Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 140 / MAY 1992 / PAGE 112

Remote Rx. (debugging software) (Evaluation)
by Tom Campbell

Diagnose computer problems from afar? Thanks to the communications abilities of Remote Rx, that's exactly what you can do. Operate a remote PC almost as if you were running your own, with the ability to copy files between machines and even execute programs on the remote computer. With its diagnostic abilities, you can find out whether the other machine really has an EGA card and not VGA, as the user claims, or if an intermittent bug is due to faulty RAM or bad disk sectors.

The minuscule requirements list for Remote Rx (basically, 256K RAM and any monitor, plus a Hayes-compatible modem) allows you to run the program on just about any PC you encounter. This PC physician even practices on Novell networks. Remote Rx comes with two sets of disks, one for the controller (local site) and one for the remote site. Merrill & Bryan thoughfully provided these disks in both 3 1/2-and 5 1/4-inch low-density format. While the manual explains all its terms and even includes them in a reasonably experienced PC user with knowledge of most DOS commands and subdirectories, and a rudimentary knowledge of communications, especially if you plan to service someone else's PC. There isn't an install program; you're directed simply to copy the files into their own directory. The files on the distribution disks are listed in an appendix, along with explanations.

Using Remote Rx, you can test all types of RAM: normal, extended, and expanded. My favorite RAM-test feature displays the bad chip graphically, by its position on the circuit board. You can view and edit the information in your computer's CMOS RAM: system time and date, disk drive types, and so on. The program identifies device drivers, interrupts, the contents of the DOS environment table, and parallel and serial ports. You can test every mode for every common video board, the keyboard, and serial and parallel ports. The last two require simple cap devices not included with the product. Also, you can test the game port, paddles, joysticks, mice, and disk drives. PS/2 users will appreciate PS/2-specific features such as a report of all POS devices installed, by name and ID.

Remote Rx prints snazzy reports on everything it tests and can test in batch mode while you're away. The user interface is immaculate. Snappy menus sport a well-chosen, customizable color scheme, and the program operates equally well with mouse or keyboard. A handy User menu at the far right of the screen lets you install programs with inspired ease. Any function that doesn't execute instantly can be interrupted, and the help screens offer a print option.

Remote Rx would be a design and documentation tour de force in any software category, but it possesses elegance almost unheard of in a diagnostics program. If you've become the office or neighborhood guru, Remote Rx won't stop midnight calls from distressed PC owners, but it will help you handle them without leaving your home office. My diagnosis: Get Remote Rx, do your good deed, and get back to bed.