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The Southern California OS/2 User Group

SCOUG OS/2 For You - August 1993

continuing on the Internet...

Getting There via IBM

by Dave Watson

Hot news - and if this isn't a wake up call I don't know what is! Highly regarded rumormonger Spencer F. Katt reports in the August 1st PC Week magazine that the next beta version of Warp (OS/2 for Windows "2.2") will include Mosaic, the great graphical browser for the Internet. IBM has been hinting about bundling networking since the spring Interop and Comdex shows, as have their competitors. Looks like we'll all be online soon. And once you get there, you'll wonder how you ever got along without it.

You can get a head start with some of the emerging OS/2 software for getting connected. I've been exploring dial-up support for Windows and Macintosh recently, and networked access from Unix systems. Although these systems enjoy extensive options for very sophisticated commercial, shareware, and even freeware networking products, the OS/2 environment is just beginning to blossom in this arena. I'll pass along my observations on some of these products as I make time to acquire and test them with OS/2.

The TCP/IP Base Kit

This month I'll review the IBM TCP/IP Base Kit. This is part of a broader set of tools for integrating OS/2 workstations with TCP/IP local area networks (LANs) or directly into the Internet. Future articles will describe the other IBM products that work with this kit - especially the Network File System (NFS) and X-Windows capabilities.

The Base Kit includes TCP/IP protocol software and several useful applications for handling mail, news and file services. It comes with a full featured OS/2 configuration notebook and BookMaster documentation. Also, the mail and news reader tools are very nice. However, a drawback to this package at present is some austere user interfaces. The windows for the terminal and some important networking services sport the same old command line interface upon which the Internet was built, but which is becoming less and less common as GUI-based applications proliferate. Not only is this a letdown after being spoiled by point-and-click access to the Internet with other operating systems, but it makes it more difficult for the novice user to come on board. More importantly, it lacks the most important Internet navigation tools - Gopher and Mosaic. Let us hope that Warp provides a modern face to all these essential applications.

The installation went well, though a couple of minor problems arose which I overcame after a little head scratching, but without any help from IBM. I always try to follow the installation instructions faithfully for new software, but sometimes I have to wonder if my problems are due to perverse software or my haste to get started. The configuration was a snap using the Notebook. The Installation and Administration manual is pretty good, and had enough information to overcome the few hitches that arose to get me up and running.

SLIPs in the Box

The software comes with one of the two common dial-up TCP/IP communications services: Serial Line Internet Protocol, or SLIP. The other, Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP), has recently been established as the standard Internet dial-up protocol. SLIP is supported by nearly all Internet service providers, but PPP is still not supported everywhere. So, SLIP will be fine for most users for now. The configuration utilities neglected to add a couple of important device drivers to the CONFIG.SYS file, but the manual gave complete information on them and I was able to add them manually and get the system running.

My biggest disappointment was finding that the terminal is entirely manual - it won't even store a phone number! After brushing up on my modem command set, I found a brief reference in the manual of a "feature" in the support for REXX attachment scripts. All the SLIP utilities I have used have a simple scripting feature to automate some of the connection process, although most capabilities are hard-coded into the application. This package can provide all needed attachment commands manually, but it's tedious and error prone, so some amount of REXX coding is desirable.

Having the power of REXX available brings to mind all sorts of ideas for customizing the process, which I'll explore as time permits. I've had great fun with this aspect of the IBM product, but it certainly increases the challenges for novices. Of course, the product is geared toward direct connection to a LAN, where SLIP and its terminal are unnecessary. I'll say more about this capability soon. And your Internet service provider can provide a lot of help in tailoring your configuration to support their system.

Meanwhile, I'll be working on REXX utilities so I can settle back to letting my mouse do my talking, and so others can perhaps have an easier time setting up their copy of TCP/IP.

The package also comes with File Transfer Protocol (FTP) for exchanging files with known destinations, Telnet for logging in to a remote host, LaMail for managing email, News Reader/2 for selecting and reading Internet news servers - the basic equipment for working on the Internet. They perform quite adequately, though you need to be conversant with Unix commands to work with the command line FTP and Telnet utilities. I found a nice shareware Gopher product, LA Gopher, which provides a complement to the standard package for searching and obtaining files.

The Web

The World Wide Web (WWW) is a network of information servers with hypertext files where pointing and clicking moves you around the world seeking and collecting files, without the need to know where you are or how you got there. Unfortunately, I have yet to find this client software ported to OS/2. A freeware application called Mosaic was the trailblazer for this activity, currently hosted on Windows, Mac and X-Windows. A number of commercial contenders are springing up including, apparently, one in the wings from IBM.

The Web works well - I think it will be an important part of networking for the next few years. It is superb for searching and downloading information, though it moves a lot of bits across the wire to paint the pretty pictures. A 14.4 kbps modem works fine for me though some folks with less patience complain with anything less than 56 kbps. I've been able to get what I needed with a 2400 bps modem, though that certainly stretches the limits of even my patience. As with other computer resources, get as much power as you can afford, but modest systems can provide nearly as much utility and enjoyment as their well-heeled cousins.

I would love to address TCP/IP topics of particular interest to you in future articles. Please feel free to send me questions or comments on CES BBS, or over the Net at watson And I would love to chat with anyone who gets their hands on a Warp II beta!

The Southern California OS/2 User Group
P.O. Box 26904
Santa Ana, CA 92799-6904, USA

Copyright 1994 the Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SCOUG is a trademark of the Southern California OS/2 User Group.
OS/2, Workplace Shell, and IBM are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation.
All other trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.