USB Modems: Reader Reports

US Robotics Internet Gaming Modem

Dave Ciemny had problems racing GPL online with a USB modem. With his old modem, he could race fine, but with the USB modem, he got errors, "10049 - cannot assign requested address." These errors coincided with a disconnect from his ISP. I suggested he talk to his ISP's tech support, and also try other ISP's. Nothing worked. Dave said:

I tried 3 different ISP's. Two national, one local. I got booted from the game and the Internet everytime I ran the game online. Checked settings and everything else, no conflicts. The local [retail computer store] guy feels it is the USB modem.

Dave returned the USB modem and got an internal PCI modem designed specifically for Internet gaming. Here's what he said:

I just got my computer back tonight. I now have a 56k US Robotics Gaming Modem. I experimented for about an hour and a half.

It is a hardware based modem but I still turned off error control and set the FIFO buffers to one click from the left. I have my max speed still set at 115200.

Anyhow I split my time between Mindspring and a local provider just south of Buffalo. I thought the local provider had a little better connection than the national one. Pings between 180 and 275. Even races that looked risky were OK once I was in. It was nice to always see the cars around me. No disconnects either. I'll race more over the next couple of days and give you a final report (hopefully it will be good news :-).

BTW I was told the area I'm in has some bad phone lines so if I can keep a connection consistent with what I had tonight I will be happy.

- Dave Ciemny

Dave has now written a comprehensive article on his Internet Gaming Modem experience.

USB to Serial Converter

Based on your advice about USB modems, I bought Entrega's USB to Serial Converter, which allows me to run my serial modem from a USB port and this seems to work very well. The documentation says that you get all the benefits of a USB modem from your serial modem and I have noticed a great improvement, although I still get disconnects occasionally. If you already have a 56kbs serial modem this looks like a cheaper alternative to buying a whole new USB modem and allows you to run other serial devices though a USB port as well.

- Paul Jones

New Firmware for MultiTech USB Modem

MultiTech has posted a firmware upgrade for the MT5634ZBA-USB modem. It has fixed the problem with Windows 98 not detecting the modem after a powerdown. Worked great for me. In case you don't have it I provided the link below:

The file name is 56ZBAUSB.EXE Upgrades the firmware to version 4.16D.

I did notice, however, that since I had installed the upgrade I have been connecting at a slightly lower speed than before the upgrade. I usually connect at a constant 45.3; now it connects at 42.0-44.0. Maybe it's just a coincidence but keep it in mind. I'm curious to know if yourself or anyone else has noticed this difference in connect speed or is it just "the net" recently.

- Jason Hunsinger

 Good News

I did get a Mutlitech Modem. Installation and all went well and it works. It seems to work quite well with the new fast PC and on VROC. I did get a smash the other night, but I think that was the Host and not me.(12 drivers) Last night was perfect. Excellent pings!!

- James Wyse

I have found a roundabout way to cure my frame rate problem when using the USB modem. My sound card is a Creative Labs Sound Blaster64 PCI. I have to disable the DOS legacy emulation mode for the sound card. This alone does not do the trick though. I have to then try and launch a DOS program that looks for a DOS sound card. I use Nascar2 for this; when N2 tries to launch, it locks up when it can't find a sound card. At that point I press the Ctrl-Alt-Del keys to open the Close Program window. I then highlight the Nascar2 program and shut it down.

After I go thru all that I can launch GPL and lo and behold my frame rates within the GPL sim returns to normal. This is great; I can enjoy the wonderful benefits of the Multitech USB modem.

The difference that this modem makes for online racing is nothing less than spectacular. I don't know why I have to go through this convaluted procedure but it works and thats what counts. I think I will try removing this PCI sound card and put my SB AWE32 ISA card in and see if solves the frame rate problem without having to use such a convoluted procedure. I will keep you informed.

Thanks again for your suggestions and encouragement.

- Ken McIntosh

[Ken wrote the original scary email about GPL, Voodoo, and USB modems.]

SHEEEEEEEEEEEEEESH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just won an online race on VROC at Monza. WHAT A BLAST! Makes N2 look like preschool; no flashing, great connection. Running SLI, and 31-36 FPS all graphics on @ 960x720.

The modem works as you advertised. Best deal I ever bought.

- Joe Dawson, 12/9/98

I took delivery of my "Eagle Woman certified" MultiTech modem today and have put it through some VROC action. It seems to work as advertised. I saw very little warping in several races with folks close by. I'd say it is better than my USR 56k for racing. Thanks again for the tip.

I've got a Celeron 300A overclocked to 450 running a Thriller rendition chip 8mb AGP card. Running win98 with 128mb on an Abit BH6 motherboard.

- Jeff Haas

I got the modem and installed it and it works ok. I have 4 ISP's and it won't connect to 2 of them. Talked to support and they say they can resolve problem. Maybe they have new drivers. Didn't have time to go through the drill w/them today so I will tomorrow.

I am running dual Pure 3D II Canopus cards and getting 36 FPS in 960x720........this looks better than the 1020x768 to me. Anyway, you scared me to death with 3Dfx slowdown, but I have a Thriller also, so I had a workaround.

Fired up GPL and ran at Mexico and Monza as usual Graphic setup All on and 19 AI. Still 36 FPS. I saw no difference in frame rate.

Joined a race on VROC and Monza and same, 36 FPS in 969x720. 29 FPS at start and 36 all the rest of the time. There were 12 racers in race, some warping though, not too bad. Only one small " white flash" 10 laps in, I got booted, not because of VROC, but because Prodigy hung up on me. Guess I'll run mail or ping plotter in background so it knows I'm still around. Shouldn't have to I know.

