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Old Updates (12/98 - 12/99)

31-Dec-99 - W2K may be the real disaster - Windows 2000 has gone gold and will be released in February. I predict it will cause a new wave of modem woes: any controllerless modem (aka Soft Modem, HSP, HCF, Winmodem) will need a new Windows 2000 driver. How well Windows 2000 will hold together in the real world with various PC configurations and peripherals remains to be seen. If Windows 2000 is anything like Office 2000, it could be ugly. Happy New Year. [My predictions last year weren't 100%....]. One thing I'm sure of: some interesting new information on 56k connectivity problems will be coming to this website in the very near future. Check back! 

31-Dec-99 - 3Com USB & Win98SE Troubles - Bill Maddox reports the 3Com/USR Voice Pro Modem Model 5605 will not function with Windows98 Second Edition. He says that 3Com has told him they are aware of the problem and have engineers "working on it"....

30-Nov-99 - V.90 - plus or minus? - PCWorld's Randy Ross writes from the recent Las Vegas Comdex that 3Com was touting an "improved" V.90 Plus capable of uploading at speeds "to 45kbps or more." The article states that the proposed V.90 Plus is being reviewed by the ITU and could be ratified within a year, but "pre-standard" (remember x2 and K56Flex) V.90 Plus modems could be introduced next year. The article says that V.90 Plus is supported by 3Com and Conexant. The fact is that Lucent patents on PCM modems describe symmetrical PCM, and that Lucent's never-introduced V.Flex2 used the PCM technique for upstream rates. Instead of trying to fix existing V.90 problems (not a money-maker), it appears that 3Com and Conexant want us to spend money to discover a whole new set of problems with V.90-plus-or-minus modems. The ITU has had under consideration for some time a V.91 proposed standard - allowing up to 64kbps up-and-downstream - over DOV (data-over-voice - or ISDN to PSTN) facilities. See: search results for V.91

30-Nov-99 - Lucent 5.65 firmware - Available now. This firmware release is designed to allow for 56k connects on calls that are routed over facilities that use 'non-standard' RBS (robbed-bit-signaling). No other V.90 maker has developed code that successfully deals with this type of impairment - so this release may give Lucent-based Win Modems the ability to get good 56k connects in situations where no other modem - including all 3Com products - can. The 5.65 firmware is available from here.

13-Nov-99 - Throughput check - For over 3 months, I've been able to get 56k rates (46 - 49.3k) on every call (see Aug-4 update). I've been doing some testing - still not completed - of my throughput and am coming up with some very surprising results. Check out 'My Throughput Check'.

13-Nov-99 - Newsletter & Site updates - I've received requests for a newsletter highlighting changes and additions to the information on this (growing) site. The first 56k=v.Unreliable newsletter will be available later this month. You can sign up for the newsletter now. For some time, this site has featured the Hawaiian music of Pomai & Loeka Longakit on the Easy Throughput Check page. They've got a new album out now, and one of their new songs can be heard on the updated page - and more info on the album on my Hawaiian Music page. I've joined the Flycast Network, and a site-wide change in advertising is nearing completion: most pages won't have more than 1 advertisement. The advertisers don't control the editorial content of the site, and I don't control the advertising content. Flycast handles media sales, leaving me free to concentrate on the content. Stay tuned for updated and expanded information and more new features.... [I continue to experience problems with Microsoft's FrontPage2000 - if you see text repeated several times, please let me know!]

8-Nov-99 -Microsoft Rant.... - I had trouble deciding: should I stick with my Office97 Suite or upgrade to Office2k? Being entitled to a low-cost not-for-resale copy of Office Premium pushed me to "upgrade". And yes, there are some improvements. But, for every improvement there are even more bugs and shortcomings of this Microsoft software, including: a number of my web pages modified by FrontPage2000 so that the same text repeats 3 times! Microsoft's Outlook 2000 says if you want to improve its junk-mail filtering, to go to this page to download updated filters - a page which doesn't even mention Outlook 2000! I could go on for pages about the stupid, idiotic, awful things Microsoft is doing to us..... Time for something else.... 

31-Oct-99 - 3Com "Internet Gaming Modem" - Trick or Treat? - 3Com has announced a new PCI modem for Internet gaming. 3Com says the new modem is optimized for faster ping times, more stable connections and reduced lag times. Marketing trick and attempt to profit by selling replacement to old product instead of fixing it? [See Gamers Lag page.] 

