El Cheapo Products and ADSL

Sometimes you can get away with buying an el-cheapo product but most of the time you end up getting caught.

A couple of weeks ago my scanner gave up the ghost in the middle of an urgent job and I was forced to go out and borrow one. The scanner had been the cheapest available in its day but the borrowed one turned out to be a vastly different proposition. 

It had not been chosen on price but on the quality of its output and I was amazed at how much better and faster it was than my machine. I was also dismayed when I realised I couldn’t even begin to count how much time I had wasted by buying too cheaply. 

Not only did I spend a lot of time waiting for the scanner to do its thing but also in trying to enhance the poor images it produced. The time wasted must run into weeks, at the very least.  
Bitter experience has shaped my first law of buying things and that is never to try and buy too cheaply. My feeling about computer peripherals, for example, is that you can’t go too far wrong by sticking to the top brands like HP or Epson and getting the best model you can afford. 

In a couple of my most recent articles I’ve bemoaned the poor Internet connection speeds that are available via modem and the high price you have to pay for anything better. Just when I though the subject was closed I received mail from a reader who pointed out that a really viable alternative to modem connections could be just around the corner. 

The technology in question is called Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) which uses existing copper wires to provide a blisteringly fast permanent Internet connection. ADSL is great from the speed point of view and it also means that you’re no longer clocking up monster phone bills while you’re online. 

In a past column I reported that Telkom was testing ASDL and a recent article on http://www.itweb.co.za claims that they are due to launch the service in September. According to reader Trevor, who has it from sources inside Plessey, the service will most likely cost us between R300 and R400 a month. 

I can believe that sort of pricing because BT is about to launch a similar service in UK at 39.99 pounds per month per month. I’m quite sure that there’ll be some sort installation fee but, even so, most of us will end up saving money. 

There are no details available as yet about the sort of speeds we can expect from Telkom but BT is offering 512kps connections which should translate to download speeds of over 3Mb per minute. Hot damn! 

I should perhaps mention that there is a teensy weensy little drawback to ADSL which is that you have to be within a specified distance of an ADSL-enabled exchange. I believe the allowable distance is about 2km which means that some of us are going to have our days well and truly ruined when we find out we’re outside the limit. 

In closing, I can’t do better than repeat Trevor’s comment that it might be a bad idea to commit to a long-term Internet access contract. Things are going to be happening so fast that there is the chance you’ll be stuck and unable to switch when something better comes along.  
I’ll be pursuing Telkom for more details about ASDL so watch this space.

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