David Strom

MobileWare review

By David Strom

If  keeping the communications programs on your travelling users' laptops configured

properly is getting tiresome, you might want to consider a new product from MobileWare

Corp. called MobileWare. But only if you fit a very specific profile in terms of products that

you intend to use and the kinds of road warriors you intend to support.

MobileWare allows you to do several things from your laptop: send faxes, manage your

email, and transfer files back and forth from the office network.  It also allows you to

automatically reconnect if your connection is dropped, and allows you to easily switch among

a variety of connection profiles (including both cellular and dial-up modems) so you don't

have to manually enter the leading "8" or "9" every time you move from hotel to home.

Think of it as the swiss army knife for communicating travellers: it is the all-in-one toolkit.

Yes, you can do all these things with a combination of other products but it will take some

doing and some clever juggling on the part of the user. MobileWare is supposed to be easier

to configure, especially for those users that aren't up to the task of editing configuration files

or even know where to find them inside the fax software, email clients, and other

communications programs. Do they succeed? Yes and no. But I think their intentions are in

the right place, and for this reason I cautiously recommend them for the enterprise, with some

important caveats.

First and foremost, you'll need to match a profile of supported products. MobileWare has

chosen a fairly common configuration: you'll need NetWare 3.11 or 3.12 file servers, cc:Mail

post offices, and fax modems that will work with the bundled copy of Cheyenne FaxServe

software (more on that in a moment). If you use another version of email software you might

want to consider waiting till MobileWare supports it. MobileWare is just for Windows, so if

you have travellers that run straight DOS or Macintosh OS, look for something else. And if

you use something other than 3.11 or 3.12 NetWare servers, this product isn't for you.

Fit the profile? Okay, let's move on to why choose MobileWare when you could do the same

thing with a basket full of products such as Symantec's PC/Anywhere remote control

software, Lotus' own cc:Mail Mobile Windows client, and Delrina's WinFaxPro software. If

you already have this configuration (or something equivalent) on your roving laptops and

your users are relatively happy, then stick with the status quo. 


For example, most laptop modems are now fax-capable, so you can send faxes directly from

your laptop via a variety of software. But wouldn't it be nice not to have to fiddle with hotel

dialing strings when you send the fax? Wouldn't it be nice to just send the fax to your office

fax server, which can in turn send it out and track it without you having to do so? If you are

the type that likes to manage the fax directly and make sure that it arrives shortly after you

send it, then stay clear of MobileWare and stick to your own fax software. But if you aren't

so inclined, MobileWare has the ability to manage them for you. In my tests, I forgot to enter

a leading "1" in the phone number for my office fax machine: several hours later I received a

message that my fax had failed. Remember, the number that you enter is the one that the fax

server dials back at the office, not necessarily the one that you would dial from your current

location. Once I had included the leading "1" my fax arrived within minutes.

How about this situation: someone from the office leaves a message for you that they need a

document printed out in the office from you or are trying to get a file that you have taken on

the road. In the past, you had to use the file transfer feature of a remote control software to

get this information back to the home office. With MobileWare, you can send documents to

your office LAN-connected printers or transfer files with relatively simple commands. Should

you junk your remote control software for MobileWare? Nope. But if you have been loathe to

get started in the remote control business, MobileWare offers an easy way to do these two

particular functions. 

How about remote email? Well, MobileWare tricks cc:Mail into thinking that it is always

LAN-connected, and then serves the function of what Lotus calls a cc:Mail router to move

mail between your laptop and the ordinary cc:Mail post office back on the LAN. It sounds

more confusing than it actually is: basically you now have responsibility for maintaining your

own "personal" cc:Mail post office. If you like having that kind of control, all well and good.

But if you are the type that doesn't enjoy backing up your laptop, then proceed with caution.

Yes you can setup the Windows Mobile cc:Mail client for various connection profiles, such as

to dial an "8" to get a long-distance number outside of your hotel room and to switch from a

regular dial-up phone to a cellular connection. But MobileWare does this more easily and

with fewer keystrokes and could be easier for users to manage from on the road. The reason

why I don't say "always" here is that some users may already be trained in the arcana of

cc:Mail's user interface and don't want to learn another one. If so, then again steer clear of


One nice feature that isn't in cc:Mail is the ability to notify you of waiting messages in ways

other than having you call up the server. This is called "Follow Me" and works by specifying

which way you would like the MobileWare server to let you know.  There are four choices: 

-- It will call a specific phone number and deliver them automatically;

-- It will call your voice phone and send a series of beep tones;

-- It will send a page to your pager; or

-- It will wait for you to call (follow-me is disabled).

