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===========================================================================
             Review: Freely Redistributable Files To Help You
                     Connect Your Amiga - 8 Disk Set
  Jeremy Nixon                                       jeremyn@injersey.com
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For a long time, I was bumming Internet access from friends.  Every so
often I'd get someone to let me use their computer and their account,
mostly to download stuff like Amiga Report.  Of course, they mostly use
PC's, so I'd have to do the CrossDos thing (with all the errors) and deal
with the size limits of a floppy disk.  Things like hanging out and
exploring were limited, and email was out.

So I decided it was time to get my own connection.  I faced the classic
problem: no Internet service providers (at least in my area) even know what
an Amiga is, let alone offer software for it, and though it's all
available, you have to have Internet access to get at it.

So rather than sit at someone's house seeking out what I'd need, and
downloading all those huge files to floppies, I decided to try the disk set
offered by Intangible Assets Manufacturing.  IAM claimed to have collected
everything you need to get online--and they pretty much succeeded.

It should be noted that none of this software actually belongs to IAM.  All
they've done is collected it and packaged it onto disks, and it's all
either shareware or freeware.  They're charging you for the disks, their
time and trouble, and the expense of getting them to you.  At US$27, that's
$3.375 per disk.  Not unreasonable.

The eight-disk set is actually nine disks, the ninth containing AMosaic 2.
They probably didn't include this in the eight because of the provision on
AMosaic that the disk may not be sold, only given away for free.

The first problem I found with the set was the documentation--or lack
thereof.  IAM made no effort to prepare instructions to tie all this
software together, instead relying upon the documentation provided with
each individual program.  Beginners, beware: it could take you some time to
figure it all out.

WHAT'S IN THERE

This collection really does include everything you need to get started.  
There are several terminal emulators, a demo version of AmiTCP/IP, SLIP and
PPP drivers, email and news software, MultiLink, virus checkers, web
browsers (AMosaic and Lynx) and all the archiving programs you're ever
likely to need.  Let's run down the list.

AMITCP/IP 4.0

If you want to set up a direct connection to the Internet, rather than just
a shell account, you'll need this.  Yes, there are other options, and yes,
some people prefer AS225, but AmiTCP/IP is supported by a lot of software.
Verison 4.0 is actually a demo of the commercial version, 4.1, which is
rather expensive at around US$95.  The demo is perfectly usable, of course,
but again, beginners beware: if you want any documentation, you'll have to
spring for the full commercial version, because the demo doesn't have it. 
(You do get a FAQ and simple instructions.)

An Installer script is provided, but you have to gather all your
information before you use it.  During the installation, you will be asked
for your domain name, the IP addresses of your ISP's domain name servers,
and some other information which you don't need if your provider assigns
you IP addresses dynamically, which most do.

AmiTCP/IP also comes packaged with quite a few internet programs, many of
which are versions ported from BSD Unix code.  Most notably, you get NcFTP
(a better version of FTP) and telnet.

However, the documentation for these programs is sparse.  Most of it
consists of Unix man pages, which tend to assume a high level of knowledge
on the part of the user.  Beginners need not apply.

PPP 1.30

If you've got a PPP connection, which is the hot thing these days, this is
the other half of the equation.  A shareware demo by Holger Kruse, the full
registered version costs US$15, and promises better performance and more
features.

No Installer script is provided; you're going to have to do this one by
hand.  The instructions, in AmigaGuide format, lead you step-by-step
through the installation process, which you perform after installing
AmiTCP/IP.  The driver supports earlier versions of AmiTCP/IP as well as
4.0 and the commercial 4.1.  A dialer is built in: give it a script and it
will call your ISP, give your login ID and password, and off you go.

iNTERiNSTALL

In case you can't figure out the complicated installation and setup of
AmiTCP/IP and PPP, or just don't feel like it, iNTERiNSTALL is supposed to
do it all for you.  I say "supposed to" because the thing flat-out didn't
work for me.

It asked me the questions, I answered them.  It installed everything, and
created the necessary scripts to make it all work.  But the scripts didn't
work (with the exception of the PPP dialer script, which is the simplest
part).  The PPP documentation instructs you to make some changes to the
standard AmiTCP/IP scripts for version 4.0 of AmiTCP/IP, and those changes
were nowhere to be found in the scrips generated by iNTERiNSTALL--I thought
that could be part of the problem.  The author states in his documentation
that he uses and older version of AmiTCP/IP, and that he doesn't see the
point in version 4.0.  I thought perhaps he didn't test it with 4.0.

Things can't be that simple, though.  Rob Hays, who wrote a how-to article
about some of this software for the February issue of Amazing Computing,
tells me he installed AmiTCP/IP and PPP with iNTERiNSTALL on his A1200, and
it worked for him.  Hrrumph.  I was all set to trash the program, too.

I ended up deleting everything and using the standard AmiTCP/IP Installer
script, and installing PPP by hand.  The only part of the iNTERiNSTALL
installation I kept was the dial script.  But the fact remains that it
worked for Rob Hays, with no previous AmiTCP/IP or PPP installations on his
machine.  Your mileage may vary. (Thanks, Rob.)

TERM 4.4

Terminal emulation.  What can I say about Term?  Lots of people use it,
lots of people like it, it works great.  Fairly decent documentation, too,
unlike much of what's in this collection.

VIRUS CHECKER 6.57

You probably already have at least an older version of this popular virus
checker.  If you don't, here it is.  Having never had a virus (knock on
wood) I can't say how well it works, but it's widely used and trusted.

INETUTILS 1.4

A collection of email and news posting and receiving software, for those of
you with direct connections.  Personally, I'm more comfortable using my
shell account for this stuff, but I tried them anyway in the interest of
completeness.

