Alta Vista’s Free Internet Access on a Floppy


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Rating: Excellent!


After my ISP went down one day, I decided a backup provider was not a luxury but a necessity. If your anything like me, the thought of being without access is no longer an option. I had read reviews of the various “free” ISP’s, NetZero, AltaVista and even WalMart is offering free access and based on those reviews, AltaVista seemed the least offensive of the choices.

The Good:

The point of offering free internet access is to sell you something and our job as consumers is to get that free access with as little “intrusiveness” as possible. The application for AltaVista service is a simple two page affair with a few questions about your preferences, and the usual name, address etc. questions, and that’s about it.

One of the best features is the small size of the download, only 600k. This is where it gets amazing. Contained in this little dialer setup is the phone number access database for the entire United States! You can put this little thing on a floppy and take your Internet access with you wherever you go. Just change the area code in the setup and there are the available local dialup numbers. You Road Warriors can certainly appreciate that kind of flexibility for your traveling laptops.

During the initial setup, you are offered the choice of an AltaVista e-mail address or using your own. I chose to use my own and AV accesses my POP3 server and downloads my mail with no muss or fuss.

Does it work? Using the service is fast, easy and reliable. No busy signals and rather than be knocked off line for inactivity, an ad pops up and must be closed to maintain the connection. My ISP just knocks me off. The connection speed is the same as my “real” provider. You can set up personalized sports, weather and news headlines on the required screen banner, which bring us to..

The Bad:

A BIG HONKIN’ BANNER! This thing is 640 x 80 pixels (680 x 80 at higher resolutions). I run at 1152 x 864 on a 17′ monitor and it’s really not that bad at that resolution (you can move it around). On my other computer running 800 x 600 on a 14″ monitor it is enormous and you’re really going to want free access to put up with that.


Absolutely worth having. The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. With a high-resolution monitor, I would consider using it as a primary ISP. As a backup, it’s perfect even with the size of the banner. It just works. And the ability to carry access around in your pocket on a floppy or on your laptop while traveling is irresistible.

Submitted by: RC

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