While the arcane machinations of a network may seem foreign to most people, the fact is that networks are in wide use by a good number of Mac users. When you bought your computer, you might have read about network capabilities. Many people pass this off as useless information and go about their business. And this may be the only thing you can do depending on your setup at work or home. However, it is useful to know what can be done with networks just in case you obtain a second computer and want to have a network.
The concept of a network is very simple. Two computers are hooked together so that they can share information. You may not realize it, but if you have a printer connected to your printer, you are on a network. The printer port provides the easiest means for setting up a network. If you have only two computers, you can connect them through their printer ports by using a simple printer cable and plugging it into the printer ports of the two Macs. There you go, a network.
But if you want to add a third item, such as a printer or another computer, you can’t use the printer cable. You have to buy some PhoneNet connectors. These plug into the printer port and have two RJ11 style phone jacks on it. In these you plug ordinary telephone wire, hence the name PhoneNet. You need one connector for every item on the network. You will also need enough telephone wire to connect from one computer to the second and then to the printer.
Terminating resistors are small plugs that fit into the ends of the network chain. When you hook up a network of three or more items, the ends will have an open space on the connector. This has to be filled with a terminating resistor. These absorb any stray signals, so that they will not cause problems with the real signals.
Physically setting up the network is only part of making it work. The rest involves software setup. Luckily, all the software you need is in the system and already on your computer. The first thing you should do is go to the Chooser and make sure AppleTalk is on.
Open the Sharing Setup control panel. Type in your name, a password, and a name for your computer. The name of the computer will be shown on the other computers when they try to log on to it. Then click on the Start button for file sharing. You can leave the Program Linking button alone. Program Linking allows programs from remote computers to control the ones on the server computer. This is rarely used and the few programs that use it are usually ones that will shutdown or restart the computer.
The next step is in the Users and Groups control panel. When you open this, a window appears with some icons. It’s very odd because it is not the standard type of control panel. You should see an icon of a face with your name as its title. This is the owner icon, which has some special features. When you double-click on this, a window appears that allows you to customize what the users can do. The owner has the option of seeing the whole disk; the others don’t have this option. Each icon represents a user of that computer. You create an icon for every individual who will access the computer. To create a new user, select New User from the file menu. When you double-click on it, there is a new field for a password.
The guest icon is disabled by default. If you activate it, anyone can log onto your computer. They don’t need a user name or a password. If you activate this, it’s probably best to limit access privileges so that it cannot create or trash files. On a small network, it is best to keep this off.
You can also create a group of people by selecting New Group from the File menu. You can drag individual user icons onto a group icon to create the group. You might create a group for family members and for coworkers. This is helpful in the next step of networking.
So far, people can log onto your computer using their own passwords, but only the designated owner of the computer can actually see any of the files. To let others see folders and files, you have to set it up that way. To do this, highlight a folder or disk and choose sharing from the file menu. Check the box that says “share this folder.” Now you can set who can see what. You can select a group and check whether the group can only see folders, can see files, or create folders and files. The owner is not the computer, but who you want to have ownership of the folder. This is useful if you want everyone to have their own folder where they create files. Everyone else cannot modify their files.
When this is set up, people can log onto your computer and, depending on what you set their access privileges as, can look around your computer. To log onto a computer, go to the Chooser and click on AppleShare. Double click on one of the computers in the file server list and you have to type in your user name and password. The disk will appear on your desktop and you treat just as you would a normal disk.
Networks are fun and can be very useful. This type of network that I described is a simple LocalTalk network. There are other types such as Ethernet and Token Ring, but these are usually only used for offices and large networks. Chances are you will not need that in a home situation and a LocalTalk network will be sufficient. If you have any questions or run into any problems, feel free to e-mail me.
Brian Koponen (firstname.lastname@example.org)