPRESSNET, High Speed Web Access Through Cable TV Montgomery

by Joe Belotte

Washington Apple Pi Journal, March/April 2000, pp. 38-40, reprint information

Here is yet another article on Cable Internet. Yet another spin off from Don Essick's article in the March/April Pi Journal. Thanks, Don. It's hard to believe time goes so fast.

What if you want high-speed access in Bethesda, Montgomery county, etc and the DSL lines won't reach your home? If, by chance, you are a newcomer like me, and don't know the difference between PPP and Remote Access or LAN and TCP/IP, it could be a little difficult. It was for me. But with the help of my Apple Pi friends I braved not only my own complete lack of knowledge and experience but also CTVM, Cable TV Montgomery, which, incidentally does not support the Macintosh platform.

All I needed to know was the phone number of Cable TV Montgomery and the phone number for the Apple Pi bulletin board. I didn't even know what PPP or TCP/IP was, and in the process of getting on I accumulated 21 pages of notes, mostly explanations I got from Pi members over the TCS.

If I can do it anybody can! Actually, it is very simple --- once you understand the instructions.

Why would you want to get on high-speed cable? Well, only you know the answer to that.

Why would you want ExpressNet? Probably, only if you live in Bethesda and can't get DSL.

But ExpressNet really isn't all that bad.

Here is what I found out from CTVM (Cable TV Montgomery):

1. They do not support the Macintosh.

2. They use a one-way cable set-up, uploads go out via modem and downloads come in on cable.

3. There is software that can handle that on my Mac, but --

4. They do not support the Macintosh.

5. If I could figure out how to get on myself they will be glad to take my money,

6. They would give me a one month trial and return my month's charge if I couldn't make it work.

7. The cost is $49.00/mo.

8. They do not support Macintosh.

If you are a novice like I am you will need a little help. This article should provide it. To me, PPP was something I used to do in the snow when I was a kid. Frankly, I still don't know what it means, but I do know how to use it -- now.

I got my help from friends on the Pi TCS, a bit at a time. In the beginning I didn't even know what to ask. When I got answers I didn't know what they were talking about. So, there was a lot of back and forth on it. As a result I promised that I would put it all together for any one else who might like to follow.

Here is what you do

1. Call CTVM and sign up for ExpressNet service. There will be no installation charge (and no installation). And they will give you the modem free. (Of course you have to return it some day.) When you sign up you will agree on a screen name and password. They are case sensitive.

When talking with the ExpressNet representative, be very sure he or she writes down the same screen name and password you do, exactly. They botched my password and it took quite a while to figure out what the problem was.

They will also give you several sheets of instructions telling you how to set up -- provided you are using Windows 95 or 98. Remember, they do not support Macs. Do not toss the instructions. Although they are not for you, you will find several important clues there.

2. With your current ISP go to http://www.sustworks.com and get an application called IPNetRouter. It is approximately $89. You will use this, along with Remote Access (PPP) and TCP/IP to handle your connections. IPNetRouter is a piece of software that does a whole lot of things. For one, it gets your Mac to access the internet via both modem and cable simultaneously.

3. Make sure your regular modem is working and connected to a phone line.

4. Using a splitter and extra cable wire, connect a line from your TV cable system to your cable modem.

5. Connect an Ethernet wire between the cable modem and your Mac Ethernet port. When you connect the power source to the cable modem it will initialize itself.

6. Install IPNetRouter. Don't open it yet.

There are a lot of instructions that come with IPNetRouter and with the CTVM package. You can read it all if you want to, and I hope you will not get as confused as I did, but the following instructions below should be all you really need.

7. Set up the Remote Access (or PPP) Control Panel, entering the information given to you by ExpressNet.

Button: Registered User

Name: the screen name you chose.

Password: the password you chose.

Save password -> check.

Number: the phone number they gave you, 301.296.0001

This is an example. The exact phone number will be found in the ExpressNet instructions under "Add Dial-Up Networking Connection", Step 1d.

8. Next, set up TCP/IP Control Panel. This is a little more complicated. The IPNetRouter instructions on the web give you a lot of information, which I found somewhat confusing. Here is the Reader's Digest version:

Open the TCP/IP Control Panel.

