Socket Communications’ 56k CF Modem

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INTRODUCTION

I have used a CF modem

for dial-up connections for about 18 months. My first

was a Casio, because it was the only one I could track

down through a local dealer. Though the modem performed

very well, the tiny metal and plastic connector between

adapter and CF card seemed weak. Eventually it failed

during an accidental yank on the phone cord. I ordered

a replacement cable, but that proved not to be the

problem, rather, something inside the card had been

damaged when the cable pulled out.

 

   

So… modem shopping time again. Being now biased

against connector cables, the Socket modem was among

those catching my attention. As I read the specifications

for the various available brands, it soon became apparent

that this product offered the better numbers. Especially

capturing my interest was the claim of low power consumption.

I go on the web a fair bit with my EG-800, preferring

it to my PC even for downloading software or media.

Perhaps I am a bit obsessive, but if a site resists

Pocket IE I am more likely to avoid it than to try

later on the notebook. And for e-mail I use only the

Casio. So for the times I am not wanting to be tethered

to my AC adapter (on the porch, at my woodworking

bench, in other folks’ houses…) it is good to get

as much online time as possible. Other factors, like

wide operating temperature range, apparent toughness,

and of course price, were all factors in my choice.

 

 

   

Of all the modems I looked at, Socket’s 56K CF modem

seemed to present the best package.


SETUP

Installing the Socket CF modem

on my Casio EG-800 was almost too easy. I plugged

it into the CF slot, opened my local ISP connection

under Start–Settings–Connections, chose ‘Socket-CF+_56K_Modem’

from the modem selection drop-down list, then followed

through to save the modified setting. Opening my e-mail

program I just tapped through as normal and was connected

as though nothing had changed.

 


A wee MS

bug uncovered

It turns out that Microsoft

set me up for a bit of a fall, something I could have

avoided by configuring a new connection from scratch

instead of tapping into an existing setup. For the

next couple of weeks connections were not at all consistent.

An average of 30% of my attempts were rebuffed, giving

different versions of the same error depending on

which program I used to dial-up Asking Socket support

about this, they informed me that it was a known bug

in the PPC OS, and advised that I create an all-new

connection using this new modem. I did that, and have

had not a single failure since. I tried, but could

not find this written up in the MS ‘Searchable Knowledge

Base’.

 

   Here’s

the run-down on configuring a dial-up for a Pocket

PC. First, tap Start–Settings–Connections, then

Modem, then New Connection:

 

 

Setup 1Setup 2

 

 

Setup 3Setup 4

   Carrying

on, input any information your ISP requires for

a connection. In my case figuring out a couple of

subtle differences in labels like ‘server name’

and ‘domain’ made it a bit of a puzzle, but persistence

and keeping good notes on things that didn’t work

eventually got me there. Unfortunately, most ISP

tech support people still haven’t even seen a Pocket

PC, so all they can offer is a printout of the specs

they offer PC users.

   Carrying

on, input any information your ISP requires for

a connection. In my case figuring out a couple of

subtle differences in labels like ‘server name’

and ‘domain’ made it a bit of a puzzle, but persistence

and keeping good notes on things that didn’t work

eventually got me there. Unfortunately, most ISP

tech support people still haven’t even seen a Pocket

PC, so all they can offer is a printout of the specs

they offer PC users.

 

 

Setup 5Setup 6

 

Setup 7Setup 8

 

 

Once set up, run a registry backup or full

backup to avoid having to do it all over if your device

fails for some reason. SpriteSoftware’s

Pocket Backup is very reliable, and the regular edition

is free.


PRODUCT FEATURES

The modem arrived in a

plastic display package, and included a decent quality

7′ phone line and minimal documentation. Not much is

required, as the immediate recognition of the card on

insertion makes software or instructions irrelevant.

The modem itself is very nicely made, with a sense of

potential durability about it. The absence of any intermediate

cable bolsters this impression.

 

 

packagingthe modem itself

 

 

Modem operation is straightforward

enough. Tapping into the Connections (Start–Settings–Connections–Modem–Connections–Your

Connection) is about the hardest way to get to the Connect

dialogue. It’s a lot easier to go the Inbox or Pocket

IE route. For those who don’t use Dashboard, the Inbox

icon on the Today screen takes you right there. Then

just tap Services/Connect or the twin envelope icon.

