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Suddenly, from 0 options, we are suddenly presented several options in order to get ethernet on our Atari’s. 4 to be exact. But which would should you choose and why?
I will attempt to elaborate. Currently the driver for STiNG for the Daynaport SCSI Link ethernet adapter can be considered beta at best. It is rumored to have issues with large transfers where it seems to like to timeout. I wouldn’t know though since I have never gotten it to work. I have tested out several versions of HD-Driver so the conclusion can be one of three things - My identically labeled hardware to what the driver supports is somehow incompatible, my hardware does not work and I bought a defective product, or the adapter only seems to work on very few versions of HD-Driver. I’d be most tempted to believe reason number two. Regardless the driver loads and crashes my system horribly and I have never been able to advance further, even though I’ve tried a lot. Another thing is, that even if you otherwise have no use for HD-Driver you will have to purchase a late version to use this card. Your scsi driver must support Generic SCSI Driver controls and SCSI Bus Arbitration… and I believe HD-Driver is the only one to do this. It’s not a complete loss, HD-Driver is a valueable program to have in your arsenal.
What about the Genius Pocket LAN Adapter sold by Elmar Hilgarte? Well unfortunately shortly after this adapter was made, Genius stopped production on the parallel port part of the adapter. While you can still get the special Elmar adapter hardware that was used to connect this up to the ROM port of the Atari, finding the Genius portion of the adapter seems to be a rather challenging thing to do. I however happened to find one that was clearly labeled as an adapter that would work, but however I soon found that it contained the RTL8002 chipset versus the RTL8012 chipset that the driver wanted. No matter though, I recently found that the driver package contains a beta driver for the RTL8002 based adapters. The hardware can be ordered direct from Elmar.
And how about the EtherNE, the ACSI Romport adapter. Can’t say I have any experience with these. It is easy to note though that this only seems to support "old" "slow" NE2000 ISA cards versus the romport version which only supports "newer" "faster" ones. Regardless I doubt there’s much speed impact difference between the two. The EtherNE makes the most sense if you have cartridge port dongles you want to use and/or are not running on a Falcon.
And lastly the EtherNEC. This particular adapter wins the contest. Why? It’s the cheapeast, fastest and easiest adapter. It rivals the cost of 100 base-T PCI ethernet cards and seems to work well…. but. There are a couple of issues to think about. I ordered my 2 EtherNEC adapters without the ISA NE2000 cards. I soon learned that NE2000 cards are not all compatible. If you are going to forgo purchasing an NE2000 card from Lyndon Amston (he’s sold out anyway), I would highly recommend ensuring that you have an RTL8019 based card or one of the chipsets recommended in the driver documentation. Using BRAND NEW Netgear EA201c cards, the driver did not work at all. I bought 2 of these things, there’s a waste of $40. And how about the UMC 9008 chipset ones I hijacked from work? They sort of work but seem to break after a couple of minutes. Odd Skancke happens to be working on MiNT/MagXNet drivers for the Ethernec and I’d say it’s highly likely that both his and Thomas Redelberger’s driver will be fixed for this card in some time. Thomas seems to think that the problem is a broken frame header problem (I could have that wrong), that the linux driver has code inserted to handle that afflicts some cards.
Regardless of my absurd amount of problems getting the EtherNEC to work and my complete failure at getting any other ethernet solution to work now that I do I have the ethernec working I’m quite pleased. With Thomas Redelberger’s STiK driver on my Falcon, I can get somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-70K/sec. Pretty good - but. Odd Skancke is creating his own MiNTnet drivers making them as efficient and speedy as they can possibly be. A quick test of one of his alpha drivers revealed speeds in excess of 200K/sec… Pretty impressive.
So why not build the adapters? They do seem simple enough. Well let’s see here. For 2 ethernec’s to be shipped overseas which took JUST 1 WEEK from point of order I spent somewhere near $80. For the circuit board supplies, components from different houses (ISA sockets are hard to find!), and other such stuff I spent in excess of $100. Lyndon Amston spent far more money trying to do an optical setup. Both of us failed pretty miserably and we determined it was a collossal waste of money just to produce inferior quality circuit boards in the end. None of mind in fact have ever actually worked, though now that I have working professionally done ones, I will not even attempt to make my home-made one work. Even if you LIKE electronics, soldering the header pins is rather difficult because you have to solder both sides! This is because a home-etched board has no through hole metal to connect top and bottom pads of the holes. This is extremely challenging!, and in the end did not work for me. I’ll admit I am not the most skilled solderer in the world, but I’m pretty good and let me tell you. That particular design is not easy for newbies to solder. There’s a ton of joins to solder, all within relatively closed space. The same thing pretty much applies to the Genius Parallel port adapter. It was a challenging week long project to build and it didn’t work anyway. What’s the moral of the story?
It makes no sense to build these projects unless you are an all out masochist, or you have a complete etching shop at home. A better idea would be to drum up an order of 10 or so EtherNEC orders, have the boards professionally fabricated at http://www.pcbexpress.com or some other professional facility, and then send them to one of us for soldering (which will be much easier on a professional etch). In the end though you spend close to what you do for an EtherNEC shipped by Lyndon from the UK and in addition you still have to go find an NE2k card. Lyndon accepts paypal, and while his stock is running short, he’ll probably refill. He accepts paypal. I couldn’t have asked for an easier, smoother transaction to get my Falcon on the Internet.
Now, does anyone have an ISA RTL8019 card they want to give me? ;-)