Economical internet-access servers are all the rage for multiuser LAN Internet access and remote telecommuting, and several vendors have delivered products tailored to the needs of Mac users. Now Umax Technologies has entered the fray with the UGate II, a two-line shared-access server that offers both a shared Internet connection and dial-in telecommuter access. It lacks Mac-specific documentation, however, and doesn’t support AppleTalk networking.
The package includes the modem-size UGate II server (which has a built-in four-port hub), a power supply, one Mac 8-pin DIN serial adapter, and a thin manual. You connect the modems and your Macs using your own cables; if you’re using two Mac modems, you need a second DIN adapter. Web-based administration screens make configuration simple, and support for Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) and Network Address Translation lets you configure the TCP/IP settings for your hosted computers using a single dynamic IP address from your ISP. Alas, the installation instructions explain setup only for Windows users. The manual doesn’t explain how Mac DHCP works, and getting the unit to assign an initial IP address automatically requires resetting the UGate to its factory defaults.
The UGate supports two modems or ISDN terminal adapters in tandem, for a combined Internet bandwidth of up to 230 Kbps (it reached 220 Kbps in our tests). However, because the UGate has only two serial ports, you have to cut that bandwidth in half to allow dial-in access. Virtually all competing shared Internet servers have three serial ports, letting you share aggregated bandwidth and telecommuting access simultaneously. And because the telecommuter feature supports only TCP/IP, dial-in users can’t access AppleTalk-only servers on your LAN.
The UGate’s on-demand Internet routing feature dials up your ISP when users need access, dialing the second modem to increase bandwidth as demand warrants. Alternatively, you can configure the UGate to dial both connections simultaneously for continuous high-speed bandwidth. The UGate also supports user-level access controls to let you restrict the use of some Internet capabilities. You organize users into security groups and then limit Internet access by protocol for each group.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
The UGate II is a tough sell in the Mac market. Competing products offer much more functionality, albeit at a slightly higher price, and are tailored for Mac users. If Umax bundled the proper cables, provided Mac-specific documentation and support, and addressed the needs of Mac telecommuters by adding AppleTalk support, the UGate II could be a contender.