10-Oct-99 - Free Access - update - is another "free" ISP using the Splitrock network. (See 14-Sep-99 update.) I've set up a couple of free accounts - but wouldn't want it as my only access! Prodigy is continuing to suffer connectivity problems due to network overload from the free users. Prodigy has promised "to double capacity" in the "4th quarter", although it's Network Status Page (available only if you are accessing the 'net from Prodigy -or- Dotnow or FreeAltaVista) continues to push out dates for busy/overload relief. A free access account may be helpful for troubleshooting - but with the unique Bay/Nortel equipment, extensive use of CLEC telephone companies and SuperPOPs, and network congestion, you may not get very good results! (Free access providers now listed in Troubleshooting-Access Numbers.)

30-Sep-99 - Win Modem on Linux? - Lucent-based "Windows modems" may need a name change. Projects are underway  to provide a Linux driver for the LT Win Modem. There is actually an early alpha driver at "Richard's Page". Also see for extensive info on efforts to make "Windows" Modems work with Linux. PCTel, which makes some of the worst Windows modems, has announced a "Linmodem... available to OEMs immediately." Rob Clark's site is another source of Linux modem news - despite the heading "Winmodems are not modems"

14-Sep-99 - Free Internet Access - I was surprised to find the "totally free" AltaVista Internect Access available with local access #s on all the Hawaiian islands (especially when many major National ISPs don't offer service here). What was even more of a surprise: the network/backbone provider is Prodigy's SplitRock with the same access numbers used for Prodigy! This arrangement means that many of Prodigy's subscriber services (like news:// ) can be accessed with AltaVista FreeAccess. Although I won't make much use of AV's FreeAccess (the annoying advertisement window requires that you periodically click on an ad or AltaVista featured service to avoid disconnection), I was able to post a message in Prodigy's private connectivity newsgroup after seeing many messages from unhappy Prodigy users plauged with constant busy signals. Well, NO WONDER there are busy problems - with Prodigy sharing the same access number used by over 250,000 new FREE AV users within the last 30 days! Combined with the "sub-standard" access equipment used by Splitrock (BayNetworks/Nortel) and the additional impairments created by the extensive use of CLEC providers, it's not surprising that the paying Prodigy customers are complaining.....

14-Sep-99 - Inverse V.90 study update - More info on the Inverse V.90 study (see 27-Aug-99 update): the study was made by making hundreds of thousands of calls to various ISP access numbers in many major metropolitan areas. The flaw: these calls were made using a single brand of modem (3Com/Sportster) with toll calls originating from a single location - thereby avoiding the diversity of digital impairments and line conditions commonly found when making local calls.

27-Aug-99 - "V.90 delivers as promised" - The 30-40% of users I estimate are not getting 56k connects will be happy to learn study by Inverse says V.90 is now delivering as promised! Inverse says that only 6.4% of calls in July '99 connected at V.34 speeds. The problem: the study doesn't represent the diversity of local telephone conditions, user and server modem firmware, and local vs. toll calling (the Inverse methodology isn't disclosed in the report). The study concludes that V.90 connect rates are 61% faster than V.34 (compared to the promise of up to 100% faster!), but throughput doesn't increase as much - finding only a 31% increase. While the Inverse study indicates an average connect of 46k, throughput indicates actual connects averaging 38k! Even if the Inverse figures for V.90 connects were correct (which they aren't!), a 38k average connect is hardly the promise of 56k modems.

4-Aug-99 - 56k=v.Reliable.... - For over 2 years, I've been able to get decent 56k connections on only 1 out of 6 calls - an 83% 56k failure rate - a failure I attribute to a robbed-bit-signaling problem. Starting yesterday morning, I'm suddenly getting a 0% failure rate: connecting 46-49k everytime. Late last year, I was told that a 'fix' for the 'non-standard' RBS encountered on some GTD-5 switches (widely used by GTE) was available, and contacted my local office to ask them to install the "56k fix" in their switches. According to GTE Network Disclosure, the fix was scheduled for 3/31/99; then, it was moved to 6/30/99. June 30 came and I still had a 83% failure rate. It looks like the fix - software - has now been installed. While my problem with 56k is "fixed", others continue to experience exactly the opposite: 56k that once worked no longer does: sometimes local telco implementation of SS7 (which uses out-of-band signaling) leaves unused RBS (in-band signaling) in "non-standard" format. (There really is no "standard", but 56k modem designers made an incorrect assumption about the appearance/detection/compensation of RBS in the US.)

Now that I can reliably get a 56k connection, I'm comparing the performance of 3 modems on my line: 3Com's Courier and USR and the Lucent LT.... and it looks like the LT is going to beat the Courier! Stay tuned....

