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/// On Comm-on Ground - Shareware Communication Programs
    ----------------------------------------------------
    By Marcus J. Albers
    (malbers@ns.ccsn.edu)


Ever since I got my modem, I have been on a never ending search of the Net
for the ULTIMATE communication program.  These, for those of you who do not
use modems, are programs that emulate terminals for easy access to BBS's
and InterNet systems.  Some are really good, some are VERY bad.  Here is
a quick rundown of ones that I have used.  As always, all of these lovely
programs can be found somewhere on the Net.
 
*** AmigaTerm ***
 
ACK!  This is the first terminal program (disease?) that I was presented
with, for this was the one that was packaged with my 1680 Commodore modem.
It was good for looking around the Net, but that was about all.  It doesn't
support a 24 line screen, which will often mess up Unix programs like the
Pico text editor that utilizes the entire screen.  As for downloading
programs, the supplied X-modem transfer protocal is a very old and error-
ridded method of downloading.  Do not consider going away from the computer
while downloading a large file, because X-modem seems to have to be watched
constantly, to restart it when to many errors have accumulated.  An over-all
old comm program.  Good to start with, but not that good.
 
*** Hand Shake ***
 
This is an excellent program if you need *complete* emulation of a VT-xxx
terminal.  It does excellent emulation of VT-100, 102, and 220 terminals,
which most general BBS's and Net systems are based around.  I took a look
at this program when I found that the program that I was using wouldn't
send the correct codes when the function keys were pressed.  This program
is a very slick implementation of all features of the VT terminals.  It is
small memory wise, and multi-tasks most excellently, although one should
avoid attempting to have two comm programs running at the same time.  The
modem will send half the info to one and the other half to the other and
neither gets anything done.  One of the neat features of Hand Shake that
I like is the option of making it a half-height interlaced screen, making
it possible to see the upper half of your Workbench (or whatever program
you happen to have running at the same time) screen.  A nice program, which
for downloading, utilizes something called xpr libraries.  These libraries
are for using any transfer protocal that you wish with a program that
supports them.  This way, if you can find the current xprz.library, you can
use Z-modem transfer with Hand Shake.  Very nice feature.
 
*** NComm ***
 
This was the first REAL comm program that I used.  I got it off of the Fred
Fish CD-ROM that I have, so didn't have to rely on the X-modem transfer of
AmigaTerm (whew!).  It is a nice comm program, with a number of features,
as well as a number of versions, the most current being 2.0.  It utilizes
the xpr libraries for performing X-modem, Y-modem, Z-modem, and Kermit
transfers.  The Z-modem is, by far, the best transfer protocal that there
is currently.  Unfortunately, when I was running NComm, I was unable to get
Z-modem to work correctly.  This may have been a problem with the version
of the library, or NComm itself, I don't know.  NComm supports macro keys,
also.  This is done by programing the function keys (F1-F10) to sned a
string of characters each time that they are pressed.  I believe it also
used the shift and control keys in combination with the function keys to
allow for up to 30 different macros.  These are good for passwords and
forum names on BBS's.  You know, the things that you wish someone could
remember for you.  Unfortunately, the fact that NComm doesn't support a
non-interlaced 24 line display, and the non-functioning Z-modem, forced me
to graze greener pastures.

[Editor's Note:  NComm v2.0 will come promote to DBLNTSC, which is a non-
interlaced 48 line display, plus a DBLNTSC 24-line display on AGA machines.
Furthermore, it is unknown if there will ever be an update to NComm, as
the Email address to the author is no longer in service.  I would very
much like to see an AGA-capable update, user-specified screen fonts, and
a built-in Zmodem (in addition to XPR libraries) for some systems that
don't like the XPR Zmodem.  NComm is, in my opinion, the best terminal
program... it does everything I want, but it just doesn't look very nice
compared to Term v3.4.]

 
*** Jr-Comm ***
 
The gem at the bottom of the shareware well!  This is the comm program that
I swear by.  It has its own internal X, Y, and Z modem transfer protocals,
which work like a charm.  It also saves me the trouble of making room on
my Workbench diskettes for xpr libraries.  It supports up to 40 macro keys,
which still isn't enough for me, but it suits me fine.  It supports a 24
line non-interlaced display, thus not messing up my Pico screens.  It has
what is called a scroll-back buffer, which is a nice little device that
allows you to look at what has been sent to the screen in a buffer that is
as large as 100k, or as small as 8k, depending on your memory constrictions.
It supports baud rates up to 57.6kbps, an option that I probably won't have
to worry to much about in the near future, being I am still trying to get
the money for 2400bps.  It supports VT-100, VT-102, SkyPix, IBM-mono,
IBM-colour, TTY, and Amiga colour terminal types, although for VT-100 and
VT-102 emulation, it will not send the correct function key codes.  A small
price to pay for the vast usefulness of this comm program.  There is an
update to this called Terminus, which has been nearly 2 years in the making.
I dabbled with the demo of this progam, and was not overly impressed with
the changes.  The scroll-back buffer is now in a window instead of on
another screen.  Arexx support has been added, as well as its own simple
scripting language for those of us without Arexx.  And a neat little beeping
tune now tells you when you have connected to you host, remenicent of the
old IBM beep speaker (spending to much time next to the MS-DOG, eh
Mr. Radigan?).  I would personally have liked to see an IFF file support
option for this sound, as well as the beep.  Oh, well.  All in all, not much
of an improvement over JrComm for what I would want to use it for, but to
others, it may be worth the $40 registration fee.
 
That wraps it up for comm programs this week.  There are many more on the
Net, a lot are 2.x compatible, or run only under WB 2.x.  These are simply
the ones that I have used.