Windows Programs for Packet
What about DOS programs for Packet? Don't consider it unless you are a "System Operator" setting up a specialist system, even then Linux is a better choice.
Windows for the end user is the easiest for installing the "TCP/IP over AX.25" software and has the broadest range of Packet applications. You can use a physical Packet Modem (Terminal Node Controller = TNC), but at 1200, 9600 and even 19,200 Windows DSP (Digital Signal Processing) emulating a modem is superior. Most physical TNCs implement only one speed of modem, below are options for MixW using direct Sound Card to/from the rig:
There is even a "custom" FSK modem that lets you specify baud rate and frequencies for the two tones. This would allow highest practical baud rate on a dedicated pair of radios for a packet link (HF SSB, VHF SSB or VHF FM).
This is the easiest to install and does much more than Packet. It also works much more reliably than AWGPE. Flexnet may be of similar quality but is the most complex to install
Here is version 2.12. Check http://www.mixw.net for the lastest versions. You also need to download the "help files", network adaptor "TCP/IP over AX.25", HF 2500baud packet modem "Q15X25.dll", the MixW "Virtual COM ports" (which work for any pairs of windows programs) and optionally "contest log" dlls. It will operate beyond the free trial period, but with time delayed "nag screen" when you change mode. See the appendix for install instructions. Mixw is developed and maintained by UT2UZ and UU9JDR in the Ukraine. You can however register safely by credit card payment :-)
This is a German developed system. However their website does have English. It is highly regarded and I have never read anything bad about it. It is though quite difficult to understand how to install. Included in the appendix is a downloaded tutorial. The disk this document is available on has most of the Flexnet32 components. Again check the website for the latest version. Unlike MixW it is not a general Digital Modes program. It is though designed for proper windows networking and is the only other program apart from MixW for windows that has Q15X25 modem for HF 2500 packet. Q15X25 is also called newqpsk. Unlike "dead end" FSK based packet and pure PSK with multipath problems on non-line of sight paths at high speed, Q15X25 represents the future in DSP based terrestrial packet and high speed data on HF or VHF.
Flexnet32 consists on many separate modules. Unlike MixW, the soundcard DSP/virtual TNC is a separate module installed as a "Driver". Unlike MixW it appears to be "free".
Authored by a Greek ham, AWG Packet Engine or AWGPE may be the best known Windows Packet software, and is easier to install than Flexnet32. However it seems poorly implented in a DOS rather than Windows OS style, so much so that earlier versions only ran on Windows 95, Windows 98 and not on the "real" Windows OS derived from 1993's NT3.1 (NT4.0, Windows 2000 and Windows XP). Relability is too poor to run as a Digipeter or Server node. Server application Packet Nodes need to either be Linux based or NT4.0 / Windows XP (with Flexnet32 or MixW) or based on a hardware TNC. AWGPE seems to be be free. It isn't worth paying for in any case.
If you have a Windows 95 PC and don't wish to "Register" MixW but have some free time then you can install AWGPE. It does work and later versions can even be persuaded to work on Windows XP. It is included on the disk, but not recommended.
All three work on most versions of Windows. MixW is easiest to install and I personally tested it on NT4.0, Windows 98, Windows2000 and Windows XP. However installing XP Service Pack2 caused the MixW "TCP/IP over AX.25" adaptor to vanish. Since this is also a problem with most Satellite PC data cards with SP2, it is likely to be solved by the time you read this. Nick (of MixW) says it is because MS SP2 does not manage "local host" address "127.0.0.1" correctly. He was waiting to see if an update to SP2 was released before creating a "workaround". Despite the hype SP2 can usually be uninstalled safely and Windows XP can be used on the Internet without it, if the XP Firewall or an external firewall is used properly and you don't open stupid websites or stupid email attachments.
MixW has the best range of built in "packet modems", followed by Flexnet32. MixW is easiest to install and Flexnet32 hardest, but AWGPE seems to be the least reliable and most limited in features.
If you are a Linux expert, you will find it probabily has all the software needed for AX.25 Soundcard operation included in the "Distribution".
All versions mentioned can use "Sound Card DSP modem" virtual TNC, or a real physical TNC on a serial port. All can integrate to TCP/IP networking, DX Cluster (Client or Server) and GPS / APRS in different ways. MixW has the best "client" DX Cluster interface/dialog and can even emulate a KISS TNC on a real or virtual serial port for another program (even DOS based) on the same or different PC that needs a physical KISS TNC!