A New Ticket for Mac Transfers

TransferPro provides a new way to transfer files between NT and Mac systems

The task of moving files between Macintosh systems and Windows NT systems is relatively simple these days. Apple incorporated the ability to read and write DOS formatted (FAT) 3.5" disks years ago, and a variety of Mac-based third-party software programs are available to translate between Mac and non-Mac file formats.

On the NT side, you can implement Services for Macintosh (For information about this capability, see Darren Mar-Elia, "Services for Macintosh," November 1996.) to let Mac systems use an NTFS partition as a network drive. Non-Macs can access the same drive, and thus Macs and non-Macs can store and retrieve files through the shared NTFS drive.

If those solutions don't appeal to you, you can always interconnect Macs and NT systems in a TCP/IP network (via a LAN or a dial-in Point-to-Point Protocol--PPP--link through Remote Access Service--RAS). After you connect to the TCP/IP network, you can use FTP to move files back and forth between the two types of systems.

As you can see, you have a range of solutions for addressing your NT-to-Mac and Mac-to-NT transfer needs. All these solutions work reasonably well. But what do you do if you are an all-NT shop and you receive a Mac disk?

Transferring Without a Mac System
If you don't happen to have a Mac system lying around to initiate the Mac-to-NT transfer, you're pretty much out of luck, right? Sure, you could call the people who sent you the disk and tell them to use PPP to dial in to your RAS server and initiate an FTP transfer. However, the only guarantee of that approach is the headaches you'll get helping them set up their MacTCP and PPP settings to match your NT TCP/IP network environment.

Wouldn't slipping that Mac disk into your disk drive and reading it be much easier? Even better, what if you could read virtually any transportable Mac media--Mac 1.44MB disks, Zip disks, SyQuest cartridges, even Mac-formatted portable SCSI drives--on your NT system?

Providing this level of Mac media interoperability is one of the two main goals of TransferPro by Digital Instrumentation Technology (DIT). The second goal is to translate graphics files into different graphics formats (we'll get to that capability later in this article).

TransferPro in Action
I had the opportunity to test TransferPro 3.1.0 in both a lab environment and in real life. The product comes on two 3.5" floppies, and you install it using DIT's installation program. This installation program does not follow the general guidelines for well-behaved NT installation programs--it does not register the files it installs, and therefore, you cannot remove the program via the Add/Remove Program option in Control Panel. This point may seem minor, but removing one-way programs is tedious when you don't know where all the files reside on your disk.

The Installation Process
The NT version of TransferPro requires a license key to function. To get a license key, you must run the TransferPro licensing program to obtain a unique ID number for your computer (this ID number is usually generated from your Ethernet card). With the ID number (and a TransferPro serial number) in hand, you can call or email DIT to get a license key. When you complete the installation process by entering the license key, you're ready to go. (But remember that your license is usually tied to your Ethernet card--if you swap out your card later, TransferPro will stop working).

Making the Transfer

After you work through the installation and licensing process, you start TransferPro just like any application program. As you can see in Screen 1, the initial application screen lets you specify which drive is your native drive (FAT or NTFS format) and which drive is your Mac drive.

The terminology of right and left drives may seem a little awkward or antiquated at first. But you get used to it after awhile.

When you have specified your drive types, go to the main TransferPro window. This window, which Screen 2 depicts, lists the contents of each drive/directory you've selected and also contains controls for all the actions TransferPro supports.

In the simplest case, you can move files from one drive to another. You just select the filenames in the target file list and click Copy.

You can also format a Mac disk from this window. This capability is pretty handy if you have to originate the media being sent to a Mac system.

All things considered, TransferPro did a reasonable job of moving files between systems. You can have TransferPro move just the data file from a Mac disk, or it can move the data, resource, and finder forks.

Moving the fork information is handy if the information needs to go back to a Mac at some point. TransferPro is an extremely reliable--and very convenient--method for transferring information from Mac disks.

The Other Side
I was much less impressed by TransferPro's ability to convert graphics formats. In theory, TransferPro can translate among a multitude of graphics formats. So you can, for example, convert a Mac .pict file into a .pcx or .bmp file during the transfer process.

When TransferPro worked, it worked well. But when the program didn't work, it blew up and left me staring at a Dr. Watson screen. Translating large .pict files into .jpg was a particular weakness, but to be honest, I was unable to find a definitive pattern to what worked and what didn't. The bottom line here is that if you want to use this feature, spend plenty of time testing TransferPro on a variety of file types and sizes.

The Rest of the Story
In addition to being less than thrilled with the graphic conversion facility of TransferPro, I was disappointed by the absence of one other feature. Specifically, TransferPro does not come with a "flatten-and-move" option to combine the data and resource forks. This option is important if you want to move QuickTime movies from a Mac to the NT environment.

One final item to be aware of: TransferPro does not support Mac-formatted Zip disks loaded into Zip drives attached to your NT system via a PC parallel port interface. This problem is not particularly surprising given the tenuous nature of the Zip drive parallel port drivers under NT, but clearly this glitch is something you need to be forewarned about. If you want to access Mac-formatted Zip disks, you need to attach your Zip drive to your NT system via SCSI.

Accentuate the Positive
Despite the problems I experienced with TransferPro, I won't discourage you from using it. TransferPro's ability to read and write Mac media can be simply invaluable at times. For me, that capability is worth the price of admission. If you can also take advantage of TransferPro's graphics conversion facility, the product is an even better bargain.

TransferPro 3.1.0
Digital Instrumentation Technology
Web: http://www.dit.com
Email: [email protected]
Price: $909 for a one-user license
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