LANtastic for OS/2

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By Derek Clarkson

OK, Basically it's all about setting up a network. Ah! The eyes glaze over. No, this is not about some corporate size 101 server system, but about putting together a simple network at your home or office to allow the 2 or 3 computers everyone has, to share equipment and drives.

In my case, I have a rather complicated system where I need to attached more equipment to my PC than can be physically done. This is mainly due to limited interrupt access. I can't use LPT2 for the second printer because Int5 is already in use for the scanner and there are no other interrupts available for the port.

The scanner is also not able to use any other interrupt (bad design in my opinion). There is nowhere to plug in a third com port for the notebook to communicate through and the PAS16 sound card has it's Sound Blaster circuits disabled because Int7 is being used by LPT1 (before Warp was available).

I could solve these problems by replacing equipment. A multi-port serial board which runs off one interrupt and a SCSI based flatbed scanner would give me enough interupts back to get everything going. But I would have to spend about $2000 to do all this. So a better and cheaper idea seemed to be to put in a network. Doing this, I could attach the second printer to my flatmate's (Jason) machine and also get access to his tape backup unit for backing up the magazine data files. Meanwhile he gets access to two printers, a CD-ROM and my Quantum Empire 2.1G drive .... um .... wait a second .... I've findd my mind!

Contents

Hardware and stuff

Of course this won't fix all my interrupt problems, but it should make life a little easier. So once I knew what I wanted to do, the next step was to organise the equipment and software to do it. First of all I contacted a friend of mine who had some experience with OS/2 networks. He suggested I go with LANtastic for OS/2 which had just come out on the market and was reasonably priced at $178. I then contacted Chips and Bits Australia. And with a few phone calls back and forwards between myself and Chips and Bits, I arrived at two generic clone ethernet cards which would work with LANtastic.

Interesting enough, it seems that like everything else in computers, ethernet cards all work differently with a couple of designs setting the standard for the rest. This is rather like the situation with sound cards. There are all different types, but they all provide Sound Blaster emulation because %99 of sound software has support for Blasters. In this case we were after cards which could emulate the Novell NE2000 card which is one of the standard emulations in the ethernet world. I was also after 16bit cards so that I could configure them up onto the higher interupts and because it would allow a faster throughput on the network. Approximately 10 megabits per second according to the specs on the cards. Hmmm, I wonder if I can use this for Doom][ ?

I finally arrived at 2 clone ethernet cards known as WE-164's, which are priced around $80 retail. They are also software configurable as opposed to jumper set which makes life easier.

Upon getting home the first port of call was to install the cards and check them out. finding a free ISA slot in the Pentium took some hunting and a torch, but I eventually found one and the card fitted without any hassles. I then booted up the system. The first thing to appear was a prompt from the Ethernet card asking if I wanted to boot from the hard drive or the LAN. This seems to be a function of a un-configured card as it did not appear once the card had been set up. Selecting hard drive then continued booting the machine as normal. The cards came with a DOS based configuration program for their configuration EPROMs, and I was able to run this without a hitch in a DOS session. I left the card at default, except that I specified the interrupt as 10 instead of the default of 3.

Assuming that all was well I then tore apart Jason's machine while he looked on, chewing his fingernails in anxiety. The second card also fitted in with no problem and I was able to configure it the same as the one in the Pentium. I then strung a cable between the two and we were ready to cook. The next step was to load LANtastic for OS/2.

LANtastic Installation

The LANtastic Pack I have came in a single average sized box, complete with a pretty looking design showing a network on the cover and a big green "5 User" sticker. Inside I found 2 disk, a 80 page users guide, a 200 page installation and management guide and the usual licensing stuff. Upon examination I found the manuals to be very good. The User's Guide easily guides you through a range of topics from what a LAN and Peer to Peer is, through the features of LANtastic, and then into a quite comprehensive series of chapters which discuss all the functions that the average user would be interested in. The Installation and Management guide takes a look at installing the software, combining it with other types of networks, setting up resources and security, tuning the network and a host of other related topics.