3-Aug-99 - Site updates - Lucent WildWire updated firmware/driver (2.92) made available here today with versions for Win95/98 and NT. See the bottom of the Troubleshooting page. New firmware/driver was recently made available for LT Win Modem (5.53), providing the best results so far for many LT owners. Surveys recently added for 3Com and other 56k modem owners - you can rate your 56k modem, and view all the ratings. The LT Survey currently has received over 2500 entries. I'll be updating the charts summarizing the responses soon. In many instances, users with 56k modems need a firmware - driver upgrade. The surveys show that many don't know the version they are now using. While many of the volume brands using the popular LT or HCF modems have automated updates of system components, these vendors don't release 'the latest' update - if they release it at all. And, of course, these major vendors disavow any support or help once the user goes to an 'unsupported' driver version.

24-Jul-99 - 3Com more 'deceptive marketing'? - 3Com's "56k Voice Faxmodem PCI" model 5690 is a software modem - not a "Windows modem" - apparently according to 3Com pre-sales. I'm told that nowhere on the box does it indicate it is a Winmodem, or requires Windows: the box states a 486 processor is required. This modem is a "Winmodem". Why would 3Com make and market a modem that requires Windows without stating so, or using their own Winmodem™ trademark? In the meantime, 3Com has acquired the domain - and it is presently inactive. It used to be owned by an independent organization.

18-Jul-99 - 3Com modem woes - V.90 was agreed to in February, 1998, and 3Com V.90 modems were in stores within days. 3Com makes a slew of modem products with flash ROM firmware specific to the modem product code. While the original Feb 98 V.90 code has been updated, the most recent flash firmware for many 3Com/USR modems (including the Courier) are well over 1 year old. Which begs the question: Is 3Com working to improve 56k connectivity on its modem product line? The answer may very well be NO. While 3Com 56k modems are among the most-connectable, there are line conditions on which they do poorly. 3Com now has "different" current firmware for some of its modems: tweaks and changes made for some models have never been 'ported' to older models. (Note - 'models' here really means product code - modems that are sold in the same case and packaging can have different product codes. 3Com has a page for looking up a code's current firmware.) 3Com has returned key 56k patents to the inventor, is facing numerous shareholder class actions relating to its performance, and has settled a 56k false claims class action. Despite remaining the market leader and commanding the highest modem prices, the USR acquisition has been highly unprofitable for 3Com. 3Com knows the long term requires a much higher speed internet connection than 56k modems can give, and have diverted its resources to exploiting the future. With 3Com, what we have now may be as good as it gets - and it's probably never going to be better - things can only get worse. The 56k modem has become a commodity. Brand name computers come with a 56k modem that costs about $20. Fortunately, Lucent in particular, has continued to commit resources to V.90, and it's firmware is getting better all the time.....

15-Jul-99 - 3Com/USR 33.6 modems no longer upgradable - 3Com/USR Sportster and Courier 33.6/28.8k modems can no longer be upgraded to 56k. According to the 3Com 56k upgrade center (1-888-492-6856 - then press 1, then press 2) the V.90 upgrade program has ended. For additional information, the recorded announcement directs you to go to which has no indication that the upgrade program has ended! (Typical 3Com incompetence.....)

8-Jul-99 - What 56k rate? - A new page shows my estimate of how many 56k owners are getting 56k connects - and what connect rates are being achieved. It is based in part on the ongoing surveys of LT Win Modem and Rockwell/Conexant HCF modem owners, as well as other feedback. One of the surprising results of the HCF survey is the number of owners who don't know what firmware/driver version they're using. The HCF page has been updated with a new Troubleshooting section.

6/27/99 - 3Com Firmware updates via Internet - 3Com has released a new "Internet Upgrade Wizard" which allows 3Com/USR/Sportster owners to update their modem firmware without making a toll call! For 2 years I have complained about 3Com/USR's "Modem Upgrade Wizard" which makes a toll-call to 3Com in Illinois to check for and download firmware upgrades. The new wizard is similar to the old one: this Windows-only application must be run to update the firmware. But, instead of calling Illinois, it allows you to connect to your ISP and use the Internet for the firmware file download. After the file is downloaded, the modem disconnects, and the wizard proceeds to flash the modem (do not interrupt the flash process, or your modem will no longer function!). The ability to flash back to an older firmware version is still absent from 3Com offerings; however, you should still be able to use a process similar to the one described on this site to archive firmware.

6/26/99 - Lucent WildWire Modem update - In addition to the hardware-based Lucent Venus chipset, and the software-based LT (Mars/Apollo), Lucent has a dual DSL/Analog software-based modem - "WildWire". An updated firmware/driver for this modem (v 2.86) is now available from this site - see the troubleshooting page. Some Compaq computers come with a Lucent-based WildWire modem pre-installed.

