At the end of October, SoftArc released FirstClass 2.6, an update to its group communications software, with the ability to communicate with Macintosh and Windows clients or between servers, via TCP/IP (see TidBITS-238). SoftArc has released updates to both the server and client applications; the server also offers improved performance on Power Macintoshes.
Server updates are free to registered users, though the TCP/IP capability requires an optional TCP/IP Protocol Module, which SoftArc sells (directly or through its SoftArc Certified Consultant network) for $995. (There are educational, non-profit, and hobbyist discounts for this, as for most SoftArc products.) SoftArc's "a la carte" approach to supporting multiple network protocols allows them to charge each site only for capabilities that will be used at that site.
In what seems like a departure from the company's usual practice, SoftArc is not restricting TCP/IP access to the more expensive "network user" licenses. The less-expensive "remote user" licenses (previously called "telecom user" licenses) will support TCP/IP connections as well. We expect a resulting surge in Internet-accessible vendor support services and public BBSs. (SoftArc requires the purchase of a $395 Four Remote Port Upgrade if a system administrator wishes to support more than two remote connections at once; this was true for modem connections in the past.)
Macintosh client users need Apple's MacTCP control panel (included with System 7.5, or Adam's Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh book), and Windows client users need a Windows Sockets-compliant TCP protocol stack. Previously, TCP/IP client access was only possible (and often unreliable) using one of a few Communications Toolbox TCP/IP connection tools with the Macintosh client application.
According to SoftArc, FirstClass Server 2.6 also now supports the Modern Memory Manager, and offers significant speed improvements on Power Macintoshes. Neither server nor client software incorporates native PowerPC code, but compliance with the Modern Memory Manager dramatically improves server performance.
Registered owners may download the updated server software from SoftArc Online, the company's FirstClass-based support BBS, or may order a server upgrade package with new disks and documentation for $95. Credit card orders may be sent to <firstname.lastname@example.org>. The upgrade package (whether downloaded or purchased) provides an upgrade path from any previous version of the FirstClass package. Users who already have 2.5 or later packages will find the documentation largely unchanged.
As always, the client software is available at no cost. You can download it (using a previous FirstClass version, or any VT100 terminal program that supports XMODEM or ZMODEM file transfers) from SoftArc Online, or retrieve it on the Internet from:
SoftArc -- 800/364-1923 -- 905/415-7000 -- 905/415-7151 (fax)
905/415-7070 (BBS) -- <email@example.com>