PC MacLAN unites the two big-name OSes

Microsoft Corp. may have defeated Apple Computer Inc. in the war for the
business desktop, but there are refugees on both sides.


All-Macintosh offices go into painful contortions when they add PCs to their mix, and
vice versa. The neglected issue of cross-platform networking has become critical.


Last fall, Microsoft's Bill Gates and Apple's Steve Jobs finally promised to bring
their operating systems closer together, but someone beat them to the punch.


Miramar Systems' PC MacLAN thumbs its nose at both companies by letting Microsoft
Windows 95 and Windows NT work with the AppleTalk protocol.


Other packages help Macs communicate with PCs, usually over Novell NetWare or Windows
NT networks, but this is the only one that makes PCs behave by Mac rules.


AppleTalk is superior when it comes to sharing information across hard drives and
desktops.


At my 50-person office, I occupy a lonely PC island in a sea of Macs. Everyone does
graphics work that originated on the Mac platform, and although we're slowly adding PCs,
transforming our platform all at once would seriously disrupt the workflow.


The Mac network we access through a server running NT is plagued by the usual
compatibility problems. Files and folders are unreadable with their Mac characters,
bullets, asterisks and leading spaces. Mac files without three-letter extensions (such as
text documents without .txt at the end) give no visual cues to their identity.


The Mac majority in my office has worked under these conventions for years, which makes
retrieving archival documents almost impossible.


PC MacLAN not only translates the file and folder names into PC-readable formats, it
does so within the Windows Network Neighborhood. Users can browse networked files using
Windows folders instead of going into another program to translate and download.


To my surprise, I found I could, with a password, log on to Macs from my PC and others
could log on to my PC. I could print to their Apple printers and even access CD-ROM drives
hooked up to Macs.


If you have a mixed-operating system office without an existing file server or network,
simply connect all the computers and devices in a chain using the same network cables and
adapters--Ethernet, token-ring or LocalTalk.


PC MacLAN then turns each computer into a virtual file and print server, eliminating
the need for an additional file server.


PC MacLAN can't substitute for the compatibility fixes that Apple and Microsoft owe
their users, but it's a good stopgap measure.


Dan Pacheco is a Washington computer reviewer and journalist.


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