WINMODEMS ARE NOT MODEMS
Mirrored Page at ModemDriver.com (With Permission from Author)
So-called Winmodems, host-based, HCF-, HSP-, HSF-, controllerless, host-controlled, and soft modems require vendor-supplied software to do the work of proper hardware modems. The sale of these devices for x86-based PCs is becoming increasingly popular among retailers and OEMs because of their lower cost.
Since 1998, my opinion on these devices has been tempered by changes in:
- how the chip-makers and modem-makers have acknowledged the growing base of Linux users,
- the installed base of PCs that are capable of using a host-based modem without significant impact on the CPU, and
- the emergence of PC motherboards with AC'97 capability.
This section used to say:
However, Winmodems are only appropriate for use with Microsoft Windows on a fast Pentium.
I'm not sure this blanket statement is still true. As evidenced by the big list, there are many GNU/Linux users using their "linmodems" with varying degrees of success. On the other hand, this does not help all the *BSD users, the x86 Solaris users, and others who would also benefit from non-proprietary software drivers.
A chart summarizing the hardware differences between traditional modems, controllerless and software modems can be found here or, for a longer explanation, here or here.
The developers at linmodems.org have coined the term Linmodem to describe a winmodem that can be used with Linux with a commercial or open-source driver.
It has been pointed out to me that the name "Winmodem" is/was a registered trademark of U.S. Robotics (or 3Com while they were merged). I'm sure that they are proud of this fact ;) In any case, when I refer to Winmodems, please read it as "Winmodems(tm), host-based modems, HCF-modems, HSP-modems, and all similar modem-like hardware."
Added a link to Dell's Broadcom BCM421x driver. Thanks to John Martiney for locating this driver!
The Conexant HCF driver now supports older Rockwell (127A) PCI chipsets as well as 14F1:181x Combo Lan/Modem cards
1. If Winmodems are not really modems, why do manufacturers make them?
It all comes down to cost. First, a winmodem lacks parts found in regular modems-- these parts are "emulated" by software running on your CPU. This lowers the unit cost to manufacture them. Second, most consumers using Microsoft Windows will never realize that their "56K Modem" is actually a winmodem, so the OEMs are happy.
2. Oops, I bought a Winmodem. Will it work with Linux?
Not without some effort. A Winmodem requires software to emulate the hardware missing from the modem card. For some winmodems, such as the 3Com/US Robotics Winmodems, this software is only available for Microsoft Windows. For most others, there are groups adapting proprietary drivers to function as "Linmodem" drivers.
3. This all sounds way over my head. Just tell me where to get the .rpm.
Sorry, the whole idea of using binary drivers in a Free operating system is an ugly hack. Consider this an opportunity to learn more about your computer :) Honestly, you must know which of several types of winmodem you have in order to pick the right driver.
Please remember: if you have a choice, a hardware modem is always the best choice for Linux users. If you have a laptop with a built-in winmodem, though, you'll need a "linmodem" driver.
4. Are there any external Winmodems? Am I always safe getting an external modem?
Standard serial port (RS-232) external modems are usually fine, no matter what make or model.
Many USB external modems are winmodems and should be avoided. If you are interested in the status of USB support in Linux, please follow the link to the Linux-USB uusbd development page.
5. How about PCI modems? Are all PCI modems winmodems?
No, there are at least three types of controller-based PCI modems. They are somewhat more difficult to set up than a jumpered ISA modem or an external serial port modem. Linux 2.4 will probably include automagic setup of PCI hardware modems.
If you are curious, these modems are:
Lucent Venus chipset:
Actiontec PCI56012 (IBM 33L4618 or GVC MD0223)
USR/TI Kermit chipset:
the 3Com/USR 3CP5610 family, which includes models 5613, 5609, and OEM models 2976, 2977, and 3258
TOPIC TP560i chipset:
Zoom 2920 (Digitan DS550-558),
Well Communications FM-56PCI-TP (GVC MD0321), and
Archtek Smartlink 5634PCV.
Conexant RC56D-PCI chipset:
none observed yet
6. Are there any Linmodem drivers for kernel 2.0.x? 2.4.x?
A few have been ported to 2.4.x. But there are none for 2.0.x. Now you can see why closed source drivers are such a bad idea.
7. My modem is not a winmodem but I'm still having problems getting Linux to "see" it or the modem is always "busy." Why?
The most common reasons are:
Unconfigured ISA Plug-and-Play modem
"User-friendly" dialing programs which have their own problems. Test your modem with minicom instead.
The Modem-HOWTO has an up-to-date troubleshooting section.
Linux/Modem Compatibility Knowledge Base
Usual disclaimers apply. This list is provided only for your convenience and should not be considered an endorsement blah blah blah ;-) Experienced Linux users-- I need your help to mark more modems OK
If you can add something to this table, please let me know. FCC ID number and/or FCC Registration number is required. This number is usually silk-screened or on a label on the modem board. On a notebook computer, it is often on a label on the bottom of the case. Click here for an example. I'm thinking about including Industry Canada certification numbers, too.
If you're looking for a particular modem, be sure to use your browser's "Find in Page" command. It may not be where you think it should be!
WM = Winmodem, only known to work with Windows software
LM = Winmodem, may work with vendor-supplied Linux ("Linmodem") driver
RP = Rockwell RPI chipset, requires DOS or Windows DSP software, may work with error-correction disabled
OK = Real modem, reported to work with Linux
Disclaimer: I cannot endorse, support, troubleshoot, or debug this software.
All right, then, if you plan to use one of these drivers, you definitely should read the draft version of the Linmodem-HOWTO. It explains the quirks of the closed-source drivers and how to overcome them.
If you get one of these to work for you, please send me a note with your modem information so that others won't have struggle as much as you did :) Let's turn those WM's into LM's!
These are handy tip sheets for shopping at chain stores that will fit on one piece of letter-sized paper when printed. Usual disclaimers apply.
Rob CLARK [firstname.lastname@example.org]
©QVI - Modemdriver.com - 2006. - All products and brand names mentioned are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.