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When a number of users attempt to dowload the same application at the same time, a network can slow down significantly. RISC OS applications are significantly larger, and require additional resources, than BBC programs. In the case of an Econet network, this can effectively bring the network to a halt. This problem was particularly accute in school's where a whole class attempted to download an application at the start of a lesson. Acorn's Broadcast Loader made a significant improvement, but the problem still remained.
NetGain, launched in 1993, was a solution to the problem. NetGain is available for both Econet and Ethernet. It is similar for both networks but differs in the method used to transfer applications and thus in the software provided. This leads to different workstation memory requirements.
NetGain consists of a Server Licence card with 10 station user pack, which can be expanded to 100 stations in packs of 10, and the software. The NetGain Licence card needs to be installed in a 4MB computer with a hard disc, the NetGain server, and the software is also installed on it.
NetGain works in two modes: as a manager and as a server.
As a manager the NetGain icon is installed on the left of the icon bar and is used to select the station numbers that NetGain will serve. It is also used to open a NetGain filer window into which applications to be served are dragged.
When the NetGain status is changed to server, the application files are compressed and the NetGain application appears on the right of the iconbar.
Workstations selected for use with NetGain need to be reconfigured to start with NetGain and the NetGain server must be running before the workstation is booted. NetGain provides a read-only filer window from which applications can be launched. Data files are still loaded over Econet, but network traffic is much reduced and hence load quickly
Examples of the reported improvement in loading speed, with 20 A3000s on the network, are:
On Econet, the NetGain server software transfers the compressed applications to the RMA of each workstation when it is booted. The applications are then decompressed from the RMA when launched and no further network traffic is takes place. Econet Negain workstations are recommended to have 4MB so that as many applications as possible can be transferred at boot time and still leave space to run them.
On Ethernet, the NetGain server software only transfers the compressed applications when they are launched, but the are transferred at 1Mb/sec rather than the slower 200Kbs/sec used by Acorn Ethernet. Workstations only lose 64KB so that 2MB workstations can be user with NetGain.
Here are some pictures of the Digital Services Ltd Licence card with 2 x 10 user packs for Ethernet:
Digital Services Ltd Netgain Licence Card (top)
Digital Services Ltd Netgain Licence Card (back)
Digital Services Ltd Netgain Licence Card (bottom)
I have neither the NetGain Econet nor the NetGain Ethernet software.
I do not have the NetGain manual.