By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1999, The Syracuse Newspapers
Two expressways pass within a mile of our house. They're like the Internet in a major way.
My wife and I sometimes ride our bicycles up to one of the overlooks and watch the cars. It doesn't matter where the cars have come from or where they're going. They're all traveling on the Interstate Highway System.
The Internet works the same way. You get onto the Net any way you can. Once your computer is connected, you can travel the same way everybody else does.
Keep that in mind. It's essential to understanding why the Internet-sharing software I'm reviewing this week is important. If Computer A has an Internet connection, Computer B can get onto the Internet through Computer A. In fact, Computer C and Computer D can do it, too. All that's needed is one computer with a real Internet connection and some way to link up the other computers with the first one.
I wrote about this in my review of NAT32 not long ago. NAT32 is a Windows 95, 98 and NT program that translates Internet addresses (it's a network address translator, hence "NAT") so that many computers that are connected in some way can get onto the Internet as long as one of them has a real Internet connection.
NAT32 is outstanding software. You can download a free trial copy from http://www.nat32.com/. It costs only $25.
A competitor for NAT32 has just been released by MiraLink. The software, called Nshare, costs $40 for a two-user version and $99 for a version that has no limit on the number of connections. You can download a 30-day trial copy from http://www.miralink.com/. It runs under Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows NT. (I don't know if it will run udner Windows 2000.)
Both Nshare and NAT32 avoid all the problems with older methods of sharing connections, called proxy servers. Proxy servers need extra steps to maintain security, but network address translators do not. Basically, a computer that gets onto the Internet through a NAT system cannot be "seen" by computers on the outside.
Nshare and NAT32 can manage the Internet connections for Windows PCs, Macintoshes, Linux PCs and other computers. If the computer can get onto an Ethernet network (the standard kind), Nshare and NAT32 can provide an Internet connection to that computer through a Windows PC that has a standard connection. (The connection can be though a normal modem or through a cable modem.)
Nshare is obviously still being developed. Some words are spelled wrong in its dialog boxes, and it badly needs some help screens when you're installing it. But it seems to work quite well and it's a better choice than the Internet-sharing system built into the revised version of Windows 98. (Microsoft's own system is slow.)
NAT32 is still my choice for serious setups. If you're going to connect an entire office network to the Internet and you don't mind taking the time to do it right, use NAT32. If you want to connect a couple of computers quickly, Nshare will do the job without fuss.