Review of the MainPine Rockforce Duo Modem
This month we reviewed MainPine's
Rockforce Duo 2 Port Modem Card. This is a PCI card with 2
Rockwell/Conexant chipsets on it. That is right, no cheap PCTel based
software chipsets here. Here you get 2 good quality modems.
You keep hearing about all the people moving to highspeed DSL/Cable but
remember that there are a lot of areas that are either to far from CO
(Central office) to be serviceable for DSL, or if they are a business,
they probably don't have a highspeed Cable Internet connection. For these
individuals who can't get either Cable or DSL, your alternatives are to
either get 128k ISDN (expensive option) or put a 56k modem in each of your
and get each employee their own dedicated analog phone line for internet
access. The other alternative is that you could get a 2 port analog modem
(or 4 port analog modem) in your proxy/firewall and make use of that 112k
(or 224k) analog connection for internet access for your users on your
LAN. For most small to medium company LAN's, a 112k or 224k bonded analog
internet connection is enough as long as the users don't engage in
bandwidth intensive activities such as downloading of movies, running file
sharing programs or emailing of massive visio/autocad drawings. Since
chances are this 2 port (or 4 port) modem card will go in the company
firewall/proxy server, it makes it very easy for a good Network Admin to
make sure employees aren't wasting bandwidth.
With some modems you get a flashy box saying how fast the modem inside
is.. but when you open the box, you are usually greeted with a PCI card,
an installation CD and a few pieces of paper stapled together to form a manual.
With Mainpine, you don't get all that flashy of a box, and the manual
isn't all that flashy, but it is well put together, nicely detailed and
very easy to follow. Nice job on the manual. I wish some of the smaller
modem companies would follow suit and create good manuals. A well thought
out and easy to follow manual can dramatically decrease the silly tech
support calls/emails. Mainpine goes one step further, and all the manuals
are on their support site as well, so in case you can't find your manual
(which happens to us all after we format the machine and try to reinstall
everything, the manual is usually buried in a drawer somewhere, never to
be found), you can just download the manual off the website.
Mainpine's support site is also pretty good, although I didn't see any
good FAQ's, but they do have all their drivers on their website and the
user manuals. From the looks of it, they are planning on having the
command sets posted on their support site as well.
As to drivers, no problem with win95/98, ME, and windows 2000.. But
unfortunately the windows XP drivers aren't ready yet, and the windows
2000 ones don't work either. I'm assuming the problem is with Windows XP
and the Rockwell/Conexant Chipsets not getting along. Linux, MAC OS and
other Unix drivers are
also available, but for the time being, you have to email Mainpine support
for them. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to try the Rockforce in a
Linux box even though I have the Linux drivers for it (Linux box in the
lab melted down, don't ask). One note about installation, even though
this is one PCI card with 2 modems on the card, when you install the card,
you will get 2 modems on 2 different com ports in device manager in the
control panel (just not to confuse some people who think there should
only be one entry in device manager since its a single card).
As to performance, this part is 50% based on the modem, and the other 50%
is based on the ISP you are dealing with. Generally with this modem, you
would want to bond the two analog lines together via multilink PPP (much
like an ISDN connection) and this usually requires your ISP to set you up
with a dial in account that does multilink PPP. Most ISP's that sell ISDN
internet services have no problem with this. If you are an average user
who bought a dual analog modem... Well talk to your ISP to see if will let
you bond multiple analog lines... (without charging you a lot more).
Back to performance, this modem performs nicely, very nice in fact. With
a single port in use and connecting to Cisco AS5800's, Ascend Max's and
3Com Total Control HyperArc's, no problems with connections were reported
and speeds were as good as any 56k V.90 modem around. With both analog
modems in operation in multilink PPP mode, much the same result, no
connection problems and speeds are good for analog connections.
The Modem exhibited great performance for a bonded dual 56k modem. Better
then the 3Com Dual Lan Connect Bonded 56k Modem/Router.
The MainPine Support Site is coming
along nicely, nicely planned out although they don't have all their
drivers (for the non mainstream OS's,.. SCO, Solaris, FreeBSD, etc..) up
on the website yet. I wish they would have a better FAQ but that will
come with time. Good start, check back in about 6 months and I expect to
see a much improved support section of their website.
Ease of Use/Configuration:
Very easy to install, instructions are very simple, easy to read and very
well laid out for even novice computer users to follow and successfully
install the modem without any problems at all.
The modem works fine with any Windows95/98, NT, 2000, ME system. Mainpine
is working on their XP drivers, and they should be ready soon. Linux
drivers are already out (although I wasn't able to test them because our
Red Hat box melted down and wasn't up and running for the tests). As you
can see Mainpine's modems will work in SCO, and Solaris machines as well
so this modem will work with pretty much any machine.
Forget the fancy wrapping, and the bright ribbons.
A high quality bonded 56k Modem is hard to come by. Reliability, speed,
ease of use are this modems features.
Great simple to use Modem, does a great job, what more can you ask for?
If you can't get highspeed Cable, DSL or ISDN Internet service.. this
bonded 112k (or its bonded 256k cousins) could be the right solution for
your small office.