I think at least part of his problem is similar to one that I have: the fact that software wants to call home on their schedule, not mine. I've got a dial-up connect to my ISP (that's all that's available here). I pay by the minute for connection time, so I dial up a few times a day to get email then disconnect. (With a teenage daughter, I no longer get top priority with our phone line, either!)
I need much better control over who is trying connect over the internet and when they connect. This just doesn't seem to be available with WinXP. Maybe there is some 3rd party software that would allow me to tell the software to wait until I say to connect, but I haven't found it yet.