October 1996 MAGazine Volume 12 Number 9

Table Of Contents

The October General Meeting of the Memphis Amiga Group will be held Saturday, October, 12, 1:00 pm until approximately 3:00 pm at Steve Echols home, 4374 Barrymore.

The newsletter is published monthly for distribution to the members of the Memphis Amiga Group. MAGazine contains meeting announcements, hardware and software reviews, video and book reviews, and other information of interest to Amiga and computer users in general. Contributions are welcome and may be submitted in hardcopy or via disk in ASCII format at any meeting or you can upload to Operator Headgap BBS - (901) 759-1542 V.32bis hi speed operating CNET PRO v3.05c software. Be sure to leave a note to the sysop.

From the President's CLI

by Scott Pitts

I understand that some people use the Amiga for 3D Raytracing, graphics, desktop publishing, and other pursuits. I would like to encourage everyone to participate so that we may be able to bring new inspiration to the club. Please contribute your knowledge to the group.

The meeting place is still at Steve Echols.

I would like to invite everyone out to the to the business meeting 12 pm Saturday which is also at Steves.

Scott Pitts
President

MINUTES

The Group meeting started at around 12:00 and was very educational. As previously stated, we will continue on this with the internet theme for the next few meetings to allow for other users to get connected. The meetings will continue to be a Steve Echols house until he runs us off. Last month, we had demos of Final Writer for the Amiga, and the Windows 95 version. The similarities were astounding. We are still searching for the perfect internet mail program. Hopefully MicroDotII will be in beta soon. This week, in addition to the internet software installation, we will have demos of the Cyberstorm 060 accelerator for the 3000/4000. Paul Stokes recently aquired one of these units, and will show off how fast his 4000 can be. Additionally, we will get demos of the Cybervision 64 video card. This will be demoed by Paul, as he will show off sever workbench enhancements that work well with standard ECS/AGA systems as well as video boards. If any has any new software they would like to demo, or need assistance on, please bring it. We will try to assist with any problems, and everyone wants to check out the latest software. If anyone has any ideas about software that they would like to see demoed, please let one of the officers know. Hope to see you all at the next meeting.

Keith Burns
Secretary

MAG Meetings

The Memphis Amiga Group (MAG) holds general meetings the second Saturday of each month. This monthe the meeting will be at Steve Echols house at 4374 Barrymore (see map at left).

There will be no board of directors meeting at Gridley's BarBQ instead the Board meeting will be at Steve's at 12:00 P.M., Saturday, October, 12. For more information call Scott Pitts at (901) 854-1987.

Memphis Amiga Group Officers for 1995

President
Scott Pitts
(901) 854-1987

Vice President
Steve Echols
(901) 756-9261

Secretary
Keith Burns
(901) 756-8514

Treasurer
Terry Campbell
(601) 393-4864

Librarian
Bill Bowers
(901) 360-0003

MAGazine Editior
Paul Stokes
(901) 867-8417

MAGazine Printing & Distribution
Terry A. Campbell
(601) 393-4864

Disk Sales & Video Rentals

MAG library and Fred FISH disk are $2 each.
($5 each for non-members)
Quality blank disks with labels are 65¢ each.
($1 each for non-members)
Rental of Amiga related videotapes is $3 per week.
(not available to non-members)
For all this and more contact club librarian
Bill Bowers (901) 360-0003

Full Page $20.00
1/2 Page $11.00
1/4 Page $7.50
1/8 Page (or business card) $3.00

(contact Terry Campbell at 601-393-4864)

INFO

The Memphis Amiga Group (MAG) is a non-profit organization whose purpose is promoting and encourageing the use and understanding of the Commodore Amiga Computer. Memberships are open to all those who share a common interest in the Amiga computer and its many wonderful and unique features. Monthly meetings are open to the public and visitors are welcome.

Annual membership dues for new members are $25.00 with an annual renewal rate of $20.00. Associate memberships are available for $15.00 per year, renewable at the same rate, to those who must travel more than 45 miles one way to attend general meetings. All memberships are family memberships and dues are nonrefundable.

