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January 2001

Choosing the hardware connection between your DSL or Cable modem and OS/2

By Mike Persell ©January 2001

Referenced web sites:
IBM DDPak Online Network Adapters: http://service.software.ibm.com/os2ddpak/html/lanadapv/index.htm
IBM Etherjet PCI Adapter: http://commerce.www.ibm.com/cgi-bin/ncommerce/ProductDisplay?cntrfnbr=1&prmenbr=1&prnbr=34L1201&cntry=840&lang=en_US
Intel Pro/100 Adapters: http://www.intel.com/network/products/desktop_adapters.htm?iid=netsite+inc&
3COM 3c905 Network Adapters: http://www.3com.com/products/nics/3c905b.html
WebbNet: http://www.webbnet.org/server.html

There is a lesson that is hard learned in OS/2 and many other "alternate" OSes as they are often called. We have to put away those urges to run out or google out and buy the latest hardware. In my 10 years of OS/2 experience I still have to fight those urges too. Being that there's no "Hardware Anonymous" group out there for those of us who love to upgrade I've had to develop a 3 stage process for adding to my systems. This has proven especially useful in choosing my network adapters.

Step one:

Hide your credit cards and give the keys to your car to someone you trust.

You have to do some research first. The network adapter in the broadband world is as important as your monitor. The connection has to work cleanly and reliably all the time. In order to get the right answer you'll have to suffer a dial-up connection a little longer and get some answers from experienced people. Are those answers at the manufacturer, online reseller or local computer store? Not in my experience.

Get online and use at least two of many resources available. I have found the most reliable to be IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and Usenet. Look on the device driver site at IBM, match that up to what's available and then go out into an IRC channel, I'm partial to #VOICE on Webbnet, and ask as many questions as necessary to get the right answer as to which adapter to buy.

You can look in IRC or Usenet for someone who has the same ISP and connection you're going to use and draw from their experience. This will take you a lot further than any README file or Fine Manual.

Step two:

Back up as much of your OS/2 workstation as you have media.

When you add networking to an OS/2 system not previously set up for broadband you make some major changes to the system. Always leave yourself a way out in case of problems with the system. You may have to use that modem again so make sure you have the tools use it. Broadband is far faster than modems and much easier to use in the sense that you don't have to dial up each time you want to get online but its still new technology to many areas and it may be less than 100% reliable, I know mine is.

You've heard it before and its a good rule here, before you add the network adapter, backup the system or at the very least the important files like config.sys and your dialer, tcpip settings for the dialup ISP, etc.

Step three:

Tell the guy writing this to stop acting like my mother and tell me which network adapters I should look for!

Now that would be too easy wouldn't it. I have used 3 different network adapters with great success both in everyday use and in testing purposes. I learned early on that the highest price didn't always provide the best adapter and the lowest price could provide a minefield of support problems. Also, many brands of adapters are simply relabeled cards. DEC 'Tulip' or 21xxx chips, for example, are not well supported but are the base chips to a lot of adapters, Netgear for example uses DEC chips and has no OS/2 support.

There are some other adapters that have had good success with OS/2. Kim Cheung has had good success with Kingston and D-Link adapters, if you're planning to get eCS (eComStation) then be sure to check into their experience with those adapters. Your research may provide more choices so please check out the availability of drivers first and then adapters in your area.

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