DAVE 5, by Thursby Software
Posted: 24-Jun-2004

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Thursby Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Alex Levinson Class: PRODUCTIVITY

Overview
Scenario: You are a Mac holdout on a PC based enterprise network. As much as you would like to play in your own sandbox, you have no choice but to once in a while use the resources of the network like the file shares and network printers. You are in luck, because starting with OS X v10.1, the Mac OS includes SMB (Server Message Block), a protocol for sharing files, printers, serial ports, and communications abstractions such as named pipes and mail slots, between computers. Better known as Samba, it is the open-source equivalent of Windows networking. Apple made it relatively easy to connect to a Windows machine. In theory, it only requires typing the Windows server name or IP address in the "Connect to Server" option of the Finder pull-down menu. The Mac would then gain access to the shared Windows resources. In practical use, however, the OS X solution begins to break down. There is no real support for server name to IP address translation, browsing the Windows space beyond the local subnet is not supported, and the whole experience really required the level of enterprise-level system configuration knowledge that is generally not available to the non gear-heads.

This presented an opportunity software vendor
Thursby Software. Thursby is well known for providing solutions intended to bridge the interoperability gaps between the Mac and Windows. Its two flagship products, DAVE and AdmitMac, are designed to addressed both file and print capability. Thursby's DAVE v5 is an application that enables Macintosh users to participate in Microsoft networks with both file and print sharing services, while AdmitMac allows Macintosh users running Mac OS X v10.2x Jaguar and up to participate in Microsoft networks by taking advantage of the directory services provided by both Active Directory and NT Directory Services. This review is for DAVE v5.

Pricing
DAVE is a commercial product with a single license priced at $119.00. Multi-pack licenses are available with a 25 pack priced at $2,299.00 ($92.00 per seat.) A special Volume License Agreement (VLA) is also available allowing one to install the product without having to enter separate keys for each machine. The price per seat comes down to as low as $38.00 for a 2,000 license installation. An annual upgrade agreement is required for volume licenses, though. It comes in English localization and no other localizations are mentioned as available. DAVE was at rev 5.01 at the time of this review. An annual software upgrade license is available.

Host Requirements
Dave will run either under Mac OS 8.6 thru 9.2.2 on any Macintosh with a PowerPC processor and Apple's Open Transport TCP/IP, or on OS X on any machine that supports Mac OS X. On the Microsoft side, it requires the latest release of Windows 2003, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows NT, or Windows 95 / 98 / Me with NetBIOS and TCP/IP configured.

The evaluation license was downloaded from the vendor's web site and the supplied license keys were applied to unlock the product. The test was performed on a 400Mhz "Blue and White" G3 (Model 82.2) with 256 MB running OS X 10.2.8 connected to the Lockheed Martin corporate intranet.

Key Features
Most fundamentally, DAVE allows bi-directional file sharing between Windows PCs and Macintosh computers. DAVE performs all communications using the industry standard protocol TCP/IP with Domain Name Services (DNS), and a NetBIOS driver that is fully compliant with industry standards. DAVE supports both Windows Internet Name Server (WINS) and all services that are implemented using the Common Internet File System (CIFS) protocol. CIFS is an enhanced extension of the desktop cross-platform protocol for distributed file sharing called Server Message Block (SMB). DAVE uses Microsoft native protocols, so no additional hardware or software is required for the PC side. DAVE supports NTLMv2 - the most secure level of LanMan authentication as well as Kerberos (Mac OS X only.) While Apple's browser only works within a local subnet and fails to browse larger networks, DAVE enables network browsing outside the local subnet. Browsing can be done directly from the Finder Go->Connect to Server (Cmd-K) pull-down menu.

DAVE supports the Distributed File System (Mac OS X only) and handles file sizes greater than 2 GB as well as long file names (more than 31 characters). The Setup Assistant performs automatic workgroup detection. DAVE supports both PostScript and inkjet printers.

Comparison of Dave, AdmitMac and OS X native networking
With the introduction of Panther, Apple made significant improvements in its interoperability with Windows. However, gaps still remain. The biggest one is the OS X inability to browse large corporate networks and lack of support of the latest security implementations.

If that capability is important to you, both DAVE and AdmitMac will do a nice job of closing this gap. There are a few key differences between them, though. Both products are designed to integrate Macintosh into Windows networks. Depending on the networking scenario, one product will have advantages over the other. DAVE is an older product that still supports Mac OS 8.6 through 9.2. With DAVE, you can configure your Macintosh as an SMB file/print server on the Windows network as a fully authorized network participant. DAVE supports Windows NT domain login, although it is not required. AdmitMac is designed to support large corporate networks under administrative control. ADmitMac is tailored for multi-user, multi-computer scenarios where the administrator defines the security centrally. Users can access their network home folder from any Macintosh or Windows computer registered on the domain using their domain credentials. ADmitMac employs the Kerberos encrypted security method, which blocks spoofing and "man-in-the-middle" security attacks. It essentially allows you to browse the Windows network as a fully authorized network participant. However, if all you want is to be able to exchange files and share a printer in a mixed Windows and Mac home network, DAVE is a more appropriate choice. On the other hand, if you are on a Mac connected to a large, predominantly WINTEL-based corporate network, AdmitMac makes it a better choice.


