Originally Published: Thursday, 19 August 1999 Author: Maurice Entwistle
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Winmodems - Friend or Foe?

There are a lot of cheap PCs out there. I have one: that's good. It has an LTwinmodem: that's bad. To make a long story short, the cheap PC is not the problem. A Linux distribution should be able to run on a cheap PC, right?...

   Page 1 of 1  

Winmodems - Friend or Foe? Part 2

There are a lot of cheap PCs out there. I have one: that's good. It has an LTwinmodem: that's bad. To make a long story short, the cheap PC is not the problem. A Linux distribution should be able to run on a cheap PC, right?

The average PC user does not know what a "winmodem" is. It's a modem, right? And the average PC user is coming to Linux from the Windows world where if you buy it off the shelf, it works (a relative term) and it is probably plug-and-play. They don't realize that "winmodem" means it won't work under Linux and they won't be able to get on the Internet. In this scenario the "winmodem" is the enemy!

Does it have to remain this way? Flamers in the Linux versus Windows forums can slam the "winmodem" all they want and it won't do the Linux community any good. The "winmodem" problem is only a problem because Linux doesn't have a port or an emulator that can run it. I propose that the Linux community embrace the enemy and turn the "winmodem" into an asset. How can this be done?

Perhaps makers of "winmodems" could release the necessary information that would allow "winmodems" to be ported to Linux. I suspect that due to contractual arrangements, this is not possible. However, reverse engineering could enable Linux to run winmodems. Not being a programmer, I don't know the level of difficulty this would entail. But, I suspect that not wanting to have anything to do with a "winmodem" is the more likely culprit.

Linux deployment by average users would increase tremendously if new users didn't discover after installing Linux that they couldn't get on the Internet because their computer had a winmodem. How many average users do you know who want to go buy a new modem? And how many new Linux users, sometimes after great effort, discover that their primary PC activity, surfing the net, cannot be done with their new Linux OS?

This situation has to stop. I appeal to any Linux developer who thinks he can get Linux to work with a "winmodem." Make it so. If an emulator like Win4Lin by TreLos could run a winmodem, that would be one solution. There are other solutions just waiting for the creative developer. A Linux distribution that could announce it would connect to the Internet with a "winmodem" would leapfrog over the competition.

Modem makers could also take a big step forward. With Linux currently the fastest-growing OS and predicted to remain that way for some time, a bold colorful label on a modem package that stated, "Works with Linux" would double their sales. From personal experience I can say, walking into a major computer retailer and finding a modem that says anything on the package about working with Linux is not yet a reality.

The "winmodem" is only the enemy as long as Linux doesn't work with them. I say the Linux community should embrace the "winmodem," and make it a non-issue. Any modem manufacturer that solves the Linux/winmodem marketing issue will be a big winner. The Linux community should encourage developers to solve this problem, so all the cheap PC's already out there with winmodem's, won't be an impediment to Linux on the Internet.

Maurice L. Entwistle, maurice@discoverynet.com.





   Page 1 of 1