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ACE FX Documentation

by Craig Bruce -- for version 1.00 -- December 17, 1995.


1. INTRODUCTION

If you use your Commodore for telecommunications, then you are basically
interested in two things: using your C= to emulate a terminal for interactive
stuff, and using modem-file-transfer protocols to upload and download files
from and to your Commodore.

This document describes a custom upload/download protocol that was designed
for use with the ACE-128/64 system and is freely available to anyone who
wants it.  While this protocol non-standard, it blows the doors off of all
other protocols available for Commodore computers, even though it uses a
simple "stop-and-wait" acknowledgement scheme.  There are two reasons for
its speed: the fast device drivers available with ACE, and its large packet
size, up to about 14K (although this could be significantly larger if ACE's
memory usage were reorganized).

The name of the protocol is "Craig's File eXchange Protocol", or just "FX" for
short.  It is "file exchange" rather than "upload" or "download" because you
will use the same activation of the program to both upload and download all of
the files you name.

One note about this document: it is an abbreviated form of an article written
by me in C= Hacking #10.  Refer there for an in-depth discussion of the
implementation details.

2. USAGE

The current implementation of FX consists of a "client" program for you to run
on your Commodore computer and a "server" program that you run on your Unix
host.  There is currently no server program for any other platform, but the
necessary changes to the C-language program wouldn't be too hard.  The client
program is written in 6502 assembler, of course (for the ACE-assembler to be
specific).

FX is an external program from the terminal program, so (for now) to activate
FX, you have to exit from the terminal program and enter the FX command line,
exchange the files, and then re-enter the terminal program from the command
line.

When you run FX, you will activate the Server program first on your Unix host
and then exit the terminal program and run the Client program on your
Commodore.  You run the command "fx" on both the client and server machines,
which may be a little confusing (but I think you'll get used to it), and name
the files that you want to have transferred as arguments to the command on the
machine that you want to transfer the files FROM.  The usage of the "fx"
command is as follows:

fx [-dlvV78k] [-m maximums] [-f argfile] [[-b] binfile ...] [-t textfile ...]

-d = debug mode
-l = write to log file ("fx.log")
-v = verbose log/debug mode
-V = extremely verbose log/debug mode
-7 = use seven-bit encoding
-8 = use seven-bit encoding
-k = use 1K packet sizes for all transfer types
-m = set maximum packet sizes; maximums = ulbin/ultxt/dlbin/dltxt (bytes)
-f = take arguments one-per-line from given argfile
-b = binary files prefix
-t = text files prefix
-help = help

well, for the server, anyway.  The client program doesn't have the more
exotic options.  The "-d", "-l", "-v", and "-V" options are available only
on the Server program, and are for debugging purposes only.

The "-7" option tells the protocol to use only 7-bit data.  I.e., it tells it
to not use the 8th bit position in the data is transmitted.  This is useful if
you are forced into the humiliation of only being able to use a 7-bit channel
to your Unix host.  You need only need to give this option on either the
client or the host command line and the other side will be informed.  It may
be useful to create an alias for this command with all of your options set to
what you want them to be.  The "-8" option is default.

The protocol has the capacity to use different packet sizes for four types of
file-transfer situations: uploading binary data, uploading text, downloading
binary data, and downloading text.  These are useful distinctions, since your
host may or may not be able to handle the larger packet sizes without losing
bytes (your Commodore, of course, can handle the larger packet sizes with no
problems).

In determining which packet size to use for a file transfer (where the type of
transfer is known), the protocol finds that largest packet size that both the
client and the server can handle and then take the minimum of these two
values.  The defaults for the client are all the same: the maximum amount of
program-area memory that it can use, about 18K.  For the server program, I
have programmed in default maximum uploading packet sizes of 1K and maximum
downloading packet sizes of 64K-1.  You can change these defaults in the C
program easily by changing some "#define"s.

The "-m" option allows you to manually set the default packet sizes for a
transfer.  The argument following the "-m" flag should have four numbers
with slashes between them, which give the maximum ulbin/ultxt/dlbin/dltxt
packet sizes, respectively.  Note that the packet sizes only include the
size of the user data encoded into packets and not the control or quoting
information (below).  The "-k" command-line option says to use 1K packet
sizes for everything, which may be necessary if the hardware flow control
isn't set up properly all the way from host to Commie.