Cyberstorm MKII / Cybervision64

Well I just got a Cyberstorm MKII and a Cybervision64 video card. I haven't had it but a couple of days and I've already found that getting it set up and working is not as easy as clicking on the install icon.

The Cyberstorm is easy, just install the software and then power down the machine and change the CPU. Cybervision on the other hand is worrisome. I'm wanting to run a 16bit, 800 x 600, 65000 colors.

I've found that any software that has a screen mode requester works. Their may be minor glitches tho. PPage wanted to open on 800 x 1200 even tho the requester had the right 800 x 600 in the requester. PDraw doesn't like 3.0 workbench, so much for PDraw. DPaintIV, ADPro, Brillance are all giving me a problem. I'm told that a newer version of ADPro will fix that. I've heard that DPaintV works also. I don't know about Brillance tho, it's not 24bit. Any 24bit paint program should work. Cybervision comes with PhotogenicsLite and it works well. It also comes with some useful utilities such as CyberView and CyberShow. CyberView will show JPEG's almost as fast as you can select them. NewMode is another screen promotion program but a little different. I haven't had enough time to fully check it out but it seems to be more user friendly than the others i've used.

Another problem was the mouse pointer, it wasn't designed for 800 x 600. The cure was Cyberpointer, a pointer pref available on aminet. Another problem is the heat. I'm having to ad additional cooling as with both Cyberstorm and Cybervision the computer gets extremely warm. That's the fault of Commodore and their design. The 4000 has poor air circulation.

There is plenty of software written with Cybervision in mind, CyberAiv, CyberGrab, CyberShow and others most newer software will work fine but you'll have to give up some of your old favorites. I guess it's just part of the price.

Now I just wait on my slow IDE hard drive

I'm going to love my new Amiga 4000/060

Paul Strokes

ZyXEL Elite 2864

PRODUCT NAME

ZyXEL Elite 2864 Ultra High Speed Modem

BRIEF DESCRIPTION

The Elite 2864 is a high speed modem handling speeds of 28.8 kbaud with V.34/V.32bis/V.42 bis and many other protocols. It also features Facsimile and Voice modes. In addition, the 2864 is upgradable to ISDN.

AUTHOR/COMPANY INFORMATION

Name: ZyXEL Communications
Corporation Address: 4920 East LA Palma Avenue
Anaheim, CA 92807
U.S.A.

Telephone: (800) 255-4101
(714) 693-0808 8 am - 5 pm PST
FAX: (714) 693-8811
(714) 693-0705

E-mail: sales@zyxel.com Sale inquiries
tech@zyxel.com Technical Support
Fidonet: Primary address: 1:103/725
Secondary address: 1:202/701.101
CompuServe: CIS ID: 71333,2734
Forum: GO ZYXEL
BBS: (714) 693-0762
FTP: ftp://ftp.xyxel.com/pub/other/zyxel
World Wide Web: http://www.zyxel.com

LIST PRICE

Unfortunately I could not find a current list price. However, ZyXEL offers frequent upgrade prices, including competitive upgrades. I have seen the Elite 2864 for $260 US in some mail order advertisements. The list price when they originally appeared on the market back in mid-1995 put them in the $600 US range. The price has dropped considerably since then.

DEMO VERSION

None.

SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS

HARDWARE

A free serial port is required. A high speed serial card is highly recommended.

SOFTWARE

A communications terminal program or network interface program with SLIP or PPP abilities.

COPY PROTECTION

None.

MACHINE USED FOR TESTING

Amiga 3000-25, 2 MB Chip RAM, 12 MB Fast RAM, 2 internal 1760 kB floppies Kickstart 40.68 and Workbench 40.42, MultiFaceCard III, CyberVision 64 with 4 MB RAM, Bernoulli Transportable, The Box 150, Quantum LPS525S, 525 MB internal hard drive, IDEK Iiyama MF-5021 21" Multiscan Color Monitor, Epson ActionLaser 1600 with EpsonScript Level 2 Upgrade Amiga OS 3.1, AmiFileSafe 2.2, AmiTCP 4.2, Term 4.4

INSTALLATION

Installation was simple enought. The modem came with a variety of cables, including a 25-pin serial cable. Just attach the modem to a 25-pin serial port, a phone line into the back of the modem, and the power cable to the back. Then with any termianl program, it is ready to run.