I have one word to describe the documentation: ABYSMAL.  I mean, it really
sucks.  If you don't already know how to set up SMTP, NNTP, or POP
software, don't even try it here.  You'll just get frustrated.  I just hope
that someday, someone will put out an easy-to-use and easy-to-set-up
Internet package.  (A1200 Surfer?)

MULTILINK 1.32

This nifty little program (actually two programs) lets you simulate a
direct connection to the internet from a shell account.  One half of it
installs in your Unix shell, the other half on your Amiga, and hey presto,
you're online.  Use AMosaic, or whatever else you want.

Of course, Unix shell accounts are getting harder to find these days,
unfortunately, since everyone wants that PPP or SLIP so they can browse the
web on their PC's without having to think too much.  But a Unix shell lets
you work faster and easier--no pre-downloading of Usenet news, no setup of
mail software, lightning-fast web access with Lynx when you don't need all
the fancy pictures, you name it.  My ISP gives me both shell and PPP
access, so I don't really need MultiLink, but if you have to choose one or
the other, this program lets you choose the ease of a shell and still get
the flexibility of a direct connection when you need one.

AMOSAIC 2

Ahh, yes.  It's version 2 of the most known web browser for the Amiga.  I
found the old version a bit prone to crashes, and hoped that the problems
had been ironed out with this one.  Apparently they weren't.  This thing
locks up on me almost as soon as I run it.  Once, I got it to load two
whole pages before it died.  Not good.

In case it's just me, here are some things you'll need to know: in order to
run AMosaic 2, you'll need MUI (which is included in this set), and
although it will run under OS 2.x, you'll need 3.x to get the pictures,
since it uses datatypes.

In case it's not just me, and the thing really doesn't work, you can
probably still find the older version somewhere.  That one did crash a lot,
but not right away like this one.  You could also wait for IBrowse to come
out in some usable form, or one of the other web browsers that are due Real
Soon Now.

Part of the problem may lie in the fact that absolutely no documentation is
supplied--not even a "how to get it to work" text file.  All the docs exist
on the web, meaning you have to get the program to work in order to read
them.  This is just plain stupid.  Why, oh, why can't programmers take the
time to write decent documentation?

Another alternative I found is Chimera, which isn't actually finished, but
it works.  It runs under AmiWin, an Amiga X-Windows server, and I was able
to install both AmiWin and Chimera and make them work without any tinkering
whatsoever.  Chimera doesn't support stuff like external viewers, but at
least it runs.  You'll find both at aminet/gfx/x11.

AMIGA CUSEEME 2.02

Real-time video over the Internet--cool, eh?  Well, maybe on a PC, or an
SGI.  Here's an Amiga port of CUSeeME, but like AMosaic 2, I couldn't get
it to work.  It crashes for me every time, before I can even try to connect
to a reflector site.  I have a feeling this one might expect you to have
AGA, though it will load up in 32-color low-resolution.

Unfortunately, this program comes with no documentation.

ALYNX

This is a port of Lynx, the text-based web browser that started it all. 
Sure, it's just text.  Sure, it doesn't do much to impress the friends and
neighbors.  But it moves at the speed of light.  When you need to find
something on the web, and you don't need to waste time with glitzy
pictures, Netscape backgrounds, or image maps, this is the way to go.  Lynx
can also connect to FTP servers, in case you don't like the command-line
interface of ftp or NcFTP.

RHSLIP

A SLIP driver, in both 68000 and 030+ versions, in case you have a SLIP
account.  I don't.

AS225-SLIP

In case you have AS225 and a SLIP account.  I don't.

MULTIUSER 1.8

In case you need several users to live together in peace and harmony on
your Amiga.  I don't.

Quite a few extra tools are included with this.

NCOMM 3.0 & TERMINUS 2.0E

Two alternate terminal programs, in case you hate Term. I don't.

MUI 2.3

You know all about MUI already.  Either you love it or you hate it.  Me,
I'm neutral.  I have it because some programs I like need it.  It's here
because some programs here need it: AMosaic and ACUSeeMe.

Version 3.2 of MUI is out and available, of course, so you might just want
to get that one instead.  But what's this I've been hearing about 3.2
crashing...?

...AND THE REST

There are some other utilities included in the collection, most of which
are either unusable by me because they're for SLIP or Envoy or AS225, none
of which I have, or are simply of no use or interest to me and (in my
opinion) to most people.  I mean, come on: a program that dials up an
atomic clock and sets your system clock to it?  Are we being a little
obsessive here?

CONCLUSIONS

This collection is not a one-stop easy-Internet solution.  It is not
Internet In A Box.  It is not Netscape Navigator Personal Edition.  It is
not one-click-and-you're-online.  It does not come with an easy-to-follow
instruction manual.  If you're a beginner to networking or to the Amiga, or
both, it's going to take you some time to figure it all out.  You might
want to have a more knowledgable friend set it up for you.

What it is, though, is the only source (at least for now) of everything you
need in one easy-to-obtain set.  It got me hooked up without having to buy
anything else, except a modem.

And that's really what matters, right?

Intangible Assets Manufacturing       
828 Ormond Avenue                     
Drexel Hill, PA 19026-2604
USA 
voice: +1 610 853 4406
  fax: +1 610 853 3733
info@iam.com
http://www.iam.com

TEST SYSTEM

Amiga 500 (rev. 8a PCB)
OS 3.1 & ECS
CSA Derringer 030/882
2 megs chip + 16 megs fast RAM
AdIDE controller w/100 meg HD
Zoom 28.8k V.34 modem

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This article is Copyright 1996 by Jeremy Nixon, All Rights Reserved.
It may not be published anywhere except Amiga Report without specific prior
permission from the author.