The Gig of Ham

One geek's contributions to the series of tubes

Dec 10, 2018 - 3 minute read - Comments - amiga retrocomputing sysadmin howto

Installing and using NComm for serial communication and data transfer the Amiga

It’s 2018, and getting files on an Amiga that are larger than will fit on a floppy can be a drag. Maybe you have a network, but if not a serial connection with NComm may be your best bet. Let’s go over how to install that today.

Why NComm?

A great question. There are other comms programs out there, like AmiComm (for the 1000) and AZComm but both have limitations. Mostly the serial speed, and for AmiComm a complete lack ZModem support. I’ve found NComm to be well rounded, easy to use, and feature complete. It does need to be installed, and I’ve not yet successfully made a single disk version of it (which is easier with AZComm).

Wait, you just linked to an aminet file - how am I supposed to get that on my Amiga?

Another great question. This one is easy: I have made a ADF file with everything you need. Download that and throw it in a Floppy Emulator and let’s get started…

Installing NComm from the flopppy image

Mount the ADF on your Amiga, or use a floppy emulator:

NComm floppy on the Amiga Workbench

Now we can open a shell and explore the disk:

Contents of the ncomm floppt

The disk has a copy of LhA and the complete NComm in an lha archive. If you don’t already have LhA installed, let’s do that. First we extract the LhA installer to RAM:

Extract lha self-extractor to RAM:

Next we can copy the lha binary to C:lha (feel free to use an optimized version for your Amiga):

Copy LhA to C:LHA

Now we can extract the NComm archive to your hard drive:

Command to extract the NComm archive

That will take a few moments and look like this when it’s done:

Completed archive extraction

Now you can close all the windows and re-open your primary drive. If you are running anything newer than a stock 3.1 it will have a nice icon. I’m running Stock 3.1 in this emulator for screenshots so it’s not as great:

Someday I'll find a better icon

Open that folder up, and run the Install20 tool (use the Install13 if you are running Workbench 1.3):

The Install20 tool will install fonts, etc

It will take a few seconds to copy fonts and required libraries, then it will be time to launch NComm:

NComm floppy on the Amiga Workbench

That’s it!

Using NComm

Most of the options are in the Right Click menu. I have found on OCS/ECS Amiga systems, sustaining more than 19200 baud is hard. On an AGA system, 115200 is no sweat. YMMV. You can also set default paths for Downloads (recommended), and if your host uses ZModem for transfers they will auto start.

I use this with a NULL-Modem cable to a Linux box with lrzsz and picocom installed to copy files between the Linux Host and the Amiga. Both tools are available on Raspbian installs that are Jessie or later, and most commonly available USB to Serial adapters work great. This is a great way to move a small number of larger files. You still need to send them one at a time, but now at least you have LhA installed and a way to get bigger things on to your Amiga. Great for doing a network stack install, say…

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