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Are You Talkin' to Me?

A Review of VolanoChatPro

November 3, 1999

Formerly the Well-Engaged chat server, VolanoChatPro is a powerful and very customizable Java-based chat server geared toward larger chats in the corporate, educational and ISP worlds.

VolanoChat comes in two flavors: the basic VolanoChat and the more advanced VolanoChatPro. Being a pure Java application, VolanoChat runs on any operating system with a properly installed and configured Java virtual machine (currently supported OSes include FreeBSD, Red Hat Linux, MacOS 8.1, OS/2 Warp Server, Sun Solaris and Windows NT).

The recommendation from Volano is to use Microsoft's Java Virtual Machine for Windows, which of course isn't possible if you're using VolanoChat on a Sun Solaris or Linux platform. During the installation process, VolanoChat searches for a Java VM and gives you a chance to choose another if you have multiple VMs installed.

After installation, you'll need to move a client directory from the installation directory to your Web server's public-access directory (usually named wwwroot on the directory tree). The contents of this directory--client applet code and resource files--are downloaded to the users so they can participate in the chat.

Launching the chat server is a matter of going to a command line and entering a command (which will vary based on the platform and JVM used).

There is a wide range of choices possible when running VolanoChat. For starters, you may not want to require that users download a Java applet in order to participate; in these situations, you can run the chat server and funnel it through a Web page for easy viewing. Change the look and feel of chat pages, adding company logos or specific color schemes. VolanoChat can be administered via a Web-page interface. A separate monitor service will let others monitor chats in real time. Administration of the VolanoChat server can be delegated to other registered users, as well.

Feature-wise, VolanoChat stands up well against other chat servers. A server can support an unlimited number of chat rooms (limitations do apply to the number of connected users), chat networks, multilingual chats and more. The administration tools are strong: ignore, delete and ban users who violate chat policies; broadcast messages to all users; and monitor the status of the server in real time. Overall, there are over 200 customizable settings.

Once running, various editable applets can change the look and behavior of VolanoChat. For instance, a BannerPlayer Applet will display advertising banners on chat clients, with settings controlled in a file called BannerPlayer.txt. To replace banners with other Java applets, merely delete the reference to the BannerPlayer Applet and replace it with a custom applet. Remote ad banners can be inserted by adapting the BannerPlayer and setting up a proxy. In addition, you can embed any Java applet or servlet you desire, meaning that chat rooms can be augmented with features like real-time polls, electronic commerce, online games, and more.

The Volano applet chat is attractive, giving users a list of rooms, the chance to enter some personal information (such as a personal Web-page address), entrance and audio alerts and the ability to change fonts.

There are some definite differences between VolanoChat and VolanoChatPro, apart from the price tags. VolanoChatPro supports moderated auditorium-style chats (useful for corporate or educational environments), personal chat rooms, membership databases, server-side event reporting and chat message logging.

And, speaking of the price tag: VolanoChatPro is not inexpensive software, but for the corporate environment VolanoChatPro is priced competitively. We would like to see a more reasonably priced version of VolanoChatPro for a smaller number of users, however.

All in all, VolanoChatPro is a powerful chat server that's easy to set up, configure and adapt for your corporate chat. You can read the full review at ServerWatch.

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