Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ancient firmware updates

It's not every day that you set out to upgrade the firmware of a 10+ year old device.

One of the oldest pieces of gear still operational at our house is the fax modem out in the garage. It waits patiently for the phone to ring and receives faxes. Most of them are for Scarlet. The few that aren't are junk. But every once in a while sending an image of a signature or form or some such is necessary, and e-mailing a PDF won't work, so it's nice to have the option to use the old methods.

I was poking around the Internet looking for something else, when I managed to wander down the path towards US Robotics, which was bought some time ago by 3Com. In fact, they still have a USR website, including a support section for a lot of their obsolete products. I was able to root around and find my model of Courier V.Everything. I bought it sometime in, oh, 1997 or 1998 or so. I don't remember.

I opened up the serial port and did a ATI7 and, in fact, it informed me that the firmware was out-of-date, and that they had a DOS based updater for it. Ew. Well, I read a little further, and believe it or not, they had a mechanism for updating the firmware for folks running without DOS/Windows. If you send AT~X! to the modem, it starts doing an XMODEM receive for a firmware update. How convenient! Well, I was using kermit as a modem terminal program, but shelling out from kermit's command mode allowed me to use the lrzsz package from the ports tree to send the firmware. And it was done.

I'm not sure if the update did a lot. The same set of AT commands appears to be present. Hopefully it might have a positive impact on the fax reliability. I don't really use the modem for anything else.

No comments: