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BT/Yahoo PAYG modem dial-up Internet - what a mess

Got dragged around to a pal's house last Sunday, to help him install his shiny new Dell laptop. It was a nice bit of kit, and came with a number of start-up applications, including Orange, Tiscali and BT/Yahoo Internet (PAYG) pay-as-you-go dial-up modem set-up software, pre-installed on the notebook's hard disk.

Being a chump, I forgot to bring my Bluetooth PCMCIA card that would have allowed me to use my 3G mobile as a mobile modem. So I relied upon the dial-up Internet options on the Dell notebook to get me online and register the various applications that come bundled with the machine.

The Orange software simply refused to work, period, whilst the Tiscali software rejected the PC, claiming it was set to the wrong graphics standard. Huh? The BT/Yahoo package allowed me to register for 0844 PAYG Internet access at 3p connection plus 1p a minute. Not a bad deal, until you realise the client software is one of the most pernicious modem packages I've ever seen.

For some reason, BT/Yahoo include a modem lock facility as a standard feature on the software. This ostensibly prevents you from dialling up the Internet without loading the BT/Yahoo client software, but really it blocks the modem and COM3 from being used by any other application.

Which is a bit of a bummer if you later try to install a USB broadband modem, as the BT Speedtouch modem's installation software spots something sitting on COM3 and stops the Speedtouch broadband modem from being installed.

The only way to install the USB modem software is to de-install the BT/Yahoo PAYG dial-up software, including manually removing it from the Program Files directory and then regedit-ing the Windows Registry to unlock the dial-up modem state. See - I told you it was pernicious.

There is absolutely no reason for BT/Yahoo to have coded a modem lock option into its dial-up Internet client software. No other software I've seen to date has this option. Actually it's not an option, as whilst there is a menu choice theoretically allowing you to unlock the modem when you right click on it, the choice is greyed out at all times.

I complained to the BT/Yahoo helpline about this. Their response was to tell me it was there to stop spyware applications from dialling premium rate phone numbers, but they would look into the issue for me. That was Sunday. I'm still waiting...