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Economical telecommunications software.

Over the years, I have made extensive use of two commercial data communication networks: Bell iNet (Canadian Mail for Canadian Airlines frequent flyers) and UniTel Dialcom (formerly CNCP and reviewed in ACCN, April 1989). I can correspond with others by electronic mail or upload text files to Bell or UniTel for conversion to FAX. FAX transmissions from this route are much cleaner images than those sent by conventional FAX machines as the characters are computer generated rather than scanned. There is also a financial advantage as the data crosses the country using "local" telephone lines. Sending E-mail or FAX is a very simple process. Create the file with a word processor, save it in ASCII format and upload to the network. You need two pieces of software; a word processor (unless you are brave enough to go live) and a telecommunications package. I had been using WordPerfect and Procomm respectively for this task.

Everything worked well, for several years, until Bell upgraded their system to allow for the transmission of eight-bit characters. This opened up the possibility of sending French words complete with the accents. I logged onto Bell's iNet and changed from the existing seven-bit characters to the new eight-bit format and was ready to go. My first transmission was a FAX that included the word "Quebec" with its acute accent. What was received at the other end was the word "Quebec" with the "e" missing. The problem was that Procomm stripped 128 from the ASCII codes for all characters above ASCII 128, i.e., all the accented characters. As there was no way to override this action, the simplest solution was to change the software.

Having heard so many good things about TELIX, it appeared to be a reasonable choice. Telix is Canadian technology, developed in Scarborough, with a price tag of only $44, well below that of the Big-name packages. It is readily available on a multitude of computer bulletin boards and any place that sells shareware plus a number of public libraries that loan shareware and public domain disks. Being shareware, you can try it first; then pay for it only if you like it and plan to continue using it.

The manual is included on the disk and can be read on screen or printed. When you register your copy, a coil-bound copy can be purchased for $14. The manual was reasonably good when it discussed the operation of the program, but somewhat confusing in its discussion of the SCRIPT language for creating custom applications, such as auto log-on files. Fortunately, the disk included some examples and these files could be easily modified to meet my needs. In the Toronto area, there is a technical support bulletin board (BBS) that allows users to download various files related to TELIX usage, files related to telecommunications in general or just to ask questions. For those who don't already have TELIX, a copy can be downloaded from the BBS, but before you can retrieve it, you need some telecommunications package to communicate with the BBS.

TELIX had no difficulty handling ASCII files with French accents, but the characters received by the remote FAX machine differed from those sent. Unfortunately Bell and IBM don't talk the same language. Bell uses the ECMA-94 Latin 1 character set; the ASCII values of the various accented characters are not the same as those used by IBM. In Latin 1, an "e" is represented by an ASCII value of 233. To an IBM computer, the ASCII value would be 130. To communicate between the two, it was necessary to create translate tables. These were prepared by comparing the two sets of characters (I used the character tables in the HP DeskJet printer manual) and entering these values into the table. Two sets were needed: IBM-to-Latin 1 for the outgoing table and Latin 1-to-IBM for the incoming table. The SCRIPT language enabled the log-on file to automatically invoke the translate tables whenever a link was made with iNet. A very nice feature was the ability to store the password in a separate paramter file rather than the auto log-on file. As Bell insists on forcing you to change it every three months, you don't have to revise the file each time you select a new password.

After using TELIX for several months, it proved fully capable of doing everything the others do for applications including communication by electronic mail, file transfer using a variety of protocols and access to a variety of databases. As TELIX did all these at a significantly lower price than most other products on the market, it is highly recommended for anyone who uses a modem to communicate with the outside world.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Chemical Institute of Canada
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Chemputing
Author:Silbert, Marvin
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Article Type:Column
Date:Feb 1, 1992
Words:782
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