WinSock Companion is a 32-bit suite of TCP/IP applications and utilities. For older systems, 16-bit versions of most of the tools are included, but the focus of the package is Windows 95 and Windows NT systems that require access to machines such as SCO servers. Network Instruments specializes in software tools for networking, so a TCP/IP suite is right up their alley.

WinSock Companion includes four primary applications. NITerm is a fairly standard remote terminal package for telnet access to servers. NITerm offers a number of emulation modes so practically all systems will be supported. A local print option in NITerm allows the WinSock Companion machine to print over the network. WinNFS is, as the name suggests, an NFS client for Windows 95 (but not Windows NT, which is a disappointment). NIPrint is a LPD bidirectional print utility that allows printing between any Windows software and any LPD or LPR device. NIPrint is available from Network Instruments as a separate product called LLC, which testifies to its popularity and utility. Finally, Niftp is an FTP client, but not an FTP server. All four tools have graphical interfaces as you would expect under Windows, and integrate nicely into the Windows GUI, especially the FTP and NFS clients.

A set of additional utilities rounds out WinSock Companion. NITime is a straightforward time reporting client. NIQuote is a quote of the day tool. NIPing, as you would expect, is a print 32-bit client, and NIFinger is a finger tool. NIRshell is a Windows rsh application, and NITracer is a trace utility for TCP/IP networks. All of the utilities are quick to use and perform their simple tasks as you would expect.

The WinSock Companion software is supplied on three disks, and installs easily with a standard setup applet. WinSock Companion is supplied as demonstration software for 21 days, after which a license can be entered to properly register the software and enable it. A large program group is created with an icon for each of the utilities and applications, as well as add-ons such as an uninstall routine. The documentation supplied with WinSock Companion is a spiral bound manual that nicely explains the tools in the set, with just enough screen captures to make a novice feel at ease. WinSock Companion does not include a TCP/IP protocol stack, which is perhaps surprising. Instead you will need to install a standard stack, such as Microsoft’s WinSock TCP/IP stack included on Windows 95 and Windows NT disks.

Each of the primary tools performs well. NITerm has emulations for SCO ANSI, AT386 ANSI, IBM 3151, Wyse 50, 60, and 160, and for DEC VT 52, 100, 220, 320, and 420 terminals. Among that collection you should be able to find an emulation that will allow access to every server, although there is no X client, of course. NITerm supports extended character sets for international languages, assuming they are sent properly by the server. The right mouse button can be used to pop up menus in NITerm which can simplify some common tasks. Saving a set of parameters in to profiles allows rapid recall and connection to a number of different servers.

WinNFS requires an NFS server, to which a standard mount operation is performed. As mentioned, WinNFS functions only under Windows 95, but it does allow that platform to mount as many disks or directories as you want. Mounting of multiple servers is easy, too. The only potential problem with WinNFS is the permission block stored on the Windows system, which by default is set to read-write for all users. This may conflict with what you want in order to secure your PC, but the settings can be modified. The WinNFS 32 bit driver was very fast compared to some other third-party 16-bit clients on the market, and the GUI is clean.

NIPrint allows standard LPD and LPR protocols to be used to queue jobs to any device which adheres to the standards. Sitting on a Windows PC, NIPrint lets you queue any Windows print request to an LPD compliant device. This is handy when network printers are not properly handled by Windows itself. It also allows for better sharing of printing devices.

The final primary component is NIftp, which offers a simple drag-and-drop Windows-consistent interface to file transfers. The tool worked perfectly for us, and was quite quick. Unfortunately, there is no automatic sensing of file types (binary or text) which would simplify FTP operations for non-Unix users.

WinSock Companion’s primary claim to fame amongst the crowded TCP/IP suite market is that it comprises all 32-bit applications (better speed and integration with Windows) and that the tools are easy-to-use. You won’t find any major surprises in WinSock Companion that are not in competitive packages, but the price is very reasonable, the package clean, and the tools work exactly as you would expect.