New standard makes 56k modems compatible
By JIM BROOKS
The United Nations body that examines communications standards,
the International Telecommunications Union, recently gave its seal
of approval to a standard protocol for 56k modems.
The proposed standard awaits final ratification at the ITU's September
The ITU's move puts an end the 11-month-long conflict over two
incompatible 56k modem protocols -- the K56Flex from Rockwell/Lucent,
and the "x2" from U.S. Robotics (now owned by 3Com Corp).
And during the past 11 months, computer users -- and Internet providers
-- have had to choose between the two technologies. The result has
been confusion, especially since 56k modems are limited by federal
regulations to speeds of less than 53k.
Nearly all national Internet providers chose to support one protocol
or the other. Smaller providers often chose not to support either
until some sort of standard was created.
Market analysts say the competing modem technologies hurt sales
of the 56k modems, since consumers had to worry which would wind
up as the actual "standard," and whether their investment
would pay off in the long run.
The recently approved ITU standard freezes the technical aspect
of the 56k modems -- and gives modem makers the green light to begin
offering upgrades and modems based on the new standard, dubbed "v.pcm."
Which modem technology won?
According to PCWeek and other tech-minded magazines, neither Rockwell
nor 3Com can claim to have been the definitive "standard."
Current owners of 56k modems can find upgrades on the Web for their
Look for upgrade software and new modems based on the new standard
to hit the stores before the end of March.
Industry watchers warn that consumers will probably see some delays
before all Internet providers offer fully compatible 56k access.
Some testing will most likely still need to be done by Internet
providers to insure total compatibility.
For information on 3Com/Rockwell 56k modems, point your Web browser
Rockwell can be found online at www.nb.rockwell.com.
OLYMPIC EFFORTS. There's no shortage of online coverage
of the Winter Olympics -- including live coverage from Nagano, Japan
via the Internet.
Due to the 17-hour time difference, live coverage of events can
be tough to find on your local broadcast or cable TV outlet.
Here's a few reliable stops you can bookmark for full coverage
of the games, which run through Feb. 22:
-- CNNSI.com, the CNN/Sports Illustrated Web site offers
details about the events and the athletes. You'll find plenty of
opportunities to read what other folks think about them, by using
the CNNSI.com message boards or live online chats.
Point your browser to www.cnnsi.com.
-- The Official Winter Olympics site, sponsored by the
International Olympic Committee, can be found at www.nagano.olympic.org.
The site offers details on Nagano as well as an online store for
-- If you're on a busy schedule (and who isn't these
days?), you may want to take a moment to sign up for InfoBeat's
e-mail news service.
InfoBeat, formerly known as Mercury Mail, will e-mail subscribers
summaries of the Olympic games, as well as detailed stories -- all
at no charge.
Visit InfoBeat on the Web for details at www.infobeat.com.
-- Yahoo!, the ever-popular World Wide Web directory,
also offers news at its Web site. For the Winter Olympics, it is
dedicating special coverage, available in English and a number of
Yahoo!'s coverage of the games can be found at http://nagano.yahoo.com/wg98/.
-- The News-Enterprise Online offers complete Olympic
event coverage and medal counts with coverage provided by The Wire.
The Wire is a service of the Associate Press, and offers up-to-the-minute
updates on events as well as national and international news.
Visit them on the Web at www.newsenterpriseonline.com.
NEWTON NEWS. The future of Apple's Newton personal digital
assistant (PDA) may be in jeopardy if the company follows the lead
it set with its Claris software division.
In its moves to profitability, Apple reorganized its Claris software
division, laying off 300 workers in the process.
Apple plans to cut the price of its Newton MessagePad 2100 from
$999 to $799 in an effort to compete with the Windows CE handhelds
that are flooding the market.
Industry analysts say that Apple is working on a scaled-down version
of its Mac operating system, targeted for use in a handheld PDA
-- possibly a version of its current eMate handheld.
Newton's sales have been sluggish recently, and competitively priced
Windows CE devices are flooding the market and putting the heat