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Ping! - NetMail on a Budget...

Release notes for version 1.0.0.

Indolence is a disease brought on by wealth, I swear it! (grin)

See the deal is, now that we're a two Mac household, we're just too
damn lazy to run up and down the stairs to ask each other
questions. Do you have the phone books? Did I leave my protractor
on your desk? What was that job number again? You get the picture:
the added convenience and productivity was wearing us out...

Hence: Ping!

We needed the simplest features of a network mail package without
all the bells and whistles, without the hardware and INITwitware
commitments, and without the damnable expense. In the service of
stupid questions, Ping! is a workable if largely brain dead answer.
And the price is right...

That Ping! thing...

Ping! works like this: you run it on two or more PEER-TO-PEER
networked Macintoshes. "Peer-to-peer" is important, which is why I
screamed it: Ping! is not built to work on networks where the Macs
are merely docile slaves of a tyrannical Serverobot. Ping! expects
the Macs it talks to to be servers in their own right, full peers
of the other servers on the net. We're using it with System 7's
file sharing, but I built it in such a way that it _should_ (famous
last words) work with any peer-to-peer topology (e.g., TOPS or
other EtherTalk set-ups).

You launch it from each of the Macs. The memory footprint is small
(96K), so the ideal case would be to put an alias of Ping! in you
Startup Items folder, so that it launches with every boot. When you
Send a Ping!, the text you type is kicked across the net to the
workstation you specify. On that machine, the ping sound rings out,
and the user has the option of taking a look at what you wrote or
ignoring you. When another user sends you a Ping!, you get the same
results. Ping! runs unobtrusively in the background, so you can
attend to the message when time permits.

Even though Ping! is designed to take advantage of certain System 7
features, it is nevetheless System 6 compatible.

Under the hatch...

Ping! cheats. It doesn't really do the network thing, it presents a
net-like face to what is actually pretty pedestrian data
processing. Why is this so? Two reasons, one sound and reasonable
and the other mercenary. The mercenary reason: deep net-hacking is
time-consuming, crash-prone and very, very boring; anything more
than a few hours work would have defeated _my_ purpose in writing
this: to get the thin slice of netmail I need without spending a
lot of money and time on a commercial netmail package. The sound
and reasonable reason: a deeply net-hacked solution would present
compatibility problems with every different network topology in
MacLand. By faking our way to the same end, we have a solution that
_should_ work irrespective on the hardware details of the network,
and, in principle, could be adapted to work on mixed-platform

What we're doing is this: a Ping! message is a file named "Ping*".
Ping! looks for that file each time through its event loop. When it
finds it, it immediately renames it (to "Pingo") to avoid having
it hosed by other incoming messages, then opens it and reads and
displays the (first 240 characters of) the contents, then deletes
it. When you Send a Ping!, you're simply writing a file named
"Ping!*" to the selected station. Very simple...

We're cheaping it out as regards the stations, also. We're showing
all mounted volumes, not all of which are necessarily network
nodes. You can't Ping! your own node, however, which probably
wrecks utterly your chances of getting on Geraldo... (grin)

Ping! messages are impermanent and cannot be copied or saved. If
you need a file from a user, you need that person to send you a
file. Ping! messages are intended to shuffle off this mortal coil
without leaving footprints. If Ping! is not in memory, incoming
messages will overwrite each other, one after the other, and only
the last will be visible when you relaunch Ping!.

Question 1: why not an INIT? Because I hate INITs, shared memory in
general, and plaintive Email from chrashing users. So there...

Question 2: why not the Notification Manager or some other more
elaborate scheme? Because ignoring electronic mail is everyone's
right. If you don't want to suffer the pings and arrows of other
people's misfortune, you shouldn't have to.

Question 3: what gives with the name? Ping was a Unix utility that
did something not completely dissimilar to Ping!. It polled the net
looking for users, reporting who was logged on. It didn't actually
initiate communication, just pinged for users like a sonar device.
This Ping! thing does more than that, but the truth of the matter
is that I like the name and _love_ the cool sound. (grin)

That's it, I think. If Ping! doesn't work for you, let me know. If
you gain weight, it's not my fault...


Greg Swann

1006 West Main Street, #101
Mesa, AZ 85201


Original file name: Ping! v1.0.0 Read Me - converted on Monday, 6 December 1999, 19:39

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