REVIEW

A few months back I received an upgrade form from ZyXEL offering me the opportunity to upgrade my older ZyXEL U-1496E to the brand new ZyXEL Elite 2864. I jumped at the opportunity, having been completely pleased with the power of my U-1496E. So, I sent in the form, and a few weeks later I had a brand new medem capable of 28.8 kbaud communications with the V.34 protocol. However, I got more that I bargained for.

The ZyXEL Elite 2864 comes with the modem, and external power brick (similar to the Amiga 500's and 1200's with power switch on the brick), a 25-pin dual-purpose cable, a 25-pin gender changer, a short phone cord, power cable a small Quick Stat Guide, registration card, and several floppies of IBM software.

The modem has a bank of 21 LEDs on the front,, along with 2 large push buttons. On the modem's right side are two jacks, one for a microphone and one for external speakers. The modem does have an internal speaker to make all that harassing noise when one dials and connects. Of course those noises can be disabled via software. The back of the modem has a power port, a 25- pin serial port, a parallel port, and 2 phone jacks (one in, one out).

My roommates nicknamed my modem as the Ludicrous Modem. And there is good reason. I will just list out the various features below.

And now, the nitty gritty... I have been using this modem with AmiTCP 4.2/PPP constantly for the five months I have had it. I have also used it for standard, direct call up connections. In addition I had it hooked up to a Pentium 100 to play 2-player Hexen for a few hours. In all cases it has performed delightfully. 14.4 kbaud communications are simple enough. 28.8 kbaud communications, on the other hand, I have not been able attain. Calling into my Internet provider's US Robotics V.34 28.8 kbaud modems tends to get me either a 24000 or a 26400 V.34 connection. This seems to be due to line conditions. At 26400, the Elite 2864 quite regularly flashes its Signal Quality LED, indicating that the line conditions are poor and it is retraining. The US Robotics on the other end supports this and the retrain is usually successful. However, every once in a while the retrain will fail and the link will be dropped. At 24000 connections, it retrains less, but it does attempt to train up to a 26400 connection now and then, with the same results (about 70% success, 30% line dropped). This is but a minor inconvenience for me. I just offline my PPP connection without issuing a Stopnet, then issue a new Startnet and nearly all of my connections are resumed without any apparent interruption.

The modem can automatically detect and differentiate between FAX and data connections. In addition, the modem has a parallel port on it. A Postscript Level 1, HP Deskjet 500 series, HP Laserjet II, HP Laserjet III or compatible printer may be attached directly to the modem and have it automatically print any FAXes received. The computer does not need to be turned on or even connected in this case. I have played with this feature and it works exactly as advertised. I sent FAXes from a FAX machine at work and when I returned home, there they were in my laser printer's output tray. My Amiga was not even powered on. Unfortunately there appears to be no way to print from the host computer to the printer attached to the modem without rearranging cables. This would have been a convenient feature.

In addition, the 2864 can be upgraded to have 2 MB, 4 MB or 8 MB of RAM. This is accomplished with combinations of 1, 2, or 4 DRAM chips. The chips are 4Mx4 organized l6Mbit chips in SOJ packaging. 60 or 70 ns chips are suggested. More specific information can be obtained from the manual which is available at ZyXEL's Web site. I have not looked into how much this RAM costs, but I cannot imagine that single chips which contain 2 MB of RAM each can be all that cheap.

The addition of RAM into the modem allows the storage of FAXes in the modem's memory, thus eliminating the need for a printer or a computer to be powered on or connected to receive FAXes. Just come home, power on your connected printer, push a button on the front of the modem, and it will print out all received FAXes. The manual did not seem to indicate a way to be able to download FAXes to the computer from the 2864's RAM instead of printing.