5/31/99 - 3Com to settle 56k false claims class action - The 3Com website has a court-ordered website notification of settlement of a class action brought in California on behalf of all consumers who purchased certain 3Com/USR modems on or before May 31, 1997, and customers who upgraded 33.6 modems to x2 on or before February 28, 1998:

3Com Corporation has been sued in California and in Illinois by an alleged nationwide class, asserting claims relating to the advertising, marketing and sales of modems using 3Com's x2 modem technology. Among other claims, plaintiffs in these lawsuits, including in the Action, have alleged that 3Com engaged in deceptive advertising by claiming that modems employing x2 technology could achieve 56K speeds and/or were twice as fast as prior generation modems.

Unfortunately, it looks as the only party that wins in this action is the attorney - one Donald P. Driscoll. The settlement will allow attorneys fees of up to $1.5 Million; but, members of the class will only be eligible for a $15. 3Com rebate if they purchase 3Com products totalling at least $100 between July 27, 1999 and July 27, 2000. I find this settlement objectionable, and would suggest members of the class should file objections and for exclusion to retain your right to sue for real damages.....

5/29/99 - 3Com Loses Key 56k Patent - ZDNN reports that Brent Townshend, "inventor" of modulation techniques key to 56k modem operation has reaquired rights to patents from 3Com. The news item doesn't explain why 3Com & Townshend decided to do this. More [facts or speculation] to come.....

5/29/99 - $26.99 LT Modem Purchase - Living in Hawaii has its disadvantages: the $26.99 LT Win Modem featured on my Mail Order Modems Page costs an extra $24.95 for shipping to Hawaii - while costing $4.95 to contintental US. A trip to the east coast last week gave me an opportunity to purchase one for $31.94 delivered. I tried it, my sister liked it, kept it, and I bought another! [Note - Price subject to change....]

5/26/99 - New LT Modem Firmware - Version 5.49 is now the latest release for the Lucent LT Win Modem and is available here. A new page has been added to detail what has been revised on the LT page.

5/16/99 - Higher fees for 2nd phone line - If you have a separate residential phone line for dial-up internet access (or any other purpose), you may be seeing new higher fees on your phone bill soon. The FCC has adopted an order requiring phone companies to charge a 'non-primary' subscriber line charge on all but the first line to any location. You can read more about this in my Telephone Services - Access Charges page.

5/6/99 - Lucent Server Firmware update - Lucent has released version 3.8.2c2 of ComOS - software and modem firmware for the Portmaster 3 access server (PM3). Lucent describes this an an "interim" software release - version 3.9.x has been and still is in beta. The major change in 3.8.2c2 is modem firmware and it fixes or improves connectivity and interoperability with 56k client modems including HCF, LT and some 3Com models. It also fixes some downward spiralling upstream rates from the client to the PM3. It is provided at no charge to ISPs. Lucent recommends that only customers experiencing the bugs described and "...are unable to wait for the next maintenance release" upgrade. [Almost every ISP running the PM3 has problems with at least one of the bugs described.] ISP feedback on the portmaster-users discussion list.

5/5/99 - 3Com Server Firmware update - 3Com has released new code for ISPs: Total Control System 3.5 (TCS). This release includes updated modem firmware that addresses a number of connectivity and interoperability problems. A 3Com service contract is required for an ISP to get these improvements! This means that any ISP that bought 3Com equipment and elected not to pay the thousands 3Com demands for a service contract, will not have access to firmware that fixes various problems. Complaints coming on the usr-tc discussion list:

"...paying to get code that either fixes major problems (like customers not being able to connect) or adds features that were promised when you bought the box SUCKS and is UNFAIR."

3Com briefly modified its policy when V.90 was released: they allowed any ISP who bought x2 server equipment to download the V.90 release through December 31, 1998. Now, if the ISP wants to fix some of the firmware flaws, 3Com wants thousands of dollars! As far as I know, no other vendor of access gear for ISPs requires the purchase of a service contract to get software/firmware updates and fixes.

4/29/99 - Free Internet Access or Free Long Distance? - Alaskans can get "free" internet access if they chose GCI for long-distance; Alaskan ISPs are trying to fight back by offering "free" long-distance using the Internet to place calls. See this Wired story. Today, most voice calls travel over traditional switched networks which give occupy a dedicated 64k data stream from end to end. This will change as major vendors offer solutions that carry voice traffic over IP or data networks. Lucent has announced plans for a new call feature server. Meanwhile, 3Com is refocusing in the light of disappointing analog modem sales. Even if 56k modems delivered on their promise, we need a faster, more reliable pipe into our homes and offices: cable, fiber, DSL....

