re: looking for a recommendation

John Romkey (romkey@BORAX.LCS.MIT.EDU)
Sun, 9 Mar 86 17:10:21 est

Regarding the 3COM ethernet cards for the PC and the Interlan ethernet

I've worked quite a bit with the 3COM 3C500 card and the Interlan
NI5010 card and written drivers for each. Here are some observations
about the cards that might help people who have to decide between them.

Programming: I prefer the NI5010. Early 3C500 cards had
some pretty weird race conditions in the hardware; I don't know
whether these are gone now or not. They also had some programming
pitfalls that the Interlan card shares, but Interlan warns about them
in the documentation; I had to discover them the hard way with the
3COM card. I don't know if the programming documentation has been
updated. 3COM now has out the 3C501, which I've been told is
compatible with the 3C500, but I really know nothing about it.

Throughput: the 3C500 and the NI5010 are pretty much the same.
Although the Interlan card has two packet buffers (one for send, one
for receive) to the 3C500's one, I was told that if you dma into
the transmit buffer while received the card will sometimes screw up,
so my driver doesn't do that, and the hoped-for advantage of the card
is gone.

Reliability: both boards seems to work pretty well. I haven't used the
NI5010 board as much as the 3C500 board, but I haven't had many
problems with it either. One nasty with old NI5010 boards was the
thin ethernet connector on the back. It's an RCA jack and on old cards
it wasn't attached very firmly to the rest of the card. Plugging and
unplugging it from the ethernet several times broke some wires going
from the jack to the card. I believe Interlan has fixed this problem.

Prices: offhand, I don't know what the relative prices are for the boards.

Support: I have found Interlan more approachable than 3COM, much
easier to talk to. Interlan has always been fast and courteous when I
called them; I've had problems with 3COM.

I still only have specs on the 3C505 card (3COM's High Performance
interface), but it looks like it will run a fair amount faster on an
AT even if you only use it as a dumb ethernet interface, since it will
be able to take advantage of the AT's 16 bit bus.

My final note is that I would prefer going with a Proteon ring and
Proteon's p1300 ProNET interface (a joy to program - well, almost)
instead of ethernet, anyway.
                                        - John Romkey
                                          FTP Software
                                          (late of MIT)

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