The modem also supports Voice communications. I.e., it can act like an answering machine/phone tree/telephony service. A computer program can be written to create a phone tree or answering machine service using the modem. This is possible due to the modem's DTMF tone detection. (It can detect when a number on a touch tone phone has been pressed.) The built in voice compression routines also are a boon for such applications, compressing the recorded voice within the modem, taking the load off the computer and reducing the amount of disk storage necessary to store the messages. The compressed voice messages can be sent back to the modem for decompression or a program can be written on the host computer to do the decompression. Sufficient information is in the modem's manual for writing a program to do this. In addition, there are various ways that sound can be directed through the modem system. Sound can be compressed from the phone line and passed into the host computer. Or sound can be compressed from the modem's microphone jack and passed into the host computer. In addition. the inputs (phone jack and microphone jack) can have their data sent to the optional 2, 4 or 8 MB of onboard DRAM on the modem. Messages stored in DRAM can be played back later in a similar fashion to the storage of facsimiles in DRAM. The play back can be sent to the handset attached to the out phone jack in back or out the speaker jack on the modem.

The Elite 2864 supports Distinctive Ring and Caller ID. Distinctive Ring is a feature available from the phone company. Effectively it takes 2 or more telephone numbers and puts them onto one phone cable. I.e., 2 or more phone numbers would all go to one phone. However, whenever any particular phone number is called, the phone will ring slightly differently. The Elite 2864 can detect these differences and be told to either answer or ignore the particular distinctive ring. Thus one can have a data/fax line which the modem will pick up, a phone tree line which the modem will pick up, and then a standard voice line which the modem will ignore, passing through for a person or real answering machine to pick up. Unfortunately, without something like this, the modem will not be able to tell the difference between a voice or fax/data call. Caller ID is supported and programs can be designed to pull out the incoming phone number after the first ring, displaying it on the screen or announcing it via voice synthesis.

The modem's parallel port also allows the modem to be connected to a computer via a bidirectional parallel port to the host computer. This allows the modem to work at full 28.8 kbaud speed on computers with slow serial ports (e.g., stock Amiga 500's and 2000's), and allows computers to use the modem at full ISDN speeds. However, ZyXEL does not provide a driver for the Amiga for this. Drivers are available for Windows, MS-DOS, Windows 95 and Windows NT. However, after looking over the the Elite 2864's manual, there does not appear to be any reason why a driver could not be written for the Amiga. It should be easier than it was for other platforms. All that should be needed is to write a dummy serial driver that interfaces with a bidirectional parallel driver. This should be possible with the Amiga's built in parallel port, and should definitely be possible with the third party multi-I/O cards like the MultiFaceCard series and similar. Unfortunately I am not as familiar as I would like to be with the Amiga programming, otherwise I would have already written such a driver.

The Elite 2864 is one of a series of modems by ZyXEL. While I have the standard version, the other versions are similar enough that I will list the differences here.

The Elite 2864 modem may be upgraded with an upgrade kit to an Elite 2864I (either version) by the end user. Actually it appears that any Elite 2864 modem could be changed to any other type of Elite 2864 as they are designed modularly. However, it appears that seems that only an upgrade kit to an ISDN version is available.

It is very easy to upgrade the firmware of an Elite modem. Elite modems include flash EPROMs, allowing them to be upgraded without opening the modems up. Just download the latest version of the firmware from the Web or FTP site. Unfortunately these files are currently only in PKzip format which might be a problem. There is an Unzip program available for the Amiga somewhere, however. This zip file contains two files, A note file which has changed since the last version of firmware and the actual firmware update. To upgrade the modem, one just issues an ATUPX command to the modem while in command mode. It will as if you really want to do this. If an answer of Yes is returned, it starts erasing the EPROM. After a moment, it requests that you upload the new firmware to the modem from the host computer using the Xmodem protocol. If something fatal happens in mid-process, there is a way to automatically throw the modem into the EPROM update procedure by holding down a combination of the front panel buttons upon power up. My Elite 2864 shipped with Firmware version 1.04. I recently upgraded to 1.09. It worked flawlessly and did not even require the modem to be power cycled afterwards. It was ready to go immeadiately after the upload. A much simpler process than the older ZyXEL modems of popping out the EPROMs, erasing them under strong ultraviolet light, and then using en EPROM programmer to reburn them.