4/24/99 - Cirrus Logic exits modem business - A new, privately held company - Ambient Technologies - formed to take over Cirrus' modem chipset business. Some OEM manufacturers (ie, Actiontec) apparently using this as an excuse to get customers to give up on getting good performance/new drivers for their Cirrus-based modem. See the update on my Cirrus/PCTel & ESS Chipset page.

4/18/99 - New phone site - The site is growing with a new section on telephone issues. I've joined the Cognigen MLM program and am offering what I believe are tremendous savings and business opportunities that everyone should take advantage of. The Cognigen program gives you your own 'self-duplicating' web site to market the services yourself. I'm also developing the new section of to add my spin on phone issues - like Phone Rip-Offs and "Before the Commission" with more to come. I invite you to check it out!

4/14/99 - Zoom acquires Hayes assets - including the Hayes, Practical Peripherals and Cardinal brand names. More info on the Zoom web site.

4/10/99 - IBM ships Aptivas with virus - Some new Aptivas shipped with CIH virus. See this CNN news article.

4/1/99 - Winmodems & Linux - can they do it? A new site - is up - not announcing any support - but offering a discussion mailing list / announcements for those interested in making a 'Winmodem' and 'Linmodem'. [Note: IBM supports the Lucent Win Modem under OS/2 - see my LT Win Modem page.

3/26/99 - Hayes support - taken over by as posted by Richard from Florida in comp.dcom.modems. Has downloads of old firmware, and offers repairs. Of course, there is no [free] warranty service.

3/21/99 - Net2Phone: Wow! - You can use your computer/soundcard/modem to make cheap international calls to nearly any phone in the world. And even better, calls to most US toll-free numbers are free. No cost to try it with the toll-free numbers - click here for more info..

3/21/99 - BellSouth switch info - Jim Bell found this BellSouth site for ISDN availability. It also gives the CO switch type and location, among other things, based upon the area code & exchange (NPA-NXX). This link has been added to the Links page near existing links for similar lookup for GTE & USWest.

3/17/99 - New firmware for Lucent LT - Version 5.43 released - on some lines that got no or poor V.90, good V.90 rates are now achieved.

3/12/99 - Troubleshooting - The troubleshooting page has been updated with a section on frequent disconnects, and the list of ISP access numbers has been updated to reflect (where known) the type of server modems in use. Knowing this - and trying a variety of server equipment - can isolate interoperability problems. If you can help update the blanks in the list, please let me know. New firmware drivers released by Zoltrix for Rockwell/Conexant HCF modems - I'm receiving reports from users who are improving connections by updating the firmware/driver for the HCF modems. Ascend has released version 7.0.4 for its servers to fix problems with recently introduced 7.0.3; of course, 7.0.4 has its own problems....

3/12/99 - Rockwell site rid of modem info - All of the useful web info on modems and 56k that was at the Rockwell site is gone. You're redirected to a page that says all of the information is now at the new Conexant site. However, I've been unable to find the AT Command Reference at the Conexant site.

3/4/99 - 3Com stuffing the channel? - One of the problems 3Com has supposedly addressed after its purchase of USR was the oversupply of USR modems in the channel. Anyone now can easily see the inventory level of 3Com products at Ingram Micro's US warehouses - the world's largest computer distributor. As of this date, Ingram has over 123,000 3Com modems in stock in 18 SKU's (some of them 20-packs of 33.6k modems!) with a value of around $15 million. And over 39,000 3Com/Megahertz modems with a value around $7 million - $22million total! Is this a normal supply, or is 3Com cooking the books again? 

3/4/99 - New Pages - Recent additions to this site include: Rockwell/Conexant HCF modem. What's a 56k-compatible line? A Page of Useful Links to other sites, newsgroups, archives and specific pages. Modems & call waiting discusses getting disconnected if you have a call waiting call. A new page with updated information on how RBS (robbed-bit-signaling) can interfere with 56k modems. And, New page added to the site describing how you can archive the flash update code for 3Com/USR/Sportster modems. This allows you to flash the modem back to versions you have archived if necessary. And my Who Manufactured My Modem page now uses a database I made from FCC part 68 data - this allows you to find the manufacturer of many modems that the FCC search pages will not locate (since the FCC site searches the equipment authorization database which is based upon an FCC ID #, which "is NOT related to the FCC Registration Number under part 68 Connection of Terminal Equipment to the Telephone Network.")

3/2/99 - Heard in discussion - From recent post in USR-TC discussion group: "...the person I would most like to sue is the idiot engineer who dreamed up the plague that is now 'analog 56k' [V.90]... 56k is the single biggest headache in ISP history. Ever. Period." There's also new server modem code for Ascend TNT equipment used by many ISPs including AOL; This 7.0.3 release may improve some Lucent-client to Ascend server connections....

