PC MACLAN gets systems talking

Networking computers based on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows and Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh operating systems has always been a challenge. Like Windows and Macintosh users, Macintosh and Windows networks frequently seem to be speaking different languages.

Miramar Systems Inc.'s PC MACLAN 8.1 attempts to break down the barriers between Windows and Macintosh networks by providing the Windows machines with a full-featured AppleTalk protocol implementation.

Microsoft offers basic AppleTalk functionality for free with most Windows NT and Windows 2000 implementations, but PC MACLAN goes way beyond the rudimentary (and frankly difficult to manage) functionality provided by Microsoft.

Using the AppleTalk support provided by PC MACLAN, Windows users can access Macintosh servers and printers via the Windows Network Neighborhood ("My Network Places," as it has been lovingly renamed in Windows 2000).

PC MACLAN also provides Macintosh users with access to Windows printers and shared files, much like Microsoft's Services for Macintosh (SFM). However, PC MACLAN's interface for providing access to Windows network resources for Macs is much more centralized and intuitive than Microsoft's SFM, which feels like an afterthought.

PC MACLAN isn't the only solution of its kind. Thursby Software Systems Inc.'s DAVE (and now the simpler MacSOHO) product provides PC-to-Mac connectivity from a Mac-centric perspective — providing Macs with Windows networking support.

The solution you choose really is a matter of which system you feel more comfortable supporting or which system is the least prevalent on your network. If you have three Macs and 300 PCs, DAVE is the right choice. Flip the numbers, and you can see that PC MACLAN is the solution for you.

I found PC MACLAN quite easy to set up. And having the flexibility to go both ways with the network compatibility offers administrators many different solutions to the numerous connectivity puzzles out there.

Although PC MACLAN is a huge improvement, one criticism I have of it is similar to the criticism that I have for Microsoft's SFM: I still had to go to five or six different places on the Windows machine to fully configure PC MACLAN. Centralizing the components and worrying less about the big gaudy icons and splash screens would make PC MACLAN a more professional-looking and intuitive application.

Hammond is a Denver-based freelance writer and a program director at L7, a company that specializes in building IT infrastructure.

REPORT CARD

PC MACLAN 8.1

Score: B+

Miramar Systems Inc.
(805) 966-2432
www.miramar.com

Price and Availability: $199

Remarks: PC MACLAN addresses the age-old issue of PC-to-Mac connectivity with a solution that works both ways, giving Windows NT and 2000 clients access to AppleTalk network resources and giving Macintoshes access to Windows-based network resources. PC MACLAN goes way beyond the AppleTalk functionality included in Microsoft's Services for Macintosh.

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