I'm a strict agnostic when it comes to operating systems. I focus on the appropriate solution for a given environment, rather than involving myself in religious wars over which OS is "best". By now, enough of my clients have moved to or will be moving to Win95, that it's time I came to grips with the beast. (Of course, the fact that vendors aren't writing new applications or upgrades for Windows 3.x is a pretty strong incentive, too.)
With all that in mind, I've spent the last week or so moving from my trusty old 486/66, EISA/VLB Windows 3.11 system to a new Pentium 133 PCI/ISA box running Windows95. It's been a non- trivial task, but, luckily, it's now almost complete. If I hadn't done a good deal of homework on the Internet first, however, I'd still be wrestling with Win95's counter-intuitive TCP/IP dialup configuration procedure a month from now.
One thing that kept me from making the move earlier is that I like command lines. That's one reason why I've kept my shell account with Netcom and it's been a disincentive for me to migrate to Win95. Marc Perkel's (firstname.lastname@example.org) "MsDos 7.0 from Windows 95" page (http://www.ctyme.com/msdos7.htm) changed all that by showing me how to keep the command line environment I prefer and still benefit from Win95. Marc, whose Computer Tyme Software Development Laboratory (http://www.ctyme.com/) specializes in utility software, menu systems, and job control languages, gives step-by-step instructions for separating the Win95 GUI from the MS-DOS 7.0 under which it runs. All I had to do was change three file attributes, spend 30 seconds with a text editor, rename three files and voila! My Pentium box now boots to a C: prompt, I can invoke the Win95 shell whenever I like and I can exit back to the C: prompt just as I was accustomed to doing with Windows 3.x.
The second major stumbling block I faced was migrating 140-some- odd megabytes of data from my old Win 3.11 box to the new Pentium machine. As it turns out, the ancient version of Novastor Coporation's Novaback for DOS I've used for years runs just fine in a Win95 DOS window. (I've since switched to the Win95-native version of Novaback, a time-limited demo of which is available from http://www.novastor.com/download.html, because it can read my existing Novaback for DOS tapes). Later, I found I wanted to use some of my old DOS utilities, so I used Rupp Technology Corporation's (http://www.rupp.com/index.html) FastLynx software and cable to transfer the files between the old and new machines.
Finally, it was time to face the music: configuring the Win95 dialer to connect me to Direct Network Access, Incorporated, (http://www.dnai.com/), the service provider through which I access the Web. I'd been anticipating this task with all the enthusiasm with which Marie Antoinette faced the guillotine, but it turned out to be a snap, thanks mostly to Steve Jenkins' "Windows95.com TCP/IP Setup" page (http://www.windows95.com/). Steve gives step-by-step instructions on setting Win95's dialer up for PPP and SLIP connections, as well for Netcom's Netcruiser and CompuServe-specific configurations. The same page also features detailed information for setting up Microsoft's stack for use in a LAN environment, both for use on the LAN and for shared use of a single modem for LAN-based dialout. Equally valuable are his directions for how to trick Win95's dialer into accepting PPP call-back and on configuring it to permit dial-up to multiple accounts with different ISPs. I also found his tutorial on dial-up scripting and on configuring Eschange to support Internet mail useful.
First I printed out the relevant pages from Windows95.com. I did the same for the richly-illustrated "Direct Network Access: Help Desk: Setup Instructions: ISDN: Windows: Trumpet Winsock" page (http://www.dnai.com/helpdesk/setup/isdn/TrumpetWinsock.html), because the Windows95.com "PPP Connection Instructions - Dynamic IP page" refers to the Trumpet Default Gateway value when talking about configuring the Win95 TCP/IP Properties Gateway tab. (Did I mention that this tab is accessible only after you open the Control Panel Networking icon, highlight the "TCP/IP -> Dial-up Adapter" entry and click on "Properties"? Did you think I was kidding when I said that configuring Win95 for IP dialout was counter-intuitive?) With these two documents to guide me, the whole process took no more than 5 minutes. I was able to connect to DNAI on my first attempt.
As it turns out, I could also have gotten good results courtesy of Barry A Barr's (email@example.com) somewhat more technically-oriented "Win95 Dial-Up Networking White Paper - Menu" page (http://www.wwa.com/~barry/wn95slip.html) or from Bob Cerelli's (firstname.lastname@example.org) "Windows95 Internet Dial-Up" page (http://www.halcyon.com/cerelli/dial_up1.htm). Cerelli's page also features step-by-step discussions of many of the same additional networking-related topics as does Steve Jenkins' page and adds topics on network printing, setting system policies and the use of INF files to install and configure Win95 identically on multiple computers over a LAN. He also provides a list of all the Win95 files, arranged both alphabetically and by CAB file, as well as lists of "Easter eggs" in Win95 and in several Microsoft Win95-native applications (Easter eggs are secret functions or displays the developer has hidden inside applications, such as the list of developer credits concealed in the Win95 egg).
Both Jenkins' and Cerelli's pages also link to fairly current collections of Win95-native software, (Jenkins' archives are on Windows95.com's ftp server while Cerelli's pages link to external resources). All three include discussions on using the WinChat program included on the CDROM distribution of Win95, and Barr also includes instructions for logging into a Win95 or WindowsNT server via the Internet (easy to do, if you know the machine name of the target and it has resource sharing turned on, so, make sure your shared resources are password-protected before you activate your Internet dial-up).
Of course there are always new tidbits appearing in Usenet's comp.os.ms-windows.win95.setup, comp.os.ms-windows.win95.misc, comp.os.ms-windows.setup.win95, comp.os.ms-windows.networking.win95 newsgroups. There's occasionally even useful information in alt.windows95, although there's also an awful lot of sheer white noise, too.
(Copyright© 1996 by Thom Stark--all rights reserved)