3/2/99 - Updates to V.90 Interoperability Status and 56k & RBS (Part 2)

2/25/99 - 56k=v.Unreliable is 1 year old. This site first appeared in February '98 with 3 pages; the main page containing Why x2 will NEVER work (reliably), a troubleshooting page, and the 56k Trouble Messages page. There are over 40 pages on the site now, and the site continues to be frequently updated.

2/25/99 - SuperLine coming? - PCWorld reports Lucent will be marketing the "SuperLine Integrated Access System" to telephone companies, which will allow them to deliver 3 phone lines and broadband access over a "standard" phone hookup. [Sounds like yet another 'proprietary' DSL scheme to me.] Click for the 12-Feb-99 PCWorld story.

2/8/99 - "The Myth of the 56k Modem" - Chris Oakes of Wired wrote this Feb. 6 story detailing Clifford Coy's sudden loss of 56k connects and asserts that some of the newer telephone network changes some monopoly telcos make prevent 56k as they stand ready to offer you an ISDN or DSL solution.

2/8/99 - Rockwell - Conexant - A "Rockwell-based" modem is now a "Conexant-based" modem: Rockwell International has spun off its semiconductor business to shareholders and is now a new company called Connexant.

1/15/99 - USR Courier - new firmware - The Russian Team USR alerted me to a new Courier firmware release for non-USA/Canada models: version 7.6.7 was released 12-Jan-99; the DSP code has a release date of 12/2/98. This firmware can be downloaded from the USR Courier-code page.

1/10/99 - Lucent to buy Ascend? - London's Financial Times reports Monday (1/11) that Lucent is poised to buy Ascend in a deal worth $16 billion. Lucent recently purchased Livingston, maker of the Portmaster access equipment used by many ISPs; Ascend makes the TNT access equipment used by many other ISPs. . Update 1/15: Erase the question mark- the announcement (of the deal worth $20billion) was made Wednesday 1/13/99.

1/5/99 - Hayes goes belly-up - Hayes will not emerge from chapter 11 bankruptcy, and is preparing for liquidation. Bad news for anyone with a Hayes 56k modem - the availability of needed firmware upgrades for these modems is now in serious question. 1/8/99 - - I expect that a V.90 firmware update for Lucent-based Hayes modems will be made available soon - check back for further update. See this c|net news item.

12/31/98 - Lucent/Livingston PM3 server update - Version 3.8.2 of ComOS for Lucent PM3 access equipment used by many ISPs was released yesterday. Expect some sudden 56k connection improvements as well as sudden problems to ISPs that upgrade to this release.

12/31/98 - Happy New Year! There is now a mirror of the 56k=v.Unreliable site at  which should allow access to the site when the server is down (which continues to occur several times a day). 1999 Predictions: Anyone who purchased a 56k modem will be a member of a class action that will eventually be settled - beyond 1999. By the end of the year, 25% of 56k modem owners will still not see a rate of 40k or better.

12/27/98 - Rockwell/PCI 56k modem tip - I received a message from Steve Bunning who was able to get 56k connects for his Zoom/Rockwell-based PCI modem by following a suggestion to use Supra firmware:

My solution? I installed the latest PCI modem drivers from Diamond MultiMedia. Below is a link to the file that seems to fix just about every other [Rockwell/PCI] modem manufacturer's firmware issues. I wouldn't say that Diamond has the best product, but they definitely have the best support and their engineers are tops in my book.

The Diamond firmware is available here; expand the file, and change the driver set in the Device Manager for the MCFMODEM>Modem enumerator.

Note - use this advice with appropriate caution - it normally isn't a good idea to use firmware supplied by a vendor other than the one that made your modem.

12/24/98 - Happy Holidays - to all. A special thank you to everyone who has given me feedback.

12/24/98 - 3Com server ER firmware released - Version 1.2.60 (see 12/7 update) for 3Com HiPer DSP server modems is available on the 3Com TotalControl website. Among the "resolved issues" is "Improved connectivity and connection stability" with V.90 modems.

12/23/98 - Diamond/Supra future - I just noticed this Diamond Multimedia November press release. In addition to a 20% workforce reduction, Diamond is "redeploying resources to more proprietary lines", and will be getting out of low-margin businesses. While nothing is mentioned about what products, one might wonder about the Supra modems: the modem business has not been an easy one lately for manufacturers....

12/17/98 - 3Com/USR 5.0.0 update - I haven't been overwhelmed with feedback on this new firmware - but results are definitely mixed. It doesn't look like a lot of people have tried this new flash, and my advice at this point would be NOT to try this flash if this is your only modem...