DOCUMENTATION

Documentation that comes with the modem is a smal, half-inch (about one centimeter) thick Quick Start Guide which is stapled together.

This manual is just that, a Quick Start Guide. It is fairly comprehensive, including all the information a standard user of the modem will ever need. However, it does not contain everything a power user will want to know. The User Guide is available on ZyXEL's web site in either Postscript or Acrobat Reader formats. The web administrator indicated that an HTML version was in the works and that the manuals would be available on the FTP site, The web site administrator also indicated that he would also be more than willing to send a printed copy out if one did not have access to a postscript printer.

The Quick Start Guide keeps things pretty simple, starting out by explaining the basic concepts pertaining to modems, how to hook it up to one's computer, basic settings to be used in the terminal program and a quick list of AT command codes used by the modem. Pretty basic, but enough for most people.

The optional User's Guide contains everything the Quick Start Guide has. In addition it goes into much more depth. It explains the differences between the various models of the Elite 2864 modems and Omni 288 modems; an in depth description of the AT command sets used by the modems; description of the voice compression formats; details about upgrade options (ISDN, Leased Line, DRAM, and Firmware); diagnostics; tips and hints, a decent glossary; various appendices, including one on the Amiga; and a nice index.

LIKES

What I like about this modem is the quality behind it. This is a rather full featured modem great for all those nice buzzwords like 'multimedia ready,' 'FAX capable,' and so forth. This modem is not for everyone. It is rather expensive. However I would suggest it for small businesses, power users, and quality BBS's.

In addition, ZyXEL's Web site is very handy. Complete copies of the latest versions of the manuals and firmware are readily available there. Older versions of the firmware are generally available on the FTP site. In addition, technical support is readily available via the net. ZyXEL has sufficient ways to contact them that someone should be able to get through to someone knowledgeable pretty quickly.

DISLIKES AND SUGGESTIONS

There are few dislikes that I have with this product at all. But as nothing is perfect, there are always some.

COMPARISION TO OTHER SIMILAR PRODUCTS

I have used many different modems over the years. However the closest I have used to the ZyXEL Elite 2864 was my older ZyXEL U-1496E. This modem could handle 16.8 kbaud data rate transfers and 14.4 kbaud FAX capabilities. It also supported voice features though not as many options as the Elite 2864. I was very pleased with my U-1496E. The main advantages of the Elite 2864 over the U-1496E are full 28.8 kbaud V.34 communication options, stand alone (computerless) options for FAX and Voice operations, and Flash EPROM updates.

Other modems I have had experience with were generic 14.4 V.32b FAX/modems, I was forced to use one of these when I accidentally destroyed one of the EPROMs in my ZyXEL U-1496E. I can only say that it was a horrible experience. The generic 14.4 modem would drop line connections all the time as it lacked the advanced retrain capabilities of the ZyXEL.

BUGS

None discovered by myself, but each Flash EPROM update includes a note file indicating improved or new features and usually a long list of fixed bugs. Most bugs are rather minor and would not be noticed by most users.

VENDOR SUPPORT

I have contacted the vendor a few times. Once by phone. The lady I spoke to appeared to have a good data retrieval system at her fingertips, finding information on my current hardware within a few seconds. In addition she seemed fairly knowledgeable about the product. I am sure she was not an engineer, but she knew enough to answer most common problems which would be encountered by novice users.

I have also contacted a few of the ZyXEl people on the net via email. They are helpful, and appear to take suggestions rather seriously.

WARRANTY

The ZyXEL Elite 2864 is covered by a 5 year warranty from date of purchase to the original, end user purchaser. This warranty covers defects, faulty workmanship, failure due to faulty materials and the similar. This warranty is valid only in the USA and Canada.

CONCLUSIONS

This modem is a good investment. It is easy to expand and has enough capabilities to satisfy most power users. It is slightly more expensive than similar products by USRobotics. But the upgradability makes up for this. My only real quips are the lack of direct support for the Amiga, but this is no surprise.

I give this product 4 stars out of 5. Once a parallel port driver becomes available on the Amiga, I might upgrade that to 5 out of 5.

Copyright 1996 Wayne Rigby