When going gets tough, Digicom's Modem Blaster just slows down

When going gets tough, Digicom's Modem Blaster just slows down

By J.B. Miles

Special to GCN

I decided to test drive Digicom Systems Inc.'s Modem Blaster Flash56 PCMCIA card for three reasons. One, I was impressed with the company's V.90 ModemBlaster Flash56 II External unit, which
I had reviewed for a V.90 modem story [GCN, April 12, Page 37]. Two, I already had the card because Digicom sent me a full fleet of its products some months ago for review. And three, the requirement to upgrade a 56-Kbps modem to V.90 protocols is common.

The $100 Type II, 16-bit modem exemplifies fax/data-only PC Cards in price, performance and accessories. Its documentation is adequate, though not extensive, and it comes with a fairly wide range of fax and voice messaging software options on a CD-ROM disk from its parent company, Creative Labs Inc.

The modem card comes standard with K56Flex protocols but promises an easy upgrade to V.90 protocols. As Digicom promised, the upgrade was easy to do but it did not produce the results I had hoped for.

Because my Gateway Solo 5100 notebook PC lacks a 3.5-inch floppy drive, I couldn't use the floppy disk that came with the modem. Instead, I searched for and found the correct V.90 driver on Digicom's Web site and downloaded it into a modem folder I had created on the c: drive, according to Digicom's directions.

Digicom clearly states that the old K56Flex driver must be completely erased before installing the new V.90 drive. I went to Microsoft Windows 98's Control panel, clicked on Modems and erased the old driver for the Flash56 PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) card. Then, again following Digicom's directions, I searched for any remaining driver files to erase under c:\windows\inf. Not finding any, I went on to reinstall the modem with its new V.90 driver.

The modem installed easily in seconds under Windows 98 Plug and Play, but its throughput was about 23 Kbps, less than half the speed the modem is designed for. In fact, it turned out to be even slower than the 28.8 Kbps consistently cranked out by the previous card, a 33.6-Kbps V.34-MHz card with x2 protocols optimized especially for the Solo 5100. I get a consistent 28.8-Kbps throughput from that card.

Don't blame the line

The card's slow performance isn't due to poor performance of my rural GTE Corp. phone lines. On average, I get about 49.5-Kbps throughput when downloading files using Digicom's ModemBlaster Flash56 External unit with on desktop PC, so I know that GTE handles V.90 protocols as advertised.

What went wrong? Either I didn't successfully expunge all related K56Flex driver files for the new PC Card, which could account for far less than optimum speed, or the card itself will handle 56-Kbps throughput only under optimum conditions.

Because I spent several hours searching for old driver files and did not find any, I can only conclude the latter.


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