In Use
DAVE installation is a no-brainer - just double-click the installer button. There is no application component associated with DAVE. Its three main components: DAVE Login, DAVE Network and DAVE Sharing, all show up in System Preferences.


DAVE Preferences

DAVE login allows the DAVE user to log into a Microsoft Network. After the login button is clicked, the user enters their login credentials that are used to access the network, just like being logged into a Windows network from a Windows box. Strictly speaking, logging into the Microsoft network is not required. However, if you do not, every time you access any network resources that require user authentication (which on a corporate network pretty much everything) you will need to reenter the user name and password every time.

DAVE Network allows the user to configure the Identity (Computer Name, Description, and Workgroup) of the Macintosh so that other Windows users will see it. There is also an "Advanced" tab that allows configuration of the type of network to be used, such as modem, Ethernet or AirPort and the type of Encoding to be used. And finally, there is a WINS tab so that the user can configure the WINS servers that will be used. The last one is automatically filled by the Install Assistant and unless it fails to properly query the network, does not need to be changed.

The last icon is the DAVE Sharing icon, which allows the user to share information from the DAVE enabled Macintosh to other Windows users on the same network. Both Folders and Printers can be shared. Also here, the user level (Admin, etc.) can be designated.

To test DAVE, I installed it in two different configurations. The first is on a 400MHz "Blue and White" G3 (Model 82.2) with 256 MB running OS X 10.2.8 connected to the Lockheed Martin corporate intranet.

After selecting Finder Go->Connect to Server (Cmd-K) pull-down menu, the left hand panel is rather rapidly filled with a list of available servers. The performance was surprisingly good even on a 400MHz G3. You can then double click on the server you need to connect to.


Servers made available through DAVE

For the second test configuration, I installed DAVE on my home 867 MHz Quicksilver G4 with 640 MB, running OS 10.3.4. Once in a while, I bring my work IBM XP ThinkPad home and plug it into the home network. Again, installing DAVE on the G4 was a rather straightforward process.


Enabling DAVE Sharing

My home network has no domain controller and thus has no WINS. The Setup Assistant configured DAVE and the only choice I needed to make was to enable DAVE Sharing and to select the Workgroup name for my Mac and to choose its name for the Microsoft network. Following that, selecting Finder Go->Connect to Server (Cmd-K) pull-down menu took me to aliases to my home Mac and my ThinkPad.


Server Aliases

Double clicking on the VFML998BVZ8 ThinkPad alias, brought the familiar:


Windows logon through DAVE

I was then able to login into my laptop and mount its D drive on my G4 desktop - sweet! Access from the other side was just as symmetrical - from My Computer and I was able to see my LEVINSON's-MAC.

I ran into one problem, though. My laptop is configured to be a part of the VFMDS domain controlled by the ACCT04 NT Domain Controller. Since my home network has no such thing, transferring files between the PC and the Mac ran into access control violation since the ThinkPad was trying to access the Domain Controller to authenticate every access. A quick call to Thursby's technical support quickly confirmed this. The workaround for this problem was to create a local login on my laptop. The local login does not require interaction with the Domain Controller to authenticate access. The downside of this solution is that since that was different login, I did not have ready access to all my network account files.


Summary
DAVE v5 is a software solution that enables Macintosh users to participate in Microsoft networks with both file and print sharing services. It requires no additional software to be installed on the PC side other than the standard Microsoft operating system. DAVE performs all communications using the industry standard protocol TCP/IP with Domain Name Services (DNS), and a NetBIOS driver that is fully compliant with industry standards. DAVE supports both Windows Internet Name Server (WINS) and all services that are implemented using the Common Internet File System (CIFS) protocol. DAVE provides for direct integration with Microsoft's Services for Macintosh and NTFS by using the same format for storing Apple resource and Finder information on the servers.

The bottom line is that DAVE v5 is a great product! I strongly recommended it for every Mac OS X users that wants to coexist with their WINTEL-based brethrens. DAVE narrows the interoperability gap still present in OS X with Windows-based enterprise, is relatively easy to install and configure, and it works as advertised.

Pros

  • Supports both OS X and Mac OS 8.6 through 9.2
  • Access to shared file servers
  • Network Browse
  • Ability to do network login
  • Ease of configuration
  • Good vendor support

Cons

  • The cost of a single DAVE license is comparable to the cost of OS X
  • Interaction with a PC configured to be controlled by a Domain Controller requires a local login


Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice