Originally Published: Friday, 20 August 1999 Author: Maurice Entwistle
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Winmodems - Friend or Foe? Part 2

My first piece on winmodems generated considerable response. I was surprised! Several suggested that I do more research before writing. I agree, that would be nice. In defense, I can only remind you that I am not as technically gifted as most in the Linux community. I can go to Slashdot and other Linux sites and be completely lost, even though the conversation appears to be in English. My pieces will have to be more at the level of the average PC user--those new to GNU/Linux....

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Winmodems - Friend or Foe?
Winmodems Part 3 - This Would Never Happen Under GNU/Linux

My first piece on winmodems generated considerable response. I was surprised! Several suggested that I do more research before writing. I agree, that would be nice. In defense, I can only remind you that I am not as technically gifted as most in the Linux community. I can go to Slashdot and other Linux sites and be completely lost, even though the conversation appears to be in English. My pieces will have to be more at the level of the average PC user--those new to GNU/Linux.

For GNU/Linux to spread further, more pieces geared to the unsophisticated non-Linux user need to be made available. It's not just for techies anymore! So, when I step into the problems I have with Linux, they will likely be rather common, I suspect. But this is good. For example, a more technologically sound person wouldn't spend a couple months becoming familiar with Linux only to discover winmodems don't do the Net with Linux.

For example, someone considering buying Linux who reads this piece will most likely check their PC to find out. They learn what a winmodem is. They do a little research and discover--"whew, my modem's OK, I can go buy a GNU/Linux program and get on the Net with it." If not, they may decide to just go buy a Linux box. They will also see Compaq, Dell, Gateway--all of whom are selling pre-installed GNU/Linux boxes now.

Many of the emails I received gave me additional information. In the GNU/Linux spirit, I share it with you. "PC-Tel is creating a LinModem? The article is available at Slashdot. And the actual press release is available at LinuxWorld."

And, "Actually, Lucent puts out a modem that says 'Linux' in yellow letters on the box. All the other OSs are blue, but Linux stands out from the rest, since the background is dark. Obviously modem makers (at least Lucent) are paying attention to Linux. I know the modem is available at Circuit City, if you want to try to find it." http://a.linuxbox.com/

I learned that "LT in "LTwinmodem" stands for Lucent Technologies ... Lucent has contracted a company to do drivers for LTwinmodems for linux. They will not be open source.." This is progress, but, RMS would remind us that this "works with Linux" proprietary software, though it may help gain users, should not lull us into losing our Freedom. "Free as in freedom, not free beer." See the GNU Free Software Foundation.

And this may help explain why reverse engineering is so difficult. "An open source winmodem is also difficult, as that would give away the vendor's trade secrets (since, by definition, a winmodem is almost entirely software). This would allow cheap knockoffs and erode the vendor's profits. And there are many different Winmodems out there, so spending a lot of effort to support one doesn't do much for the others...I would definitely contribute technical work to get the Winmodem on my laptop working, and I'm very interested in any leads you can come up with. So contact me if you have a lead on this."

I made some pretty outlandish statements in the first piece. Such as, "a label that read, Works with Linux, would double sales. I have no statistics on this, but with the Red Hat IPO having done so well, and one report of a modem company actually having such a label, perhaps I will prove to be right. The least I can do is keep harping on this so the modem makers will at least make Open Source drivers available or get left behind."

Maurice L. Entwistle, maurice@discoverynet.com.





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