Home networks. It was a topic of interest in several of the trade magazines that I enjoy. When I read about them, I thought it was a cool idea but nobody would really get into it, at least in the target market referred to. Sure, I have my house wired and intend to stretch it out to my detached garage (plus run a satellite feed out there) but networks can take a lot of technical know-how depending on how complex you want to get.
Well, it would appear the iMac has changed that idea. In talking to more and more people I have learned that a lot of users are truly interested in connecting their computers. There are several ways of doing so; ranging from simple phone cables to switched Ethernet to the “future home networks” that run wireless or across your existing electrical wiring. Since these last two aren’t here yet, let’s look a few of the conventional ways you may want to use to connect your machines.
This will work for any Mac except the iMac (as of this writing I’m not aware of a shipping product that will let you use LocalTalk). This network method allows you to use the printer port on your computer to connect to other computers and devices (such as printers) using a cheap media adapter and common 4-wire phone cable. LocalTalk cabling/adapters are still available from mail order and possibly even your local computer stores. To physically set up the network, you need one adapter (small box with two phone-style jacks on one side and a cable coming out the other that plugs into the printer port of your Mac) per device and a length of phone cable between them. Those of you who’ve dealt with LocalTalk may realize that I am actually describing PhoneNet (designed or at least made popular by Farallon, I believe) and you would be correct. Apple had their own LocalTalk cabling/connectors that used what appears to be ADB cabling to connect the boxes. Since PhoneNet is cheaper and easier to deal with, I will continue to discuss it.
Let’s run a simple scenario that should explain how to network two non-iMacs with LocalTalk. For this scenario the machine will be in the same room as each other. You want to share a laser printer between the two machines and occasionally share files. Ok, what do you need? Well, three PhoneNet boxes (the LocalTalk boxes that use RJ-11/telephone connectors) and three telephone cords. The connectors should come with one cable and one terminator (what appears to be just the plug of an end of telephone cable). There is one catch in this scenario: the printer you intend to share between them must support LocalTalk. Most laser printers do, but if you’re not sure check the documentation that came with it. Now turn all of the devices off; plug the LocalTalk connectors into the Printer port on the back of each computer and then into the printer. Plug one phone cable into the connector on computer A, then plug it into a port on the printer. Next, take another cable and run it from the printer to the other computer. Both computers should have one connector open, so put the terminators in them. Basically what you end up with is a chain, which is correct–because if you have a loop it will not work.
Turn both the computers on (timing doesn’t matter) and then open the Chooser (from the Apple menu). There is a setting in the lower right of the Chooser that indicates whether AppleTalk is Active or Inactive. Click the button next to Active, close the Chooser and restart the computer(s). When they restart there are a couple steps left to do, but you have a decision to make. Which machine do you want to copy files to/from? If you decide that only one computer will “share” itself, than the following instructions apply to that machine; if it’s both of them then apply this to both Macs.
Open the Sharing Setup control panel (File Sharing on Mac OS 8.0 and up) and enter your name in the Owner box, enter a very easy to remember password (or leave it blank) and name the computer appropriately. Next, click on the Start button underneath the File Sharing heading. Close the Sharing Setup/File Sharing window. Wait a couple of minutes, then open the Chooser of the machine that you didn’t do those steps on. Click on the AppleShare icon in the Chooser–you should see the name of the other machine listed in right hand window. If you do see the other Mac, then click once on it and click OK; it will bring up a dialog asking for the your name and password. In that dialog you will enter the name and password (if any) that was entered in the Sharing Setup control panel of the “shared” Mac. After that info is entered and you click OK, another dialog will pop up offering you to select which volume (hard drive/CD-ROM) that you wish to gain access to. Click once on that item (if the shared Mac has only one hard drive and it is named Macintosh HD, then you will click once on it) and then click OK. Finally, close the Chooser up–on your desktop will now appear a shared volume. It’s icon will probably look a little different then your hard drive which makes it easier to determine which Mac it belongs to. You can now copy files to and from it just like a floppy disk.
As I mentioned above regarding hard drives and CD-ROMs, it is entirely possible to put a CD in the Mac that has file sharing enabled and then mount that CD on the other Mac, so you can use it just like it was in the machine you are using.
Next time we’ll discuss how to use Ethernet to connect your Macs (much faster) and a couple other ways of tying them together.
Real World Experience
The System: iMac.
The Problem: Unable to print.
The Solution: Connected cables correctly.
Here you thought the iMacs made it so easy to connect things compared to the “older” Macs. Think again! Whenever you connect something together it’s important to look at the end of the cable and then compare it to the spot on the computer you want to plug it into. If they don’t match, then don’t force them. On two different machines I found two common mistakes. The first one dealt with a parallel cable (Centronics-style connector) that wasn’t plugged in firmly even though the retaining snaps were on securely. The other machine had a USB connector plugged into the Ethernet (fat phone jack) receptacle. Firming up the connections on the first unit and putting the USB cable in the correct port corrected both machines.