Faster, Faster !!

Pushing to the limits of modem technology, and beyond...

By Leo Maxwell, Contributing Writer,

As my 14400 Sportster was beginning to look a little less "sporty" than when I first plugged it into the net, and a happy circumstance provided an opportunity for an upgrade to a newer, flashier model with go faster stripes, I recently decided to take the step up to 33.6K. I originally intended to go for Active Software's Netconnect package, but after scanning the pages of various magazines, I went for a package which included a faster serial port and some software, as well as the modem, for roughly the same price as Active's Dynalink modem and software suite.

The package arrived, and I investigated the various boxes. The review which follows is divided into three parts, as there is a great deal of variance between the quality of some parts of the package and others.

The Whippet

This fast serial port from HiSoft computing is basically a version of their Surf Squirrel without a SCSI port.

The manual is clear and informative, and installation is extremely simple.

The Whippet comes as a slim black box which slides into the PCMCIA port on the side of the 1200, and you plug your 9-pin modem cable into the rear of it.

There is an installer supplied, but all it does is copy whippet.device into your DEVS: directory. After the recommended reboot, and configuring Miami (not supplied) for the modem, I dialled up my ISP. With the serial speed in Miami set to 115200, downloading was a whole new experience. Running IBrowse, simultaneous FTP of three files from the Omnipresence support site was smooth and fast.

The World Wide Wait is now a lot shorter, and as a bonus, the Whippet can apparently manage port speeds up to 230400, meaning it should be able to cope with the new 56K modems, when they become available, and probably ISDN too.

The Enterprise Modem

Well what can I say about a modem? It comes in a nice cream, aerodynamically-shaped case, with the required lights on the front, that flash on and off engagingly. It beeps and whistles, and it does the job.

There is a useful Phone Jack on the rear, and there is also a combined socket for a speaker and microphone, which enables you to use it as a speakerphone.

The fax function works well, although I had to use my PC to test this, as no Amiga Fax software is provided. The Manual comes on a PC disk with the supplied PC software (which is surprisingly good), as an ASCII file, so you'll need a PC to read it, but you will probably not need any more info than that on the quick setup slip.

One minor point - there is no on/off switch, and when I switched it off at the wall socket, it crashed my machine. As my whole system is powered on an extension with one power switch, this is not really a problem for me, and you can switch it off (with no adverse effect) by removing the power plug from the back.

Power Net & Web Software

This is the downside of the package. Although there is a registered version of the excellent IBrowse, the other included software is of remarkably poor quality compared to the rest of the bundle.

Built around an old (V3 beta) version of AmiTCP, limited to SLIP connection to Demon Internet, together with a poor e-mail client and an unstable FTP client, Net & Web is frankly disappointing, even though there is an offer of a free month's access from Demon.

Still, the rest of the package is excellent value for money without the software, and works well, so this is only a minor complaint.

The Whippet is also available direct from HiSoft for UKP49.95 and I advise anyone considering moving to 33.6 to speed up their serial port. The 1200 can only reliably manage 38400 through its built-in port. I experimented using the modem with and without the whippet, and there was a vast improvement.

I still intend to buy the Netconnect software from Active as soon as Version 2 comes out. There is a demo version available of Version 1, which I have tried and found very good.

Product: Power Enterprise Modem pack option two UKP109.95
Supplier: Power Computing
          Unit 82A Singer Way
          MK42 7PU
          Tel. (+44)01234 855400

And for those of you interested in the Netconnect package, which includes registered versions of AmiTCP 4.5, VoyagerNG 2.9, AmIRC, AmFTP, Microdot, and several other utilities:

Leo Maxwell                         __              /_/\
" Trust me,I know what I'm doin' ".\ \ \
(David Rasche as Sledge Hammer)     /)\ \
team *AMIGA*                     (/