Inside each chapter I found a high content level, with plenty of step by step operations, tips and tricks, and references to related subject areas. There are also chapters on trouble shooting as well as discussions on the contents of various configuration files. Installation went fairly easily. Like most software these days, LANtastic displayed a installation window which guided me through getting it in and configured. I installed it into my C: drive where OS/2 resides simply on the basis that I keep core operating system type files on this drive. It created several directories as follows:

C:\LANTASTI
 +--OS2
     |--EXAMPLES
     +--NW
         +--ENV
             +--ARTISOFT
                 +--NWDDE

C:\LANTASTI.NET
 |--SPOOL.NET
 +--SYSTEM.NET

The first series of directories is where the core code for LANtastic and it's hardware setup are stored. Most of this being stored in the OS/2 subdirectory. The second set of directories (LANTASTI.NET) are known as the control directories. These are used to tell LANtastic the setup of the LAN. I.e. users, drives, printers, security, etc. You will find that LANtastic will add directories to this structure as you configure your setup. The good thing for people with more complex setups is that you can create and switch between these control directories through LANtastics configuration windows. This lets you maintain several different configurations of your network and be able to switch then at will which can be most useful in situations where security is an issue. For example you might want to disable or tighten security during specific periods, or only allow certain drives or printers to be available at certain times. This is one way to do it.

To find directories and thus the LAN's setup, you only have to stop the server program and then restart it again. No rebooting required. Basically it installed without a pain. But in my case I would have to do more. LANtastic can install and work straight a way with the following ethernet cards:

  • Artisoft NodeRunner Adapters.
  • Artisoft AE-Series Adapters.
  • Eagle NE2000 Adapters.
  • Any card with NDIS drivers.

If you want, Artisoft can not only sell you LANtastic, but also provide their own NodeRunner Ethernet cards to work with it. If you are doing this for the first time and are not sure about what is going on, buying the NodeRunner's with the software might be a good idea. Mainly because LANtastic can identify and configure them automatically and you can be assured that they will work.

For the cards I had though, I would have to find some NDIS drivers. So I spent the afternoon locating some OS/2 generic NE2000 drivers on a BBS which provided the NDIS support. I then downloaded these drivers, and unzipped them into a storage directory on my G: (misc) drive and had a look at the instructions.

Luckily the drivers had information with them which described how to install then for LANtastic. This involved three steps. First I had to copy a couple of files to the C:\LANTASTI\OS2 directory. Next, I had to locate the driver line in my CONFIG.SYS and find it to start the new driver. Next I had to update the PROTOCOL.INI file in the LANtastic directory. This file tells LANtastic what drivers to use and the setup of those drivers. In this case there is a couple of finds to be made with the most important one being the setup of the drivers for the card. I had to specify the interrupt, memory address, etc of the card in the machine. Not difficult except that different drivers use different code words to mean the same thing. I.e. the driver that LANtastic installed used "IRQ =" where as the driver I was installing use "Interrupt =". Something to watch out for.

At the end of all this I theoretically had a working directory. I rebooted both machines and sat back to watch it all happen.

Both machines fired up and as they processed the CONFIG.SYS files, I could see messages scrolling up the screens indicating the successful loading of the network and the drivers. Yippee but don't celebrate yet kiddo! After the desktop's appeared the pointers just sat there for 10 seconds indicating that the system was still busy, even though there was no drive activity. This is normal for LANtastic as it is spending this time trying to re-establish the network and check out all connections to other machines. This involves such things as broadcasting messages through the LAN saying "Hey, I'm here .... gotta luv me!"

Once the desktop was available I could then see a couple of new folders on it. One for LANtastic and one for the network. I then opened up the network expecting to see both machines in it. Wrong! It was empty. To cut a long story short, I spent 2 days finding out what was going on. Basically, nowhere, in any of the doco I had, or manuals, did it say that ethernet had to be terminated.

Doh!

Like SCSI, ethernet has to be terminated. This means that a special plug has to be added to the end of the cable which indicates to the network that there is no more equipment attached to the end of this wire. Otherwise the network will disappear into the ether (no pun intended) looking for equipment that doesn't exist. I didn't know this and had just plugged the cables straight into each card as I used to do at work with IBM SNA networks.