The "-f" option on the server allows you to read arguments from a file rather
than the command line.  This is useful if want to generate and edit the list
of files to download before you run the FX command.  It's also useful if you
don't want other users to see the names of the files that you are
downloading.  The name of the file comes in the first argument following the
"-f" flag and the arguments are put into this file one-per-line.  You can put
in "-" options in addition to filenames if you wish (like "-t" and "-b").
This option is not supported on the client program.

Finally come the "-b", "-t", and filename arguments.  The "-b" argument tells
FX that all of the following filenames (until the next "-t" option) are binary
files and the "-t" argument says that the following filenames are all of text
files.  You can use as many "-b" and "-t" arguments as you want.  If you don't
use any, then all of the files you name will be assumed to be binary files.

For each filename you give on a command line, that file will be transferred
from that machine to the other machine.  On both Unix and ACE, you can use
wildcards in your filenames, of course, to transfer groups of files.

The client program controls the file exchange, and it uploads all of its files
first and then asks the server if the server has any files to be downloaded.
When the exchange is completed, both the client and server FX programs will
exit and you will find yourself back on the command lines in both
environments.  Re-enter the terminal program to continue with your online
session.  If something goes very wrong during a transfer or if you decide that
you don't really want to transfer any files after activating the server
program, you can type three Ctrl-X's to abort the server.  This is the same as
for the X-modem protocol.

3. PERFORMANCE

Here is my performance testing so far, using my USR Sportster modem over a
14.4-kbps phone connection, with a 38.4-kbps link to my modem from my C128, to
my usual Unix host:

Using FX to/from the ACE ramdisk, REU:

Download 156,260 bytes of ~text:        time= 54.1 sec, rate=2888 cps.
Download 151,267 bytes of tabular text: time= 45.9 sec, rate=3296 cps.
Download 141,299 bytes of JPEG image:   time= 92.5 sec, rate=1528 cps.
Upload   156,260 bytes of ~text:        time= 57.4 sec, rate=2722 cps.
Upload   151,267 bytes of tabular text: time= 45.3 sec, rate=3339 cps.
Upload   141,299 bytes of JPEG image:   time= 95.0 sec, rate=1487 cps.

Using FX to/from my CMD Hard Drive:

Download 156,260 bytes of ~text:        time= 83.4 sec, rate=1874 cps.
Download 151,267 bytes of tabular text: time= 75.4 sec, rate=2006 cps.
Download 141,299 bytes of JPEG image:   time=118.2 sec, rate=1195 cps.
Upload   156,260 bytes of ~text:        time= 77.9 sec, rate=2006 cps.
Upload   151,267 bytes of tabular text: time= 66.2 sec, rate=2285 cps.
Upload   141,299 bytes of JPEG image:   time=114.2 sec, rate=1237 cps.

Using DesTerm-128 v2.00 to/from my CMD Hard Drive, Y-Modem:

Download 156,260 bytes of ~text:        time=189.5 sec, rate= 824 cps.
Download 151,267 bytes of tabular text: time=180.4 sec, rate= 839 cps.
Download 141,299 bytes of JPEG image:   time=199.9 sec, rate= 707 cps.
Upload   156,260 bytes of ~text:        time=255.1 sec, rate= 611 cps.
Upload   151,267 bytes of tabular text: time=238.6 sec, rate= 634 cps.
Upload   141,299 bytes of JPEG image:   time=233.0 sec, rate= 606 cps.

Using NovaTerm-64 v9.5 to my CMD Hard Drive, Z-Modem, C64 mode:

Download 156,260 bytes of ~text:        time=245.8 sec, rate= 636 cps.
Download 151,267 bytes of tabular text: time=230.0 sec, rate= 658 cps.
Download 141,299 bytes of JPEG image:   time=262.6 sec, rate= 538 cps.

(There is no Z-Modem uploading support)

So there you have it: my simple protocol blows the others away.  QED.


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