This article originally appeared in TidBITS on 1995-12-11 at 12:00 p.m.
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Macintosh PPP Overview (Part 2)

by Travis Butler

[This week we finish Travis's overview of PPP software for the Macintosh begun in TidBITS-306, highlighting ongoing PPP projects as well as commercial PPP implementations. -Geoff]

The "Future of PPP" Projects -- Two different groups recently put together "collective PPP" projects - attempts to gather the best of all of the different Merit MacPPP-derived versions together into a single, coherent release, which could then be used as a basis for building future PPP software. For the moment, they still count as MacPPP-derivative software, and most of the latest versions of MacPPP add-ons and configuration information work with them, which may cease to be true in the future if they continue to diverge. Both of these programs are available in the MacTCP software directory on Info-Mac.

ftp://mirrors.aol.com/pub/info-mac/comm/tcp/

MacPPP 2.2.0a was written by a Belgian group called MacBel UG vzw. It features:

Unfortunately, MacPPP 2.2.0a is apparently not compatible with Open Transport. It also didn't work correctly with my old PowerBook 170's internal modem, so either it doesn't incorporate the PowerBook fixes from 2.0.1cm4 and/or 2.1.2SD, or it tried to incorporate them and they don't work properly. 2.2.0a ran fine on my IIci at home and my Quadra 840AV at work. MacPPP 2.2.0a might worth a try if you don't use Open Transport or a PowerBook, and I like the revised interface.

However, MacBel has discontinued work on MacPPP 2.2.0a. I received email from Lieven Embrechts, the contact listed in the 2.2.0a documentation, stating, "Development [on 2.2.0a] is stopped. We are now working on different projects." This means that although 2.2.0a is worth a look (and should still be usable if you have no problems with it), I cannot recommend it.

FreePPP 1.0.2 is the successor to MacPPP 2.1.2SD, and Steve Dagley is still the guiding force, although he has included contributions by a large number of people, making FreePPP a group project. The name change came in part to eliminate some of the confusion surrounding all the derivative MacPPP releases with similar names and different numbers.

[Sharp-eyed readers may have seen FreePPP 1.0.3 appear last week; that version has been retracted because it exacerbated a problem initiating PPP connections from within an application rather than from the control panel. FreePPP 1.0.2 has been restored to the Info-Mac archives and should be considered the current version. -Geoff]

In addition to the features in MacPPP 2.1.2SD, FreePPP adds:

I'm currently using FreePPP 1.0.2 on my 840AV at work and my new PowerBook 5300; it appears to be stable, and runs well. However, reports from Macintosh newsgroups still cite a few stability problems and the FreePPP group is working to resolve them.

I'd like to see FreePPP get a revamped control panel, along the lines of 2.2.0a. The current control panel is a slightly changed version of the original, which was a front-runner for the Ugliest Control Panel in Existence award. Work is underway on alternative interfaces for FreePPP, so hopefully we'll see improvements in future releases.

Commercial PPP software -- Although there are plenty of free options if you want to use PPP, some people feel more comfortable with a commercially supported product. There are a few available right now; I haven't tried any of them, since I've been happy with the freeware products. None of the PPP add-on programs for the MacPPP derivatives work with these commercial products.

InterPPP II -- InterCon Systems was one of the first developers of commercial Internet software for the Mac. Their version of PPP, InterPPP II, supports AppleTalk over PPP as well as TCP/IP (think Apple Remote Access, which is supposed to be switching to a PPP foundation with the next major release). However, this is only an advantage if your host also supports AppleTalk access via PPP, which isn't true of most Unix-based Internet providers. InterPPP II can also establish SLIP connections and is supposed to be compatible with Open Transport 1.0.8. InterPPP II uses CCL scripts (like Apple Remote Access) to handle dialing and login. It has built-in scripts that should handle most modems; built-in scripts also handle logins for people who use Telebit or most Unix-based PPP servers, PSI InterRamp, internetMCI, CompuServe's PPP, or PPP servers that use PAP or CHAP authentication. However, people who don't use one of these might need to write their own CCL connection script, a potentially daunting task.

http://www.intercon.com/newpi/Interppp.html

MacSLIP was originally a full-featured SLIP implementation; in version 3.0, it adds support for PPP. MacSLIP's maker, Hyde Park Software, says on their Web page that MacSLIP 3.0.2 also supports Open Transport, making it an alternative to MacPPP 2.1.2SD/FreePPP. Several people on <comp.sys.mac.comm> have offered strong recommendations for MacSLIP, stating that it's more robust than the MacPPP derivatives. MacSLIP uses a scripting language to set up connections; although this is more powerful than the "prompt-response" setup that the MacPPP derivatives use, it can be more difficult to set up. MacSLIP comes with the commercial version of Eudora, as well as with MicroPhone Pro, although it's worth checking to make sure both have the latest version.

http://www.zilker.net/~hydepark/

SonicPPP is a PPP client available from Sonic Systems, the Macintosh networking company; it can be downloaded from their Web site. SonicPPP appears to work only with PPP servers that support PAP or CHAP authentication; it has no provision for a login script, so I was unable to test it with my Internet provider.

http://www.sonicsys.com/sonicppp.html

VersaTerm SLIP -- Although not a PPP program, this SLIP implementation is notable because it reportedly supports Open Transport. At least one reader has written to comment that VersaTerm AdminSLIP works fine on his Power Mac 8500. VersaTerm SLIP is available as part of several of VersaTerm's Internet software bundles.

Recommendations -- These recommendations apply primarily to the freely available programs because they're more commonly used and because I haven't tried many of the commercial options.

People who don't fit these special cases have a wider selection:

I have to admit I'm encouraged by FreePPP 1.0.2, and with what I saw in MacPPP 2.2.0a. It's too soon to say what will happen with FreePPP, but it presents a future growth path for Macintosh PPP software born of community spirit, and that's something everyone should be happy about.

(This article is based on information from my Web page on Macintosh PPP software. I'll continue to update the page with new information on PPP programs as I find it.)

http://www.tfs.net/business/tbutler/ pppstuff.html

Hyde Park Software (via TriSoft) -- 800/531-5170
512/472-0744 -- 512/473-2122 (fax) -- <trisoft@bga.com>
InterCon Systems -- 800/468-7266 -- 703/709-5500
703/709-5555 (fax) -- <sales@intercon.com>
Sonic Systems -- 800/535-0725 -- 408/736-1900
408/736-7228 (fax) -- <sales@sonicsys.com>
Synergy Software -- 800/876-8376 -- 610/779-0522
610/370-0548 (fax) -- <maxwell@sales.synergy.com>