Unicom 3.0g. (communications software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Bradley M. Small
As an avid BBS-er, I find that one of the most-used applications on my system is my communications program. I've used the same one for the last four years, but when I started using Microsoft Windows, it didn't feel like it belonged anymore.
My first instinct was to try Windows' Terminal. It works well as a phone dialer, but it's sorely lacking in many of the features to which I've grown accustomed--namely, good scripting language, host mode, terminal emulations, and, most important, my favorite file transfer protocols.
So I began to look for a new communications program. As usual, I started looking on BBSs for a good shareware program. To my surprise, I found very few, but in these few I found a gem: Unicom 3.0g.
Unicom is a full-featured, Windows-based terminal and communications program. It supports ten different transfer protocols, including ZMODEM and CompuServe Quick B. It has a well-developed, easy-to-use script language. It allows you to change all colors and font sizes. It also has a speed bar menu and a function key menu. It has batch dialing, timed redialing, and call-waiting protection. It will fully multitask in the spirit of Windows, and it has a configurable utility feature that can launch any Windows application.
I installed and set up the program in about ten minutes. I then installed the phone numbers of all my favorite BBSs. The only problem I had was on one particular BBS, where reading messages produced overrun and framing errors. I turned off reporting of these errors and had no more problems whatsoever.
Unicom comes with some script files that are really great starting points for writing some of your own. I just replaced the name and password in the CompuServe script and was able to log on. The manual devotes 57 pages to the script language. This language is packed with Windows power beyond your wildest imagination. It will manipulate Windows and even access the GDI.
It has full implementations of WHILE, IF, GOTO, GOSUB, and SWITCH constructs. A full set of arithmetic and logical operators are provided, as well, making it a true scripting language! Of course, it will also wait for an expected string and send a response, which is most of what my script writing does.
Unicom supports the following protocols: XMODEM Checksum, XMODEM CRC, XMODEM 1K, YMODEM Batch, YMODEM G, ZMODEM, ZMODEM Resume, CompuServe B, CompuServe Quick B, Kermit, and ASCII. Although officially they're "not recommended or guaranteed," Unicom can also be scripted to use external protocols. ZMODEM and CompuServe Quick B transfer protocols will do automatic downloading. ZMODEM Resume provides for recovery after an interrupted download.
Speaking of interruptions: One of the neatest features on the dialing options is call-waiting protection. It protects the session from being interrupted. The terminal itself is fully configurable. It provides for changing both foreground and background colors, and it offers destructive backspace and carriage return line-feed controls. It will emulate VT-102, ANSI-BBS, VT-52, or TTY terminals.
One of the problems that should be noted here is that Windows has a different character set than DOS. Some of the ANSI graphics done on BBSs will be missing certain characters. This is not a fault specifically of Unicom, but rather a shortcoming of working within the Windows environment.
In addition to the terminal, the function key menu is also configurable. You can change the labels on the keys, assign them to any function, or assign them to run scripts. They can even be used as hot keys for Windows programs listed in your utility menu.
The utility menu can be set up to contain any programs that you have on your hard drive. It should be noted that running any other applications during downloads or uploads will slow down the process and may cause errors. But I've had no problem whatsoever using Windows' File Manager to locate a file that I wanted to ASCII upload into a message.
On the downside, the unregistered version has a very irritating, timed random pop-up registration screen. This, of course, is easily resolved by registering the package. IBM PC or compatible (80386DX compatible recommended), 2MB RAM available to Windows after SmartDrive and RAMDrive, Hayes or compatible modem, serial communications port (if using an external modem)--$69.95 (shareware registration fee) DATA GRAPHICS P.O. Box 58517 Renton, WA 98058 (206) 432-1201 Circle Reader Service Number 348