Remote control with pcAnywhere

by Alan Zisman (c) 1996. First published in Computer Player, May 1996

Symantec pcAnywhere-32 for Windows 95 or NT
$149 (US)
Symantec Corp.
 Santa Monica, Calif.
(310) 453-4600

Do you need the advantages of your business network when you?re not actually connected? Maybe you?re at home, but need a data file on the machine at work. Or need to run a program off your office computer. Maybe you?re on the road with your laptop, but want to print using your office printer.

Or maybe you just want to connect your laptop and desktop computer, and transfer files between them, using the serial or parallel ports. Or run an application?s Setup program from the desktop?s CD-ROM, installing the program onto your laptop?s hard drive.

If you have MS DOS 6, you can use the almost secret Interlink feature for serial or parallel connections between your two machines, or with Windows 95, you can use the much more capable Direct Cable Connection program?making a sort of mini-network, limited by the speed of  your parallel ports and cables. That won?t help when your two computers aren?t in the same room, however.

Win 95 users could always purchase the Microsoft Plus! Package, and try that utility?s Dial-up-Server.

For all this and more, however, a better choice could be Symantec?s pcAnywhere-32. It offers all the features of Windows 95?s Direct Cable Connection and Dial-up-Server, and more, and allows connections between computers running Windows 3.x, Win 95, Win NT, and even plain old DOS.

pcAnywhere-32 even includes a parallel cable, for connecting a pair of computers ? parallel connections are typically several times faster than serial port connections, but you can?t just use a spare printer cable for this. (For even faster results, Symantec recommends a special parallel cable from Parallel Technologies, and includes a coupon for its purchase (Still a pricy $69 US)... with this cable, and fast, enhanced parallel ports on both machines, direct connections can approach network speed).

Some of the features of this program include remote connection and remote node?your off-site machine can connect and log onto the office network just as if it was a (slow) on-site workstation, accessing network programs, data, and printers. Even without a network, you can setup your standalone  home or office  machine to allow remote connections. You can drag-and-drop files between the two machines, keep directory contents and individual data files in synch, and even use the included Norton AntiVirus module to check for viruses, automatically, during file transfers.

It can also be used for standard modem connections to online services, including a range of standard file-transfer protocols. A built-in scripting language makes it possible to automate frequently-repeated sessions, while  you can also record a session?useful for training or problem-solving.

If you need to update a data file or folder, you can choose to only download changes?potentially saving a considerable amount of time. As a fully 32-bit program, it can run happily in the background, allowing users to carry out other tasks while carrying out sometimes tedious file transfers.

A wide range of  network protocols is supported?including IPX, TCP/IP. NetBios, and WinSock remote Internet connections. Because it supports Windows 95 TAPI telephony standards, your modem is automatically configured. As a 32-bit program, it can be installed onto computers running either Windows 95 or NT, and can be used to connect to computers running those operating systems, as well as DOS alone or with earlier versions of Windows. A single package can be used to connect two computers.

When viewing a remote computer?s screen, pcAnywhere tries to optimize transmission time by reducing the number of colours sent. It is similarly fast and efficient at sending files back and forth, and can be set to only transmit the differences between files residing on both machines.

Password security can be set, to minimize unwanted intrusions onto a machine set up for remote access, as well as limiting the drives that can be accessed. You cannot set access controls on individual directories, however. A log of accesses can be kept, showing who has connected to your computer, along with what files were accessed.

The printed documentation is full of step-by-step examples, along with separate documentation for the scripting language. There?s online help for the main program and the scripting language, along with reasonably useful wizards, and ?How Do I...? tips, making the printed documentation unnecessary for many users. A full installation requires 16 megs?perhaps a bit much for some users with limited drive space on a laptop. As with all well-designed Windows 95 products, an Uninstall option is added to Control Panel.

Users with limited needs (and limited hard drive space) will find this product overkill?especially if they only need to connect to other Win95 machines, they may be able to make do with that operating system?s built-in Direct Cable Connection, or with the Dial-Up-Server added in the optional (about $60) Plus Pack.
Frequent users of either parallel/serial connections or remote access, however, will find this a powerful alternative.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan