The dish is on the roof. Consumer-class two-way satellite service from Pegasus Communications.

Equipment was delivered about three days after I placed the order, and the installation took place about eight days later – almost exactly what was promised. The installers arrived on time and did a nice job – about two hours total. They got the satellite aligned and then handed over the cable to plug into my computer – they have no responsibility for installing the software or bringing the system to life on the end user’s computer.

The software was a breeze to install on a Windows ME system. It was more difficult on Windows 2000 Server; it started to work on the third time through the installation program, but with no clear indication of why that time was successful when the others had failed.

The satellite modems connect with a USB cable to the computer. (Windows NT computers are out of luck.) The satellite device shows up as a network adapter, and a proprietary program from Pegasus runs the connection.

First important question: can the connection be shared among multiple computers? Well, to be honest, I’m not sure yet. I’m able to share the signal because I’m running a proxy server, but that just exposes how far I am from the world of normal people. It looks like it would be possible to turn on Internet Connection Sharing on a Windows 2000 computer, but I’d have to try it to be sure. In any case, the computer running the connection has to be logged in for the Pegasus software to be running, which is quite different from a DSL or cable connection. I’m even less sure about sharing from a Windows ME/98 computer.

Second question: how does it perform? After three days, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. It’s clearly slow to respond to clicks – there’s quite a lag between a click and a response, as the signal goes up to the satellite and the response comes back down. I’ve had long periods where performance has been stellar – responsive and speedy. I haven’t measured yet, but download speeds are supposed to be as high as 400Kb, and it feels like I’ve been there often.

On the other hand, there have been a few times when the connection has timed out for no particular reason, and others when it was deadly slow for a while. No pattern to it yet. And today it lost track of the satellite dish for a while. Tech support answered promptly and was patient and helpful, but it took powering down the computer and the satellite modems and bringing them back up before the signal came to life.

I don’t have all the answers yet. I will gladly suffer the glitches and occasional outages if I have a speedy always-on connection for a solid majority of the time. Getting off a dialup connection is worth a large price. If you’re in an area with no cable or DSL coverage, you might be feeling some of the same emotions, but judge your tolerance level carefully.

More information as it develops!

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