On surface, it looks very good, but this is preliminary. If it changes I'll let you know. I see no changes though.

[I am using] a Pentium II 300 w/ MMXtm "SL2W8" and an ABIT BH6 motherboard. The chip is OC'ed to 464 and runs just great.

- Joe Dawson, 12/8/98

Bad News

I found it ironic that at the same time I was contemplating a new modem (the Multitech-USB as a matter of fact) you were in the process of "feild-testing" that very same unit! I was happy to hear the good reports you were giving it as mine was already on it's way. I thought because I had the same video card as you (the Thriller) and not the "suspect" Voodoo card, I would have had similar results. Quite to the contrary. :(

To refresh your memory on my system: AMD K/6-2 350, 128 Meg PC-100, 8 Meg Thriller, PDPI L4, SB Live sound card.

Before the USB modem, I was using an X2 modem over an X2/V.90 ISP. I was able to race at 30-36 fps with anti-aliasing turned off and "cars only" in the mirrors. All other effects were turned on and I used 800x600 resolution with detail bias a third of the way from the left. The frame rate dropped below 30 fps only in the pits and during first few seconds of the start and that was all.

After the USB modem was installed, I found that (to receive the same "online-fps" results as before) I had to turn OFF all of the graphics you were able to turn ON. Specifically; (anti-aliasing/cars only in mirrors, of course) beveled tires, cockpit textures, drivers arms and wheel, dirt, dust. Also, I was still seeing the "zig-zag" skid marks of the other drivers and the same amount of warping. Clock smashes were down somewhat though (I use core.ini with clock adjust delay at 8). It turns out I was down 6-7 fps AFTER I went to the USB modem.

Could this possibly be an AMD K/6 thing? I experienced the exact opposite of what you did and the only big difference I could see is our MB/CPU combinations. I mentioned the SB Live card because, with its "Dyna-Ram' config. and set to "Full Hardware Acceleration" (in the multimedia section of control panel) it's good for about 8 fps. I guess cause it takes a lot of the sound issues from the CPU. [Jason may be onto something here; see the item from Ken McIntosh at left.]

I even had to stop driving the Lotus because I couldn't keep it on the track at speed! BTW, your Coventry setups are excellent!!! That is what I have been using until I can straighten this modem thing out. I was even getting a "10035: ERROR DETECTED ON NETWORK DEVICE" that would keep scrolling in the chat window while I was racing. This error has since gone away but I thought I would mention it. [I also saw this error back when I had drivers for both a SupraExpress 336 Sp and a Motorola 56k ModemSURFR installed. They went away after I deleted the drivers for the Supra.]

- Jason Hunsinger

Over the past several days I have been testing out a USR 56K Voice Faxmodem Pro with USB support. My connection times (latency) both as host and joiner seem to be much better than with my serial USR 56K.

However, I can report that my framerate does take a considerable hit, especially when I host. I start out at a solid 36+fps and as each player joins it goes down. With 4 players its at about 20-24fps for most of the track. The frame decrease does not happen until the first player joins my game. With my serial 56K modem, my framerate stays at a solid 36+ frames for the entire race. If you're still looking into this mystery, here are my stats:

  • ASUS P2L97 mainboard
  • 128MB RAM
  • 300 Mhz INTEL P2 processor
  • Diamond Monster II 12MB RAM
  • Windows 98 (fresh install)
  • Adaptec 2940 AU SCSI
  • Creative AWE 64
  • Matrox Mystique 4MB RAM
  • USR 56K Faxmodem Pro external USB on COM3
  • USR Sportster 56K external on COM1
  • ECCI wheel
  • PDPI L4 Gamecard

VROC is really great and thanks again for all your work with GPL. You ROC!

- David Swoboda

The original scary email about Voodoo, GPL, and USB:

When I use the USB modem and run gpl with my Voodoo 2 card the frame rate drops 8 to 10 fps across the board.

Only GPL is affected this way. Other games using the Voodoo 2 card such as Quake, Quake 2, Unreal and Half-life are not affected by the use of the USB modem.If I use my normal zoom modem the frame rate goes back to its normal solid 36 fps.But as soon as I switch to the MultiTech USB modem the frame rates drop. I have four computers and it does the same thing on all four.

I have also tried this on a couple of friends' machines with the same results. I also have a Rendition board in each of my machines; if I switch to the Rendition version of GPL the USB modem has no effect on frame rates.Weird to say the least. The USB modem works fine otherwise I have 3 ISP's my connect speeds went from 44000-48000 to 50000 to 53000 with the USB modem.

Only the Voodoo 2 version of GPL seems to be affected. My NASCAR2 Voodoo 2 version seems to run just fine online on the TEN network.I don't know how to check the fps in NASCAR but I don't see any slow down of the frame rate or jerkiness like I can in GP. GPL Voodoo 2 version is affected even in single player mode as long as the USB modem is in use (i.e. just connected to ISP, no browser or activity on the modem of any kind.)

- Ken McIntosh

Tips from Jeff Haas:

This is a link to a program that folks can use to see if their system is USB ready.

Following is a link to a Q&A site for usb devices/developers, etc. Intel and MS folks monitor it. I didn't see anything regarding Voodoo card specifically but did see an item suggesting PCI bus contention.

Here is the item posted about bandwidth contention:

I installed a video blaster video camera into my usb port and am getting a very fuzzy picture, all the settings seem to be in order. When I had the parallel version of this camera the port had to be set to a higher setting (ecp) for the camera to work. Are there similar speed port settings in USB or is there another step I am missing?

In Reply to: video blaster poor picture quality Posted by andy wall on November 10, 1998 at 03:47:41:

Try turning down the hw acceleration for your video card. This is probably another PCI bus contention issue.

Brad Carpenter