I recently spent some time wrestling with software upgrades, and discovered some hidden morsels in a couple of Global Village downloads. Although some of these enhancements have been available for a while, I chose to wait and bulk-update my PowerBook in one session. If you use a PowerPort Platinum or Platinum Pro PC card, Global Village has a firmware update that upgrades the 28.8 Kbps modem to 33.6 Kbps. Additionally, they’ve released a beta version of the PowerPort PC Card control panel that temporarily fixes a "port busy" error when using Open Transport/PPP (see TidBITS-354). The following assumes you’re using Open Transport 1.1 (1.1.2 is the latest version) and System 7.5.5 or later.
PC Card Updater — The PowerPort PC Card update is a 1.2 MB download containing an application that updates the PC Card’s firmware. Firmware is software that lives in some kind of persistent memory; unlike RAM, turning off electricity doesn’t erase the contents, but (unlike ROM) applying certain charges or triggering a pin on the chip allows new code to be installed. The new Global Village firmware adds the protocols and routines necessary to support 33.6 Kbps modem speeds – that is, if you have a phone line and provider that can support it. (Now that I’m updated, I get 31.2 Kbps consistently, which is almost 10 percent faster than 28.8 Kbps).
If you use OT/PPP (which I highly recommend), the 33.6 Kbps update also comes with a modem script that you must use. Copy the script "GV 28.8/33.6 for ARA 2.1/OT-PPP" to the Modem Scripts folder in your Extensions folder, and then use the Modem control panel to select the new script. Otherwise, OT/PPP will not recognize the new speed and won’t initiate PPP correctly.
PC Card OT/PPP Beta — The beta PowerPort PC Card control panel fixes the "port busy" problem that’s been reported frequently by folks using the PowerPort PC Card with OT/PPP. Essentially, the problem causes the Mac OS to think another application is using the serial port, which prevents you from using your modem. I’ve had this problem for months off and on, and the only solution I found was to turn off RAM Doubler 2 (or vary the amount of extra RAM it was adding) and reboot. Although the port problem has nothing to do with Connectix’s software, this worked fairly consistently for me. The new PowerPort PC Card control panel has alleviated this problem for me entirely.
Snooze & Lose — Even though I’ve given Global Village my email address with multiple product registrations, I never received email notification of either piece of software, both of which are available free of charge. This seems like a missed opportunity for Global Village; I was ecstatic to get a free update that gave me 33.6 Kbps capability, and being able to access my serial port consistently without rebooting is a godsend. In the future, I hope Global Village will take advantage of its customer email lists to notify us of tremendous time savers like these two downloads. I’m pulling out less hair already.