I tried the second method but had trouble getting it work. (I actually found a bug in the

software, which MobileWare claims they'll fix in the next release.) Again, you'll have to

specify the phone number that the outbound modem uses: you may need to enter a leading

"9" to get an outside line.  MobileWare should be smarter about these sorts of things.

MobileWare comes in two different pieces: a client version and the server version. The client

(called the MobileWare Control Center) runs on Windows and is used to setup the remote

configurations and controls the flow of messages from your laptop computer back to the

office network. Think of it as communications middleware or glue that binds the roving user

to his or her office network. You maintain your connection profiles in this client, such as for

a local call, a local cell call, and a long distance call that first requires an 8, then dials the

AT&T 800 number, then enters your calling information. 

The client piece comes with a handy reference card that is all that I needed to get things up

and running. It is ideal for the travelling user: printed on heavy card stock and small enough

to take along with you on the first couple of outings until you have things setup the way you

need. I found this card to be well-written and very helpful, even for an inexperienced user. 

One nit that I have to pick here is how the modem configuration is entered: there is no way

for users to enter a global modem choice that holds for all configuration profiles: you have to

specify the modem for each profile separately. Another is that MobileWare's modem pick list

is rather puny: it is about a third the size of the list for Shiva's remote client. For example,

one of my laptops is an old Toshiba. It's modem isn't on the MobileWare pick list and I

couldn't get the software to connect at faster than 2400 bps. Once I switched to a Hayes

Optima modem, I could connect at the full 14,400 bps. For software that is supposed to be

easy to use, this is a very big weakness.

While I am on the subject of pick lists, MobileWare currently supports just two cellular

phones: the Motorola and Nokia models. Again, I would recommend beefing this up and


On the server side, MobileWare is a series of NetWare Loadable Modules (NLMs) and

configuration files that work with various other third-party software. All of this runs on the

same NetWare 3.11 or 3.12 server. You have three basic pieces: software that creates the

MobileWare Comm Server (these are the NLMs and various agents that transfer messages and

faxes, along with updated files from Novell to make them work properly), the Cheyenne fax

software,and the Lotus cc:Mail post office (you could run this on another server, but you

probably don't want to). The MobileWare documentation is fairly solid on the steps needed to

do all of this, and is very specific on what default names you should use for the various

components and how to enter various information along the way. However, you'll need a

fairly skilled person who is familiar with the innards of all three pieces to do a reasonable

job. You'll want a server with at least 16 megabytes of RAM to hold all this software, and

probably want to install more like 32 megabytes if you have a reasonably large hard disk.

(MobileWare only recommends 12 megabytes: I think that's not enough, based on my tests.)

Are you with me so far? Good. 

Cheyenne's server-based fax software comes in the box. MobileWare suggests you install

Digiboard's communications cards if you plan on installing lots of modems (for both dialing

out and dialing in purposes). You'll need to purchase the cc:Mail software separately. 

I had some problems with getting my installation up and running: I tried two different

configurations: first, setting up the MobileWare client to run against a test account that the

company had created on its own server. I tried it out on several Windows desktops and

laptops. Next, setting up my own entire system with both clients and servers, which I did on a

NetWare 3.11 server with a single attached modem. One snag I ran into was remembering

that MobileWare has its own password, separate from that of cc:Mail. (They can be the same,

but you have to type them in separately when you first login to MobileWare's client, then to

cc:Mail's client. That can be confusing for some users.)

I also had some troubles integrating MobileWare into my cc:Mail regimen, but that's because

I have about 17 different versions of cc:Mail on one of my desktop machines and had to

figure out the right combination of software version, post office location, and password. 

Vital Statistics: MobileWare 

MobileWare Corporation's MobileWare 1.01

Price: $1399.95 includes server software and five clients, along with Cheyenne's FaxServe


(also available in 50 and 250 client licenses) 

Shipping since September

Ready for the Enterprise?  Yes, but with lots of caveats.

UP: Has unique features to manage remote printing and communications profiles for laptops

on the move

DOWN: Works only with certain cell phones and only NetWare 3.11/3.12 and cc:Mail


DOWN: Server configuration and client password management are both difficult.

MobileWare Corp.

2425 North Central Expwy #1001

Dallas, TX 75080

214 952 1200

214 690 6185 (fax)

internet: cfragle @mobileware.com

Test Bed:  Dell 486/D50 running NetWare 3.11 (ccMail Post Office and MobileWare

communications server), Compaq Prosignia VS running NetWare 4.02 (file server), various

486 computers running Windows (MobileWare and ccMail clients), Xircom parallel port

ethernet connectors, and Hayes Optima modems.

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David Strom David Strom Port Washington, NY 11050 USA US TEL: 1 (516) 944-3407