Topics for September 2002
Copyright (c) 2002 Commodity
Systems Inc. (CSI). All rights are reserved.
Topics discussed in this month's journal.
CSI will be closed for voice communication on Monday, September 2 for the U.S. Labor Day Holiday. The CSI host computer will be accessible as usual, and data from those exchanges that remain open will be available at their normal times.
Over the past decade, the Internet has opened opportunities that few dreamed possible, or even imagined when CSI began vending data in the 1970s. Although most of us at CSI were initially reluctant to join the World Wide Web revolution, we have since embraced the medium and its great promise. The Internet is now an integral part of our services. Without it, we could not provide the broad scope of coverage we do. Unfair Advantage® capitalizes on the Internet's nearly free local and international communication capabilities to move massive files of information between CSI's host facility in Boca Raton, Florida and customer sites around the world.
Although our customers are all fairly up-to-date in terms of computer technology, I sometimes hear stories of users going through a range of Internet service levels seeking the most economical and efficient means of communication for their personal computers. With all the available options, such efforts can be quite a trial. We would like to explore some of these in this Journal to help our customers find the type of service that most appropriately processes UA's data files while remaining within each user's own budget. With new technology, the World Wide Wait might better be called the World Wide Whoosh. Don't get left behind.
At the lowest level and lowest speed is the basic phone line with modem. The speed of the connection (i.e. the number of bits per second (bps) that can be passed across the line) will depend upon your computer's modem speed and the speed of your Internet Service Provider's (ISP's) local access line. Typically, this speed is somewhere between 28.8K bps and 56K bps. Telephone lines may work perfectly well, but when very large files of information are to be moved, the wait can be agonizingly long. For example, picking up missed data that accrued while you were on vacation and/or downloading program upgrades can tie up your phone line for hours.
Given the incremental cost of using a phone line (as low as $0), this type of service is an attractive choice for some subscribers. However, in comparing prices, you should consider that, due to the time involved when downloading daily information, heavy computer users often install a second phone line for accessing the Internet. Other communication methods may provide all-inclusive services, including communication by voice and computer at the same time. These alternatives are definitely worth a look.
The term "Broadband" refers to high-speed transmission methods that use expanded bandwidth to provide high-volume movement of data. Bandwidth is a term that refers to the amount of information that can be simultaneously transmitted. Perhaps the most visible difference between dial-up and most broadband services is that with broadband, there's generally no dialing; they're "always on." While being constantly connected saves you time every day, it can lead to security issues. Unless a "firewall" is present or security software is installed, your computer could be vulnerable to hackers.
The other noticeable difference with broadband is the transmission speed. Although many factors can affect the ultimate speed of downloading, broadband access averages around 10 times faster than a standard dial-up connection. Compare a dial-up connection with a V.90 (56K) modem, which actually transmits no more than 52K bps, with a broadband service that downloads at 512K bps. A sixty-second download using a phone connection takes just six seconds on broadband. That's quite a difference!
Cable is currently the most popular method for bringing broadband service to home computers. It adds perhaps $40 to $50 to your monthly cable bill. These connections are available from your local cable TV service using your cable company's shielded coaxial. This service benefits from a potentially very high bandwidth that you would share with your neighbors using the same communication path. Unfortunately, as you and your neighbors add computers to that cable feed, the bandwidth gets divided between more and more customers, which can cause the speed to degrade. However, this is not a major problem within most cable service areas. Like most broadband connections, cable downloads faster than it uploads, but cable's broad bandwidth provides advantages in both upstream and downstream transmissions. It is unlikely that a cable modem user would ever be happy with a return to standard telephone lines.
Another broadband option is to arrange for a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), which splits your normal phone line in two and uses half for data transmission. This type of service is currently not as readily available as cable service, so it hasn't caught up with cable in terms of subscribership.
There are a number of different types of DSL lines, the most common being ADSL and SDSL. ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) is asymmetric in that it uses most of the channel to transmit downstream to the user and only a small part to receive information from the user. This type of line is popular for Internet users because it provides excellent download speed and very acceptable upload speeds. It does so for a reasonable cost, somewhere from $40 to $50 per month. This option, which requires a DSL modem, is twenty to fifty times faster than the phone-line based modem.
I personally just had my Southern Bell telephone service add an ADSL line to my home. I will be charged $45 per month for the service, but I had to pay a one-time $50 start-up or application fee. In addition, I had to pay another one-time $125 fee for a DSL modem, but my Internet Service Provider (ISP) will rebate the modem fee back to me. I will also be able to use this ADSL line for simultaneous voice communication during active data transmission sessions. In my home setup, I now have several computers tied to the same DSL connection. To capture the same speed improvement for all four computers, I had to change my standard router to a DSL router at a cost of $75. I recommend this to anyone requiring the speed advantage at all stations.
The difference between the ADSL and the much faster SDSL line (Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line) is that the SDSL provides equal bandwidth for both upstream and downstream data. This type of line generally allows you to send and receive information at a full 1.5M bps. Providers of SDSL lines target business users, mainly because of the higher cost ($100 to $150 per month), and because individual users tend to download information from the web far more than they upload to the web.