Similarly in PIE, tap Tools–Connect. Then input username

and password, Save if you like (I did), then Connect.

Here’s a picture of the modem in the EG-800 at full

size:

 

 

Modem in my EG-800, actual size

 

 

 

   

Using the CF modem card with a notebook PC is almost

as easy. I installed it to 2 notebooks; a Fujitsu

FMV-BIBLO NE7/75 running WinME, and an Acer Travelmate

521TE running Win98SE. The Fujitsu recognized it on

insertion (in a Microtech CF to PCMCIA adapter costing

about $15 – Socket also makes an adapter) as “Socket-CF+_56K_Modem”,

installed in a few ‘OK’ or ‘Next’ clicks. Lucky for

me it was so simple; the Fujitsu has a Japanese OS,

and I couldn’t read most of what the installer said.

I just kept hitting Enter. The Acer was a bit trickier,

doubtless lacking the driver because it’s almost 2

years old. But still, the modem was recognized as

a “Standard PCMCIA card modem”, I hit ‘Enter’ a few

times, and it was installed. Configuring the dial-up

in each was simple enough with my ISP’s info sheet.

 

 

   

Performance

on a PC is quite nice,

when I’m used to a built-in modem that is less than

reliable and usually slows to 1.9 kbps or less during

downloads. Here’s are a screenshot depicting typical

speed with Socket’s modem, well into a large download:

 

 

 

downloading a large file via PC

  

And here are a few samples, chosen at random, of

Internet-based speed tests using the modem in my

Casio EG-800. Average indicated speed in dozens

of similar tests was about 36 kbps.

 
 

speed test 1
speed test 2
speed test 3

 

 

And for a ‘real-world’ test, I e-mailed

a 2046 kb MOV file. It took exactly 15 1/2 minutes equaling

about 2.2 kbps. Better upstream on my PPC than my PC’s

normal downstream rate. Also for comparison, I just

downloaded a 1.7 MB program installer, and it completed

in 7 minutes; a bit better than 4 kbps. I average maybe

4 MB of sites per day on the unit, plus any eBooks or

film clips of interest, software updates, new programs

to test, and a couple of fair-sized e-mail attachments.

Since I prefer to browse and download on the Casio,

and never do mail on a PC if I can avoid it, performance

is very important to me. I also upload files to my site

using ftpView, often for insertion in discussion forum

threads, and to share files too big for e-mail with

family and friends, and also a bit of site maintenance

when I have time. And I fax a bit, using KSE Truefax.

Fax transfer performance is exactly as specified in

the Socket Communications specification sheet. For the

past month, this Socket modem has kept me quite contented

with its general performance. I throw it into a pocket

when I go out, in case I get a moment to check my mail

while at another location. Great to have reliable hardware,

avoiding embarrassing delays while ‘showing off’ the

PPC too.

Battery life while online is decent.

On average, my EG-800 offers me 2 hours online per battery

charge. If I don’t use the modem, and use a range of

functions including games, PIM apps, graphics tools,

and a lot of Pocket Word, I get about 5 hours. Modems

use a lot of energy, but this one lets me get bored

of forum browsing before fading out.

 


HELP SUPPORT

 

Socket support was a bit late getting

back to me, but hey, it was Christmas holidays for

the works of them. I had the information I needed

as soon as everyone returned to work. Data sheets

are readily available on the Socket

site, as is e-mail support.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

 

All Pocket PC models including PPC 2002 with a CF Type I slot are supported, whether built-in or a jacket. H/PC and Palm-size/PC are also supported. So is the new Casio BE-300. And though Socket seems reluctant to point this out, their modem is a fine addition to a notebook PC accessory bag.


BUGS AND WISHES

Only a Microsoft bug to report,

and configuring a new connection rather than swapping

the modem in an existing one avoids this altogether.

A small thing, but mildly annoying: the stainless

steel (or chromed) surrounding for the RJ-11 jack

has a sharp inner lip. This tends to hold onto the

top – the flat side – of the phone jack when I remove

it. A bit of practice has overcome this, making it

something I don’t think about at all. Had to check

my early notes to remember this.

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About The Author
Daniel Matejka