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BT Cellnet's Genie Family Guide and Tips


I have been keeping a watch on the various Internet Service Providers (ISPs) initially from the point of view of Open University Students who are now obliged to use a commercial ISP to access FirstClass and the web. More recently I have started looking for alternatives to CompuServe for ourselves. In particular I have been looking for ISPs with global access for when we are overseas. There are now many free ISPs so any new candidate must have a clear competitive advantage to be seriously considered when there are fast proven services such as Freeserve. Genie certainly falls into that Class and offers many aditional services over and above the conventional ISP for the mobile telephone user and overseas operation. Few ISPs have the backing of an organisation as strong as BT Cellnet with a reputation to maintain in the communication field.

The Genie suite of services

Background: Genie was the first of the services provided by BT Cellnet and the U.Genie ISP was added shortly afterwards - recently the logical step has been taken of offering an ISP service directly by Genie. The integration of the Internet and phone technology is the key advantage of the Genie suite over other services so some SMS background is appropriate. Most Digital mobile phones are able to receive Short Message Service (SMS) messages - they are rather like messages on a pager and can be up to 160 characters long and are viewed on the telephone display. They are stored at a mobile service provider such as Cellnet or Vodaphone for typically 17 days and are sent to the phone as soon as it is connected. Phones will typically store 10 on their SIM cards so you have to delete them after reading to avoid a backup at your service provider. In the past they were mainly used between phones but they can also be sent in various ways via your service provider's messaging centre and there are programmes which dial into your provider (at mobile rates) and "upload" messages. In the case of Genie the mobile service provider and the Internet service provider are the same offering the opportunity for extra facilities.

BTCellnet Genie: BT Cellnet have brought out a number of services which offer ways to intergrating Web, Email and SMS messaging. A must if you have a Cellnet phone is Genie at http://www.genie.co.uk. This allows one to register for short messages (under 160 characters) to be forwarded as SMS messages to your Cellnet telephone. There are no costs involved (beyond that of sending an email). If you are not using the phone at the time you can log in to see messages and alerts at the Genie site. You can also choose to get them automaticaly forwarded to your Genie email instead of by SMS. Copies are held on the site in any case and accessible via a web browser interface. You can send SMS messages to other Cellnet phones again using the web type email interface which has a simple address book. Again I can find no associated costs.

Genie also enables you to get far more value from your phone, for example, you can set up a portfolio of shares on the Genie site and get the valuation sent at the end of trading every day - you can even set limits on particular shares and get an SMS message sent within minutes if they go outside set limits. This service could even help make you money! There are other services you have to pay for such as sports which I have not tried.

BTcellnet ISP services: Initially one had to register with U.Genie to use the ISP services but they are all being duplicated on Genie. They offer all the usual facilities including 20 Mbytes of web space with simple online registration possible without having to load any special software. They have far less restrictions than other free providers and I have checked that the U.Genie SMPT mailbox and web pages can be used from any dialup connection rather than from their own domain and dial in number - ideal for use overseas with a local ISP. I assume the same is true for Genie but have not yet checked. The help is clear and concise and the rates seem as fast as one would expect from BT with its high speed backbone. There is also a web interface to your email which I have tried. All such interfaces are rather slow and cumbersome compaired to using an email package and you are online during its use, however it is ideal if you have to use somebody elses machine or an internet cafe. I do not know of any other free ISP offering this as an intergral part of their service. This looks the first real competitor to Freeserve with few downsides other than only having a single email address. See my new Guide to Selecting an ISP page for a comparison of the facilities offered by the 7 ISPs we use on a regular basis

BTcellnet SMS services:You do not have to have a BTcellnet phone to use the U.Genie or Genie ISP services but if you do then you can also register to access extra sections of the U.Genie and Genieweb sites which are dedicated to SMS services. The registration process for the phone provides a password which is sent as an SMS message to the phone you register - a simple and effective security check. You can send SMS messages to other phones on all the main networks and overseas networks which support SMS using a web type email interface which has a simple address book. Again I can find no associated costs and the Cellnet free support line confirmed there are no charges billed to the telephone itself even if you are sending to roaming or overseas numbers.