Both ADSL and SDSL lines let you send data and voice simultaneously over the same line, so you can talk or fax while you surf the Internet. This technology typically uses your existing phone line, so no wiring is necessary other than the connection of the DSL modem to your computer and line. There could, however, be a delay in acquiring the service. Your local phone company will likely take 10 to 20 working days to provision your telephone line for DSL.
A drawback of the DSL line is that it can only be used for home or office locations that are less than three miles from the DSL source. For longer distances, an ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) line might be considered. An ISDN line has the capability to transmit voice, FAX and information (data) content, but does so at a slower rate (128K bps max) than either cable or DSL technology. This type of line consists of two channels (2 lines) called 'B' channels. Each channel can handle 64K bps. You can use each channel to place a call to two different numbers simultaneously, or bond the two B channels to form one high-speed 128K bps connection.
The ISDN communications line requires an ISDN modem (called a terminal adapter) for an individual connection or a router for a network connection. The speed of an ISDN modem is about five times that of a standard modem. The typical cost of an ISDN line is around $150 per month vs. $40 or $50 for the DSL line. The ISDN technology is slower and more expensive than either cable or DSL, so both of these alternatives are better values if they are available.
High-speed broadband Internet access is available from almost anywhere in the U.S. through satellite systems such as DIRECTV. While this relatively new service originally required that you use a phone line and modem for connecting to the Internet and transmitting input from your computer, two-way satellite connections have recently become available. Now both downloads and uploads can speed through broadband's "fat pipe" unencumbered. Hardware requirements include a 38-inch dish (placed with a clear view of the southern sky) that is typically professionally installed. The number of users in your area never adversely affects transmission speed. As you might imagine, this can be a pricey option, currently costing about $1,300 for installation and a year of service. International availability of satellite service is growing, but has not yet reached U.S. levels.
Time and Money
These are the common methods of communication available today, but that
may change by the time you read this newsletter! New advances are made
every day, and prices change to keep up with the new technology. It is
important to recognize that whether you update your CSI database through
a single household phone line using a free ISP, or if you use a souped-up
broadband system, transmission quality is generally quite good. The major
differences are in the time spent downloading and the price you pay for
the service. We hope that your efforts in keeping up with the latest innovations
of the Information Age, while perhaps challenging, prove to be rewarding
The introduction of Unfair Advantage's accounting program has been postponed to UA version 2.5.2. It will provide intraday updates and balances for your futures positions traded in multiple international currencies and priced in your currency of choice. It represents an important enhancement to the software that you won't want to be without. Look for the free upgrade on the CSI website. CSI reserves the right to charge a premium for this upgrade for new customers of record after October 31st, 2002.
There was a brief flurry of excitement and some consternation in July, when a discussion of CSI's new rate schedule appeared on the Omega-List website. Through the course of off-line correspondence with concerned subscribers, the new rate schedule has gained acceptance and even approval. Despite attempts by our staff and by other Omega-List subscribers to post a document that allays concern, the editors have (so far) declined to print it. We hope that this memo will clear up the controversy.
The main thing we want to reiterate for our readers and for readers of Omega-List, is that no existing CSI customer of the "personal and private" classification for futures data will be remotely penalized by CSI's new pricing policies. All existing customers are grandfathered in with full historical data through the new program, and all futures traders should see a reduction in monthly rates. Only existing customers who go over the new limit of 59 markets upon renewal will be affected. We believe that most, if not all, who cannot trim their portfolios down to 59 futures markets are likely commercial class users who have inadvertently subscribed as "personal and private" customers. Our Commercial Sales specialist will be happy to help arrange other affordable means to accommodate such companies or entities.
For "Personal and Private" futures market traders, the quantity of "markets" allowed for automatic daily processing is unlimited until expiration of their prepaid term. Upon renewal of their prepaid term, the number of allowable markets referenced in portfolios, the UA API and UA's MarketScannerT (henceforth described as "portfolio content") will be limited to 59 according to our current license agreement. A "market" is defined as all the contracts of a commodity - COMEX copper, for example.
Renewing users who access more than 59 markets are charged $1.00 per month per market for the balance of a customer's subscription term for each market that exceeds the 59-market limit. The 59-market limit is identified in UA's licensing agreement as a threshold that defines where "extended use" begins. Any expansion in the number of markets beyond 59 is permanently permitted through the current contract term upon making payment to CSI through CSI's bookkeeping operation. Users should add or delete from their market limit requirement prior to renewal to determine future charges.
The 59-market limit does not in any way affect the number of markets one may access or view in charts. All 800+ futures markets collected by users are available for display or processing at all times at no additional charge. The 59-market limit only affects total "portfolio content" at a given time. A user's portfolio content may change at any time without penalty, so long as the "portfolio content" limit does not increase. There is no such limit for stock, funds, options or any other CSI data series.
CSI's new rate schedule reduces monthly rates in some categories, and simultaneously restricts the historical data that is freely available for review by customers who are new to CSI data services. Additional historical data can be permanently obtained at a price of $10 per year for most market classes, and an extra year of history can be earned each year by simply remaining on as a subscriber year by year. The 59-market limit applies to new and renewing customers who follow futures markets, but the 59-market limit can be expanded for only $1 per market per month or avoided by substituting new markets into your portfolio in place of unwanted existing markets.
listing of the new rates is available on the CSI website.