Networking

TechRepublic Tutorial: Connecting to a Novell network via DOS

How to quickly configure a DOS disk to access a NetWare network


In the years I’ve worked in the IT field, I have spent a lot of time working on PCs that are connected to a Novell Ethernet network. In my experience, there are only two reasons why you’d ever connect to Novell via DOS: You need to connect via DOS or you want to connect via DOS. Fortunately, one routine makes handling both situations painless and easy—NETME.BAT and its companion, UNNET.BAT.

Connecting to a Novell network the hard way
Connecting a PC to a Novell Ethernet network in DOS is a multi-step process using several TSRs. First, you have to load the Link Support Layer. After that, you have to load the DOS driver for the installed NIC, followed by the IPX Open Data Interface and the DOS Requester.

Disconnecting from the network involves unloading the TSRs in reverse order. This is done by using the /u command. When you’re on a project that includes several, possibly hundreds, of PCs, all this typing can become very tiring. Many entry-level technicians sometimes have trouble remembering all the commands and the order in which they’re executed.

NETME to the rescue!
I’ve combined the “connecting” part of the routine into one small batch file called NETME.BAT. Before you can use NETME, you’ll need to make yourself a bootable floppy disk. You can do this from DOS by typing FORMAT A: /S. After formatting, copy the HIMEM.SYS file from your hard drive to the floppy. You may not need to use AUTOEXEC.BAT depending on your system configuration, but you will need a CONFIG.SYS file with the statement, “LASTDRIVE=z,” loaded on the floppy. You can replace the “z” variable with any suitable unused drive letter of your choosing. Below is my CONFIG.SYS, which you may use as an example:
device=himem.sys
dos=high,umb
lastdrive=z


Now you need to copy LSL.COM, IPXODI.COM, VLM.EXE, all the files with a .VLM extension, the DOS NIC drivers you wish to use, and the NET.CFG file to the disk. Be sure to keep everything in the root directory. Please note the NET.CFG file is optional. Include it if you want to use the system defaults.

NETME from scratch
Now it’s time to write NETME.BAT. Open a simple text program, such as Microsoft Notepad, copy the text below, and paste it into the document.
@echo off
echo.
set %nic%=3c90x
if not “%1”= =”” set %nic%=%1
if not exist %nic%.com goto NONIC
lsl
%nic%
ipxodi
vlm
goto END
:NONIC
echo Cannot find %nic%.COM
echo Please check your inventory of NIC drivers and try again.
set %nic%=
:END
echo.

Does this seem a bit confusing? If so, here’s a breakdown of what each command does:
  • @echo off
    Prevents all further commands from showing. The “@” prevents “echo off” from showing.
  • echo.
    Prints a blank line on the screen.
  • set %nic%=3c90x
    Creates a default NIC environment variable containing the DOS NIC driver name. Here, I’ve chosen to use the popular 3Com 3C905 card as a default—its DOS driver is 3c90x.com.
  • if not “%1”= =”” set %nic%=%1
    This checks for a command line parameter to NETME. If there is one, the parameter is used for the NIC name instead of the default. Note the double “equals” in the “%1”= =”” part of the statement.
  • if not exist %nic%.com goto NONIC
    Looks for the default or specified NIC driver (nic_name.com) on your floppy. If it’s not found, the batch file skips to the NONIC section below without loading any TSRs.
  • lsl
    Loads the Link Support Layer, LSL.COM.
  • %nic%
    Loads the DOS NIC driver.
  • ipxodi
    Loads the IPX Open Data Interface, IPXODI.COM.
  • vlm
    Loads the DOS Requester, VLM.EXE.
  • goto END
    Instructs the batch file to skip past the NONIC section.
  • :NONIC
    This is a section label.
  • echo Cannot find %nic%.COM
    If the DOS NIC driver is not found, the line “Cannot find NIC_NAME.COM” is displayed.
  • echo Please check your inventory of NIC drivers and try again.
    This is the second line of the support message.
  • set %nic%=
    This removes the NIC environment variable because the NIC driver was not found. Note that there is no information following the “=” sign.
  • :END
    This is another section label.
  • echo.
    This prints a blank line before returning you to the command prompt.

Once you have the text copied into the text document, go to File and click Save As. Save the file as NETME.BAT, and you’re ready to run the batch file.

Okay, I have NETME. How do I use it?
Now that you have NETME, you need to be able to use the program. Below, you can find instructions on how to run the batch file:
  • To use the default NIC, type NETME and press [Enter].
  • To use a different NIC, type NETME nic_name, where nic_name is the name of the driver you want to use. For example, my floppy has DOS drivers for several types of NICs. To connect using a popular 3Com PCMCIA card, I use the command NETME 3c574.

As the batch file is executing, you’ll see messages displayed by all the TSRs as they are being loaded. Now that you’re connected to the network, switch to your login drive and log in with your name and password.

Is it that easy to disconnect?
You can disconnect from a Novell network just as easily as you can connect by using the UNNET batch file. To create the file, once again open a simple text program, such as Microsoft Notepad, copy the text below, and paste it into the document. Afterwards, you need to save the file as UNNET.BAT.
@echo off
echo.
if "%nic%"= ="" goto INSTRUCT
vlm /u
ipxodi /u
%nic% /u
lsl /u
goto END
:INSTRUCT
You must connect via NETME before you can use the UNNET facility.
:END
echo.

You will see that UNNET’s commands are similar to the ones used in NETME. Here, though, the TSRs are unloaded in reverse order, required in DOS, using the /u switch. You will notice that UNNET uses no parameters. The batch file will purposely fail if no NIC environment variable is found. Without this safety mechanism, the NIC driver and LSL would remain in memory after the VLMs and IPXODI were unloaded.

In conclusion
NETME.BAT and UNNET.BAT are examples of utilities that are much easier to create and use than they are to describe. With a little creativity, you can create variations. I’ve written a batch file named CONNECT, for example, that allows me to specify a preferred server along with the NIC. Use your imagination and customize NETME and UNNET to suit your needs.
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