Genie and U.Genie Web Based Email One of the big advantages that I see in Genie and U.Genie is that they provides a web based access to your email POP3 mailbox on the server. This means you can look at your email, print , delete, reply and forward it from any machine with a browser capable of handling forms (Internet Explorer 2 or higher). Web Mail systems always seem clumsy and slow compaired to an offline system as they are having to load everything every time you look at a message or make changes in the inbox but they are ideal for when you are away from home as you do not have to load anything onto another machine to get at your mail and reply. The email would normally be left on the server for collection at a latter stage and you would normally carbon copy any replies back to oneself to keep an audit trail. You are off course online the whole time and copies of your mail are inevitably left in the browser cache afterwards so you need to take care if you are using an internet cafe. Operation is at least speeded up with the N-Plex WebExpress server the simple address book allowing one to have nicknames for people and to add to it from received messages.

Browser Refresh settings for Genie and U.Genie's Web mail: They both use the N-Plex WebExpress server to provide email services from any Browser which isonline. I initially had some very strange problems using Internet Explorer 5 caused by the browser caching pages and not being forced to refresh by the email system. This left the Inbox display and the pages it pointed to out of sync when you deleted mail - even after several days and visits. A Refresh from the button on toolbar did not help as the pages are in a frame and you usually end up updating the frame rather than the contents! Refreshing by right clicking and Refreshing from the menu with the cursor in the frame gets round the problem. The alternative is to changing the Refresh settings by Tools -> Internet Options -> General Tab -> Temporary Internet Files - Settings where you must make sure you Never is not checked. I usually use Never and manually Refresh as required which gives very fast browsing - I do not recommend that with the N-Plex WebExpress server. IE5 has a new Auto setting which seems to be OK with the N-Plex WebExpress server and not seem to slow down browsing by reloading too often - on older versions of IE I think one would need to tick On Every Visit to the Page to be safe.

Genie and U.Genie Web Space: You get 20 mbytes and I have checked on U.Genie that one can upload from any open TCP/IP connection with just your password for security. This is very unusual with Free ISP's who usually make their money from the use of their phone numbers. I set up WS_FTP very quickly using the information provided at registration by U.Genie (see below) and was uploading within minutes. The default home page needs to called index.html or index.htm (all lower case) as usual. I checked uploading works via any Dial up Connection, even Freeserve. See my Web Site Tutorial for more information on downloading and installing WS_FTP LE (freeware) and how to set up a site using only free software.

Summary: My experience so far has been very good. I have carried out full tests on the U.Genie ISP service which offers far more flexibility than other free service providers especially for use by those on the move - it is the first real competitor for Freeserve that I have found. Freeserve has the edge in download speeds (if the page is in their cache), has unlimited email addresses and more web space but none of those are enough to compensate for the addition of SMS services, web mail and the freedom from restrictions overseas. It is also much easier to register for Genie or U.Genie. Genie now promises all the same facilities, an excellent portal and incoming email-to-SMS and I suspect will replace U.Genie in the long term. Give continuing good experience Genie will probably become my default recommendation with perhaps the suggestion of adding Freeserve for heavy Browsing and access to the excellent Freeserve newsgroups.

Registering for Genie and U.Genie

This can be done by visiting their web sites at http://www.u.genie.co.uk or http://www.genie.co.uk and filling in a simple form online. You will need to select some potential for your accountname which will form part of your email address and part of the web site address. You will need to think of a password which you enter twice. This will be refered to as acountpassword in the instructions following. Both should be lower case. Once this is done you can view and print a simple set of instructions to configure your machine or use the following detailed instructions.

