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August 2003

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OS/2 and ISDN - loving couple or cold relationship?

By Eric Baerwaldt © August 2003, Translation: Christian Hennecke

Many internet surfers who had fun using their analogue telephone connection so far are experiencing that in spite of V.90 or even V.92 modem standards, the surf fun is more and more becoming a surf frustration due to rapidly growing load times.

Realizing that the analogue V.90 standard offers a maximum speed of 56,000 kbps and the ISDN technology 64,000 kbps, the difference seems marginal at first look. But: The quite old ISDN technology offers channel bundling which already reaches a maximum throughput of 128.000 kbps. With channel bundling enabled, a common ISDN connection single-handedly manages to provide a throughput of 6.5 to 7 KB per second when downloading files, while the good old analogue modem reaches a maximum of 5 KB - with 4 KB per second being the norm though. Since also the display of sites is considerably faster with an ISDN connection, many surfers may ponder exchanging the common analogue connection for an ISDN one. Several providers offer ISDN connections for only slightly higher fees than the old analogue ones, so you should consider changing if you are often surfing the internet or you don't want the line to be busy while surfing.

The first obstacle for OS/2 and eComStation users already gets in the way - which hardware has support for "our" operating system? While practically any external analogue modem works with OS/2 and eComStation thanks to the IAK's (OS/2 Warp's Internet Access Kit) all-purpose option Hayes-compatible, each ISDN card needs a so-called CAPI interface, usually versions 1.1 or 2.0. It is mandatory for the CAPI (Common ISDN Application Interface) to be adapted to the operating system - so a CAPI for »Windows 98« won't work on OS/2.

Another obstacle is the result of the progress in hardware development: Those who are still using an older standard computer, will usually have both ISA and PCI slots available. New machines with Athlon, Pentium III, and Pentium IV processors and the related chip sets come with PCI slots exclusively - ISA cards cannot be employed in such systems. In notebooks, only PC Card Bus or the 16 bit variant PCMCIA cards can be used, if you don't have a docking station and want to be able to connect to the outside world while traveling. Finally, owners of IBM systems with MCA bus basically can only choose from a few, extremely expensive active ISDN cards for professional use - cheap products and the MCA bus have never liked each other. Besides the common internal cards, also so-called terminal adapters are offered - devices which are externally connected to the computer like analogue modems, in most cases via the serial interface. These devices have to be explicitly supported by the operating system, too.

Since a customer brought up the topic "Software support of ISDN cards" a while ago, I have made the effort to collect information about cards and adaptors which are currently supported by OS/2 and eComStation. If you think such a task should be finished quickly in the times of internet, your awfully wrong, because most vendor's sites don't list information regarding the OS/2 compatibility of their products - they seem to be ashamed of also supporting the best 32 bit system. A request at German Telekom was frustrating: I had to spell the term "OS/2" and explain what eComStation is. "We only do with Windows.", was the answer in broken German. Apparently you cannot expect more from persons who master the German language so exceedingly well...

So here is my "collected works" regarding the cards with OS/2 and eComStation support:

Tbl.1: Passive internal ISDN cards for the ISA bus

Eicon Diehl Diva 2.0 / 2.01
Elsa QuickStep 1000pro
HST Saphir I
IMK I-Link 3.0
ITK Columbus World
Sedlbauer Speed card
Teles Teles.S0/16


Tbl.2: Passive internal ISDN cards for the PCI bus

Eicon Diehl Diva 2.0 / 2.01
Elsa QuickStep 1000pro PCI
Elsa MicroLink ISDN PCI
HST Saphir III


Tbl.3: Active internal ISDN cards for the ISA bus

Vobis (same as Elsa) Highscreen ISDN-Boostar
AVM ISDN-Controller B1
Eicon Diehl Diva
Eicon Diehl Diva Pro 2.0
Eicon Diehl Diva Server BRI-2M
Eicon Diehl Quadro
Elsa QuickStep 3000
Ferrari electronic Ferrari Fax card
Hypercope HYSDN Central 4
IMK I-Link 3.0 semi-active


Tbl.4: Active internal ISDN cards for the PCI bus



AVM ISDN-Controller B1 PCI
Eicon Diehl Diva Pro
Eicon Diehl Diva Pro 2.0
Eicon Diehl Diva Server PRI-3.0M
Hypercope HYSDN Ergo 2
Hypercope HYSDN Metro 4
Elsa QuickStep 3000 PCI


Tbl.5: Active internal ISDN cards for the MCA bus



Eicon Diehl Diva Pro
IBM WaveRunner MC
IBM Interface Coprozessor/2 Model 2
IBM ISDN Primary Rate Adapter


Tbl.6: PCMCIA ISDN adapter (16 bit) and PC Card Bus adapter (32 bit)



AVM ISDN-Controller B1 PCMCIA (active)
Eicon Diehl Diva Pro PC Card (semi-active)
Hayes Optima Global PC Card (active)
Hypercope HYSDN Hycard (active)
HST Saphir 2 (passive)
HST Saphir 3
IBM Intern. PC Card Modem (passive)
IMK/ICS I-Link 3.0 PCMCIA (passive)
Sedlbauer Speed star (passive)
Teles Teles.S0/PCMCIA-2


Tbl.7: Terminal adapters / external ISDN modems

BinTec Communications BinGO! - PC
Eicon Diehl Diva T/A ISDN-Modem
Elsa TanGo 1000
Elsa TanGo 2000
Gerdes AG Power ISDN xT
IMK/ICS I-Link 3.5
Sedlbauer AG Speedbox (this is a terminal adapter which is connected to the parallel port!)
Zyxel Omni TA 128
Zyxel Omni Net Data
Zyxel OMNI Net
Zyxel OMNI Net LCO

Some the listed devices have been on the market for years. Some are not sold any more. However, they are still available via eBay or atrada auctions, for instance (this especially applies to devices from the bankrupt and then sold vendor Elsa).

In the light of this quite large support for OS/2 and eComStation, the ISDN beginner should be able to claim that it is more a loving couple than a cold relationship. Hopefully, the love is going to endure for much longer!

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