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Win95 Dial-Up Scripting

Michael Newcomb

For many people, Windows 95 makes accessing the Internet a breeze. As soon as you request something from the Internet, Win95 can connect you to your Net provider with a single mouse click. Get past the "Verifying user ID and password..." message, and that's it, you're in business.

Some people aren't quite so lucky. Once your modem has connected, Win95's Dial-Up Networking applet uses a semi-standard login protocol to send your user ID and password to your Internet provider. Having done this, the applet assumes that the login process must be complete. It switches into TCP/IP mode and awaits the first data packet from the Net provider's system.

The problems begin if your Net provider doesn't support the login protocol that the Dial-Up applet wants to use. If your provider needs some extra piece of information, or even an extra carriage return, you will see the "Verifying user ID and password..." message for a long time, then the connection will fail. People who use a UNIX shell-based Internet account are even more afflicted: they have to log in to the host system and start a PPP emulator before they can begin using Net resources.

Microsoft's out-of-the-box solution to these problems was effective but annoying: the Terminal Window. If the standard login protocol doesn't work, you can configure the Dial-Up applet to open an interactive window before it switches to TCP/IP mode. With this setting selected, the modem connects, then you are offered an opportunity to manually type any commands needed to start your Net service. Once you have switched the host system into TCP/IP mode, you can start up the connection at your end.

This approach allows you to use Net providers that don't respect the Dial-Up applet's protocol, but it's very tedious: you have to manually key in the login commands every time you connect. Computers are supposed to eliminate mindless repetitive tasks, not create them!

The Dial-Up Scripting Applet

Though it's not included with the retail build of Win95, Microsoft did create an automated solution to this type of login problem: the Dial-Up Scripting Applet. As its name suggests, the Scripting Applet allows you to build a script that will execute every time you log into your Net provider. This script can "type" the commands you previously keyed by hand, then start the TCP/IP connection automatically.

Before you can use the Scripting Applet, obviously, you have to obtain and install it. If your copy of Windows 95 came on a CD-ROM, you already have the applet, but you may need to install it. To find out if the Scripting Applet is installed, open the Control Panel and double-click "Add/Remove Programs...." On the "Install / Uninstall" page, look in the list of installed applications for "SLIP and Scripting Support for Dial-Up Networking." If this entry is present, the applet is installed.

If you need to install the applet, change to the "Windows Setup" page, click the "Have Disk..." button, and navigate to the CD's ADMIN\APPTOOLS\DSCRIPT directory. Select the file called RNAPLUS.INF and click OK. This will install the applet.

If you don't have the Windows 95 CD-ROM, you can download the Scripting Applet from Microsoft's Web site at www.microsoft.com/kb/softlib/mslfiles/DSCRPT.EXE.

Another approach is to purchase the Microsoft Plus Pack for Windows 95 (retail under $50). The Plus Pack includes the Scripting Applet and several other useful enhancements to Win95.

It's worth noting that the Plus Pack's version of the Scripting Applet is not the same as the one found on the Windows 95 CD-ROM or the Net. The "Plus" applet includes complete documentation (a Wordpad file) and a number of features not found in the "free" version. Unless your scripting needs are especially exotic, you shouldn't need the Plus Pack's Scripting Applet; most of the extra features involve things like integer variables, which I hope you don't need to log into your Net provider.

Scripting Basics

Dial-Up Scripts are ordinary text files. You can prepare one with Notepad or any other text editor. Scripts must obey the following rules:

The Scripting Applet supports quite a number of commands (especially the Plus Pack's version), but most of them won't be needed for the typical user. I'll concentrate on just three:

The Script

Listing 1. Login Script for The World:

; ; World login script ; proc main waitfor "login:" transmit $USERID + "^M" waitfor "password:" transmit $PASSWORD + "^M" waitfor "world" transmit "slirp -P -b 115200^M" endproc

Building a script is really very simple. All you need to do is pay close attention to the steps you make to log in, then translate them into the scripting language. Listing 1 shows a typical script, the one I use to log into the World, a Brookline Internet provider. Taken step-by-step:

Once the script hits the ENDPROC command, the Dial-Up Scripting applet exits and the connection switches to TCP/IP mode. At this point, you should be plugged into the Net.

Attaching The Script

Figure 1. Attaching the Script Once you have created and saved your script, you need to attach it to the correct Dial-Up Networking connection. To do this, find and launch the Dial-Up Scripting applet. You should see a dialog box something like Figure 1.

The "Connections" window contains a list of the various Dial-Up Networking targets you've created. Select the connection you wish to attach your new script to, then type the script's file name in the "Script File Name" field (or use the "Browse" button).

The "Step through script" and "Start terminal screen minimized" check boxes are debugging aids. The former allows you to execute your script one line at a time. The latter causes the script to run as a minimized window, which is probably the preferred option once you have debugged the script. With this box checked, the Scripting Applet will appear on the Taskbar briefly while Win95 is logging in, then disappear.

In order for the single-step mode to make sense, you really need to uncheck the "Start terminal screen minimized" box. Otherwise you won't be able to see the effect of your script statements.

To alter the script, you can click the "Edit" button on the Scripting Applet dialog; this will use Notepad to open the script text file.

That's pretty much it! Once your script is working, just uncheck "Step through script," check "Start terminal screen minimized," click "Apply," and you're in business. Some last reminders:

Instant Win95 Tip

Are you sick of the Windows 95 "splash screen" that squats on your monitor while you wait for Win95 to come up? Well, you don't have to stare at that any more!

With a few simple steps, you can replace that splash screen with any image you want: your kids, your boat, your house, the possibilities are endless. The only downside is that the image is very low-resolution, so you'll need to choose your replacement carefully.

To replace the Win95 splash screen:

That's it! Restart your machine, and you should see the new splash screen!

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