While some people - like me - have seen a slight or marked improvement in 56k connects with the new 5.0.0 firmware, others - and perhaps a larger number, have seen a dramatic averse affect on their 56k connects. In addition, the speed-limiting commands &u&n appear to be 'broken' - they work, but if the modem aborts the connection attempt because it cannot do a speed in the range specified, no result code is returned.

If 3Com were like almost every other modem vendor - you wouldn't need to make a toll call just to check if a new firmware release is available for your modem. And, you would be able to go back to the prior version of firmware if the new firmware made matters worse for you. Combine this with a near total lack of presence on any public newsgroups or forums by 3Com/USR people, and you may wonder why the #1 seller of modems can be so close to worst in support: it appears while 3Com modems may have been the ones most likely to give you the best 56k connection, with 5.0.0, this may be less likely to be the case.

Here's a list of 3Com/USR model #'s I've gotten feedback on as to availability of 5.0.0 firmware:

Model 5.0.0? Model 5.0.0?
1786-00 No 1786-02 Yes
1787-00, 1787-02 No 5686-00 Yes
5686-02 No 5687-00 Yes
1787-01 Yes

New - RealAudio of 5.0.0 handshake

12/13/98 - 3Com firmware (follow-up) - Haven't got much feedback on the 5.0.0 flash firmware for 3Com/Sportsters. I'm particularly interested in hearing from you if you try this version. I'd like to know model #s that have the flash, and if possible, capture ATi6i11y11 before and after you flash. Send me your results. I'd also like to know if the &u&n is "broken" for you as it is for me: if the modem can't do the speed, it hangs up and gives no result codes whatsoever; the modem will respond to commands and is on-hook. If you've got 5.0.0 and want to check the &u&n, see Limiting Your Connect Speed. However, once online, I'm getting solid 49.3/28.8k connects with a lower bler rate than my Courier which gets 48/26.4-28.8k.

12/10 - 12/11 - New firmware for 3Com/USR/Sportster modems - It appears that 3Com has quietly released new firmware for the USR/Sportster modems - 5.0.0 for at least some models. Allen Jensen told me today that a problem I thought was the telco or his ISP (Mindspring) disappeared after upgrading from 4.10.0 on his 5687-00 to 5.0.0. I checked for an update for my external 1786-02, and the USR modem upgrade wizard made the toll call to Skokie and updated my Sportster to 5.0.0. I've just done this, and it appears to have made the Sportster a "better" modem than my Courier - (geez, when will there be new firmware for it?) Until more is known about this new firmware, I'd caution anyone who is getting good 56k performance with a 3Com/USR modem not to upgrade yet - wait to see if problems crop up. But, if you're brave, or have nothing to lose* except no decent 56k, you may want to give the USR Upgrade Wizard a chance to run up your phone bill a tad to see if 5.0.0 is there for you. This firmware has a difference in handshake (after the 2nd bong, which is longer) - I suspect 3Com has further refined their DIL. I'll have more info on this upgrade, and some new RealAudio of the handshake soon.

While my results with the new firmware appear to be positive, I've seen several ng posts from disappointed flashers: 5.0.0 has reduced their connect speed and throughput. It also appears to me there's a bug with the use of speed-limiting &U&N commands: the Sportster obeys and doesn't connect if the limit is unattainable, but no result (ie, NO CARRIER) is sent to the computer, which creates a long delay before timeout/error. This bug prevents the proper operation of Speed Limiting Technique. The saddest part about 3Com firmware releases (except for Courier models) is that you have no way of reverting back to the old firmware unless you can coax a support person to send or e-mail you a file they don't want "public".

*- As with most flashes to a modem, if the process is interrupted for any reason while the new firmware is being sent to the modem (2nd phase - after toll call download), you will end up with a non-functional modem. This can't happen with a soft (Win) modem - the necessary "firmware" is a device driver on your hard drive.

12/10/98 - "Is V.90 ever going to work part 2 - Aaron Leonard from Cisco rang in on 56k in a AS5200 discussion group response to a user of their server modems post titled "Constant Retrains". Aaron suggests the solution to a modem constantly retraining (or speedshifting) is to have the client limit his transmission speed (see my page: Limiting Your Connection Speed). He goes on to say:

We're putting some logic into portware (CSCdk52236, to throttle overaggressive clients when their excessive vigor causes problems. Do expect to see some funny behavior here and there until all the client and server code stabilizes. I would expect that by the end of '99, V.90 will be almost as stable as V.34 (modulo that fact that of course
V.90 will never be achievable on many circuits.)