What I had to do was to plug a special 'T' connector to the back of each machine, with the cable going to the other machine plugged into one side of the 'T', and a ethernet terminator plugged in the other side. This effectively made a situation where the ethernet cable was terminated at each end and the two computers were attached in between.

Suffice to say, that once I had added the terminators (Not supplied with the cards and cost $3.50 each from a local electronics store) the network folder suddenly had two icons in it. One for each machine it could find. I was in!

LANtastic for OS/2

Lan2.gif

Within the LANtastic folder resides all the icons and setup notebooks you need to run your network.

OK. So now that we have the setup stuff out of the way. Lets look at the product. LANtastic sets itself up as a peer to peer network. This means that each machine that is a part of the network has a full copy of LANtastic on it and controls it's own resources (hard drives, CD-ROMs, etc) with regard to which ones are available and who has access to them. Effectively making each machine into what is known as a 'Server'. This can make life easy for a 'networking-newbie' as setup is simply a matter of configuring LANtastic on each machine to suit that machines requirements.

To make matters even simpler you don't have to be physically on the machine to set it up. Remember previously how I was talking about the control directories and how they control the setup of LANtastic for the machine they are on. You can also setup a remote machine (i.e. in another room) by simply setting the current control directory to the control directory on the remote machine. You can then find the configuration of it and save it. The next time the remote machine stops and starts it's server, the new configuration of the control directory will kick in and the setup of it will be findd.

The most common reason that anyone puts in a LAN is to get access to the hard drives on another machine. Either to raid them for software or to store information on them. After this there comes such things as printers and tape backup. LANtastic provides two basic ways that you can access information on another computer. Firstly you can use the Network folder that has been added to the desktop.

Lan3.gif

This is a view of my network folder showing Jason's floppy drives, hard drives and printers.

This is a normal WPS folder which in this case provides access to the resources which are available through the network. Opening it shows you an icon for each computer that is currently available. Opening these icons then shows you the resources (hard drives, CD-ROMs, etc) that are available on that machine. However note that this will not show you everything that is available in the other machines. What you can see is dependant on the setup of LANtastic on those machines.

Once you have these resources in front of you, accessing them is no different to accessing your own hard drives through the OS/2 drives objects. You can access any files within them, creating, deleting and modifying at will. However there is one problem with accessing the remote drives like this, they are not available to your local programs. So when I'm using PageMaker, I cannot see these drives and therefore cannot access any PageMaker files on them.

The second method of accessing resources on another machine can fix this. Simply put, you assign them unused drive letters on the current machines. For example, Jason has three hard drive partitions on his machine. So I 'map' his D: drives to an unused drive letter on my machine - J: drive. Now PageMaker can access anything on Jason's D: drive through looking at J: drive on my machine. As far as PageMaker is concerned, I simply have another partition. It doesn't realise that it is actually going through the network to get the data.

So just how do we setup LANtastic so that we can see other machine's drives as drives on the current computer ? There are two methods available. Firstly you can do it through the network folder. To do this you locate the drive that you wish to assign to the current machine in the network folder. Poping it's popup menu you will see several options for controlling that icon. Amongst then are options for both reassigning what the icon is pointing too and for assigning it a drive letter on the current machine. This is an easy way to do it if you only need the assignment made for the duration of the current powerup. To make an assignment permanent you have to go through the LANtastic Network Connections icon in the LANtastic folder.

The Network Connections Icon

Lan4.gif

The Network Connections settings notebook is where the real action is for perminant assignments of drives and icons.

This icon brings up a settings notebook where you can setup the resources on other computers that you will be attached to. It has three pages available:

Drives
On this page you can map drives on other computers to drive letters on the current machine.
Printers
Same again, however this time it is for mapping printers to local printer ports.
Computers
This page controls which computers out of all the ones on the network, you want to access automatically.

Connecting to any of these resources is simply a matter of selecting the drive letter or printer port on the current machine and selecting the 'Use ...' button. This brings up a further dialog where you select the computer and resource that is to be mapped.

