LapLink and pcAnywhere32 - Win95 remote access

LapLink and pcAnywhere32 - Win95 remote access

Market leaders don't get to be market leaders by resting on their laurels. Thus it's no surprise that the first two remote-control programs specifically designed for Windows 95 would be Symantec's pcAnywhere32 and Traveling Software's LapLink.

Although it's true that most remote-control programs for Windows 3.1 will work just fine with Windows 95, they don't offer certain capabilities. Specifically, non-native Windows 95 applications don't offer support for long file names, nor do they support Windows 95's Telephony API (TAPI). When using LapLink or pcAnywhere, their support for TAPI means that you can share com ports with other programs. You won't, for example, have to shut down WinFax Pro in order to use your remote-control program.

Because they are native to Windows 95, of course, LapLink and pcAnywhere32 are also 32-bit applications. But don't jump to the conclusion that that means faster performance, especially over a LAN. Until 32-bit network drivers are available, a 32-bit remote-control program has to "thunk down" to accommodate the 16-bit driver and may actually deliver slower performance than a 16-bit program.

Indeed, I found pcAnywhere32 to be significantly slower at several common operations than most of the 16-bit programs. Nevertheless, you will find the 32-bit versions of LapLink and pcAnywhere to be smoother than their 16-bit cousins when it comes to working in the background.

LapLink and pcAnywhere have a lot in common, including strong file transfer tools and almost identical street pricing. But there's a lot that differentiates the programs, too. I found LapLink to be both easier to use and faster. But pcAnywhere32 offers a host of features you won't find in LapLink, such as terminal emulations and a full set of security controls. In short, you'll want to look closely at each program's features before deciding which one to recommend.

LapLink is FAST!

LapLink for Windows 95 is without question the easiest-to-useÊremote-controlÊprogramÊI've tested, and it's also one of the fastest. Sure, LapLink lacks a number of features you'll find in the competition. To begin with, LapLink doesn't offer terminal emulations, so you can't use it for connecting to on-line services. And there are no scripting tools for automating sessions. There's also no data clipboard or asynchronous communications server (ACS) support for modem pooling.

LapLink also has a few cracks in its security wall. Specifically, LapLink doesn't encrypt transmissions. Also, you can't set a limit on password attempts or lock out specific drives or directories so that callers can't access them.

Finally, LapLink doesn't offer remote drive mapping or printer redirection. But it does support Windows 95's dial-up capability, so if you need those capabilities you can connect as a remote node and you're all set.

If none of these missing features kills the deal for you, however, you'll find that LapLink's speed and intuitive design make it the best choice on the market.

LapLink was so easy to install and get running that at first I thought I must have done something wrong.

And, indeed, when I first tried to make a remote-control connection, the program told me it couldn't.

But I quickly discovered that that was just because the default install sets LapLink up in secure mode, forcing you to choose whether to open up your computer to all comers or require passwords from callers.

Apart from its lack of support for modem pools, LapLink offers unusually broad connectivity. The program's setup routine automatically detects and reports which of the five supported connection methods are currently available: LAN (IPX), modem, cable, infra-red, and Windows 95 dial-up networking.

But what makes LapLink really unique is the flexibility it offers in making and receiving calls and its virtually hands-off operation.

Unlike most of the competition, LapLink conducts both incoming and outgoing operations from the same module. Just load the program and you're ready to both make and receive calls. And LapLink doesn't require you to select a mode of operation in advance. Where pcAnywhere requires you to specify which mode - LAN, modem, and so on - to wait for calls in, LapLink can take calls via any mode. LapLink also allows you to connect to multiple hosts simultaneously, a handy capability if you're serving as a help desk - and one beyond the scope of pcAnywhere.

And no package offers a stronger set of file transfer tools than LapLink. The program offers directory synchronization and the capability to transfer only the changed portions of files, which can greatly speed transfer times. In addition, LapLink is the only package I've seen that allows you to copy files from one host directly to another. pcAnywhere32 is RICH!pcAnywhere32 is the most feature-rich remote-control program on the market. From its built-in antivirus utility to its powerful scripting and support for Windows NT, pcAnywhere32 offers a set of remote-control and file transfer tools that few other programs come close to matching.

What's more, pcAnywhere's broad support for networks, modems, and ACS, combined with its very strong set of security tools, makes the program a natural choice for corporate sites. It even offers a software gateway for on-the-fly modem pooling. And no program provides better security. In addition to offering data encryption and password protection, pcAnywhere provides detailed audit logs, and it's one of the few programs that allows you to limit users' access to specified drives on the host.

Installing the program was uncomplicated, if a bit tedious. I found it irritating that pcAnywhere insists on rebooting your system twice before you complete the process. And I was disappointed to find that Symantec still hasn't learned the golden rule of installation routines: always inform the user how much disk space is required and how much is available on each drive.

Nevertheless, pcAnywhere picks up some points for its flexible network installation options. Not only can the program be run from, or installed across, the network, but the admini-strator can customise workstation installations, controlling users' access to program features and types of connections.

There are, however, two major limitations that may disqualify the program for some users. First, I found the program to be unexpectedly slow, especially running on the LAN.

In part, the program's slow LAN speeds are a result of thunking down to 16-bit IPX drivers, and I got significantly better results by using SPX, which is 32-bit. But even then, pcAnywhere32 is slower than most 16-bit programs. If you're going to be connecting via modem, however, you'll find pcAnywhere's times to be very competitive, especially for file transfers.

Also, the first version of pcAnywhere32 I tried had long delays in sending keystrokes between remote and local systems. Symantec has largely solved this problem with a patch. Unfortunately, the patch doesn't work with the most popular Windows word processor, Microsoft Corp's Word. Symantec says it's working on a fix.

Secondly, pcAnywhere isn't the best choice for help desk scenarios because it doesn't allow a user to call multiple hosts simultaneously. What's more, you can't even run file transfers in the background while you run remote control in the foreground, as virtually every other remote package allows.

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