by Mark H. Anbinder, Contributing Editor -- firstname.lastname@example.org
For today's increasingly-mobile Macintosh user, remote access of one kind or another is vital. Travellers must be able to read their electronic mail, communicate with colleagues back at the ranch, retrieve forgotten files, and access information services, no matter where they happen to be. Apple's introduction of AppleTalk Remote Access (ARA) along with the PowerBooks brought remote dial-in access to the masses, and Trilobyte Software's ARACommander makes ARA complete.
For those of you not familiar with the original product, ARA is software that allows you to connect your Macintosh via modem to an AppleTalk network at another location, by calling a Mac at the remote site. The ARA application includes both the client and server function, which is a waste of memory and hard disk space for Macs that are only used for one function. That's where ARACommander comes in.
ARACommander provides a client-only interface to ARA. It requires the ARA extension software, but not the chunky ARA application. ARACommander requires much less disk space, and takes up less RAM when in use, than ARA itself.
The user configures ARACommander through a Control Panel that adds a number of features missing from ARA. For example, ARACommander offers a phone book-type listing of known remote sites that can be reached simply by selecting one from a pop-up menu and clicking on the Connect button. The Control Panel allows you to select any number of items to open once the connection is made, including file server volumes, documents, and applications. Another popular feature is the ability to play a user-specified sound upon successful connection. Even better, you can specify dialing prefixes and phone credit card strings in separate fields.
Although ARACommander can be used perfectly well through the Control Panel, it shines when you use its Connector applications. Once you properly configure the Control Panel for a given host and everything works, ARACommander allows you to save a pre-configured Connector application that, when launched, immediately makes the connection. The Connector can be configured to prompt for dialing prefix and/or credit card info, so the same Connector can be used no matter what odd phone system you try to use.
Naturally, you can place a Connector application in the Startup Items folder connection on startup, or in the Apple Menu Items folder for convenient access. The Control Panel or Connector application need not stay open while the connection remains active (though if kept open, both provide an elapsed time display), so you can launch an included application called ConnectNot at any time to disable active connections.
One particularly impressive advantage ARACommander has over ARA is its ability to make outgoing calls through network-shared modems such as Shiva's NetModem V.32, or modems connected to a Shiva NetSerial or LanRover. This feature handily eliminates the LanRover's one-way limitation. (LanRover is Shiva's dial-in ARA server product, which the company has been unable to convince to dial out using ARA.) Shiva doesn't support this feature, but our testing with a NetModem V.32 and Shiva's 3.7.3 drivers shows the combination to work well. Ron Duritsch, ARACommander's author, says he was astonished and pleased to discover that his software worked with the Shiva products, since Shiva had told him quite adamantly that it was impossible.
ARACommander differs from an earlier shareware version, ARAClient, mostly in the capability of opening files or playing a sound at connection time, as well as the dialing assistance (prefixes and credit card numbers). User reports suggest that ARACommander is also more stable than its predecessor. A demo version of ARACommander that works for two weeks is available on CompuServe in MACCOM, Library #11 (Apple Remote Access) as ARACMD.CPT, and on America Online as ARACmdr.sea in the Communications and Network Forum, in Communications Programs. [I can't connect to check right now, but if the demo isn't at sumex and mac.archive in one of the comm directories already, I will upload it. -Adam] The shareware version is still available from some online sources, but the author no longer actively promotes it. (He still accepts shareware payments, though!)
Prices range from $19.95 for a single-user package of ARACommander (which is five cents less than the shareware payment for ARAClient, so it's a good deal) down to about $8 per head for a 100-user pack. The software is available for resale through dealers, or may be purchased directly from Trilobyte. (Note the difference between the spelling of the company's name and its AOL address; someone beat them to it on AOL!)
6982 Devon Drive
Middletown, Ohio 45044
-- Information from:
Ron Duritsch -- email@example.com