Lan5.gif

Through the "Use ..." button you can assign the various drives to drive letters on your system.

Also on this window is another button called 'Computers ...' which leads to a dialog that controls the logging into of the other machines on the network.

Lan6.gif

The "Computers ..." page and button allow you to control which machines you automatically access at startup. You can also define defaults passwords and logins to save you from having to do it manually when you actually access them.

By default LANtastic identifies the other computers on the network when it starts up, but it does not try to log into those computers. This means that when you try to access a resource that is on one of those computers, LANtastic pops a logon dialog prompting you for a user-id and password. If you have installed a setup like we have where security is not an issue, this can be a pain in the arse. However in situations where you want to control access, it's a good idea. In our case we didn't want to be bothered by these dialogs. The dialog accessed through the 'Computers ...' button allowed us to effectively deactivate this security mechanism by specifying that LANtastic was to use default logins when accessing resources. This meant that both machines would automatically log into each other at powerup, making all resources and mapped drives instantly available.

Note that we did not actually turn off security, merely left it with default passwords of 'blank' which we told it to use throughout the network. By using the Network Connections icon it took a matter of minutes to setup both machines with remapped drives accessing each other. Very simple and done through point and click operations.

Lan1.gif

Once mapped, I was able to see Jason's drive in my drive folder as though it was part of my system. Accessing then became a simple matter of using it like any other drive.

Setting up Security and Resources

The defaults in LANtastic make your computers hard drives fully available to other computers on the network. This means that other users can read, write, delete, make directories, etc on your hard drives. For a small network such as ours this is fine. Both sides want to be able to work on the other machines drives. But what if I wanted to make other resources such as my CD-ROM and printer available ? Or I wanted Jason to only have access to certain directories ? What if I only wanted him to be able to read my hard drives, not update them ?

Lan7.gif

The answer to these questions lies within the LANtastic Network Manager icon. This icon brings up a settings notebook from which you can control the resources your computer makes available and the security on those resources. It has the following pages:

Accounts

This is where you can setup user-ids for people. By default a single account is already in place which is a wildcard account allowing anyone to have access. Wildcard accounts are generic accounts that a number of people can use if their user-ids all start with the same characters.

Groups

This is where you can setup Access Control Lists (ACL's). These are used to control access at a group level. This is useful if you have a number of users you want to access the computers. You can create user-ids for them and then assign these user-ids to a specific group. This makes administration easier because you then only have to assign the privileges and access for the group. It also means that adding or deleting users is only a matter of adding or removing the user-id from the groups list, not every resource the user is accessing.

Resources

This is where you control the resources that your computer is going to make available to other computers. By adding and removing resources from the list on this page you control what is available. You can also control what user-ids/groups have access to the resource and what actions they can perform on it. This is accessed through the 'Access ...' button on the page. A side note here - as well as making whole drives available, you can also specify a specific directory on a drive. This makes only that directory and it's subdirectories available rather than the whole drive.

Options

This page allows you to specify the maximum number of user that can be in your system at one time as well as the maximum number of open files and some printing options.

Performance

This page carries some options on it which effect network performance, however the main control over this area is through the Server Control Panel icon in the LANtastic folder.

Security

These two pages allow you to control security. You can turn off and on such items as ACL access and remote server passwords.

Auditing

Most important if you think something funny is going on, auditing allows you to log everything from all events on the network to selected types of events. You can also log when swapper space becomes a premium or when a user is using large amounts of CPU.

Notification

This page allows you to specify that the users will be notified of specific events. Such things as logins, printing and swap space are available here. Note - for this to work, the user-id or group must have the Network Operator privilege set in their user-id/group. This is not normally set.

Lan9.gif

When setting up accounts you can control quite a bit of how they work.

Lan10.gif

And with quite a range of privilages.

As you can see you as a network manager can control most aspects of how people are going to be able to access the machine.

For our network, setting this up involved very little. We didn't need any elaborate security or even user-ids so we just left it all to the defaults which gave everyone full access to the drives. As far as privileges go, the default generic user-id gets only the Network Manager privilege. We might give it more at a later stage if we decide we need to do more. So the only setup we had to do was to got to the resource page and specify what resources would be available on each machine. This mostly consisted of removing C: drive from the lists and adding such items as the CD-ROM and the printers.

