by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor <email@example.com>
The global village grows closer every day, and one of the companies making it happen is Global Village Communications. The company's new OneWorld server products, introduced earlier this year, are perfectly suited to providing communications services on small, medium, and large networks. Different versions offer remote-access network dial-in, or outgoing network fax capabilities, and prices vary based on hardware configurations and number of network users.
The hardware -- Each OneWorld box is a small, stackable unit with a design reminiscent of the company's angular TelePort modems, but a bit bigger (the size of a hardcover novel) and curved in front. A OneWorld box has room inside for up to two PowerPort modems, the same ones used in 100-series PowerBooks. The hardware supports any PowerPort model - past, present, or future - to provide an easy upgrade path.
Different OneWorld versions offer either a lone LocalTalk port, or both LocalTalk and 10baseT EtherTalk ports. You can't attach a OneWorld server to both networks at once, so if the server has both ports, it determines on power-up which network types to use. If the server is on an Ethernet segment, you can also tell it which AppleTalk zone to consider home. (LocalTalk doesn't currently support zone selection.)
Remote Access server -- The internal modems are PowerPort/Mercury modems, providing AppleTalk Remote Access (ARA) users with connections to the network at up to 19,200 bps. The server fully supports ARA client software versions 1.0 and 2.0; there's no need to set the ARA 2.0 client in its less-functional 1.0-compatible mode.
Beyond that, there's not much to say. The OneWorld Remote Access server acts just like ARA server software running on a Mac, as far as the user can tell.
Fax server -- Have you ever used Global Village's GlobalFax software on a TelePort or PowerPort modem? If so, you already know how to send a fax using the OneWorld. An updated version of the software lets you send faxes from either a OneWorld or your own modem, a feature imperative for those roving PowerBook users.
Carried over from the previous GlobalFax versions are such features as multiple address books (collections of recipients' names and fax numbers), easily modifiable cover sheets, importing and exporting of phone numbers, detailed activity logs, delayed transmission, and fax recipient grouping.
The import/export feature allows easy transfer of names and fax numbers to and from Address Book Plus, Dynodex, and TouchBase file formats, as well as text files.
Security -- Global Village's OneWorld security features are based on "passports," or privilege definitions for individual users or groups of users. A group passport defined for multiple users can mean a single change updates each user's access capabilities. The passports apply to both fax and remote access features, which means the security levels can be installed on both types of devices today - and can apply to both features of a hypothetical upcoming device that handles both fax and remote access services. Users can have different levels of access to your network with the remote access servers, and different faxing capabilities with the fax servers.
Some corporate network administrators will be pleased that the OneWorld Remote Access servers offer the hardware-based callback capability their security policies demand. ARA's own callback feature, which enables the server to call back a user only at a pre-determined telephone number to make password theft meaningless, is software-based and therefore not acceptable at some companies where network security is a critical manner. (We haven't heard of cases in which ARA's callback security was compromised, but the software configuration might seem less bulletproof.) Naturally, the OneWorld callback feature works precisely the same way, but is based in hardware rather than software.
Management -- A product family with such flexibility and convenience at the user end must be a nightmare to administer, right? No. Global Village's new OneWorld Manager software draws interface elements from the Finder and the Chooser, and quite cleanly enables the administrator to change the configuration of any OneWorld device on the network.
If you already have an ARA server running, or even a Shiva LanRover (another hardware ARA server device), you'll be thrilled to hear the OneWorld Manager application will happily import your existing user information either from AppleShare-style Users & Groups files or from user lists exported from Shiva's Net Manager.
Missing in action -- Some features that would seem obvious aren't here, at least not yet. For example, the OneWorld Remote Access box doesn't double as a shared outgoing network modem, as the competing LanRover from Shiva does. Shiva has virtually cornered this market for years, but Global Village certainly has the communications expertise to develop the necessary workstation software that should be the biggest hurdle. Using the Communications Toolbox (CTB) would be the easiest approach; the software could register the network device as a CTB port, so it would be unnecessary to fool the Mac into thinking it was talking to the modem port or printer port. The drawback? Plenty of software still lacks CTB-awareness, even the easy-to-implement CTB port handling.
Also, the OneWorld Fax products won't be able to replace the standard office fax machine until they can receive faxes as well as send them. According to Nick Chinn, senior customer satisfaction representative at Global Village, Global Village must work out several technical and interface issues that before a stand-alone network device could receive faxes. For example: Where does it put them? Whom does it notify? There are solutions, of course, but the company's engineers want to make sure the solutions are palatable and intuitive before they ship a product that incorporates them.
I'd also like to see the GlobalFax software better handle long distance access numbers and credit card numbers. It's possible to add these items, either to the prefix field that's dialed before every call (usually used to dial a "9" to get an outside line), or to each destination phone number, up to a total of 64 digits, but this gets cumbersome. What's worse than cumbersome is that credit card digits added at the end of the phone number show up on fax cover sheets. You can avoid this by keeping the phone number field on the cover page too small to show the extra digits, but we're still not talking about a clean solution.
OneWorld Future -- The hypothetical future "combo" OneWorld mentioned above, offering both Remote Access and Fax features (both send and receive, naturally), is one product we're likely to see. Even if the first version must have specific modems in the device each dedicated to a specific task, it'll be a start, but we expect somewhere down the line to see a OneWorld whose internal modems can perform any or all OneWorld tasks when called upon. That will provide the most network flexibility without wasting hardware.
What else? I wouldn't be surprised to see a multi-protocol OneWorld Remote Access at some point, offering not just ARA protocols, but SLIP and PPP capability to provide TCP/IP connectivity. (In fact, I'd be extremely pleased to see such a product.)
Some first-generation products, such as the original Newton MessagePad and the Macintosh Portable, and even the original Macintosh, are more exciting for the promise they evidence for the future than for what they provide right now. Global Village avoids this trap by offering a suite of products that make us drool over future possibilities while making us drool over the here-and-now as well.
Global Village -- 800/736-4821 -- 415/390-8200
415/390-8282 (fax) -- <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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