Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 153 / JUNE 1993 / PAGE 106

Moses PromiseLAN. (local area network) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Bradley M. Small, Troy Tucker

Looking for a low-cost plug-and-play network for your home or off ice? Moses Computers has recently released a powerful peer-to-peer LAN called PromiseLAN. The package comes complete with a network card, 25 feet of two-pair telephone wire, installation software, and a large scroll of documentation.

At a cost of $99 per node, you can affordably connect as many as eight PCs. Adaptive Throughput Control optimizes communication speed between networked PCs, which prevents slower computers from bogging down your network.

PromiseLAN comes with an easy menu installation program. It works with all IBM PCs and 100-percent compatibles (XT, AT, 286, 386, 486). It meets all IBM NetBI OS standards and provides file and record locking. You can easily add additional PCs to the network. For added versatility, any PC in the network can be configured as a server, redirector, or peer. With PromiseLAN you can quickly connect computers and begin sharing peripherals, data, and software.

We installed the network in a four-person technical department. Since the computers are all close to one another, we used the 25-foot, two-pair telephone wire included in the packages. PromiseLAN can be installed on nodes that are up to 150 feet apart or up to 500 feet total for all nodes.

The first order of business was to install the special network cards in each computer. These cards allow the network to pass information between the connected computers. Promiselan uses 1.79-Mbps (million bits per second) DUAL Netcards that have two connector ports. Installation was quite easy. The factory settings worked with three of the four computers in our network. For heavy network usage you can purchase a high-performance version of PromiseLAN called PromiseLAN Fast, which features a 4-Mbps net card. It retails for $299,

Moses also offers a network that's a step up from PromiseLAN called (drumroll, please) ChosenLAN. You can upgrade PromiseLAN to it. ChosenLAN, which lists for $399 and comes with DaVinci E-mail, accommodates 53 users--increasing to 250 users in 1993. It comes with a four-port hub card and a single-port card, and it can be daisychained to expand the network. It's a 4-Mbps system compared to the 1.79-Mbps PromiseLAN. A like-priced network called SwiftLAN (sorry, no more Biblical allusions) designed for use with laptop and notebook computers comes with two external adapters. All of Moses's network products are compatible with each other. Moses offers information about its network products through an automated fax line (800-882-6673, extension 200) that immediately sends a fax containing information you request.

We had no trouble hooking up PromiseLAN. With the network cards installed, all that was left to do was run the telephone wire. The PCs were as easy to connect as a telephone. They were daisychained together, with each having two possible connections--one from the network and the other to the next node.

Software installation proved similarly painless. All it takes is inserting the installation disk in a floppy drive and typing install, The appropriate directories are created, and the software is copied to your hard disk. The final step is to configure the software on each computer. NetMenu walks you through the process. In a nutshell, you must select a unique network name (we used first names), choose the option to configure as a peer, and specify which of your resources will be shared by other network members.

PromiseLAN claims to be 100 percent compatible with Windows. The network uses the LAN network driver for IBM PCs provided with Windows 3.1. Unfortunately, this wasn't clear at the time we were installing PromiseLAN, and we couldn't get all network features to work. For example, we couldn't use a network printer under Windows. We contacted Moses's technical support personnel, but they couldn't answer our questions and said they would contact us. Well, we never heard from them and have since removed PromiseLAN from our computers until we receive a legitimate response or Moses parts the Red Sea again, whichever comes first.

To get an idea of the network performance, we decided to copy the contents of one network hard drive to another. Not surprisingly, this brought PromiseLAN to the floor. Peer-to-peer LANs aren't designed to carry this kind of burden, of course, but we wanted to see what would happen. Keep this in mind if you're in the market for a network. If it's high performance you seek, you'll have to shell out some bucks to get it. Otherwise, we had no trouble either with running software from remote machines or with file maintenance.

Low-cost peer-to-peer LANs like PromiseLAN, are designed for convenience. They're great for transferring files between computers and for sharing peripherals. If you're thinking about buying a couple of printers for the office, you may want to consider purchasing a low-cost LAN instead. You could save money by sharing a single printer through a network, rather than buying more printers. Other benefits include sharing software and files. Keep in mind that there will be some memory overhead and an overall loss of performance, although Moses claims that PromiseLAN has the lowest RAM requirement of any network in the industry. It uses 10K RAM for a workstation, 16K for a server, and 26K for a peer.

PromiseLAN did everything that it claims, with the exception of being 100 percent compatible with Windows. We found out later that the problem had an easy solution, but technical support never returned our calls to tell us about it. The network is easy to install and easy to operate, and it comes with a lot of documentation. So if you're in the market for a peer-to-peer LAN, PromiseLAN is a low-cost option.