Other Icons of Note

First there is the Server Control icon which presents a dialog from which you can control the server software which is always running in the background. You can set the level of CPU it will be allowed as well as being able to start and stop it.

Also worth noting is the LANtastic Configuration icon. This is where you can setup which control directory is currently being used for the configuration of LANtastic, and with the right privileges, you can also access and setup control directories on other machines via the network. If you are administering a large network this will be a very useful icon.

Lastly of note is the Lancheck program. This is a OS/2 text mode program which you can use to look for problems in the cabling of the network. It shows you every node that you have installed and keeps an eye on the status of it. This way you can see where problems might be. To help you in this area, there is a whole chapter in the Installation manual dedicated to Lancheck and using it to find problems in the network.

Summary

The thing I like about LANtastic is the ease with which I was able to set it up. OK, I had to play with some configuration files, but for anyone who is willing to spend slightly more and buy some NodeRunner cards, installing LANtastic and getting it running would be just a matter of loading the software. Providing you don't have any hardware problems, LANtastic will be up and running straight away. From there all you have to do is fine tune your setup.

However this is a first generation of LANtastic for OS/2 and we have had one or two problems which we are currently working to identify and solve. I particularly have had problems getting to Jason's machine whilst he is playing a DOS based game (Note: businesses shouldn't have this problem ). It appears that my system just freezes, however what we think is actually going on is that the game is sucking so much CPU from the machine that it cannot respond to my request immediately. Usually after a few minutes I get a response and my system comes back on-line. This is a situation I will have to talk to Artisoft about to see how I can tune the network so that heavy CPU programs such as games do not impact on other users too much.

Another thing that we found was that FM/2 seemed to have regular problems with LANtastic. I hunted the nets and downloaded FM/2 version 2.30b which informed me that part of the LANtastic software had not been written very well. Specifically FM/2 was asking for a directory listing from the network and LANtastic was returning files as well as directories. According to the FM/2 help and doco this is a common problem with LAN's and this version of FM/2 now includes some toggles to get around it.

And the final summary ? LANtastic for OS/2 is a cheap, easy to install and setup, network. It's ideal for the home or small business and can be quite easily setup by a novice. However I would recommend that if you wish to try it, that you have on tap a network expert just in case. Or if in doubt, talk over your system and requirements with Artisoft before buying.

Feature Summary

Version 1.0

Features

  • True Peer to Peer networking.
  • Can co-exist with IBM LAN ServerTM v3.0 clients and NovellTM Netware RequesterTM for OS/2.
  • Can use drives and printers on SMB-based networks such as LAN ServerTM, Microsoftr WindowsTM for WorkgroupsTM, LAN ManagerTM or Windows NTTM.
  • Allows access to Printers and CD-ROMs on other nodes.
  • Can use IPX-Compatible routers to allow wide-area networking.
  • 32bit, multitasking and multithreaded network operating system.
  • PM interface.
  • Connects to all Simply LANtasticTM LANtastic v5.0 and v6.0 networks, including CorStreamTM server.
  • Links to OS/2, DOS and WindowsTM PCs on a LANtastic network.
  • Includes strong, flexible security settings.
  • Reconnects to drives and printers automatically.
  • Supports network Dynamic Data Exfind (DDE) with OS/2TM and WindowsTM stations using Artisoft LinkBookTM.
  • Supports Named Pipes across the network.
  • Supports HPFS, OS/2 long file names and extended attributes.
  • Can issue warnings to operators when a station's swap space is low or the CPU is excessively busy.
  • Uses industry standard, NDIS complient ethernet adaptors.

Pricing:

5 user box - $178.00

Available from :

Artisoft
Level 2, Suite 3
4-10 Bridge Street
Pymble
NSW 2073

or

PO Box 481
Pymble
NSW 2073
Phone: (02) 988-4800
or Outside Sydney: 1800-808-432
Fax: (02) 988-4643
BBS: (02) 988-4617