12/7/98 - "Is V.90 ever going to work?" - That was the subject of an ISP question on the 3Com Total Control Discussion Group. Here's part of a [3Com-employee] response:

I have high hopes it [-latest engineering release 1.2.60] will pan out. I also believe, matched up with the latest LT code, the LT Winmodem to HiPer V.90 connections will be pretty darn solid (initial testing is showing very good results). Similarly for the later LT controlled based code, code I saw a few weeks ago is greatly improved, and will hopefully be publically available soon (this applies mostly to Hayes and Practical LT based external modems).

Rockwell is another story, their recent code is a lot better, but it is still buggy as hell (primarily problems with their speedshifting and retrain functionality, which is what is causing the disconnects). Working around their problems, while maintaining stability for the better behaved modems, has proven to be a serious challenge. Combine that with many of their OEMs being very slow to release new code, and it is not pretty. We are trying to patch around some of these issues, but we are not going to break compliant modems in the process.

The bottom line is 1.2.60 is intended to get a bunch of solid and safe fixes available as quickly as possible, and most of them are NOT V.90 related. It appears to be very good code, we'll have a better picture of that by next week as the results roll in from initial field testing.

A follow-up post asking about a new release for 3Com Quad modems in older Netservers was answered: 3Com considers the quad modem code to be pretty mature; a new release of firmware is expected in January which have "some last little cleanup details (along with one significant Rockwell patch-around)"

If you've followed my reviews and comments, I've long said firmware for Rockwell-based modems was lagging, as was (to a lesser extent) the Lucent controller-based (Venus) modems. It's getting better.... but.... when are we going to see the new Venus code? Rockwell & Lucent clients aren't the only ones with trouble. Some of the 3Com HiPer problems are 3Com-specific.

One of the problems with 3Com HiPer systems is that sometimes they will report to the client modem that they are capable of transmit levels that exceed FCC limitations. This has caused some problems with Lucent modems, which said OK - go at that level (Lucent 'patched' it in latest LT code). In the process, another piece of the 3Com V90 status line puzzle has been solved - part of it is the server modem max transmit level:

Status :        uu,5,0N,10.7,-15,1N,0,53.2,19.0
                ^    ^        ^
a/u-law ________|   |        |
Max Trans. Lvl______|        |
Padding _____________________| [0=None -7=3db -15=6db]

The status line above, a connection to a 3Com/HiPer's ISP shows it is capable of 0db transmit level. A normal value for calls in the US is 12.

I've yet to see any more of the status line decoded - and I'm sure there's got to be an indication of RBS links and digital vs. analog padding. If you've got any clues, let me know. (The V.90 status line shows in an 'ATi11' inquiry to the modem during or after a V.90 connection.) Here's some of my crackV90 status line file:

uu,5,12N,12.2,-15,0Y,0,49.9,25.0 (modem was 'confused' - local SLC call)
uu,5,12N,12.2,-15,0Y,0,50.4,25.0 (modem was 'confused' - local RSU call)
uu,5,12N,12.3,-7,2N,0,46.2,10.3  (local RSU call / 48k good)
uu,5,12N,12.2,-7,1Y,0,46.1,27.5  (local RSU call / 30.6k 'bad')
uu,5,12N,12.3,-7,2N,0,46.2,15.3  (local RSU call / 46.6k good)
aa,5,6N,6.3,-0,0N,0,47.8,11.0    (local call in Singapore - note high xmt 6N)
uu,5,10Y,13.2,-7,1N,0,43.6,29.5  (local call in NC 'high tech' - note xmt)
uu,5,12N,12.4,-7,1N,0,48.7,20.6  (local call in HI gets 49.3k every call)

12/5/98 - Updates - tipped me to 3Com's 56k modem advertising campaign.... Comparing 56k modems to the speedy checkout lane, and old v.34 modems stuck in a slow-moving grocery checkout. I haven't seen the ads (do they have fine print and disclaimers?), but, unfortunately for some, the reverse is true: some of the modems going through the clogged, slow-moving lanes are those brand new 56k V.90's! I've updated the Should You Buy a 56k Modem page to reflect that new 3Com Internal V.90 modems are jumperless - that means you either plug and play, or plug and pray....

New pages here include: Compaq systems with Lucent-based Win Modem and a page on issues that affect on-line Gamers. When I get some time, I want to add more to these pages, as well as to some others. V.90 interoperability is getty really interesting with so many different combinations of client and server firmware/equipment and the subtle differences in telco facilities. Interoperability problems extend to v.34 client connectivity issues in some instances (in English that means that some people with old 28.8/33.6k modems are having problems connecting to or staying connected to some ISP's new 56k-capable digital modems).

My hosting service's server for this site is now averaging about 4 outages per day that usually last 10-15 minutes. Sorry, but I've got little control over that - if the site goes down, it'll be back in a few... Traffic on my site has been increasing to ~10,000 pages/day, so someone is affected on every server failure.


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