Toswin2 - Advantage MiNT

For those of you who might follow along into my small missions, I have taken quite a bit of effort into attempting to get the very popular ConNect terminal emulator sources. Why? In my humble opinion it was the hands down best 16 color terminal program for GEM. It seemed (and still does seem) very properly programmed and tends to work in every OS or strange combination that I could ever try it in. But more importantly, it's fast and renders the terminal very well. It seems that for most things terminal related, the Atari has always been color deficient. You first have the two stik telnet programs, Telstar and Telvt102. Both run in Mono mode only. Then you have the commercial Teli. I've seen it work, but it is slow. Then you have the commercial Draconis Drtelnet which is now freeware but uhm. I have never actually gotten it to work! Perhaps this isn't the authors fault but the installers for draconis stuff don't work for me on any other system I have tried them on. Any. MagiC, singleTOS, Aranym with easymint, ST, TT, Falcon. I can't get them to work.

Anyway, being a linux user for years now, I have discovered that color terminal emulation is really quite cool. From BBS's to console based terminal programs (minicom) to colored directory listings to just having lynx console web browser in color, it's just a really nice thing to have. Somehow even MiNT virtual consoles do not have color under all circumstances or under others it seems hard to get to implement properly. Alas when the situation seems utterly hopeless and I finally give up for good, a ray of light crosses my path.

Apparently my effort to find ConNect and add telnet functionality to it has been obsoleted and superceded by what is frankly a much better solution! Unfortunately in this Atari world you will not often hear those words uttered from my pessemistic fingers but in this case I really must salute the work. What I have discovered through my own ramblings, my own lack of use, is that toswin2 the tos box in a window has support for a full 16 colors. What's better perhaps is that there are available definitions for termcap files and terminfo files for unix systems that you might regularly use that ACTUALLY WORK! Wow!

Well that's great Beavis... Now how do I implement it? Well included inside the freemint documentation from their CVS is a full README.terminfo file which incidentally is probably also included inside the toswin2 archives. This file is perhaps one of the more excellent pieces of documentation I have _ever_ read (kudos to Guido Flohr!), and alas I will summarize it to some simple instructions. Older programs use the terminfo file on unix servers available from /etc/termcap. Entries in this file describe in a common language exactly what does what for each terminal. An entry is included inside this readme file for termcap file on your unix server. Most newer programs however use the text formatting library ncurses. Ncurses uses a more intelligent more future ready system of files located in /usr/share/terminfo. The files in there are binary terminal descriptions that are MUCH faster to parse for the TONS of terminals that a program will have to go through to find the right entry for YOUR terminal. So you would put the files tw52, tw52-color, tw100, and tw100-color in there and suddenly, the next time you log into the server and happen to use a console based application that supports color and uses ncurses (bash on some systems, pine, lynx, ncftp perhaps, dialog, etc), you will notice everything is formatted perfectly in vibrant 16 color. It's really a site for sore eyes on an Atari!

So to summarize, you need to use the required terminal definition information on your own unix servers to which you administrate. Termcap information is available from the toswin2 archive, terminfo files are not. If anyone would like these files, simply email me and I'll send them to you. If you do not administrate the server, you will probably have to beg the administrator to install them for you, though I suspect any knowledgeable sysadmin will *not* mind at all.

So there you have it. Once you have a successful 16 color terminal, the world is your playground. You can do 16 color ansi through minicom on bbs's. Or if your telnet program can decode ansi properly you can use ansi telnet BBS"s. You can use lynx in full color. Get colored directory listings to make files and types more readable - and - in general, you can use unix programs the way they were meant to be used.

PS: This feature has been surprisingly enough been built into toswin2 for probably YEARS. I just *never* knew about it and never knew that it was so well implemented - cool. You could make a fairly nice telnet program out of the toswin2 sources.

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