Under the File menu, choose Configurations.

The active configuration will be highlighted. (If not, select it. It is the one in the brackets in the title bar of the TCP/IP window.)

Rename it "IPNetRouter." (There is a Rename button.)

Make sure it is highlighted and click "Make Active."

Here is the way it should be configured:

Connect via: PPP

Configure: Using PPP Server

IP Address: <will be supplied by server>

Subnet mask: <will be supplied by server>

Router Address: <will be supplied by server>

Name server addr:

I found the Name server address in the ExpressNet instructions under "Trouble Shooting Tips" Step 5g on page 4. Check to see if your instructions are the same.

From the Edit menu, select User Mode, and select "Advanced." An "Options" button will appear in the bottom right corner.

Click "Options" and click "Active." Be sure "Load only when needed" is not checked. Then click "Okay."

Again, choose "Configurations" from the File Menu and make sure "IPNetRouter" is hilited.

Now duplicate it. (There is a Duplicate button.)

Now rename the duplicate "EtherRouter."

Click the Make Active button.

You are back in the TCP/IP window.

In the "Connect via" popup menu, select "Ethernet."

In the "Configure" popup menu, select "Manually."

In the "IP Address" box, type ""

This is an example. The exact number is supplied in page 2 of the ExpressNet instructions under "Add and Configure the TCP/IP Protocol." step 3d.

In the "Subnet mask" box, type ""

This is an example. The exact number is also supplied in page 2 of the ExpressNet instructions under "Add and Configure the TCP/IP Protocol." step 3d.

The Router Address is left empty.

The Name server addr., according to ExpressNet:

I found this in the ExpressNet instructions under "Trouble Shooting Tips" Step 5g on page 4. Check to see if your instructions are the same.

Click "Options" and click "Active." Be sure "Load only when needed" is not checked. Then click "Okay."

Close or Quit TCP/IP and save.

Now launch IPNetRouter.

In the gray area there is a "Configure Interface" section. There is a popup menu, which probably says "Ethernet". Use the popup menu to select "PPP". Check the "IP Masquerading" box. Make sure the two white boxes at the right are empty. These are IP Address fields you want to leave open.

Then click "Add" and you will go on-line.

Remote Access (or PPP) will automatically dial in. When you get a connection, new connection info will be added in the third line of the white Interfaces section. And the "Connect" button with change to "Disconnect."

Open your browser. Type in www.wap.org, and you are done.

I would hope that by following these instructions, you will have no problems whatsoever. However, if there are any problems, first try the following:

Unplug the cable modem for 5 seconds and plug it back in. It took me several excruciating days, twice, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong before I learned that resetting the modem is the very first thing to try if you are having trouble.

ExpressNet does not support Macintosh. However, there were friendly and helpful people who were very willing to do what they could. One service technician didn't seem to even know what a Macintosh computer was. But, another, although hard to get hold of, runs a Mac at home, and helped me through several problems.

At one point, in order to get me back on line, the technician had to fix a problem by giving me a fixed address. I don't know what it means, but it worked. Keep that in mind just in case.

I made some comparisons between my cable connection through ExpressNet and my wife's iMac connection through AOL. Downloads were very, very fast. A file that took nine minutes through AOL took 23 seconds through Expressnet, approximately 27 times faster.

Surfing, however, is a little different, it is faster, but not that much faster. A great deal of time is wasted surfing when "waiting for reply". When you get a reply it comes in quick. Large, complicated pages download very fast. However, waiting for them to start loading seems to take about as long as with the AOL connection.

Surfing through the same path of 32 links, with AOL it took 832 seconds, and with ExpressNet it took 345 seconds, not quite three times faster. With AOL the average was 26 seconds per jump, and with ExpressNet it was 11 seconds per jump.

I spent an enormous amount of time learning the above, because I was coming from absolutely nowhere. I didn't know what to ask, and I didn't know what the answers meant. But I am on, and I am glad, and I hope that my efforts/lessons will be of some help to someone else.

Return to electric pi

Revised March 17, 2000 Lawrence I. Charters
Washington Apple Pi
URL: http://www.wap.org/journal/