Creating a Dial Up Network (DUN) Connection

The following instructions assume that one is adding Genie to a machine with at least one current working Dial Up Network (DUN) connection. If this is not the case consider loading the whole Genie software. If one wants to install and configure Windows 95 for PPP connections and Install Modems and Optimise Modem connections from scratch there are instructions on my web pages in the Howto technical articles pages. If you have any connection already, meaning the system is configured, it is very easy - I made a spare connection using the procedure below from an empty desktop to modem dialing out it 71 seconds and was connected and using the link in under two minutes! The procedures to follow is:

1. Create a new connection.

Follow the instructions in the Wizard - they may vary slightly in the original Windows 95 and Windows 98 from the OSR2 version here but the information you have to give is obvious. You can change everything latter.

Screen 1 - Call the connection Genie Internet and select the modem from the list of those you have installed - it should already be configured if you are using it.

Screen 2 - Add the telephone number for U.Genie which is 0845 757 6293 or 0845 757 6290 for Genie and check the country code is UK

Screen 3 - Check the name is what you want and click Finish

That wasn't difficult was it!

2. Configure the Connection

You now need to set the properties by going back to the Dial-Up Network screen as above and RIGHT CLICKING the Genie Internet connection and then clicking Properties on the menu. This gives you two or three tabs depending on which version of Windows 95/98 you have.

Scripting Tab - Ignore if you have this option - No Connection script is needed for this connection.

General Tab - This is where you can change the telephone number and modem type and configure the modem specifically for this connection. Chances are that it has been already optimised but you may want to set the maximum speed to 115200 with a 28800 or better modem after the connection is working.

Server types - This is the important one You now have the Genie Internet DUN which needs the username (we will refer to this as accountname) and password (we will refer to this as accountpassword) to be entered the first time it is run by double clicking. If the "Save Password" box is checked you will never have to enter them again.

Remember your accountname and accountpassword needed here are the one that you entered on the screen during registration and that they told you to write down. The accountpassword is the one you had to enter twice.

Set up your Email and Browser for Genie or U.Genie

You now need to configure the accounts in Outlook Express or your chosen Email programs. Configuration is covered for a number of email programs on the support sites at http://www.u.genie.co.uk and http://www.genie.co.uk. It is also covered in my Technical Howto Article called Using Multiple ISPs. The only unusual feature is the way the Mail Server Account name is specified for Genie - a form normally used to select a single account out of many on a domain is required for Outlook 98 and Outlook Express - see the instructions below as this is currently not made clear in the documentation on the site. The other important information you need over and above the names and passwords you chose for the account is:

Configuring your FTP program to upload to the web with U.Genie

I have done this for both Genie and U.Genie.

The Web site Address you are provided with for U.Genie with is - http://you.genie.co.uk/accountname (Note it is you.... not u..... ). In the case of Genie it is http://my.genie.co.uk/accountname.

The most important settings you need for the FTP program are:

I have written a simple Web Site Tutorial which provides a simple guide to setting up a web site for the novice. This includes full details of how to obtain and use a free FTP program.

Using Multiple ISPs and Changing your ISP

This is a topic in its own right and there is a comprehensive page to cover this called Using Multiple ISPs which explains how to set your default Dial Up Network (DUN) Connection for your browser and the principles of how to convert and use Email when there are a number of ISPs and connections. It also gives some guidance on newsgroups and newsgroup readers. It is not specific to U.Genie but the all the extra information you should need is given above.

Genie and U.Genie Documentation and Technical Support

There are good instructions for setting up on the Genie and U.Genie sites which are worth checking as some changes may still be taking place. Print the page on configuration (available as a link to when you register) - it is excellent as are the help pages. The Genie configuration page is currently at http://www.genie.co.uk/help_mdl/isp/config.ntml but note that the first version does/did not make it clear that the Mail Server Account name has to be accountname@genie.co.uk for Genie, hopefully this will have been changed by the time you read this.

Customer Care provided exceptionally quick and efficient technical support when I emailed them at customer.care@u.genie.co.uk.

The views here are entirely our own and are not endorsed in any way by the Open University or BT Cellnet. What is written on these pages is our own experiences and is not intended to replace in any way the documentation supplied with any of the Open University, Genie or U.Genie software.

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Copyright © Peter Curtis
Content revised: 1st October, 1999