Because of recent events and some confused information from Farallon, our look at the company’s new HomeLINE products for HomePNA networking needs some clarification (see "Farallon’s HomeLINE: Spiritual Successor to PhoneNet" in TidBITS-482).
SurfDoubler Correction — Farallon’s Ken Haase told us that the bundled Vicomsoft SurfDoubler could handle more than two computers on the Internet at once as long as they weren’t trying to access the Internet at the exact same time. We have since learned that SurfDoubler includes configurable timeout values for both computers. Once a computer on the local network uses SurfDoubler to access the Internet, one of the two available slots belongs to that machine exclusively until that machine generates no Internet traffic for the duration of the timeout value. Also, contrary to our report, one of the two machines using the Internet does not have to be the one on which SurfDoubler is installed; any two computers on the LAN can use SurfDoubler to access the Internet simultaneously. For details, see David Chapin-Loebell’s note in TidBITS Talk.
HomePNA over USB — Haase made it clear in our discussions that Farallon was not outlining future product specifics but did state that it would be difficult to do HomePNA over USB because the Mac OS didn’t contain the necessary USB support for such traffic. Over the following week, however, BeadleNet and Diamond Multimedia both announced USB HomePNA products that will allegedly be Mac-compatible when they ship. A third company, Silicom, jumped into the ring with USB and PC Card versions of a HomePNA product, though Silicom made no statements about Macintosh compatibility.
Other Standards — We should point out that HomePNA may or may not wind up as the emerging home phone line standard – Avio Digital has announced a partnership with Cadence Design Systems to create chips for Avio’s MediaWire technology, allowing 100 Mbps in first generation products. MediaWire would "enable a single telephone line to simultaneously deliver sixteen 24-bit audio channels, four MPEG-2 video channels (6 Mbps each), eight phone or ISDN lines and over 6 Mbps of serial control or TCP/IP data." MediaWire, if it ships in the last quarter of this year as planned, would be ten times faster than the planned HomePNA 2.0 and one hundred times faster than today’s HomePNA products. There’s obviously a lot more yet to squeeze out of those old phone cables.
Finally, a company called Enikia has announced a chip set that uses standard Ethernet cards to provide 10 Mbps networks over home power lines. Enikia’s chip set is scheduled for release late this year, so it might appear in products from other companies early next year. Pricing is speculative, but Enikia expects products to be more expensive than the existing HomePNA products, on a par with future HomePNA 2.0 products, and less than wireless networking products. Enikia has shown proof of concept demos, but it remains to be seen how well a product based on Enikia’s chip set would work in real world situations.