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SoftPC: A Key Connection for Multiplatform Users

SoftPC: A Key Connection for Multiplatform Users

By Gerry Starnes

I live in two worlds. At work I do battle with a networked, DOS-based system. But at home I cruise the Mac world of icons, folders and graphic interfaces. Between these two worlds stands my HP 95LX. It is a crucial link between home and office, but it is from the PC tribe and does not readily understand "MacSpeak."

My primary goal is to be able to transfer files among my three computer systems with minimal confusion. Related to that, I want to be able to back up my 95LX files on my Mac at home.

DOS Environment on a Mac with SoftPC

The linchpin in successfully integrating these three computers is Insignia Solutions' SoftPC, a Mac application that creates a DOS environment on the Mac in which you can run DOS programs. Almost all applications that run in a DOS environment run on the Mac with SoftPC. Applications that need more than 1MB of memory to run or have a robust VGA graphical interface will require the Professional version of SoftPC. I successfully use the smaller and less expensive Universal version.

The program also sets the Mac SuperDrive to read and write to DOS formatted diskettes. This is a primary way by which to transfer files between Mac at home and desktop PC in the office. In addition, SoftPC allows for communication between the Mac and other computers through the COM ports. The communication ports are selectable: COMs 1 and 2 can be assigned either to the Mac's modem or printer port.

SoftPC also allows users to assign a folder as a "PC Network Disk" (designated as the E drive). This folder is the key to communicating between SoftPC and the rest of the Mac. Files stored here are automatically available for use by other compatible Mac applications, and vice versa.

Another important piece of the PC-to-LX-to-Mac connection is ZIP. ZIP is an extremely efficient file transfer program that works between the HP Palmtops and a desktop PC. It also works within SoftPC on the Macintosh. The final item needed is an HP Mac-to-LX connectivity cable (HP F1016A).

The only difficulty using ZIP with SoftPC is that file transfer is slow. I have only been successful running ZIP at 2400 baud. However, 2400 baud is better than no baud!

I recently upgraded to ZIP 1.72 and found that the /t switch does not work the same. This version adds a more restrictive "time-checking" function that appears incompatible with the Mac. No matter what I did, I could not get the times synchronized between the Mac and the LX. Worse yet, using the synchronization function in this version of ZIP reset both time and date on the LX to 0. It's worth a note that ZIP 1.72 (and possibly other versions greater than 1.63) will work in line mode only, not in batch mode. It also does not help with speed: 2400 is the highest usable baud. I recently upgraded to a 100/200LX, and this change did not help the baud rate either. It seems to be totally related to limitations in SoftPC.

Batch file backup between Mac and HP Palmtop

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