MCS: Unique, Dependable Communication Tool
Author: Paul B. Blood
Date: March, 1987
Text: I investigated many programs while looking for a communications package for use in transmitting files, data and programs used in research. One of the major requirements was to be able to transfer information to and from Norway, where my sister, also a Macintosh owner, is currently living. We needed a reliable and cost-effective method that would allow for the timely exchange of information. We had tried ordinary telephone calls supplemented by mailing disks. This became very expensive and still did not give satisfactory results. We had to wait for the mail to transfer any program or formatting changes. Delivery time to Europe via air mail can vary from as little as 4 or 5 days to as much as 6 weeks, and the disks may not arrive in usable condition. I believed that some method of electronic mail was what we needed to use. I investigated the services of Telenet, Tymnet, Bitnet and many other suggested services. The major drawback to all of these services was that to use them we had to move out of the Mac environment and into a Text Only environment. I was told that the sacrifice of formatting and graphics was the trade-off for getting our information back and forth within a predictable time frame. This was unacceptable. This was the dilemma when I had the good fortune to receive a program called MCS as part of the SPRING '86 BMUG Newsletter. MCS, the Multichannel Communications System, was developed by Yves Lempereur for in-house use at Mainstay, and is being distributed by him as shareware (suggested contribution $10). Mainstay, developers of MacBooster, Telescape, TypeNow, PacPaint, and BINHEX, had already faced a problem similar to ours. They had to make transfers to and from Europe via a satellite link which was noisy, expensive, and had a long return time. Mainstay found that XMODEM file transfers were not effective because of these problems. They developed and implemented in MCS their own proprietary protocol, X.MS, similar to the CCITT X.25 protocol. It eliminates any noise and the problem of the long return time. MCS uses, in addition, a higher level protocol which allows simultaneous upload, download and chat by keyboard using different channels. Upload, download and chat all take place in the same length of time as a single XMODEM transfer, making MCS very cost effective. The MacBinary format is used for file transfers, so any kind of Macintosh application or document can be transferred. As suggested in its accompanying documentation, MCS is most easily used if viewed as an upload-only program. Two persons who wish to communicate must both be using MCS. Each selects a series of files from a dialogue box. One operator selects Dial from the File menu, andthen, if a connection is made, each of the two Macs running MCS simultaneously uploads a series of files to the other. The uploads will be done in the order that the files are selected. The MCS operators can chat during the file transfer by entering lines from the keyboard, which can be edited in the usual manner prior to pressing the Return or Enter keys. A line can be 80 characters long and can contain any Macintosh character. MCS has the basic user friendliness of any Macintosh application. However since it was developed to meet Mainstay's in-house needs, it has some rough edges. Though all transfers are saved to disk, MCS does not check to see if there is adequate space on the target disk. If a file is received with the same name as an existing file, the pre-existing file is overwritten. To change the communications parameters or the phone number to be dialed you must use the companion program MCS Edit. No printing of the file being trasferred can be accomplished during transmission, and the only way to print those items transferred during the "chat", is to complete the call, "Hang Up" and then use Command-Shift-4 to print the window. We have been using MCS over the regular AT&T voice lines for some time now, with great success. We have found the cost to be near, but just slightly higher, than the cost of sending the same material by Air Mail. Our average cost for sending approximately 10K in each direction has been $1.81. We had some problems in the early stages of using MCS. We contacted Yves Lempereur at Mainstay and were immediately given the help we needed to set up the program, making it now one of the easiest to use and most cost-effective that we have. We find it not only valuable, but indispensable. I want to thank Mainstay for allowing Yves to offer this program as shareware and to support it as a public service.
Copyright © march, 1987 by Paul B. Blood