HELP FILE

Cell-Phone Data Services and Ditching Duplicate Files

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I live on Kent Island, Md., and want high-speed Internet access but can't get cable or DSL. Will any of the cellphone carriers' data services work? If not, what can I do?

Only three of the five nationwide wireless carriers -- Cingular, Sprint and Verizon -- offer data services with speeds close to cable or DSL at about $80 a month. But according to the coverage maps on those companies' Web sites, Sprint's Power Vision and Verizon's BroadbandAccess stop at the Bay Bridge, and Cingular's BroadbandConnect barely touches the western edge of Kent Island.

All these carriers let customers bail out of contracts with no penalty during an initial trial period, so you could get a laptop connection card from one and see how things work out.

For most people living far from the city, satellite broadband is the only viable alternative, even if it is slow and expensive compared with other broadband offerings.

The basic services of HughesNet ( http://www.hughesnet.com/ ), StarBand ( http://www.starband.com/ ) and WildBlue ( http://www.wildblue.com/ ) offer 500 kbps to 700 kbps downloads for $50 to $70 a month and require paying $300 or more for the receiver hardware. (Cable or DSL is often three times as fast at prices ranging from $30 to $40 a month.) Satellite broadband also comes with a noticeable lag time that impedes such interactive uses as online games, thanks to the 44,000-mile round trip your data must take. But if you're sick of dial-up, you're sick of dial-up.

After a few too many backup and restore sessions, my hard drive has multiple copies of the same files all over the place. Is there any automatic way to ditch the duplicates?

The users at Download.com seem fond of a free program called Clone Cleaner Lite ( http://www.clonecleaner.com/ ). It's a little geeky, but it ought to get the job done.

If you use a Mac, try the $40 shareware program File Buddy ( http://www.skytag.com/filebuddy , 30-day trial available).

-- Rob Pegoraro

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 orrobp@washpost.com.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company