Hands On: Dave 3.1

- 2002.01.07 - Tip Jar

Many Mac users need to either run the occasional PC program or connect to a Windows network to share files or printers. But when they upgraded to OS X, they were out of luck - popular programs that provided these functions (such as Connectix's Virtual PC and Thursby's Dave) simply did not work under OS X.

Until now.

This winter, new versions of both Virtual PC and Dave have been released, each providing support for both classic Mac OS's and OS X in the same box.

We looked at VPC last Friday and examine Dave in this article.

Dave 3.1

While emulators like Virtual PC let you actually run PC operating systems and programs on your Mac, many of us have needs that are less flamboyant. We may simply need to connect our Mac to a Windows network so we can share files and printers on the network.

With both Macs and Windows systems using the TCP/IP networking protocol, it would seem simple, but it isn't. Macs and Windows speak different networking dialogues: AppleTalk and Client for Microsoft Networking respectively. (For more on networking Macs and Windows, see Living in a Windows World)

Dave, from Thursby Software, has long been the leader at letting a Mac join an existing Windows network. (If you've got an existing Mac network and want to add a PC or two, take a look at Miramar System's PC MacLAN).

Versions up through 2.5 let Mac users log into a PC network and access the PC's shared folders and shared Postscript printers. Moreover, unlike products like Connectix's DoubleTalk (and Thursby's lower-cost MacSoho), Windows users could also access folders and Postscript printers on the Mac(s).

Dave 2.5 integrated itself into the classic Mac operating system, appearing in the Chooser and also adding Apple Menu and Control Strip icons. Dave 2.5 users who upgraded to OS X were out of luck, however. None of those features worked under the new operating system.

So Thursby went right to work on Dave: The Next Generation. Version 3.0 was designed to work under OS X as well as classic OS 8.6 or above. But as other developers found, Apple's OS X 10.1 upgrade broke everything they'd done, forcing them to start over.

Moreover, as Steve Jobs demonstrated at Macworld New York in July 2001, OS X 10.1 included built-in Samba (a.k.a. SMB) support, an open source standard for connecting to Windows networks.

Thursby tossed the unreleased 3.0 version, replacing it with 3.1 this winter, with simultaneous support for OS X 10.1 and classic OS 8.6 and above. In actuality, these are two completely separate programs.

Dave 3.1 for classic Mac operating systems is a modest upgrade to version 2.5. As with previous versions, it integrates nicely into the classic Mac way of working, making working with files and Postscript printers shared on Windows systems appear as if they were native Mac drives, folders, files, and printers. Select a printer in the Chooser using Dave, and it appears as a desktop printer. Similarly, Windows users can access files and Postscript printers set as sharable on the Mac - without having to know that they're really connected to a very different computer system.

The improvements over version 2.5 are subtle: an improved installation, fewer system extensions (with all options accessible from a single utility), keychain support, large file support, and Unicode International Character support. If you're staying in the classic Mac environment, you may see little need to spend US$90 on this upgrade (US$150 for new purchasers).

The big news, obviously, is support for OS X.

It's not a simple matter to move a system-level add-in like Dave to Apple's new operating system. It's not just a question of recompiling the OS 9 version. OS X has no Chooser, for example. Networking is built on a totally different base.

It would be easy to recommend Dave 3.x if we were still talking about adding Dave to 10.0. It is possible to add Unix-style SMB networking support to OS X 10.0, but it's not for the faint-of-heart (or the typical Mac user).

Mac OS 10.1, however, promises built-in SMB support. Apple's website promises: "We've also added support to natively connect to Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Unix-based SAMBA file servers with the built-in SMB client. These servers appear right in the Finder like any other file server."

Sort of.

The built-in support is just a step up from a raw Terminal command line. Click on the OS X's Finder's Go menu, then on Connect to Server. In the address field, type something like SMB://server_name/share_name, and the shared folder will appear on the Desktop. You don't know the server's name? The share name? Too bad; you won't get any hints from the operating system.

You want to put icons for more than one shared folder on the Desktop at the same time? Sorry - no can do.

You want to share files or printers on your Mac? Well, maybe you can learn how to do it using open source SMB add-ons, configuring them in the Terminal. Once again, this is not for the faint of heart.

Just as the classic version of Dave uses standard operating system tools like the Chooser and Control Strip, Thursby made the OS X version integrate into the operating system's System Preferences and Finder. With Dave installed, that previously unfriendly Connect to Server dialogue gets a new Dave Network item - choose it, and it starts opening up like the Finder's new Column mode, showing network servers and shared folders, making it much easier to use than Apple's bare-bones version.

Moreover, OS X users of Dave can choose to have their Mac share folders with Windows users, and (new to this version, and in OS X only), many models of inkjet printers connected to the Mac can be shared across the Windows network.

Unlike the classic OS version, however, OS X users cannot access shared Windows printers. Many users may find this a major disappointment.

As well, there are a number of rough edges to the OS X version. For instance, on both Macs that I tried it on, installing both the classic and OS X version resulted in an error message shutting down, restarting, or logging off OS X - there was a complaint about the Dave Shutdown item installed by the classic OS version. Booting to OS 9 and using the Extensions Manager control panel to turn that off fixed it.

Thursby's email tech support was very helpful and hinted that the company is hard at work trying to bring the OS X version's printing support up to the level of the classic OS version.

If you're not sure if it's for you, the company has fully functional time-limited evaluation versions of both the classic and OS X versions available for download from their website. LEM

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Alan Zisman is Mac-using teacher and technology writer based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Many of his articles are available on his website, If you find Alan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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