More than just a file transfer program

Moving files from one system to another is an arduous chore. If you use a desktop system at work and a laptop system on the road, synchronizing the two machines is difficult. Traveling Software's LapLink for Windows NT, 7.5 has a solution.

Unlike yesterday's LapLink, today's LapLink is more than a mere file transfer program and offers numerous advanced features, including file transfer over network connections and remote control of remote computer systems.

Getting Started
The CD-ROM version contains both an NT and a Windows 95 version. Installation differences between the two operating systems are negligible. After the file copy process ends, you can either reboot or continue working--if running NT. If running Win95, you simply return to Windows Explorer.

The LapLink NT installation automatically starts a remote control service on system startup. This service is the reason you need to reboot after installation. Rebooting activates TSI Remote Control, which lets remote administrators connect to your machine at any time (even before you log on) to perform maintenance or invoke file transfers.

During installation under NT, LapLink also installs the LapLink Scheduler into your Startup program group. This utility will automatically perform file transfers as unattended background operations. For example, the Scheduler can download or upload a new data file at 3:00 a.m., without interrupting your sleep. Tip: I didn't need the Scheduler executing each time I logged on, so I moved it from the Startup program group to the LapLink program group.

An annoying aspect of the installation is that it assigns a machine name to the system. This is the name that appears in a list of available hosts when you establish a connection to a LapLink system. By default, the installation program automatically selects the name of the person who is logged on to the machine.

I log on as "mdeignan." The install program selects this username rather than selecting the NT Server or NT Workstation machine name. In a large environment where several people share a machine or a user moves among several machines, usernames are not very useful. For example, if I install LapLink on several machines, each ends up with the same name. This situation can be a problem when someone tries to figure out which machine named mdeignan to connect to remotely. Luckily, you can type over the default name with the machine name.

Link It Together
LapLink supports remote control capabilities, automatic synchronization, and machine-to-machine chat. A single application integrates all of these functions.

Launching the application brings up a blank window with a menu bar and toolbar. The toolbar buttons represent several different methods to connect to remote systems. For instance, you can use Dial-Up Networking (DUN) to connect over the Internet, or you can connect over a parallel or serial port. If you have a LAN running IPX or TCP/IP, you can use your LAN link. You can also connect over a wireless network connection. You control the available options by going into Port Setup, which lets you enable a topology that doesn't activate by default.

Configuring security is an important step to complete when you launch the application. By default, the software installs as a private system. Nobody will be able to connect to your machine, but you can connect to remote systems (as with an outbound-only option, which lets you originate connections to remote systems, but prohibits other people from connecting to your machine). If this option suits your needs, don't make any changes. Alternatively, you can make your system protected by giving LapLink a series of usernames and passwords (totally separate from NT's usernames) that you can use to access specific resources. You can also make your system public and let anyone access it. Remember that when accessing an NT machine, you still have NT security to protect the system even while permitting access to multiple LapLink users.

When you connect to a remote system, you specify the type of connection, either file transfer, remote access, or chat. The file transfer window displays two panels: One represents your local system, and the other represents the connected remote system. You can move files between the two systems (or panels) by clicking on the files you want to move and dragging them to their destination. Screen 1, page 99, shows a typical file transfer session. The interface is similar to Windows Explorer.

A LapLink feature related to file transfer is the Xchange Agent. This feature lets you automatically synchronize folders between two machines. A wizard guides you through the configuration process. It guides you in selecting folders and taking the right steps when a file already exists or has multiple versions. After the wizard finishes, you can begin the process immediately, or you can schedule the process through the Scheduler.

LapLink's remote control feature is useful, especially for NT Servers located some distance away. Launching a remote control session opens a window echoing the remote system's screen on your screen, as Screen 2, page 99, shows. After the session opens, you can move around the window, click on icons, launch programs, or use the Start menu. Anything you need to do locally on the machine, LapLink accomplishes remotely. The remote system mirrors all actions, so a user present at the remote machine can follow your actions.

LapLink's remote chat utility lets you have a keyboard exchange with a remote user. Help desks can use this feature to show remote users the steps for completing tasks on their own.

Several other features of LapLink are noteworthy. The program offers complete compatibility with Win95 and Windows 3.1. You can interact between any combination of machines. If you use long filenames on your NT or Win95 machines, LapLink automatically manages the names if you connect to a Windows 3.1 machine and vice versa. If you route your connection over the Internet, LapLink offers full data encryption for all traffic. Furthermore, LapLink uses a form of adaptive compression based on your link connection speed to augment its performance.

A Handy Tool
LapLink for Windows NT, 7.5 is a useful tool for transferring files between systems. The remote control capabilities are extremely useful if you are an administrator and need to access a user's remote system. Of course, other NT utilities that duplicate LapLink's features are available. For instance, both the remote control and integrated chat features come with Microsoft's Systems Management Server (SMS). So if you already use BackOffice, purchasing LapLink may not be worth the cost. However, LapLink performs remote control from a laptop over a Remote Access Service (RAS) connection, which you can't do easily with SMS Administrator. Therefore, even in environments where alternative tools exist, you may still find a use for LapLink.

LapLink for Windows NT, 7.5
Contact: Traveling Software * 425-487-8803
Web: http://www.travsoft.com
Price: $149 (includes the Windows NT and Windows 95 versions on one CD-ROM)
System Requirements: Windows NT 4.0, 16MB of RAM (24MB recommended), VGA compatible monitor, 9MB of hard disk space