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Flawed modem software has Gateway, HP notebooks offline

The problem originates in a modem driver found in one Gateway ultra-portable notebook and two Hewlett-Packard notebooks.

Faulty modem software is holding up online traffic for Gateway and Hewlett-Packard notebooks owners.

As of Wednesday, owners of Gateway's Solo 3350 and of HP's Pavilion N5000 and Omnibook XE3 notebooks were unable to use their V.90 56kbps modems to get online. Representatives from both companies have said that the problem originates in a modem driver from Fremont, Calif.-based ESS Technology.

The companies wouldn't say how many notebooks are affected. The Solo 3350, which is an ultra-portable, represents a "very small portion of our overall notebook mix," Gateway spokeswoman Donna Kather said Thursday. Both the Pavilion N5000 and Omnibook XE3 are "very popular," an HP representative said.

A driver is software that allows a peripheral to communicate with the operating system on a PC. In this case, a date stamp in the programming code of the faulty driver is "delaying calls and preventing them from making connections," said Bill Wong, vice president of marketing at ESS Technology. Notebooks running Microsoft's Windows 98 Second Edition, Me, 2000 and NT operating systems are affected.

Wong said a "human error" in the code caused the problem.

Although a generic driver that fixes the problem is available on the ESS Web site, Wong recommends that the affected notebook owners wait for a qualified driver from Gateway or HP.

"Our major (manufacturers) will have their new drivers today," Wong said Thursday.

"We're working to qualify a new driver as we speak," Kather said late Thursday morning. "A good temporary work around is to reset the date on the notebook to before Feb. 20."

Before it sends out the new driver, Gateway wants to make sure the software will work with its notebook to prevent causing more problems for customers, she said. A date for the new driver has not been set, but the company will make it available on its Web site and will also send floppy disks with the new driver to customers that request them.

HP representatives also recommended that Pavilion N5000 and Omnibook XE3 owners set their clocks back to before Feb. 20 until HP qualifies a new driver that the company will distribute online, as well as on a CD.