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                            AmiTCP 4.2 REVIEW
  Addison Laurent                          addison@jobe.shell.portal.com
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AmiTCP 4.2
AmiTCP/IP Group  (amitcp-group@nsdi.fi)
NSDi - Network Solutions Development Inc. Oy
P.O. Box 32 
FIIN-02151 ESPOO
Finland

Demo with inital nag-requestor available from AmiNet:

Purchase price ~$58.00 U.S. Dollars

Regular Price ~$100 U.S. Dollars

Requirements:
AmigaOS 2.04+
1 megabyte RAM
2 megabytes hard drive space
Sana-II network drivers 


Summary:
AmiTCP is a nice product.  The pricing is high, especially given the lack
of integrated utilities.  As a comparison, there are several TCP/IP
packages for other systems that offer more built in (OS/2 Warp now ships
with an Internet packages, with built in mail, newsreader, etc) and for
about the same price or less.  The manual lists many available
applications and where the latest ones can be found, but they require
further installation, and in some cases, more fees.

The manual is very good, though there are a few areas that I feel could be
improved upon.  Installation was not that hard (but I have installed 3
prior releases of AmiTCP), novices may have a harder time.  I would
suggest that any novice have with them or on the phone someone familiar
with at least TCP/IP, and preferable AmiTCP. 

I am currently using it for CSLIP access, and it works well.  I will
attempt soon to network my other 3000 to this one, using Ethernet.

[Last minute note - since I first wrote this, I have spend about a week
trying to make this work.  I have been unsuccessful so far, but I have not
ruled out hardware problems with one of my boards.]

I feel it was well worth the $50 I paid, but I would have thought much
harder about spending $100.  If graphical Internet utilities were included
and auto-installed, such as a newsreader, a World Wide Web reader, mail
etc.  I would not be as adverse to the price.  As it stands now, you will
need to install these (along with any associated programs) yourself.  Some
programs are very easy to install, others, much harder.

Review:
AmiTCP is an implementation of the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet
Protocol (TCP/IP) for the Amiga.  Up until now, it has been freely
distributable, but with release of version 4, Network Solutions
Development Inc.  is selling it as a commercial package.

Earlier versions of AmiTCP were easy to set up - after you had set it up
before.   Idiosyncracies such as install scripts creating files that
needed to be edited by hand afterwards, and in having to change the
contents of three files in order to use a dynamic IP address (as many
Serial Line Internet Protocol (SLIP) are set up).  Scripts abounded to
handle some of these chores, as did utilities to access the Internet. 

When version 4 arrived, I was eager to install it.  The first thing I
noticed was the neat, spiral bound (thank you!  - there should be a
special part of purgatory for people who send manuals that are glue bound
so they won't lay flat and be usable as a reference) printed manual.
Quite a change from the earlier computer files. 

The installation program (using the standard Commodore Installer) was
easier to use than before.  One thing that was not easier was trying to
enter the licence number off the licence card.  The licence code you are
required to enter is 33?   letters, numbers, and characters in a small
font that makes it hard to distinguish several characters.  I spend more
time trying to get this typed in than in the rest of the install!  It was
hard to tell whether that characters is a lower-case "l", or a numeral
"1".  Similar problems occurred with "o" and "zero".  And the code is case
sensitive, further compounding the agony.

But the code finally matched the computers criteria, and the install
continued.   The install will automatically launch you into the
Configuration program.  This is where I think most novices will have the
most trouble.  The manual makes a valiant attempt to explain the concepts
and vocabulary to understand and use such an interface.

I entered my needed information (in this case, a Compressed SLIP, (CSLIP)
account through a local access provider.) Most providers should be able to
tell you what you will need: basically, your IP number (if not assigned
dynamically), your destination address, netmask, and Domain Name Service.
If you are installing on a permanent network, your system administrator
should have the needed information.  I created an account for myself and
set up the CSLIP interface.  Again, I did not find this hard - but this
was the third version of AmiTCP I had installed.  I would not say the
manual is bad in this area - in fact, its one of the best TCP/IP manuals I
have read, but it still could use a little improvement toward the novice
user.

Its troubleshooting list does not list several possibilities that I have
had personal experience with, and have helped several others with the same
problem.  For instance - when I first got my local account, I could not
get AmiTCP to work.  I could use the "ping" utility (which measures the
time it takes to send a small packet to another computer and return) but I
could not use anything else. 

[It turns out the "SLIP" my provider was selling was really "CSLIP" (and
since they give the Windows software pre-configured, it had slipped (no
pun intended) their mind that they were running compression.]

(In my instance above, an experienced network administrator commented that
it sounded like they were set up with CSLIP - because "ping" uses TCP
packets, but that other programs utilized a different transport layer -
and that that was the one that was compressed by CSLIP.)

AmiTCP release 4 has a basic set of tools to access the Internet, although
some have been spruced up a bit.  There is a telnet client, but
"Napsaterm" will probably see much more use.  Napsaterm is a vt100
terminal that opens its own windows, and is friendlier than the
shell-based telnet.  (Earlier telnets with earlier versions of AmiTCP were
reputed to be buggy, so I developed a habit of using napsaterm for its
greater reliability as well as its greater usability.)

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) has been replaced with "ncFTP", a much
friendlier and smarter client.  NcFTP has the nice feature of dropping a
random hint on each execution (for those few who don't read manuals)

The manual details quite a few "third party" Internet programs that run
under AmiTCP, as well as where the latest version can be downloaded from
the AmiNet, a huge collection of Amiga software.  This is a nice feature,
and will be very helpful to those who do not yet know anything about
AmiNet (always the place to look for something) but it seems as if they
are using this as a substitute for developing/packaging these utilities
into AmiTCP.

Some of these utilities integrate quite easily and painlessly.  Others are
much more difficult, and since they are all developed separately, there is
not a standard interface.  Many require additional programs (Such as MUI,
etc.)

In my opinion, for the market AmiTCP is aimed at, with the price that is
being asked, it should have a mail reader/sender, Usenet newsreader, and a
World Wide Web browser as minimum tools included.

The manual spends a good portion of time explaining the product, and the
Internet.  Proper net etiquette (netiquette) is mentioned, and the basic
explanation of the TCP/IP suite is one I wish I had when I was learning
about the Internet and is better than some reference books I have
encountered.

For what it has now, I have to give AmiTCP high marks.  Its documentation
is very good (leaves certain companies decidedly in the dust (no names,
but who has a 70% PC network market share?).  I have encountered no
noticeable bugs.

I feel there are still areas that need work, especially in the area of
included utilities.  When AmiTCP has these included utilities, I would
consider it to be a mature application that has successfully developed far
from its early roots.

Contact the Author-

Snail-Mail:
660 Windy Road
Gilbert S.C. 29054

Phone: 
(803) 359-6301