Looking for smart serial ports for Unix

Gary Blumenstein garyb at crpmks.UUCP
Thu Dec 21 04:20:46 AEST 1989

In article <1989Dec12.162639.26573 at ddsw1.MCS.COM> you write:
>In article <8912120109.AA17762 at decwrl.dec.com> paine at fungus.dec.com (Willy Paine) writes:
>>I am still looking for good multi-ports board for modem type terminal
>Digiboard IS good.  One of the better ones.  They are not cheap, but are
>worth it.
Not for my money.  I'm sure the net has already heard about my positive 
experience with the Equinox Megaport boards.  Once again, these discussions 
compell me to keep re-emphasizing this.  If you buy DigibBoard, (or Arnet, 
Computone, Anvil, Specialix, Etc. for that matter) you are essentially buying 
the same OLD technology just served to us a different way.

In my opinion, you LOSE in terms of price/performance, functionality, 
flexibility, expandability, ease of installation, and use.  You will wind 
up with the same OLD problems.  For example,  you will be surprised when 
you find out that your $800 smart board can't run bi-directional UUCP w/ 
modem control.  You will be dismayed to find out that you have to change 
standard terminal stty settings in order to accomodate the intelligent 
capabilities of some boards e.g. Intelliport TAB processing.  Forget about the 
poor folks who don't even know what "stty" IS!  You will be annoyed to
find yourself constantly ordering PROM and driver upgrades, and you will be 
extra peeved when these so called upgrades (in some cases) actually DEGRADE 
the performance of your board!  Sure, I can't wait to spend *my* hard earned 
money on this!

I realize that I'm speaking in very general terms here but I'm coming from a 
position that empathizes with everyone who like myself, has already spent
considerable time and money on intelligent i/o products, and has wound up less 
than satisfied.  Once again, I will state that people who are shopping 
for smart boards are fortunate that they have a fresh, new alternative to
consider.  In my opinion, Equinox sets the quintessential performance and 
functionality standard that we have been demanding from the i/o board market
for years, and have not been getting up until now.

Now as far as DigiBoard is concerned, you will find much better price /
performance with Equinox.  Notice how DigiBoard didn't include Equinox in 
their latest ad campaign which shows graphs of the relative performance 
characteristics of several competitor's boards.  

DigiBoard might claim that Equinox is not yet considered a major competitor so 
therefore they had no reason to include them in the charts, but I think 
otherwise.  Digiboard uses the same old commercial processor+UART design that 
been around for years.  Theres no way they can hope to compete with custom 
designed ASIC technology and polling drivers that have been specifically 
designed and tuned to handle serial i/o.  

>Specialix is a new one for us, but very promising.  The driver has a few
>bugs in it, but nothing terrible that UUCP won't deal with.  They also have
>pledged to solve the problems -- more than many other companies have said
>they would do (or have actually done)!

I've heard several other board companies make pledges too.  Why would the 
pledges coming from Specialix be any more convincing than pledges coming from 
say, Computone or Anvil?

The fact that consumers have become conditioned to accept less than perfect
functionality from these vendors is a shame.  I realize that there are 
a good number of dedicated equipment vendors in the marketplace turning out 
novel products, and that some of these products are bound to have bugs, but I 
am sick and tired of paying thousands of dollars to play "field engineer" for 
these companies when I should be buying products that work out of the box,
from day one.  

The intelligent I/O board market isn't exactly new anymore.  Doesn't it seem
ludicrous to buy expensive serial boards only to find that you have to run 
certain applications on your dumb port?  (Note: this may not necessarily
be true with UUCP on Specialix, as Karl seems to indicate.)

Incidentally, I read Karl's earlier posting about the Specialix boards and 
considered using them before I went with Equinox.  The 56K baud speed seemed 
attractive however, I after doing some research, I'm  still convinced that 
Equinox is the superior board.  (I will follow-up on this in a forthcoming 

Karl, have you looked at Equinox yet?  What are your thoughts?  I havn't found
any flaws with the Megaport boards and believe me, I've done my best to try
to find something that wouldn't work on them.  The board emulates the standard 
serial port so well that we had SL/IP running with SCO's  TCP/ip and getting 
1800cps with practically no overhead.  Considering that SCO claims SL/IP will 
only work on the standard serial port is a good tribute to Equinox's 

Another thing, a friend of mine was able to install his Equinox board under
SCO UNIX 3.2 and use the INTERACTIVE drivers with no problem whatsoever.  If 
anyone wants datails on this, they can call me.

What I like about the Equinox is that I can take it out of the box and plug it
into my computer without messing around with switches or jumpers, install the 
drivers, plug in a standard 6 lead modular RJ11 cable to my Telebit (save 
yourself some time and use one of Equinox's RJ11<->DB25 adapters), enable 
getty and walk away.  No hidden surprises, no field engineering required,
no support hotline callbacks, no driver revisions, no ROM upgrades.  It just
works.  Period.  

Disclaimer * *  These are only my personal opinions, not Equinox's, and not my 

Gary M. Blumenstein, UNIX Network Administrator // CIBA-GEIGY Corporation USA
Phone (914) 347-4700                    7 Skyline Drive, Hawthorne, NY  10532
FAX   (914) 347-5687                    UUCP  ...uunet!philabs!crpmks!garyb

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